NATURE, HUMANISM AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: PERSPECTIVES ON THE ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF DONKEYS AS PACK ANIMALS IN THE HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA.
PROF. SULE BELLO
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY
AHMADU BELLO UNIVERSITY, SAMARU, ZARIA,
KADUNA STATE NIGERIA
A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE LAUNCH OF: “UNDER THE SKIN – THE IMPACT OF THE GLOBAL TRADE IN DONKEY SKINS IN WEST AFRICA” ORGANISED BY THE DONKEY SANCTUARY AT FRASER SUITES, ABUJA, NIGERIA, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21ST 2019
The Donkey crises is a part of a much wider crises of the role, and status, of nature in the continuous social development processes of humanity. The change in the dominant socio-historical role of the donkey as a pack animal in many parts of the world is due to development of modern system of transportation. There is thus a certain measure of disregard, and the abandonment of donkeys to their own fate – a development which has resulted into various acts of neglect and cruelty to the donkey. In response, a good number of people are appealing for a more charitable attitude to donkeys – resulting in the establishment of sanctuaries as well as laws and regulatory policies which would help to improve the welfare of donkeys. In addition the increasing tendency to human consumption of donkey meat, as well as the high demand for its skin as raw material in the production of Ejiao, have added new dimensions to the problem.
The paper draws attention to the significance of nature as a non-renewable resource in opposition to the existing tendencies to its wanton, unregulated and inconsiderate exploitation resulting in cruelty to animals in a manner that could lead to their extinction. In addition there is the related problem of environmental degradation. A survey of the role of the donkey as a pack animal shows that it has earned to be respected, and fairly treated, in the scheme of things even if only on the basis of its services to mankind as a very long-standing and important domestic animal, in general, and its key role as a pack animal, in the economic ascent of man, over a long period of time. The paper draws attention to the fact that the challenges currently affecting the well-being of the donkey could, on closer evaluation also help to overcome the crises for good, through the provision of new opportunities that might lead to the formulation of policy regulations, and the provision of sustainable investments, towards more efficient systems for the formal breeding and cultivation, or farming, of donkeys. In a similar manner the introduction of some required technical innovations, that would help to modernise and improve the traditional transportation and traction role of the donkey, could indeed help to make the existing population even more functional and better adapted to its new circumstances and environments.
NATURE, HUMANISM AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: PERSPECTIVES ON THE ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF DONKEYS AS PACK ANIMALS IN THE HISTORY OF WEST AFRICA.
Let me start my presentation, on this very important occasion, by thanking the Donkey Sanctuary and “Nigeria Now” Magazine for inviting me to serve as a guest speaker at this highly commendable event. I would further use the occasion to welcome the Donkey Sanctuary, and all those associated with it, to Nigeria. Nigerians have a lot to expect from the Donkey Sanctuary in much the same way that the organisation looks forward to the support and cooperation of Nigerians in relation to its mission in the country.
When I was approached to make a contribution on this occasion I readily accepted the invitation due to a number of very important reasons. The first is the fact that there is a dearth of knowledge, or indeed the deliberate disregard, of the indispensable role of mother nature in socio-historical development resulting in the under-estimation, and lack of an overall appreciation, of the role of nature in the socio-historical development of mankind. On this basis the role of the donkey in the development of mankind in general, and West African societies in particular, has been distorted by prejudices, disregard and distain for the animal rather than by any objective study or appreciation of its role, and status, in human development process. This fact was brought home to me when, in 1988, we attempted to create a recreational centre for children that would also serve to educate them about the history and culture of their society at Gidan Dan-Hausa in Kano city. The second issue is the current plight of the Donkey in Nigeria and the third is the possibility of doing something about it. I highlight these issues hereunder in order for us to understand how best to appreciate them. After this I look at the wider humanitarian issues, as well as the socio-historical matters, associated with the topic.
Three Issues Relevant To The Donkey Crises In Nigeria
In creating the recreational centre earlier referred to, what we did was to throw into the park certain animals we believed would also be of interest to visitors due to their cultural and historical importance in the local community. We threw in a camel, a horse and an ostrich. These are animals which are held in high esteem because their functions, and appreciation, in the historical development of the societies concerned have been more highly studied, popularised and acclaimed. To cut a long story short not long after this an old, long distance trader, bafatake (pl Fatake), came calling to my office. When I gave him audience he expressed his surprise that we had not put any donkey in the recreational centre. He then went on to give me what I believe was an eye-opening lecture on the supreme and beneficial role that the donkey had played in the historical development of commerce in the West African zone – both in the precolonial as well as the colonial period. After he left I came to the realisation that in virtually all of our current literature and history books the specific, supreme and beneficial role the donkey had played had hardly ever been given the serious attention it deserves, although such a significance is never in doubt or hard to fathom. The fact is that the donkey has been under-appreciated partly because the very important role it had played has been greatly under-reported. There is thus more of a tendency to perceive the donkey through the lenses of our own personal, or collective, prejudices as stupid, stubborn etc – prejudices which scientific studies of, as well as a intimate acquaintances with, donkeys have tended to disprove. This is what makes the task of educating the public about the nature, as well as the objective role and status, of the donkey in human affairs a very important task. This would help not only to overcome some existing prejudices but also promote the kind of appreciation, empathy and concern that would help tackle the present plights of the donkey.
The second issue which has always been of concern to me is the current plight of the donkey in Nigeria, especially since the late 1970’s. This is mainly because various Nigerian governments have, over the years, failed to provide policies, programmes and schemes designed to address the key problems inhibiting the development of the livestock sector in general, and the donkey population in particular, since independence. As a result not only have the critical values of both fauna and flora, as natural resources, not been effectively factored into the development process even their recognition as living things, with definite regenerative needs, has thus hardly been taken into consideration. There is therefore hardly any pan for their protection against the kind of destruction and abuses that could lead to their eventual depletion. There are no policies applied, on any continuos and sustainable bases, by the independent governments in Nigeria, designed to adapt wildlife and the domestic livestock to the new demands facing them. For example the increasing development of the local consumption of donkey meat in the country, as well as the export of donkey skins, have hardly come under any effective regulatory process. The result is the increasing development of an environment characterised by the disregard of, as well as cruelty to, animals in a manner constituting serious abuses of Animal Rights for all domestic animals, as well as wildlife, in the country. Many attempts to draw the attention of government, and cause it to initiate measures to arrest the situation, seem to have simply fallen on deaf ears resulting in the appalling conditions we witness today.
The third and final reason that encouraged me to be here is the belief that occasions of this nature, which help to domesticate and localise matters of international concern, also facilitate the internationalisation of local problems and provide important avenues for exerting concerted efforts towards the solution of such critical, new and universal problems. In order to fully appreciate the nature of the problems we are here to address it is important that we look at the Donkey crisis in its broader, global socio-historical dimensions.
The Wider Dimensions of the Problem
Anybody familiar with the key concerns of our world-epitomised in the various policies and programmes of the United Nations Organisation (UNO), will readily testify to the fact that these concerns centre around the need to ensure peace as the basis for the development and well-being of mankind. The necessity for peace is in many ways associated with the technological capabilities, for both material production and self-destruction, developed by man. Alongside this development is the related increase in socio-political rancour, and conflicts, at the level of international relations as well as within each nation-state.
The ‘advanced’ nature of contemporary human social development has, on the whole, also spawned a number of crises in its relations with nature, of which it is a part. These crises indicate the dysfunctional influence of some of man’s activities on mother nature. By way of example we can cite the issue of climate change, environmental pollution and the related problem of global warming. Another important manifestation of this problem is the over exploitation, abuse and possible extinction, or destruction, of various aspects of natures non-renewable resources in the form of fauna, flora and mineral resources. Campaigns by different organisations aimed at addressing such problems have resulted in the establishment of various international agreements and protocols as well as independently sponsored NGO’s, programmes and schemes. Many of such organisations, like the Donkey Sanctuary, are concerned not only with the immediate problems of cruelty to animals but also the need for safeguarding them from possible extinction.
The wider dimensions of contemporary development processes thus seek to fully recognise, factor and facilitate policies that appreciate the indispensible and primary role of nature in the development process. These are new assertions of the necessity for rationality, vision and humanism in social development – beyond the practice of mere propaganda. This, thus, calls for a redefinition of the development of human society, or civilization, beyond only, or principally, certain identified levels of technological achievements. It calls for the recognition and application of humanism, or humane consideration in the form of compassion, in all human affairs at all levels – particularly those involving man’s relations with his fellow men and the natural environment, in particular the non-human animals. In short it is a call to view nature more as a partner, than only a mere object that deserves to be conquered and dominated by us. It is a call for inclusivity and responsibility, rather than exclusion, disregard and discrimination in both nature and society. It is the view that only a balanced as well as considerate approach to social development will help to ensure its integrity and sustainability as well as fairness to all those involved, in one way or the other, in its creation.
The deficit in “concerned human consideration”, or humanism, which translates into lack of compassion for animals, is largely responsible for their present plight. The problem of cruelty to animals is not limited to human-nature or human-animal relations only. Many studies in psychology and criminology have shown that those who are habitually cruel to animals do not stop there. They tend to also perpetrate violent criminal acts against other human beings. They tend to constitute the psychopaths that engage in serial murders as well as violence against women and children.
It is such inconsideration, when they are politicised and extended to human societies, that underlie the superiority syndrome and exclusionary dispositions of certain ideological persuasions, such as fascism. It is an attitude which feeds on assumed superiority without any sense of responsibility to those considered different, weak or inferior. It is thus promotional of discrimination against those that are ill-considered in various forms resulting in racism and tribalism or the abuse of women, children, the elderly and the disabled as is most clearly advocated in the works of one of the leading fascist leaders of the modern world. (Hitler, Adolf 1940 P. 258ff).
It is also important to note that a subdued sense of superiority, or social status, tends to promote respect for those considered different, or ill-fortuned, because it tends to see them as equals in terms of our most common, and therefore equal, need for survival and well-being. Charity, and responsible obligations to those who are different from or weaker than us, thus tends to affirm a basic equality rather than some assumed “superiority” which is usually the quest for a criminal license to victimise and abuse other peoples, animals or things.
A Summary Survey Of The Role And Status Of The Donkey In The Socio-Historical Development Of West Africa.
A general survey of formal studies of the economic history of West Africa over the last three, or so, millennia leads one to two interrelated, conclusions. The first is that the formation of communities, states and societies in West Africa over the last two or three thousand years is associated with massive economic development at every level. A development which tended to lead to the integration of various communities at several levels and, in particular, the formation of a vast network of trading or commercial relations at various levels within the West African region as well as at the levels of its interregional relations with North, Central and Eastern Africa. The second observation is the fact that although the donkey is the leading and quintessential beast of burden in the region, as well as in the regions relations with other parts of Africa, the role of the donkey is not clearly noted, elaborated upon and studied in virtually all the literature concerned. As a result the fact that the great economic achievements of the region ranging from the Trans Saharan trade to the intra-regional trade of precolonial West Africa, as well as the import-export trade of the colonial period were all made possible, and practically achieved, on the back of the donkey is never clearly brought out. The camel which has been widely celebrated as “the ship of the desert” was only second to the donkey as a pack animal in Africa, in general, and West Africa in particular. In all the other regions bordering the Sahara, and particularly in the whole of West Africa including its semi-arid regions, it was the donkey that served almost as the sole beast of burden. Pack animals such as oxen (takarkari) and ponies (alfadari) were greatly restricted, in both their numbers and functions, for them to constitute any major forms of transportation in the region. The donkey was indeed used as the pack animal for traversing the tsetse-infested rain forest areas despite the fact that it could not thrive, on any permanent basis, in the environment.
In the whole of the West African region, therefore, the donkey served as the most important and the major means of local, as well as long-distance, transportation. However, as noted by Blench “Although donkeys are both widespread and economically important to their owners, they are rarely studied and are not usually the object of improvement, development and loan schemes”. (Roger Blench, 2012, Pl.). Probably one of the largest, if not the largest, destination for donkeys engaged in commercial transportation in both the precolonial and colonial periods was Kano. It was the terminus for the Trans-Saharan Trade as well as the major centre for the intra-regional trade of West Africa. Donkey caravans from the rural areas to Kano City, as well as those leaving Kano city for various destinations on the Trans-Saharan route and the routes to other West African destinations as well as the central and Eastern Africa Regions were always on the move. Indeed even the colonial trade for the export of primary products, and the import of colonial manufactures, greatly depended on donkeys beyond the railway terminals concerned. Haulage to and from such terminals was largely the work of the donkey. Where the donkey was not, for any reason, available or too costly for those ferrying goods to afford, the tendency was for head porterage to supplement or prevail.
In order to fully appreciate the role played by the donkey in the social and economic life of West Africa it is important to note that it was virtually a member of a majority of households in both the urban and rural areas. It was the major domestic animal. It was involved in many household chores such as fetching water, firewood, building material, food stuff as well as carrying manure to the farm. It was critical to the organic farming system prevailing in the community – which at that time largely supported the production of food stuff and raw material without any heavy reliance on chemical fertilisers etc.
It was possible the donkey population was only second to that of humans in urban centres engaged in major commercial activities. This was because not only was it a taboo to slaughter donkeys for consumption they were also relatively well-cared for due to their economic importance and existing social sanctions. They tended not only to be important sources of income for many families but also constituted important means of transportation for women, children and the disabled. In fact they were used to assess the standing, or wealth, of merchants. For example some of the wealthiest merchants in Kano, like Kundila, Maikano Agogo and Dantata were said to have not known how many heads of donkeys they owned for the stringing of their various caravans.
Beyond its domestic use the donkey constituted the principal pack animal for transportation to and from the farms, they equally constituted the principal pack animals in all industrial sites transporting such minerals as natron, iron ore and stone products to wherever they were needed, in addition to the transportation of manufactured goods, food stuff and raw material to all types of markets in the region.
The plight of the donkey today is therefore not simply due to the mere development of modern and more efficient mode of transportation. It has more to do with the failure to adapt it to new needs or factor it towards more effective services for the millions of poor, and rural, people who greatly need it.
What has been referred to as the donkey crisis is indeed a very serious affliction for donkeys, as well as a very trying challenge for humanity. It is a crisis which deserves major changes in our altitudes to nature in general, and the donkey in particular, for its solution.
The primary key to this solution lies in the kind of stakeholder organisations available, and the degree to which they exert themselves towards the solution of the problem. Critical to this process is public education and policy advocacy designed to promote positive attitudes towards the solution of the problem, as well as the formulation of relevant policies and laws that would greatly help to generate required investments as well as put in place required prohibitions in line with the various existing recommendations. Of critical importance in this regard is the need to establish schemes and programmes, as well as sanctuaries, that address cruelty to donkeys in Nigeria. Regulating the mode of sales, procurements, transportation and storage of such animals also need to be properly looked into. Schemes of donkey farming which overcome existing threats to their existence, constitute very important factors. Finally, alternative sources for acquiring the essential raw materials for the production of Ejiao need to be urgently promoted.
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NATION-BUILDING IN AFRICA: AN OVERVIEW OF THE REALITY, CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
The paper is a critical, and multi-disciplinary, perspective on the problems of nation-building in Africa. Many writers who attempt to explain the crises associated with nation-building in Africa since independence tend to limit themselves to the simplistic notion that this crisis is only, or indeed mainly, a reflection of the lack of competent leaders on the continent. These perspectives tend to ignore the harvest of competent and capable leaders associated with the nationalist movements that were responsible for the independence of their various countries. Such views also tend to discount the evidence of other weighty factors like the mono-cultural economic structures resulting from Africa’s colonial heritage, as well as the documented cases of foreign interventionism aimed at subverting Africa’s independent, patriotic, PanAfricanist and competent leadership in favour of surrogate, ethnocentric and self-serving elites who are beholden to foreign interests. As a result such perspectives tend to underrate or indeed ignore the active involvement, or foreign interventionism, of the former imperial powers under the current leadership of the USA in Africa’s internal affairs since independence.
Looking at the subject before us we will find that the diverse ideological, and theoretical perspectives evident in its evaluation, in themselves, reflect a diversity of interests that need to be identified and brought to light. Nation-building, from whichever perspective we look at it, is above all else a historically specific as well as visionary, constructive, creative, transformational, self-determined and patriotic activity. It is not the same with the predatory and self-serving spoil systems characteristic of ancient empires, or the specifically European colonial spoil systems either in their old or new forms.
A survey of the literature on this topic indicate some widespread assumptions which have come to constitute what could, more or less, be referred to as the dominant and basically external, or foreign promoted, explanations. This is the idea that the problem of contemporary African states, leading to the widespread crisis or “failure” of nation-building is to be found in corruption, incompetence and mismanagement associated with African rulers per se. (Ayittey, 2005; Meredith 2005; Dowden, 2009; Acemoglu, 2012). While this, no doubt, is a factor which is clearly relevant in explaining Africa’s problems it cannot be the sole reason, or indeed even the major reason, for the explanation of the crisis of nation-building. It needs to be understood that the entire debate and literature on neo-colonialism, to which many African nationalists such as Nkrumah, Cabral, Nyerere, Sekou-Toure and Samora Machel, as well as scholars like Samir Amin, Walter Rodney, Chinweizu, Y. B. Usman, and Ngugi Wa Thiongo have made substantial contributions are all part of the struggle to resist foreign imperial efforts towards forestalling the attempts by African nationalist regimes from transforming inherited colonial economic structures, into diversified and independent ones. This is why the attempt to reduce these issues to a so-called externally defined bad leadership perspective only begets more questions: what constitutes African leadership? and what, also, accounts for its inherent and extraordinary tendencies to corruption and incompetence? In order to account for the extraordinarily corrupt nature of leadership in some African countries, at certain times, we need to identify the very factor which makes such an extraordinary level of corruption possible and why this is different from the level of corruption in other societies, or in the same African societies under different conditions. Various researchers have identified venality, and impunity, as important factors underlying the development of corruption in Africa. Impunity is in turn associated with the interventionist role of western powers in African affairs especially in the manner they oppose popular and independent regimes, and intervene to undermine them, in favour of puppet, or surrogate, regimes beholden to them.
It is important to observe that in many cases the very important factor of foreign interventionism in Africa, which has been identified by many scholars as a key element responsible for its present predicament hardly features in the viewpoints of those referring to “African leadership” as the major source of “Africa’s problems”. Critiques of the “failed state”, on account of “Africa’s leadership” perspectives, have drawn attention to the fact that this viewpoint fails to take into account the various successes recorded by PanAfricanists, and African nationalists, in the struggles for nation-building in Africa as well as the galaxy of patriotic national leaders of political, intellectual, entrepreneurial, unionist and communal denominations associated with these successes (Mamdani, 2004; Mutiso and Rohio, 1975; Onibonoje, 1976; Bello, 2010).
Similarly such critiques have also drawn attention to the failures of all policies and projects imposed by the imperial powers through the IMF and the World Bank on Africa. They further observe that no responsibility has ever been admitted, or accepted, by these bodies in a manner that would warrant any major reviews. Despite the problems noted it is also observed that these same agencies have also achieved successful returns on their activities and endeavours in Africa, whereas Africa has always failed to achieve its own professed objectives. This situation thus portrays a one—sided, and an unequal, indeed predatory, relationship (Abdul Raheem, 1996; Ake, 2001; Nkrumah 1996; Payer, 1974; Rodney, 1976).
Attempts at explainings Africa’s so-called “poverty”, “instability” and state or leadership “failures”, along with the violent conflicts associated with such, will always remain baseless, meaningless and misleading so-long as they are calculated to exclude, and exonerate, certain interests through the use of a methodology which obstructs the consideration of Africa’s historical legacies, and current realities, in terms of how its earlier enslavement and colonization, as well as present day domination and exploitation by the western imperial powers, actually affect it. The attempt to explain the contemporary crises of Africa’s post-colonial development, variously characterized as only occasioned by ‘political instability’, ‘state failures’ and ‘bad leadership’, solely on account of the corruption and mismanagement of surrogate African leaders, as we argue subsequently, negates the most important fact that such leaders work hand in gloves with foreign imperial interests and powers.
An important dimension towards the study of socio-economic or political phenomena in general, and African affairs in particular, is the question of objectivity. Objectivity could be viewed from three different angles: a just and fair humanitarian, legal or intellectual, in particular scientific, perspective of the issues concerned. Discussions of politics, in general, and the ideologies informing same, in particular, cannot be scientifically approached and objectively treated if we are not able to adopt a perspective that is fair, comprehensive and evidence-based as well as capable of identifying, and explaining, diverse ideological standpoints.
It is important, therefore, to appreciate the extent to which power relations between Africa and European imperial powers tend to always affect the nature of studies crafted and conducted on their relationships in various fields. This is clearly reflected in the one-sided nature, and interests, of most of the educational disciplines established through the agency of colonialism especially in the forms of ethnography, anthropology, diffusionist archaeology as well as Eurocentric and ethnocentric perspectives on history, literature, religion and the social sciences (Ake, 1979; Mafeje 1971; Blyden, 1967; Amin, S. 1989; Preiswerk 1978). This is in addition to the apologetic, as well as evasive, studies sponsored by associated imperial interests such as the World Bank, the IMF and the self styled “donor agencies.”
It is equally important to observe that another level of influence open to the imperial powers under colonial occupation was that of outright censorship of studies, and opinions, which were not acceptable to them. Indeed the tendency towards the censorship of literature, expressions, relations and activities not acceptable to the colonial powers continued in many ways even after the independence of many African countries. This could be seen in the wider, and more violent, context of political and ideological repression pursued in Africa since independence, particularly in the form of the so-called “cold war” and the opposition to the proposal on New International Information Order at the level of the UN. (Mamdani, 2004; Mareheth, 1974; Okpoko, 2009).
Of recent various attempts are being made by western “donor” countries to influence the direction of research, and opinion moulding, in Africa through the direct sponsorship and funding of various activities, institutions, facilities, agencies and individuals into operating on the basis of the general problems and perspectives, or templates, identified and prescribed by them. This has almost heralded the end of the era of nationalist, and problem solving, research from independent African points of views.
Another important issue in the discourse on African affairs is the tendency, by the western powers, to insist on the non-inclusion of their role, conduct and activities in matters connected to Africa particularly where this is likely to implicate them in one form or another. It is usually argued that focusing on the role of such ‘external’ relations will detract from the more urgent tasks of attending to the corrupt practices of African leaders or, indeed, paying attention to the “peculiar” and “unique” racial, or cultural, nature of the problems of Africa. However it needs to be noted that paying attention to the role of other factors, in this case imperial interventionism, in explaining African affairs need to be seen only in additional, rather than exclusive, terms. Similarly focusing on so-called racial and ‘cultural’ factors in a manner presumed to be exclusively ‘internal’ to Africa as a basis for explaining its development sounds more like a fallback on the discredited theories of racialism and the practice of racism. We need to look at the issues under consideration from comprehensive socio-historical perspectives without any attempt at excluding the consideration of any other relevant factor. Such an attempt at the exclusion of some factors would only amount to a foreclosure on the investigation of certain aspects of the issues concerned- a form of an indirect censorship, or cover-up, in favour of foreign imperial interests as some writers have attempted to do (Ayittey, 2005: 1-xxvi; Acemoglu, 2012; Dowden, 2009).
Three important factors are immediately apparent if we are to treat the subject matter in a comprehensive manner. The first is the need to differentiate negative foreign interventionism in Africa from the wider, and more positive, international support, cooperation and relations with foreign nations. This, we believe is clearly discernible on the basis of the fact that the latter is in support of, rather than in opposition to, independent African initiatives and interests. Secondly foreign interventionism, by its conduct, is not only an act in disregard of international law but it also fuels impunity in local African politics. Finally foreign intervention also redefines what has generally been referred to in the literature on “failed states” as “African leaders” into “agents of foreign powers in Africa”. It is impossible to discuss the political, cultural and economic nature of leadership in Africa, or the character, causes and dimensions of corruption in contemporary Africa where we turn a blind eye to the role of foreign interventionism in the affairs of the continent.
In the discussion that follows we draw attention to the fact that the key problem for Africa has been foreign imperial interventionism, which, in various forms, utilizes a diverse range of agencies, institutions and organizations in order to control, or influence, both the internal and external politics of African countries as well as their economies. The available data on the subject of imperial interventionism in Africa is both of a primary nature as well as wide-ranging in the form of revelations by undercover agents, information from declassified documents of foreign countries as well as the very recent WikiLeaks exposures among many others. It is therefore, on a factual basis, incontrovertible.
Acts of interventionism in Africa are defined by certain important factors. In the first place the independence of most-African countries redefined colonial occupation, in particular, and imperial relationships, in general, as illegitimate making their continued retention, or extension, contrary to national constitutions as well as international law. Where they thus continued against the law they tend to become more and more defined as acts of impunity. This, in turn, expresses a contradiction between the real politik of the imperial powers geared to control and domination, on the one hand, and their ideological or public relations rhetorics, on the other. This contradiction is occasionally identified as discrepancy between words and deeds, as hypocrisy vs democracy. In the field of realpolitik, however, this is expressed as impunity, generally, as well as subversive and covert activities, in particular, between the imperial powers and the newly independent nations (Mazrui, 2010; Mareheth, 1974; Stockwell, 1979). The unprincipled, inconsistent and dubious nature of imperial perspectives is itself a confirmation of the fact that its self-justifying rhetorics stand apart from, and opposed to, its predatory designs and activities. As such these are generally defined by a standing double standard, double-speak and double-dealing.
A second important dimension of imperial interventionism is that it assumed a united, global and multilateral dimension under the leadership of the United States of America (USA) since the end of the Second World War. This is illustrated in the manner in which the alliance of former imperial powers, and settler colonies, along a more or less racialist line in the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), under the leadership of the United States (US), came to constitute a global hegemonic force both at the level of the United Nations (UN), as well as in the conduct of bilateral and multilateral international relations worldwide.
In addition, the process of intervention is prosecuted in a variety of ways. It could be overt or covert. It could be in the form of diplomatic, military, political or economic pressures. It could be direct or by proxy. All these are geared to the strategic goals of controlling Africa’s local economic resources, enforcing economic structures conducive to the achievement of foreign imperial interests, as well as imposing control over the processes of local policy formulation and implementation.
Finally Euro-American interventionism in Africa has so far been expressed at two major levels. The first, following the independence of African countries and designed to “rollback” such independence in favour of western control was undertaken under the general banner of the so-called “cold war”, which was anything but cold in Africa. The second wave of interventionism is the one undertaken by the same powers since the end of the cold war. This is a bit more ambitious programme for the total recolonization of the continent as it is designed to ensure wide-spread regime change in all those nations where such is desirable. The cases of Libya, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Egypt etc. are clear examples. Alongside this it is also geared to the disestablishment of regional, and subregional, structures representing independent African organizations like the OAU, AU, ECOMOG etc. In opposition to these independent organizations we witness the establishment of American military bases, in the form of AFRICOM, as well as western controlled regional security outfits like the African Crises Response Initiative (ACRI), as a substitute for ECOMOG in West Africa, in addition to New Economic Partnership for Africas Development (NEPAD) which is not only a baby of, but also completely under the control and directives of, Western powers.
This contribution further draws attention to the need to continually apply three essential principles in the conduct of such discourses. The first is the need to draw, as broadly as possible, on the essential evidence pertinent to the discussion in general. This means the need to bring into focus the historical evidence of Africas nation-building processes, in the form of PanAfricanism, as well as related practices of nation-building in its various countries. The second is the need to evaluate all relevant theories in the light of evidence, as well as on the basis of their own logical consistency. Finally there is also the need to discuss the issues under consideration in the context of both national constitutions and on the basis of relevant international declarations or laws.
Significance, Typologies and Processes of Nation-Building.
Nations, or nation-states, are polities or political communities. However not all sorts of polities are nations or nation-states. It is important to note that vestiges of earlier, or ancient, types of communities and polities such as gyrontocratic and feudal forms of political institutions operate, wherever they are found today, under the general control, determination and directives of nation-building political-elites.
Nations, and nation-building processes, constitute the most significant and defining organizational and management principles of our modern world. They determine the essential features of all modern polities, as well as define their relationships as a global union of states in the theatre of international relations.
There are diverse perspectives on the dimensions of nation-states, nation-building and nationalism. This is to be expected, partly because of the diverse range of problems and issues, that different nation-states have to grapple with in the course of their development.
Another factor provoking controversy on the notion of nation-states is the subjective, supremacist, narcissistic and Eurocentric perspective usually brought into the discourse on the subject by ideologues with such persuasions. This, as we will highlight subsequently, has greatly promoted the predominant influence of ethnocentric ideologies in international, as well as national, politics at the level of various colonies, in addition to the latter’s relations with the imperial powers (Amin, S. 1989; Preiswerk and Perrot, 1978).
The above issues notwithstanding, it could be argued that all nation-states are products of modern development collectively differing in many remarkable ways from the polities and societies that preceded them in history, and thus sharing certain definitive and common features between them.
In the first place they all came into being through opposition to one form of imperial domination or another. Secondly their essential organisng principle, expressed in their constitutional objectives, is the achievement of freedom for themselves, as political entities, along with their citizens in a manner that promotes democracy anchored on national, and popular, sovereignty. Similarly, they all dedicate themselves towards working for peace, freedom, equality and development at both the national and international levels. Finally they are, in a number of cases, greatly influenced by immigration, and economic protectionism, policies in a manner that is unique and greatly different from the historic multicultural states and empires that preceded them (Pfaff, 1993: 59).
While the above might constitute some common features characteristic of all nation-states the circumstances of their creation also stamp them with differing characteristics, in terms of their internal composition as well as external relations with other nations, as is obvious in the differences to be observed between, as well as within, the following categories of nation-states:
- Imperial European nation-states: Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain etc.
- European settler colonies, states and countries: USA, Canada, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel.
- Revolutionary socialist nation-states: Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam etc.
- Independent anti-imperial nationalist states and countries: India, Pakistan, Brazil, Zambia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Ghana, Iran, Nigeria, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Libya etc.
The above typology brings into consideration a number of issues which are characteristic of modern states, in particular their socio-cultural, political, territorial and economic conditions.
Once again, on the basis of the above, we could say that such differences notwithstanding all modern nations make attempts to build themselves on the basis of the following essential considerations:
- Sovereignty in internal matters, as well as in foreign relations, in addition to the conduct of participation in global institutions. Significant in this regard is control over natural and human resources as well as the general control, and regulation, of national political and economic activties.
- Promotion of regional and global alliances such as Pan-Africanism, Non-Alligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in respect of Africa, or the EU in Europe. In todays supranational world national interests can hardly be achieved where they are not supported by broader and wider regional, as well as global, processes of political, economic and cultural alliances.
- Promotion, at the national levels, of such unifying policies as constitutionalism, multiculturalism and political, or ideological, pluralism.
- The eternal struggle towards nation-building is designed to ensure its sovereignty through the development of democracy, on the basis of popular sovereignty, as the popular expression of nation-hood in the polity.
The processes of nation-building identified above have led to some “successes” in some nations of the world. Why have they tended to “fail” in Africa?
Explaining the Crisis of Nation-Building in Africa
If we state that nation-building ‘failure’ in Africa is simply and basically due to the incompetence, corruption and mismanagement of African leaders we commit a generalization which does not only leave many questions unanswered but also raises many others as well. This is, in the first place, because leadership cultivation, conduct and operations is an essential, and indeed leading, component of the nation-building process. Where the latter actually fails, the former will be deemed to be part and parcel of that general failure as well. In this case so-called leadership problem could not be expected to explain the general failure of nation-building processes because it is part and parcel of the process, and ought to fail where the process in general fails.
Secondly various studies indicate that the African leaders under reference were mostly serving as western agents in their different countries while, those African leaders who remained independent stood the risk of being assassinated, overthrown or in many other ways sabotaged. In many cases serving African leaders were said to be in the employment, and on the pay register, of certain foreign secret services (Meredith, 2005; 294). In addition to this Africa’s ruling ideas, policies and structures in most, if not all, of the countries under reference were imposed, and promoted by the western powers. These could be seen in terms of inherited monocultural economies, as well as the more recent imposition of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) in addition to programmes of so-called “deregulation” which are predetermined, and predestined, to promote the interests of the imperial powers at the expense of their victims. It is in consideration of these facts that rulers of such countries could not be described as simply African leaders but rather as African surrogates, or agents, of the ‘leading’, or misleading, western powers (Bello, 2010; Fawole, 1998; Ikoku, 1980).
Thirdly, rather than the ‘failure’ of nations, what we are indeed witnessing is but cases of failed scholarship which tend to proceed by refusing to acknowledge, let alone address, the major and prior explanations of the crisis of nation-building in Africa advanced by a majority of its nationalists as well as a multitude of independent scholars. Such writers do not only neglect the evidence of history but also refuse any attempt at the critical evaluation of their own concepts and categories in favour of isolated, and selected, empirical ‘facts’ in a desperate bid to give propaganda, founded on wishful thinking and prejudice, the status of scholarship. Such failed scholars avoid the original and primary contributions of Africa’s nationalists and intellectuals, as well as the actual evidence of Africa’s history, in the same manner that any mythology, pretending to be the truth, ought to avoid each and every evidence that threatens to expose it as but mere falsehood. (Acemoglu, 2012; Ayittey, 2005; Dowden, 2009 Meredith, 2005)
It is important to draw attention to the fact that all the available evidence testify to the initial successes recorded by PanAfricanists as well as nationalist movements in all parts of Africa, as well as in the diasphora. It was such successes that profoundly contributed to the subsequent nationalist achievements in all the African countries. All of the post-independence states of Africa showed an initial ability to mobilize the general public towards nation-building and development as reflected in the self-determined, and driven, achievement of national independence, democratization, republicanism and constitutionalism which made it possible for the region to register some measure of independence at the level of international relations through the OAU, NAM and other multilateral organizations. These nations were also able to initiate some measure of independent economic policies, programmes of economic diversification and above all else promote trends towards some degree of industrialization while they were under the control of nationalist regimes, movements, parties and popular forces immediately after their independence. Some of these countries included Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, Egypt etc. The kind of states being referred to as “failed” only came into being where the nationalist leadership had been overthrown in favour of surrogate leaders beholden to policy impositions, dictations and general tutelage from the Western nations. It is therefore important to draw attention to the earlier nationalist successes which have been “rolled” back by the Western alliance to produce the present states resulting in the conditions that are generally characterized as “failed”. The fact, therefore, that surrogate leaders rely on foreign powers to install and sustain them in power needs to be taken into account towards explaining the so-called “failures” of such states.
PanAfricanism, and the African nationalist movements, account for the following political achievements:
- The earlier independence of Haiti; the establishment of Liberia and Sierra Leone in addition to the massive support garnered for the independence of Ethiopia in opposition to European serial invasions.
- Popular movements, at several levels, among which were the ex-slaves and missionaries of West Africa, like Rev. E.W Blyden, who played a key role in the opposition to both TransAttantic Slave Trafficking and colonization, as well as towards the evolution of PanAfricanism and nationalist oriented African Churches. There are also the PanAfricanist congresses in the U.S and UK which constituted the first international political, and diplomatic, thrust of the struggle against imperialism and racism under the leadership of W.E.B Dubois, and Marcus Garvey, among many others. Furthermore there is the literary flowering, and expressions, of Africa’s struggles, against racism among which Negritude constituted an important part under the leadership of people like Aime Cesaire and Senghor.
- The extension of PanAfricanist Movement into Asia occasioning the subsequent development of a united front in the form of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). This is particularly due to the contributions of leading PanAfricanists like Mohammed Duse.
- The achievement of independence in many African countries, between the Mid 1950’s and 1975, as was the case in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania etc.
- The establishment of relatively effective constitutional, federalist, democratic and republican regimes in many independent African countries, following their formal independence, before the second wave of interventionism undermined them especially from the late 1980’s onwards.
- The establishment of the OAU in 1963 which, despite its problems, was quite able to coordinate a common African agenda, and diplomacy, which greatly helped the continent to liberate its remaining settler colonies, in addition to asserting a common diplomatic front at international levels against imperialism and racism, leading to the collapse of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
- Initial successes of many liberated areas of the Portuguese colonies, under the control of the various liberation movements, towards the transformation of the conditions in their respective countries before the wave of foreign interventionism greatly disrupted them. Such countries included Guinea Bissau, Angola and Mozambique.
It is important to stress that these successes were also possible due to the widespread, and diverse, levels of support African countries were able to marshal from well-meaning international organizations, associations, political parties, states, multilateral organizations as well as progressive establishments and individuals, in the world. Indeed it was such support that greatly contributed to the successes of Africa’s independence and liberation movements in their confrontation with European imperial powers.
Both before, and after, independence the tendency for African regimes to move in the direction of increasing independence in terms of policy formulation, foreign relations, economic diversification etc. was countered through the promotion, and the prop-up, of local monarchical, military or civilian dictators by the imperial powers. This process, after independence, led to the evolution of interventionist policies of terrorism in the form of economic sabotage, assassinations, political overthrows, military invasions, economic blockades, economic sabotage and many other acts of subversion against all independent-minded African rulers, and their governments, in favour of regime change. Where overthrown such leaders were generally replaced by conformist, compliant and servile rulers, as well as regimes. Some of such rulers that were either assassinated, invaded or overthrown included Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Sekou Toure, Amilcar Cabral, Murtala Muhammad, Thomus Sankara, Muammar Gaddafi etc. Conversely the failed leaders under reference would all be found to be anti-nationalist and beholden to foreign powers in one way or the other. Such is exemplified in the case of Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Houphoet Boigny of Ivory Coast, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, Kofi Busia of Ghana, Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Bokassa of the Central African Republic, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso as well as Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria (Meredith, 2005; 218. Bello, 2010; 21).Under the rulership of such ‘leaders’ nationalist and popular orientations in politics, as well as processes of independent policy formulation and implementation, were gradually undermined in favour of policies imposed by foreign powers in the form of IMF Loans and their conditionalities; Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP), Deregulation, ‘Privatization’, ‘liberalization’ etc. designed to secure and promote foreign economic, political and cultural interests. Such policies were not only imposed in complete disregard of duly formulated National Economic Development Plans but also in utter disregard of duly formulated, subregional and regional economic plans like those of ECOWAS and the AU. In the case of the latter we can cite The Lagos Plan of Action for the Development of Africa 1980-2000, and also the document Jointly produced by the UN and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on “African Alternative Framework to Structural Adjustment Programmes for Socio-Economic Recovery and Transformation: a Popular Version” in 1991, (Fawole, PP. 170-178; Payer, 1974)
Prevailing Challenges to Nation Building in Africa
From what we have said so far it is obvious that part of the conditions for successful nation-building is having a group of independent, patriotic, selfless, dedicated and capable leaders. In other words the evidence of world, as well as Africa’s, contemporary history point to the fact that nation-building has only been successful where, among other things, it has been led by informed political leaders who are also independent of foreign control and committed, as well as accountable, only to the popular national support that is the basis for their coming to power. Nation-building has never been achieved, anywhere in the world, by “leaders” who are also surrogates, or agents, for the achievement of inimical foreign interests. This is why all Nation states take great care to ensure that neither their political leaders, nor their political activities, are unduely and indirectly influenced by foreign nations or, indeed, by local self-serving cabals. The crises of Africa thus stem from the extent to which its independent political processes have been subverted in favour of externally teleguided politics and controlled economies. This is most clearly reflected in the systematic campaigns against nationalist political parties, as well as popular movements, undertaken by dictatorial regimes with foreign support, all over Africa (Mamdani 2004; Nkrumah, 1965; Daley, 2007).
In order to appreciate this situation, further, we will draw attention to some of the major contributions that contemporary and patriotic African statesmen, members of the intelligentsia, politicians and activists are making towards the attainment of the goal of successful nation-building. These are abiding and successful efforts at nation-building which have been deliberately side-lined by failed writers commissioned to dwell on the setbacks arising from the subversive activities of surrogate rulers in order to generate a climate of psychological despondency, and despair, designed to cover up, rationalize and promote the destructive character of foreign intervention in Africa since the 1960s. It needs to be noted that the idea of a “good governance” agenda, that is teleguided by foreigners, as a standard prescription against what has been described as “bad governance”, or “Africa’s leadership problems”, is a ploy for foreign interventionism that presents only more problems.
In the first place this is not a solution to the so-called problems of leadership but rather an attempt at the legitimization, as well as actualization, of the schemes for the further recolonization of Africa. It cannot lead Africa out of its present problems. It can only serve the interest of those powers that have crafted it in much the same way that all earlier prescriptions have only served those who crafted them to the detriment of Africa. In order to appreciate this we only need to look at how their key operational principles, and strategies, stand in opposition to both democratization and economic development in Africa.
The level of impunity underlying the relationship between the Western proponents of the policy of “good governance”, illustrated in wanton interventionism, stand in direct opposition to respect for national constitutions or the observance of international law. They preach “democracy” in weaker nations and deny it at international levels, as well as in the U.N., where the autocracy of the powerful rule the world by veto rather than on the principles of democratic votes and representations. They preach democracy in weaker nations and yet arrogate to themselves the right to impose the ruling ideas, and development policies, on the same nations rather than allow them to determine these democratically, for themselves. These are imposed at the expense, and to the detriment, of locally and independently formulated development plans. They claim to be interested in “transparency” and yet their countries are the principal sanctuaries for the laundering of the proceeds of corruption belonging to “failed leaders” from Africa. They claim to work only for “peace” and yet they are the sole maintainers of military bases all over Africa, and are also behind every violent conflict on the continent. They claim to be interested in Africa’s “economic development” and yet work only to obstruct the diversification and industrialization of its economies, as well as their mutual integration and independence.
At a more general level there is also the systematic and relentless subversion of Africa’s regional integration processes as well as its collective interests, in many ways, by the combined force of the USA, EU and NATO as is exemplified in the war they waged against Libya, in particular, and the subversion of all independent programmes of regional economic development in Africa in general. Of particular relevance is the extent to which an imperial collective dominant in the UN Security Council, EU and NATO, stands united against each and every isolated, poor and weak African country in any bilateral, or multilateral, relations. This situation becomes worse with every case of balkanization, as the experiences of Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, and particularly those of Eritrea and South Sudan, graphically illustrate.
The standing EU and NATO policy is that of keeping control over Africa’s natural resources, in addition to maintaining imperial hold over Africa’s economies through the agency of the UN, World Bank and the IMF wherever necessary. This quest has become all the more urgent in view of the possibilities of certain African countries promoting a more independent relation with such newly emerging world powers like China, Russia, India, Malaysia, Brazil etc. Added to this is the increasing disinvestment climate promoted in Africa due to the massive extraction and repatriation of wealth by western governments, and corporations, as well as the criminal laundering of looted funds abroad by corrupt African rulers. These expose the hollowness of the western-led campaigns for so-called ‘job creation’ and ‘poverty alleviation’, on the one hand, as well as for economic ‘development’ and ‘democratization’ on the other.
In particular, national interests and nation-building principles, in the form of independent local political movements and parties, indigenous interests, independent social movements, constitutionalism and pan-Africanism have been systematically, and consistently, sidelined and repressed. In view of this tendency towards the constriction of cultural, political and economic spaces in favour of foreign interests, there is a significant resurgence of the politics of sectionalism, signifying that surrogate national rulers are only capable of promoting, much like their foreign patrons, ideologies that are not only subversive but also conducive for local scrambles and despoliation, rather than nation-building. This, as many writers have said, is informed by the functions of the characteristically imperial and divisive ideas, as well as structures, of ethnocentrism.(Mafeje, 1971; Mamdani, 2002 ;Preiswerk and Perrot 1975; Usman, 2003; Daley 2007; Schalks, 2002; Bello, 2013).
The on-going deconstruction, by Africa’s academics, in all disciplines, of ethnocentric imperial ideologies is perhaps one of the greatest developments in the evolution of Africa’s political philosophy, as well as a major theoretical support to nation-building on the continent. Various scholars such as Diop , Mafeje, Mamdani, Gyeke, Dike, Usman, Ajayi, Nnoli, Ake, Ranger, Ngugi, Prah and Davidson, in addition to many others, have been able to make very important, and ground breaking, contributions on the basis of historical research, as well as theoretical evaluation, which greatly confirm that ethnocentrism, and with it the ideology of racism and tribalism, were indeed not only a substantial fabrication but also the prejudicial policy instrument used by the imperial powers to achieve their common political, administrative and doctrinal objectives of divide-and-rule in their various colonies. As a result these have come to constitute significant sources of division, and conflicts, in contemporary Africa. They have in many ways proved to be the Trojan Horse left behind, and actively promoted, by the colonialists in opposition to nation-building, regional integration and peaceful development in Africa for a good number of reasons. They have affected, and redefined, African politics in many negative ways, a few of which we will highlight hereunder.
Most of the studies on ethnocentrism in Africa draw attention to the fact that this was a characteristically colonial system of divide and rule which tended to promote autocracy, exclusion, division and conflicts. Studies conducted elsewhere in the world, at the global levels, also tend to confirm these findings. For example studies conducted by the UN in the early 60’s came to the conclusion that racial categories are “not so much a biological phenomenon” as they were “social myths” “(Ki-Z erbo, 1990: 102). In a similar study on European nationalism Pfaff noted (1993; 53) that not only is the notion of the “ethnic” a mythology but that whereever it was imposed by foreign powers, as was the case in eastern Europe and Africa, it tends to lead to division, or regression, and conflicts. Quoting Acton, Pfaff (1993) noted that not only is ethnocentrism “a retrograde step in history” but also that:
The combination of different nations in one state is as necessary a condition of civilized life as the combination of men in society ….. A state which is incompetent to satisfy different races condemns itself; a state which labors to neutralize, to absorb, or to expel them, destroys its own vitality; a state which does not include them is destitute of the chief basis of self-government
Pfaff further draws the following conclusion: “the idea that nations have a racial origin (or, to employ the current expression, a singular ‘ethnic’ origin) is generally untenable”. Similar is the conclusion arrived at in the various African studies which have identified ‘ethnic’ groups as imperial “inventions” and “fabrications”, or stereotypes. (Mafeje, 1971; Ranger & Hobsbawm, 1983; Bello, 2013).
The extent to which ethnocentrism becomes the dominant, and hegemonic, ideology in any African country, as well as at the level of the region in general, is a function of the extent to which foreign powers, and their local lackeys, have gained domineering political control at the expense of independent, nationalist and PanAfricanist forces. It is important to note that ethnocentrism, by design, negates and defies multiculturalism, as well as pluralism and constitutionalism.
Another important reason for this state of affairs is the fact that while nationalism is committed to sovereignty, as well as constructive and creative change of the colonial status quo, in favour of Africa’s integrated development, local politicians that are submissive and subservient to the continuation of the neo-colonial status-quo are generally beholden to ethnocentric ideologies. This is because the ideology also serves the interests of inter-elite, as well as intra-elite, scramble leading to rivalry and recurring divisions, at various local levels. It is due to the manner in which divisiveness is used to justify political opportunism, at the expense of community building and integration, that it leads to increasing, as well as continuous, division, redivisions and subdivisions in African countries at every level – right down to the family level!.
Over the last ten years we have witnessed how the development of corruption and intra-elite rivalry, anchored on various ethnocentric divisiveness for certain undeserved privileges, rather than contributions to nation-building, on the bases of diverse appeals to “origins” such as “indigeneity”, “customs”, “traditions”, “tribes”, and “faith”, which stand opposed to constitutional injunctions anchored in citizenship rights, human rights and the law, have led to lots of conflicts and loss of lives in Nigeria (Alubo, 2006; Imobighe, 2003). These conflicts are thus not only criminal in nature, in the manner they are variously incited and executed, but also constitute the greatest disservice to the promotion and development of human relations, as well as genuine African cultures, at the levels of community, locality, nation and region. They constitute serious, and persistent, infringements of international human rights laws. While in some parts of Africa, and at the level of international relations, these are beginning to be legally addressed Nigeria is yet to take any definitive stand, or make any progress, on the issues (books google.com/100/theICC&culture of impunity in Africa ….).
Many studies have drawn attention to the fact that impunity is driven, in Africa, by both the foreign imperial powers and its corrupt ruling elites. Judicial processes are subverted in favour of political interests and schemes. “Justice” is not aimed at punishing the culprits, and compensating the victims, but rather towards shielding the criminals in favour of ‘reconciliatory’ and so-called ‘peace’ activism and commissions, or power-sharing arrangements, which are incapable of establishing justice and deterring offenders. (atlisma.org/online-journals/human…/the fight over impunity). Justice is essential to the promotion and sustenance of a peaceful environment. So it must not, and cannot, be denied under the pretext that peace is being promoted.
The negative impact of ethnocentrism and the politics it breeds, briefly referred to above, is on account of the fact that racial and tribal concepts were crafted purposely by the colonialists in order to promote separation, exclusion and discrimination rather than integration and inclusion, or justice. They have as such promoted viewpoints, ideologies, public psychology and policies, in short a doctrine, that is both fissiparous and disintegrative (Gyeke, 1979; Mamdani, 2002; Mohammed, 1979; Usman, 2003; Schalk, 2002; Bello, 2013). Such a doctrine denies, as well as opposes, two important considerations necessary for constructive community building anywhere and at all times. The first is that it denies both the multicultural and dynamic nature of the evolution of human societies and social categories, based on the diverse processes of migrations, intermarriages, fusion and integration in favour of an assumed process that is supposedly made up of eternal bio-cultural categories which are, moreover, seen as inherently separate from, and exclusive of, one another. As a result it implies and promotes a perspective of ethnic purity, separateness and the possible need for cleansing exercises where such might arise. The second is the fact that such a view is not only based on stereotypes, informed by prejudices, it is also further utilized for the purposes of a priori judgements of whole groups of people. Moreover such a priori judgements, of whole groups of people, is not based on the outcome of certain conduct or activities associated with them, but rather on certain bio-cultural stereotypes, which are wrongly assumed to be common only to such groups as well as capable of explaining their conduct or behaviours. The concept, moreover, is applied to Africa by the imperial powers on the basis of a double standard. In other words such a faked, toxic and disintegral approach is not applied in the description, evaluation or analysis of western societies, communities or peoples.
Exemplary Leadership Role Of Africa’s Nationalists And Intellectuals Towards Nation-Building And Regional Integration
The loose, or probably mischievous, use of the term leadership to describe, essentially, all people in position of authority in Africa has a number of drawbacks. Predatory systems of control imposed by the imperial powers and operated through a variety of locally hired, or employed, agents could not be described as “leadership” in the same sense that independent, popularly determined and patriotic nationalist movements could be described as genuine African leaders committed to the struggle for its decolonization, integration and self-determination.
It is this fact that defines nation-building as a phenomenon that is not simply rooted in, or a recreation of, a presumed mythical and ethnocentric past of nations. It is necessarily constitutional, democratic and pluralist process geared to the independence of both the local population, and the polity, from any system of domination of whatever denomination-whether ancient or modern, as well as African or foreign. It is for this reason that national constitutions are structured around three related issues all of them a search for independence and freedom: national sovereignty geared towards the achievement of individual citizenship rights based on processes expressing popular sovereignty, or democracy under the rule of law.
It is therefore significant that attention is drawn to three very important factors governing the actual situation of African nations in line with the observations made so far. In the first place nation-building in Africa can only be successful where it is based on the earlier achievements of Africa’s nationalists and intellectuals towards assuring self-determination, economic diversification and integration as well as the capacity to formulate, and implement, policies in a manner that would justify referring to governments in Africa as democratic institutions that are truly “of Africa, for Africa and by the Africans”.
It is also important to note that a general survey of Africa’s contemporary history clearly portrays some patterns in the development of its various countries, as well as the region in general, since independence. To begin with all the countries performed relatively well initially in terms of the generation, formulation and implementation of policies relating to their various national activities, as well as regional integration. We also similarly observe externally initiated processes, by Africas former colonial powers under the leadership of the USA, geared towards contesting, or a “rollback” of, the independent status of African countries. This involved three interrelated strategies. The first is, as many writers have indicated, through the preservation of exploitative colonial structures in each individual country in opposition to their possible dismemberment (Nkrumah, K. 1965). The second is through the process of establishing, in each country, new mechanisms geared to establishing control of both policy formulation and economic activities through a policy of external indebtedness, and other such traps, in order to facilitate both the financial fleecing of such countries as well as effecting control over their decision making processes (Payer, 1974). Finally there is also a concerted effort to undermine independent regional, and subregional, organizations in favour of Western imposed, as well as controlled, organizations and military bases. It is worthwhile to cast a cursory look at these processes more closely.
In the first place mineral ownership, production and processing in African countries, ceded to the control of imperial companies since the days of colonial occupation, have remained unchanged to this day. This is the major reason accounting for the destruction of local mining activities, as well as the processing and manufacture of various minerals, signifying the role of foreign colonization in the de-industrialization of Africas local economies. Similarly the mines were expropriated from Africans and handed over to foreign companies-an act which European and American multinationals desperately strive to preserve, despite the independence of African countries.
In the second place, in many African countries where agricultural land, and livestock, had been violently expropriated and handed over to settlers, and foreign companies, there have been concerted attempts by the imperial powers to ensure that no new policy is formulated after the independence of these countries in order to revise, revisit or in any manner do justice to such established cases of plunder. This is particularly illustrated in such countries as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Ivory-Coast, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola.
In the third place in a number of countries which were the earliest to gain independence, and where foreign settlers were not established in any significant numbers, the effort has been to disestablish their independent, or nationalist, regimes in order to supplant them with compliant ones-in many cases under the leadership of military officers loyal to the imperial powers, or as a form of promotion for loyal local employees of the World Bank and the IMF from given countries. Such countries include Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast etc. As recent events are confirming such a “roll back” process does not only consist of the imposition of selected candidates as chief executives, by foreign powers, but also the introduction of elaborate regulatory processes for undermining the possibilities of independent nationalist politics in general.
In the fourth place we also witness how processes of destabilization, exercised through the application of multiple forms of interventionist pressures, are brought to bear on specific African countries which stand opposed to foreign tutelage in one form or another. Such acts of destabilization are particularly relevant because they are based on the promotion of civil strife, civil wars and terrorist movements, as was the case with UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique. These were designed to subvert the economic achievements of these countries in order to ensure that they were not allowed to demonstrate the possibilities of an independent process, or course of development, as a prescription against foreign economic control. (Mamdani, 2004). Presently such a strategy greatly accounts for the numerous civil strifes and conflicts, leading to balkanization, in many African countries.
Prospects of Nation-Building in Africa
The present efforts towards so-called ‘good-governance’ cannot work in the favour of Africa because it is not an independent initiative. It is an imperious prescription. It has thus neglected the essential issues in nation-building and the so-called development it promises, as Claude Ake rightly pointed out, was never intended in the first place (Ake, 2001). For nation-building to be successful it must achieve, and be based on, the critical objectives of national sovereignty, constitutionalism, unity, citizenship rights, national development plans and practical issues of regional integration which are outside the purview of the so-called ‘good governance’ agenda. Nation-building is an independent and self-determined process. Democratization and the associated struggle for popular sovereignty, human and citizenship rights, cannot be otherwise.
Clearly the question of development in Africa must be able to transcend the limitations currently imposed on it by foreign interventionism, local impunity, inherited colonial economic structures and the tendency to disintegral divisiveness, partially occasioned by the prevailing dominance of the ideology of ethnocentrism. These need to be overcome through building on PanAfricanist, as well as nationalist, achievements in respect of Africas sovereignty, at popular, national and regional levels, towards creating a regional structure that could independently mediate local conflicts within, as well as between, African countries and also check foreign interventionism in favour of both popular and national sovereignty. Constitutionalism: multiculturalism, political pluralism, economic diversification and industrialization on the basis of regional integration, as well as a common and united African stand at international levels in terms of diplomacy, would appear to constitute the most essential building blocks for the successful development of African nations as opposed to their present neo-colonial status: incapacitated, divided, dependent and extroverted.
From what we have said so far it is obvious that the so-called failure of nation-building in Africa cannot be dissociated from the manner in which some of its surrogate elites have colluded with foreign powers to subvert it in every possible manner as well as turn it into a wild goose chase by reducing it to a self-serving ethnocentric squabble rather than a nationalist, and PanAfrican, process of socio-economic and political integration geared towards achieving the total independence and development of Africa. Efforts aimed at redressing these problems ought to focus on the most essential features of nation-building if they are to become successful. In this regard it is important to note that unity is, first and foremost, defined and promoted through the pursuit of the common interests that are codified in our national constitutions, laws and development plans, as well as in such other agreements that have been duly entered at regional and international levels. Development and security mean, essentially, the ability not only to promote but also secure such common interests as defined in the relevant instruments signifying common national agreements and objectives. To see nation-building from a basically ethnocentric perspective, as merely a relation between “ethnic” groups, is to miss the original, creative, dynamic and common features of the process in favour of stereotypes which could only lead to confusion and dysfunctionalism in society. Building nations in Africa, as Fanon noted, must not only strive for genuinely high-minded humanitarian, PanAfricanist and nationalist ideals, designed to achieve social justice, but must also promote equality and freedom between nations and peoples devoid of both racism and avarice (Fanon, 1968; 312).
The primary objectives of nation-building, in this age of supra-national states must, in the manner stipulated in Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, be pursued on the basis of regional unity and integration. In addition the pursuit of national unity, integration and development ought to be anchored in the principles of citizenship rights. Respect for the constitution, and international law, need to be promoted in place of impunity. Similarly essential conditions for authentic national, and regional, development that are mindful of multiculturalism and political pluralism, need to be seen to inform executive action at all levels, geared to the promotion of social justice.
Nation-building in Africa, or anywhere else, has never essentially been an exercise in the preservation and administration of any, or a galaxy of, “primordial ethnic” groups. It was always a struggle to create new as well as independent, and sovereign, nation-states anchored in the universal principle of popular sovereignty and citizenship rights.
Similarly nation-building was nowhere ever simply designed to recreate the precolonial past, from whichever point of view this is perceived, or to basically preserve the colonial status quo, in whatever guise, but rather to change it in favour of the development of a new society with constitutional promises and opportunities that guarantee liberty, development and integration in order to promote justice, establish equity, find peace and secure prosperity for all citizens.
In addition nation-building cannot be the same with the imposition of externally formulated economic ‘development’, as well as a ‘good-governance’, agenda by world imperial powers at the expense of independent, and self-determined, national development processes and plans. Nation-building cannot but be the work of independent citizens expressed through the exercise of popular sovereignty.
It is also significant to note that Haiti has decided to be part of the AU. It is imperative that the AU promotes greater relations with the African public as well as Africans in the Diasphora through the initiation of diverse policy principles designed to address the needs of the continent at every level as well as in each sector. Common African policies on research, education, information, security etc., in addition to the various proposals on economic integration, will need to be further activated and propelled through wider popular involvement, and participation, in the region. Such policies also need to inform the national programmes and activities of each African nation as a member of the Union.
In line with the exemplary conduct of one of the awardees, of Daily Trust, African Award, AbdulRaheem T., we must not only all work on this together but also do so in the spirit, and towards the achievement, of the goals of PanAfricanism. Patriotic African elites need to organize locally, actualize nationally and integrate regionally.
Meanwhile, in the spirit of the moment, we need to promote relevant platforms of the type that has brought us here today, as well as network their activities in a manner that will make them a significant force in the conduct of affairs at the level of countries, subregions and the region in general.
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EMERGING PERSPECTIVES ON THE ORIGINS, FUNCTIONS AND CONSEQUENCES OF ETHNOCENTRISM IN AFRICA
This paper argues that prevailing problems of African societies are defined and distinguished by, among other things, the dominant influence of ethnocentrism or the ideology of tribalism. Its divisive, regressive and destructive nature has greatly stalled progress in Africa.
Ethnocentrism encompasses the wider imperial ideology of racism which perceives development of society and history as both composed and determined by bio-cultural identities of races and tribes, or ethnic groups. These conceptual categories have been critical in the racist justification of the imperial domination of Africa as well as in the reorganization, division, management and control of African societies by the colonial regimes. The potency of ethnocentrism lies in the fact that it was not only developed as an imperial worldview but also as the social policy for colonial administration as well as an ideological mechanism for political action by emerging African elites. Furthermore it was not only deployed as the principal instrument for general propaganda, and indoctrination, in education and the public media but was also greatly cultivated and promoted to the status of social psychology through a number of administrative, legal and social provisions ,as well as prohibitions.
However the essential conceptual categories, and general ideology, guiding the perception of Pan-Africanist movement stand’s in direct opposition to those of the colonialists at every level as well as on each, and every, count or issue. PanAfrican perspectives see and assert the common and united character of African peoples, civilizations, histories and development as a basic defense-against their atomization, denial or distortion. In addition, they assert this collective PanAfircan identity from the point of view of the imperatives of the role of African unity in the liberation and development of Africa. They represent the common claim, and assertion, of the humanity of Africans in opposition to the programme of dehumanization that ethnocentrism represents.
Types of researches conducted on Africa, in terms of topics, issues and methodologies tend to reflect the opposition between imperial perspectives, on the one hand, and African nationalist perspectives on the other.
Despite the fact that enduring socio-economic and political hegemony over African affairs continue to give imperial powers some advantages in the promotion of research activities on Africa it is also true that to a lesser extent, critical and anti-imperial scholarship from many sources, as well as research activities by emerging African academic establishments, are greatly contributing to the deconstruction of the regressive ideology of ethnocentrism with important implications for a broader, more independent, inclusive and creative appreciation of its development processes.
The study surveys the origins, functions and consequences of ethnocentrism, as an ideological expression in Africa, with a view to addressing its effects on the affairs of the continent. It is generally well recognized that regressive communal conflicts have played a very destructive role in Africa particularly from the inception of the decolonization process in the 1950s to the various communal conflicts, and strife, associated with many African countries in the post-colonial period.
However the scope and character of ethnocentrism, and its general persistence as a phenomena, is greatly associated with the extent to which it predominates in many ways in African societies and is reflected at virtually all levels of politics and administrative policies in addition to its role in defining the categories of both educational and media practice on the continent. Indeed the best indication of its predominance on the continent is reflected in the fact that it was virtually the only viewpoint allowed expression during the colonial period, where only censorship and persecution attended opposition to it, or the promotion of non-conformist ideologies. This was further reinforced, in most African countries, by the manner in which the Cold War was waged after independence. The Cold War was waged in Africa in order to prohibit the expression or adoption of any ideology, thereby implying, as well as promoting, the view that ethnocentrism was indeed more of a “reality” rather than a particular perception, or an ideology, of aspects of such realities in Africa
In many ways the generation of knowledge, and the purposes to which such knowledge is put, in Africa has been greatly influenced by the needs of foreign imperial powers towards promoting ideas that favour the division and control of their colonies. On the other hand research inclinations of African nationalists tended to favour approaches which promoted unity and independence. References made to emerging perspectives in the context of this essay therefore need to be seen as reference to the emergence of ideas which are in opposition to imperial ideology in general, and the manner in which these have been developed in the post-independence period specifically. In this regard colonial research in the form of anthropology, indeed ethnography, diffusionist archeology, linguistics and colonial literature were, in general, designed to redefine and reorganize, or indeed reduce, African socio-political and corporate, as well as extant, identities into as many as the languages and, in many cases even dialects, that were possible. This was done in complete denial and evasion of the actual socio-historical, as well as territorial and plural communities, states, kingdoms and empires that were in existence and which completely defied such categorization. They were further done in complete defiance of all the processes and principles of interaction, fusion and integration that defines socio-historical development, in general, as a multicultural process.
The criticism of such an abstract, divisive and ahistorical perspective has tended to define the research orientations of most scholars in many ways opposed to the venture of imperialism, such as Pan-Africanists,, nationalists, Marxists and the Underdevelopment schools of thought, as well as many liberals.
While there are many dimensions to the debates on purposes of research in relation to development in this essay we emphasise their contributions in the manner they promote science at the expense of ethnocentric dogma, as well as the manner in which they promote creativity in development: towards the search for fresh perspectives and methods that help to overcome the problems of ethnocentric stereotypes.
Contextualizing the Ideological Character of Ethnocentrism
Dissatisfaction with, and criticisms of, the conceptual flaws and methodological problems associated with ethnocentrism make it difficult, if not impossible, to approach the terms and concepts of “tribal” and “ethnic” groups, as well as “nationalities”, essentially as problems of definitions. It is more a question of examining, contextualizing and explaining the characteristic assumptions of the most salient categories of imperial ideology.1 Ethnocentrism, and the various conceptual issues associated with it, are not simply the description of an extant, objective and verifiable reality but rather the construction of an image of reality from certain factual elements that are usually abstracted from both the socio-historical and politico-economic context defining them. This is why it is misleading to assume that “ethnic” groups have an objective existence outside, or beyond, the way they are characterized and identified from the point of view ethnocentric ideology. Such an existence needs to be verified, validated and proven to be real rather than simply assumed to be so, as some writers tend to do.2 In the first place, a group of people sharing a common language, as is commonly depicted, do not form an “ethnic” group but rather a linguistic group. Similarly a group of people sharing common customs and traditions, or constituting a cultural zone, are not usually defined or bounded by any particular language but are usually multilingual, comprising a variety of languages and other cultural expressions operating at several, as well as different, levels of political and socio-economic activities in the same zone, polity or society. Indeed due to the intermingling and fusion of different languages each would be found to reflect in its internal structures and vocabulary, evidence of such associations rather than the so-called “reality” of isolation, and linguistic particularism, informing the notion of ‘tribes’ or ‘ethnic’ groups. Similarly various social units such as individual family units, wards as well as diverse categories of settlements and polities would be found to be multilingual in various dimensions. It is therefore misleading to use language as a basis for the separation of communities which are essentially multilingual. In his contributions Young notes that “ethnicity” like “nationalism” is an ideology which takes the form of “history woven as cultural saga”. The ideological nature of ethnicity, he further notes, is reflected in the fact that it constitutes “a coherent set of propositions defining social and political reality, which suggest the imperative of social behavior for those who share it”. He also gave a practical example of how “the missionary version of Kongo history, rather than legends passed down by elders sitting around the village hearth” constitute “the basis for contemporary Kongo cultural ideology”.3
Furthermore the basic assumption that ethnic groups are, in addition, defined by consanguinity, common blood or genetic relations, through some mythical ancestors, is being increasingly laid to rest by scientific investigations in biology as unfounded.4 Similarly historical and sociological researches are increasingly marshalling evidence to the effect that the assumptions that “ethnic” groups are defined by some common and exclusive biological, or cultural, characteristics are but largely mere inventions and fabrications.5 In an important philosophical essay, Gyekye draws attention to the fact that given the extensive nature, and implications, of human historical and sociological trends towards diversification on the basis of migrations, conquests, enslavement, intermarriages etc. the reference to consanguinity, or common ancestral relations, in the definition of specific communities needs to be seen as but a mere fabrication.6 Indeed ethnic categories and explanations, especially in the colonial context, were more of ideological blinkers designed to promote the denial of the existence of independent processes of historical development and changes. They also distorted and subverted the plural, and independent, processes of community formation and development through migrations, urbanization, division of labour, socio-cultural diffusion and the development of social classes in the colonies.7 It is important to note that the presumptions that conflicts result from some form of “ethnic” differences can only be made where a blind eye is turned to the evidence of very similar conflicts arising within the same “ethnic” groups as is the case in, for example, Somalia, or any other socio-cultural group designated as such.
Quite apart from the conceptual problems associated with the concept of ethnic groups it is also formulated and applied to the analyses of African societies on the basis of a double standard. ‘Nationalities’, as similar cultural identities considered to apply only to ‘races’ of a more advanced type, are as such reserved for the ‘peoples’ of Europe. Both concepts, however, suffer from the same defect of attempting to explain social behavior on the basis of some biological presumptions rather than the actual historical and social conditions governing the evolution, and development, of human societies. The essential assumption that a certain primordial, primal, bio-cultural identity exists eternally and is, in a number of ways, the determinant of social behaviour, social relations and historical development in Africa, or anywhere else, is basically wrong and founded only on the basis of certain imperial racial stereotypes. Similarly to parcel, segregate and compartmentalize societies into presumably “hostile” ‘ethnic’ enclaves, on the basis of their cultures, is to misrepresent the latters actual functions in human society as the most important creative, integrative and humanizing influence greatly accounting for the increasing amalgamation of peoples, and humanity, through fusion, assimilation, adoption and adaptation. Culture and the various, as well as diverse, civilizations resulting from it, are basically the reflection of a common human attribute responsible for the creative conduct of man most importantly manifested in the ability to construct, operate and manage societies capable of meeting major human needs for survival, reproduction, security and well-being in the material, psychological and spiritual terms of the word. The notion that cultures or civilizations “clash” rather than fuse and assimilate into one another, at several levels, is a misrepresentation of the various conflicts arising from opposing political and economic interests within, or between, different communities and states. Cultures and civilizations, as human creations, are equally appropriated, adopted, perpetuated and promoted by different societies on the basis of their needs and sensibilities. All the modern educational, civic, technological, scientific and artistic expressions of human progress would be found to have originated, not from one or few sources of certain “civilizations” but rather from the diverse contributions of different peoples of the world, throughout history. The notion that cultures or civilizations clash because of their differences is a misnomer. On the contrary they primarily tend to fuse, merge, amplify and compliment one another towards greater and broader human achievements. Cultures do not clash, people and states, with differing politico-economic interests, do. 8
The insurmountable conceptual problems associated with tribal categories led many researchers to shift towards what was assumed to be less problematic i.e. the term ethnic groups. However the persistence of these problems has led many to further choose to use less loaded terms like “groups” and “inter-group” relations.9 This however tends only to avoid, rather than confront, the problems associated with these anthropological concepts. It needs to be emphasized that the most critical nature of ethnocentrism, like racism, is the belief that all peoples and their cultures can be reduced into some basic, static and primary ‘tribal’ and ‘racial’ groups which does not only define their social behaviour but also explains their being and processes of development. Ethnocentric ideology is not simply an attitude deriving from the tendency to express appreciation, pride and love for ones own cultural identity or heritage. It is not even simply the expression of an opinionated and hostile personal views about other communities, polities or peoples. It is more of an ideological tool that operates in a definite imperial context, defined by political and economic domination, which it seeks to justify, rationalize and facilitate. It is the domineering-mythical, contentious, divisive and discriminatory character of its perceptions, and the conflict generating nature of its implications, that define it more as an ideology rather than the ‘real’ existence of any composite and objective community. Indeed the notion of ethnic groups conflates and confuses the diverse usages, and meanings, of such terms as community, peoples, polities, cultures and kindred groups not only by reducing them to one abstract term but also by introducing certain biological innuendoes into what is entirely a sociological and historical process. It is imperative to note that such ethnocentric perspectives were everywhere advanced on the basis of presumptions which emphasize ephemeral differences as a basis for denying major and unifying attributes such as common histories, cultures, problems and destinies, as a strategy for enforcing separation in opposition to integration and cohesion. Communities in general, and cultural identities in particular, are not only human, multiple and varied but also inclusive, fluid and in a continuos process of change. They include various verifiable groups further redefined, at different social levels, into political, cultural, and economic formats in the context of their histories. Such identities of cultures are formed, defined and redefined due to the fact that they share common territory, state and administration as well as societies, economies and histories.
As critical responses to the observations made above numerous scholars, engaged in the study of African history and social sciences, have cautioned against stereotyping in social imaging, and historical profiling, in favour of focusing on those essential factors, and processes, which can be established to have played some verifiable roles in the formation and character of human communities.
Furthermore, it is also significant to look at the question of identities from the point of view of more scientifically formulated alternatives which see historical communities that are acephalous, otherwise generally referred to as ‘ethnic’ groups, as communal formations that exhibit similar characteristics of social, political, economic and historical features in their development process. In relation to ‘identities’ we need to always examine the difference between self-identification and identification by others. In both cases we need to note the basis, and purposes, for such identifications. We also need to distinguish between formal as well as informal identification, on the one hand, and the processes of scientific characterization and classification, on the other.
In order to appreciate the observations made above it is worthwhile to draw attention to the nature of ethnocentrism and its basic concepts by assessing its evolution, as well as the sources of its conceptual framework and methodological procedures.
European Imperialism and the Origins of Ethnocentrism in Africa
The expansion of the European states into other parts of the world, as well as the various activities associated with this development, between the late 15th C to the closing decades of the twentieth century constitute the circumstances which occasioned the rise of racism as an ideology of global imperial domination. This racism was expressed in general as a new form of world view and political ideology as well as, in various specific situations, a tool for propaganda or opinion moulding in various media.
Imperial domination, according to Fanon, not only divided the world into two: colonizers and colonized or “Natives”, but also defined a relationship between them which was expressed at both the racial and territorial levels, as segregated communities. An important feature of this process was not only the dehumanization of the ‘Natives’, but also their political and economic reduction into ‘the wretched of the earth.10 Another important outcome of this relationship, as the theorists of the underdevelopment school of thought contend, is that imperial Europe developed only by underdeveloping the third world. They thus see the relations between the two in terms of a center-periphery or metropolis-satellite configuration, with the two locked in a structured, and historical, embrace where the development of one is the very condition for the underdevelopment of the other.11 Indeed if the contributions of Mamdani were to be stretched a little bit, his conclusion tend to reflect that the division between citizens and subjects exist not only in the context of particular colonies but also as a major global divide.12 The relationship between imperial powers and their colonial possessions therefore also reflect a relationship between free, independent and ‘democratic’ states made up of citizens, on the one hand, and colonial entities that were dependent, subordinate and dominated, made up of ‘Native’ subjects on the other. The imperial states act, contrarily, as both custodians of democracy at home as well as architects of autocracy abroad13.
Where racism was designed to justify, and rationalize Euro-American domination of the world, the associated version of tribalism was designed to facilitate, and operationalise, imperial domination in the colonies. The notion of a “primitive”, social category referred to as “tribe” or “ethnic” group into which the “natives” were presumably divided, or identified, is a stereotype which proposes that the latter were not only backward, because they are subhuman, but also divided and in perpetual conflict amongst themselves. It is further advanced that they also needed to be saved from this state of affairs, by the white race, and promoted to civilization through colonial control, anchored on the notion of separate and segregated development policies, or apartheid. This is the meaning of the so-called White Man’s Burden.
In addition to the above, studies indicating the sources and structure of racist ideology, have also highlighted its patently imperial character.14 It is important to stress that popular prejudices, ignorance, and indeed even errors, based on the perceptions and outlooks of many incredulous accounts of European privateers: pirates, buccaneers, adventurers, spies, conquerors, mercenaries, settlers, missionaries, plunderers, bounty hunters, philosophers and outlaws, about the various peoples they encountered in the course of their expansion overseas, came to form the basis of the type of identities, or perceptions of other peoples, that Europeans increasingly developed since the sixteenth century. As Gollwitzer noted:
If ever a policy can be stamped as extroverted, if ever a policy developed tendencies of expansion and transformed them into an ideology, if ever a policy tightened the links binding the European states and the rest of the world more closely than ever before, it was imperialist policy.15
Such notions as “Red” Indians, the ‘Dark’ continent, the ‘Yellow” multitude etc. as well as specifically erroneous, or abusive, terms applied in the identification of other peoples such as ‘Pigmies’, Bushmen’, ‘Hottentots’ ‘Kaffirs’ etc became almost ‘normal’ references, or identities, of the peoples concerned. In the second place the ethnocentric identifications fashioned by Europeans constituted a racist perception of such societies of which they themselves had no knowledge of.16 Furthermore these were not even a listing of how such people actually indentified themselves, or were identified by their neighbours, which could have served as a basis for an objective and scientific characterization of the societies concerned. Such identifications were generally based on superficial criteria that were externally obvious in the form of physical and anthropological features, an only language supposedly spoken by the people concerned and the geographical localities in, or around, which they were supposed to be residing. In other words not only are the dominant languages wrongly presented as sole languages but the people are also seen as some sort of a natural, and biological, outgrowth characteristic of particular ecological areas. This led to the colonial type of literature designated as “land and peoples of ….”, leading to certain derivations on the basis of a single language plus land, such as Hausaland, Yorubaland, Igboland, Bechuanaland, Zululand, Kikuyuland etc even though the peoples concerned never characterized themselves, or the environment in which they lived, as such.17 Around these terms were woven various assumptions such as “ethnic homelands” which gradually developed into the ethnocentric stereotypes of so called ‘autochthonous’ or ‘native’ communities which tend to deny the role of immigration, residency, pluralism and fusion in favour of some eternal, or ancestral, attachment to specific areas by given peoples, in the so-called development of African communities.
The methodology of anthropology in general, and ethnography in particular, suffer from a great number of deficiencies foremost amongst which is the extent to which inimical racist assumptions, concepts and categories were uncritically accepted while the basically empiricist methodology applied towards the collection of evidence has its own in-built mechanism for the exclusion of inconveniencing data. For example it conveniently excludes the role of European imperial activities, over a period of five centuries, on the formation, conduct and character of communities in Africa. In addition, as a hypothesis, it disposes itself to a self-fulfilling prophesy which compels it to concentrate not only on differences but to also treat same only in a manner that is, of necessity, divisive. Thus wherever colonial anthropologists came across actual multicultural historical communities, or polities, such as Nri, Aro Chukwu, Ashanti, Fante, Songhai, Ghana, Mali, Bornu, Oyo, Jukun, Dahomey, Sokoto Caliphate, etc. they simply closed their eyes to their multicultural nature and reduced them to some so-called ‘tribal’ groups supposedly characterized, and distinguished, by single languages which are assumed to define their boundaries as ‘isolated’ and ‘conflicting’ entities. Such views were promoted through various segregationist policies and the cultivation of a public psychology, or mentality, anchored in ethnocentrism only18.The formulators of ethnocentric theories were not interested in assimilative, integrative, changing and unifying processes, or the processes leading to the creation of new communities. They were only concerned with those that promoted social segmentation, division, ossification and subordination.
It is also important to draw attention to the fact that imperial ideology could not be assessed only, and entirely, on the basis of what it professes about itself, in terms of the Hamitic hypothesis, the Civilizing Mission or the Modernization and Development theories. Being a predatory undertaking there is the need to look at the manifestation of its goals, conduct and character from the point of view of its operational activities and strategies. Action, as the saying goes, speak louder than words. It is also very important to appreciate the fact that indeed in some special cases silence, or what we choose not to see or hear, might constitute our loudest expressions. From this angle we need to start with the very important observation that all imperial powers operate, in keeping with the dictates of predation, at two levels-one overt and the other covert. The first maintains and promotes a posture of deceptive public openness, benevolence, humanitarianism, transparency and consistency in all matters formal and informal, legal and diplomatic, as well as in internal and international relations.19
The second posture maintains and deploys vast networks of secretive agencies which, in the majority of cases, operate only covertly and outside the law and, as such, usually outside their countries of origin. Such organizations serve as tools for aggression in general and spying in particular. They have come to serve as powerful instruments towards extrajudicial and nondemocratic relationships and have thus been found useful in keeping many post –colonial states, particularly in Africa, in check and under control since the latters assumption of nominal independence.20
The contradictory nature of some evidence and claims associated, in part, with the study of contemporary international relations are sometimes rooted in the conflicting nature of sources available as indicated above. This is why research methodologies which promote the utilization of all available source material, and the critical examination of all relevant theories and hypotheses contingent on any issue or topic, need to increasingly be advocated in contemporary African studies. Objectivity does not lie in a supposed ability to maintain some measure of detachment from the subject we study, it rather lies in the soundness of our theoretical assumptions, the comprehensive validity of our evidence and the logical consistency of our interpretation; in short in the scientific nature of our methodology. This, in turn, means our ability to control our irrational reactions ”without loss of involvement”.21
Even though the increasing deconstruction of racist ideologies has greatly transformed the nature of the content, as well as forms, of todays neo-imperial ideology, it has not changed it’s purposes. Neo-imperial views still seek solely to justify and rationalize interventionism in the affairs of others, even though they deny any such interventions in their own affairs. The essential and consistent character of imperial ideology is the justification of the domination, and exploitation, of its semi-colonial, colonial and neo-colonial territories, in perpetuity if possible. As such it denies for its subjects, directly or indirectly, what it prides most for itself; independence and freedom. This in turn accounts for its double standard in both theory and action. It strives not only to exploit but to also incapacitate its colonies by undermining their creative, productive and functional integrity as a strategy towards inducing their permanent structural dependency.22 On the other hand, for the very opposite reasons, Pan-Africanism strives, as a counter-discourse, to oppose the destruction of these same essential capabilities of the Africans, as their major guarantee for the liberation and development of the continent. Thus in terms of its research focus and objectives Pan-Africanism asserts a common patrimony, problems and destiny as the basis for the general identity of the Africans because, for it, imperial ethnocentrism is only a design to divide, arrest, isolate, ossify and dominate African societies through a predatory process of socio-cultural reductionism, compartmentalization and confinement. The issue of African culture from this point of view is thus more about its existential possibilities in terms of Africas independent political and economic capabilities, towards the creation of a better future, rather than any inane preoccupation with some mythical, and supposedly, innate and inert traditions.23
Character and Functions of Ethnocentrism in Africa
Indeed, the viewpoint of imperialism, in terms of racism and tribalism, sets it apart from most existing theoretical constructs founded on some definite philosophical-cum-methodological framework like the Marxian, Underdevelopment and Pan-Africanist schools of thought. The varied interests of neo-imperialism are usually advanced, depending on the occasion, under very general and subsuming attitudinal, rather than theoretical, terms like pragmatism, realism or liberalism. In a number of cases it simply lays exclusive claims on the virtue of being the only, or at least the absolute, expression as well as representation of all that is human, or associated with human achievements: such as Civilization, Modernization, Development, Humanitarianism, Human Rights, or indeed Democracy. These are not only presented in absolute, rather than relative, terms but they are also depicted as the special prerogatives of the west. It is such exclusive claims on being the superior or ‘complete’ human species that further defines the racist and dehumanizing orientation of imperial ideologies in general. If we examine some other viewpoints associated with the assessment of human history as a whole from any other point of view, including theological perspectives, we see a completely different, more equalitarian and respectful picture of humanity.24 Whereas most of such viewpoints assess peoples, and individuals, on the basis of their behaviour, character and circumstances ethnocentrism insists on a bio-cultural formular, in terms of ‘race’ or ‘tribe’, which is supposed to both prejudge and predetermine their being, as well as behavior and, above all else, the need for their control and domination by superior ‘races’ or ‘powers’ as a pre-requisite to their own development!.
Indeed it is from the perspective of such an analogy that we can best appreciate how uniquely original to imperialist ideology the issue of ethnocentrism is. Not only is it rather impossible to find equivalents in any of the African languages of what is referred to as “tribal” groups it is also not possible to identify any definite society, peoples, polities or communities which approximate to, and confirm, its categories except in terms of its own sordid creations during the colonial period.
It is important to draw attention to the fact that most of the earliest written records of the Greeks and the Arabs did not refer to any of the polities, communities or peoples they identified as societies defined by, or divided on the basis of, ethnocentric considerations. Such outlooks, and policies, are in the main reflected only in European literature of the post 15thcentury. Indeed in the mid fifteenth century Ibn Khaldun wrote his much celebrated, and the first major, theoretical insights on the study of history, from a scientific standpoint.25 In the Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun referred to two very important conceptual issues which are very relevant to the issues under discussion in this paper. Once more it is important to emphasise that these were views expressed in what has come to be considered as the earliest and most original contribution to the study of history, sociology, political science, political economy and economics.26 In the first place he notes that indeed civilization is a reflection of the “necessary character of human social organization” which is reflected in many different ways in different places and at different times.27 It manifests itself in various forms all indicating diverse human attempts at dealing with their problems in definite societies, at definite times, and in given environments. The second was Ibn Kahldun’s repudiation of the various racist insinuations and assumptions of his time which, however, under European imperial domination many decades later came to form the basis of the so-called Hamitic hypothesis, as well as imperial and colonial segregationist policies.28
Similarly many historical studies of precolonial African societies have now come to establish that so-called ‘ethnic’ societies, or polities, have never existed in Africa as actual historical communities. Historical studies undertaken by leading historians in Africa indicate that the communities which existed in Africa, whether acephalous or in the form of state formations, were not only multicultural and “poly ethnic” in nature but they were also formed through a historical process defined not only by diversity but also the consistent and continual transformation, and transcendence, of many given identities as well.29 Communities generally tended to identify themselves, or were identified by others, on the basis of some outstanding environmental features, distinctive occupational activities or the common names (of persons, things or features) randomly given to their various settlements and polities. This was so because residency, which was in no way restrained, was the basis for community membership whereas immigration, as an important process for growth through the infusion of positive cultural influences, was not only greatly promoted but also eagerly sought for. Identities solely associated with and confined to single languages, around which is woven the concept of “ethnic” groups, such as Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba were characteristically colonial.30 It was rather the diverse migrations, as well as associations, which individuals and groups entered at environmental, social, political and economic levels, as well as the manner in which such relations were articulated and developed, that gave most communities some measure of distinctive peculiarities, including diverse languages, in the context of a generally much wider socio-cultural and politico-economic levels of human integration. An identity was both a reflection, as well as an outcome, of the various forms and processes of interaction at different levels, between many peoples in the context of a variety of factors defining such formations, as well as their eventual transformation.31 it was never limited, let alone confined, to selected and unchanging ‘traditions’, ‘customs’ or ‘languages’.
In their study of the Aro of South Eastern Nigeria, Dike stresses how they applied “models of social action that derived from structural functionalism, from Marxian and conflict theories, from symbolic interactionsim, exchange theory and symbolic analysis whenever appropriate” in order to overcome “such terminologies as ‘savage’ ‘simple’ ‘static’, ‘tribe’ ‘primitive’ which were often used to describe many African societies and which denied any contributions these societies may have made to world civilization….”32
The Marxian contributions can further be seen in terms of two very important conceptual categories. The first is the concept of “social formations” which characterizes societies referred to as acephalous, ‘tribal’ or segmentary as “communal formations” in general. These are defined, more over, on the basis of economic, political and social features as well as indices common, and intrinsic, to them such as communal ownership of land and communal mobilization of labour in the process of production. They are not defined in the negative and on the basis of criteria, or indices, external to them and characteristic only of a different formation-say states in the form of city-states, kingdoms or empires, for example. As such terms like ‘simple’ ‘non-centralized’, ‘non-urbanized’, ‘pre-industrial’, ‘non-stratified’, ‘non-civilized’ etc do not, as they should not, apply. This is because these are two completely different systems of social, political and economic organization in human history.
The second major contribution is in terms of the Marxian criticisms of the Laws Of Formal Logic in the form of the Law Of Identity. Formal logic, in its formulation of the Law of Identity, presumes that “everything is and must be either one of two mutually exclusive things” and proceeds to classify and generalize them only on the basis of their differences, permanency and mutual opposition to each other. The law of dialectics, on the other hand, draws attention to the need to see them as ever changing processes which involve fusion and differentiation, as well as contextualizing them in relation to such more pervasive realities like time, society and history. Thus it concludes on the note that:
While the law of identity correctly reflects certain features of reality, it rather distorts or fail to reflect others. Moreover the aspects which it falsifies and cannot express are far more pervasive and fundamental than those it more faithfully depicts intermixed with its particulars of fact, this elementary generalization of logic contains a serious infusion of fiction. As a result this instrument of truth becomes in turn a generator of error.33
From the perspectives of the Theory Of Underdevelopment two important observations, in relation to the question of identities, need to be made. The first is that it adopts and uses, from Marxist theory, the term “precapitalist formations” as the most significant denominator expressing the common character of all manner of precolonial identities. They further draw the general conclusion that imperial domination did not lead to the development of capitalism in the various colonial territories of Africa, Latin America and Asia but rather to their common underdevelopment, resulting from a process of de-industrialization, structural disarticulation and the extroversion of such peripheral economies for the benefits of their metropolitan centres. Although using a Marxian category they reached a conclusion which is contrary to that of orthodox Marxism which tends to foresee, or indeed prophesy, only the future development of capitalism in the colonized territories.
What we have said so far brings us to an assessment of liberalism and the tendency for it to increasingly become the leading expression of neo-imperial ideology. As we noted earlier the increasing self-distancing of the imperial powers from both racist ideas and direct imperial activities, resulting from widespread condemnation of racial ideologies as well as the corresponding opposition to colonial occupation, have tended to undermine the open, boisterous and direct expressions of imperialism in favour of their more indirect as well as subdued expressions and operations, wherever they continue in some new forms. Liberalism, or “neo-liberalism”, has thus increasingly come to assume the role that racist imperial ideologies sought to achieve, although, without their racial trappings. However liberalism, no matter how it is defined, does not appear to constitute a basic theoretical, or ideological, discourse in the academic or political senses in which the above identified theories, and perspectives, could be presented. Liberalism expresses more of an attitude, a strategem, to existing political realities than an academic concern, philosophical outlook or any consistent ideological expression. It is more of a strategy for the maintenance of existing, and usually dominant, interests by playing a seemingly moderating influence between powerful contending ideological interests usually expressed, in Western Europe, in the form of conservatives and labour or socialists. Its relationship to political philosophy, political economy, history and the social sciences is essentially Eurocentric in the first place. It also generally tends to champion only the minority interests of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois, in the second place. Lastly it also tends to be obscurantist or evasive in most other instances. Infact dubiety and ambiguity tend to also define most liberal, or “neo-liberal”, arguments and standpoints. Its approach in general is selective, in relation to evidence; and dogmatic in respect of its assumptions, ideas and hypotheses. It serves more, given these conditionalities, as a strategy towards imposing its version of reality, or the cover-up of such realities, rather than as a scientific devise for exposing, and explaining, all aspects of the issues concerned. It tends in the direction, as a result of lack of concern with the actual facts, of absolute generalizations (usually in the form of fundamentalist, permanent and universal presuppositions) which, more over, it attempts to explain on the basis of mythical or mystical, and therefore unseen and unverifiable, variables and categories.34
Similarly, it proceeds on the basis of a basic disregard for other viewpoints, as well as a corresponding self-centeredness, usually characterized as Eurocentrism where it, in terms of all human history, inventions, capabilities and values, presents itself as the highest and the best, if not the only source, of such developments. Its explanations of social realities, and history, therefore always tend to converge on a perception of others both as a liability to it as well as the beneficiaries of its self-imposed tasks of “humanitarian” concerns. It is thus only from the point of view of an established superiority, and an associated sense of responsibility resulting in perpetual acts of benevolences, that the relationship between Europe and Africa is always presented. Notions of, and opposition to, exploitation, foreign intervention, subversion, domination and injustice, or the related calls for reparations, are simply considered not tenable or even admissible from such a point of view.35 Despite its tendency to evade and ignore, rather than address, view points and evidence negating its stance it usually also presents it own views in a rather dictatorial, or monopolistic, manner suggesting that they do not only constitute ’universal truths’, and ‘absolute sciences’, but also that there could be no alternatives to them – as is the case with, for example, World Bank and IMF prescriptions! The central principle of imperial ideology is predation ie it is only designed to always mystify in order to achieve, and preserve, imperial control.
Indeed, the linchpin of liberalism is the notion of laissez faire or “free trade” and “non-involvement” in economic affairs etc. Yet despite liberal claims of being ‘pragmatists’ and ‘realists’ nowhere do their ideas correspond to any known historical reality that could be assumed to constitute a basis, or provide a model, for it. Since the 15th century only trade barriers between western nations, as well as monopoly and outright plunder abroad, appear to characterize emerging world economic relations. Similarly nowhere does liberalism articulate a vision of how, and under what condition, “free trade” or any other form of economic “equilibrium” could ever be achieved. On the contrary, its postulations have only served to justify, as well as mystify, conquest and plunder in addition to the imposition of imperial monopolies with such ideologically loaded and false categories as “open”, “competitive” “market driven” etc. In a similar fashion they insist on the imperious rights of western powers to control and “modernize” or “develop” other economies whose development should have been both independent and intrinsic to them, like that of the west ,were the liberals to act true to their professed convictions.
In a characteristic fashion they spawn categories which, on closer inspection, always betray an inherent contradiction occasioned by the need to portray imperial activities in a manner that is contrary to their actual purposes, character and consequences. African achievement is thus, everywhere, presented as the result of some European benevolence while its problems are depicted as intrinsically, peculiarly, eternally and characteristically its own.36 Imperial activities cannot be advanced except through the imposition of violent control over, or direct and aggressive interventions in, the affairs of other nations by the imperial powers. They similarly could not be justified on the basis of the direct evidence of imperial activities in such societies but only through the evasion of the evidence concerned in favour of abstract and unrelated fictional, as well as misleading, constructions37.
Colonialism and The Development of Ethnocentric policies, structures and scholarship in Africa
As noted earlier critical to imperial activities were the essential requirements of justifying its domination by depicting Africans as sub-humans, on the one hand, as well as providing the politico-administrative structures for the management of its colonial territories on the basis of a policy of divide-and-rule, on the other. Not only do these requirements have tremendous ideological implications, they also led to racial segregation and the introduction of “tribal” divisions, or the Bantustanization, of the “Native” African population.
It is also important to draw attention to the fact that it was the aforementioned needs that led to the commissioning of various colonial research activities and programmes. Research activities were always associated with definite social needs, be they political or otherwise. It is these factors that combined to determine the nature of both colonial and anti-colonial researches conducted in Africa. These were expressed in the form of colonial anthropology/ethnography, on the one hand, or the nationalist and Pan-Africanist orientations in the study of African history, and the social sciences that greatly developed after independence, on the other.
Imperial activities in general, and its tendency to divide up Africa in particular, came to play an important role in determining the geopolitical and ideological configuration, as well as conduct, of African politics in many ways. It was this general environment, in terms of the major economic and political relations defining it, that provided the basis for the expression of destructive politics associated with ‘ethnicity’ in many colonial, and post colonial, societies in Africa. In general colonialism facilitated the development of ethnocentric policies, scholarship and administrative units.
- Curving Up Africa into European Colonial Territories
The actual curving up of Africa by European powers from the days of the Berlin Conference in 1884 to the conquest of Africa by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century was characterized, and defined, by certain enduring factors which have come to greatly contribute towards the general tendency to political regression on the continent. These factors do not in any way suggest, as some people tend to believe, that African societies were divided without due regard to their common “ethnic” expressions.38 Indeed, as earlier stated, common language or “ethnic” features never determined the basis for the formation of communities, chiefdoms, city-states, kingdoms or empires in Africa during the precolonial period. Rather what came to negatively affect Africa were a number of political practices, associated with the partition, that have come to constitute a near-permanent feature defining, and defiling, African polities, politics and societies.
The first is that certain processes accompanying the partition came to constitute standing procedures in the political relationship between Africa and Europe despite their very negative and divisive implications. We will highlight two of the most important ones here. In the first place the tendency for European powers to combine together against each and every single African society in favour of their own collective control, since the days of the partition, has tended not only to remain but has also indeed even become greatly reinforced since Africas independence in the 1960’s. Associated with this is the fact that the usual practice of external interference in African affairs that characterized the process of the partition, especially through support for one side against another in local disputes, and associated acts of aggression, do not seem to have abated but have rather intensified despite the presence of the African Union (AU) which should act as the major, if not the only, arbiter in African conflicts in the interest of its unity and integrity. Local conflicts, incited or incidental, have become a major source for promoting division and disintegration on the continent. This is largely due to the absence of an effective African agency responsible for the management, and containment, of such conflicts in Africas interests and towards its security.
The second issue is the manner in which the actual curving up of Africa, and its eventual occupation by different European states, has continued to affect it politically, economically and culturally. The imposition of colonial borders on over fifty colonial territories acquired by different European states did not only lead to its balkanization but it also effectively destroyed the preexisting vast network of regional, as well as inter-regional, integration of the continent that were politically, as well as economically, facilitated by the then existing fluid and open territorial borders. The colonial imposition of prohibitions and customs barriers on trade, communication, transportation, immigration and indeed even socio-cultural exchanges between different communities, polities, societies and regions in Africa foreclosed a process of general integration and development in favour of its overall destruction, and complete subordination, as well as continual compartmentalization into isolated units. This process was further compounded by the introduction of a series of divisive structures, and institutions, which came to be established within each colony, resulting, therefore, not only in promoting dysfunctional divisions at the level of the continent but also within each of the colonies established. Similarly each of these countries, or colonies, was individually subordinated to one European power ensuring that it was economically, politically and culturally tied to its apron strings. We thus have, in addition to individual colonial territories, their grouping into Anglophone Francophone, Lusophone etc. countries. These are in turn collectively subjected to Euro-American control and tutelage. The call by Pan-Africanists for African unity is the logical attempt to surmount these divisions and the problems they signify.39
- Loss of Africas Independence and its Divisive Implications
Imperial divisiveness was not limited to territorial barricades, isolation and containment but also included aspects of ideological attrition and psychological indoctrination designed to isolate and incite the subject population against each other, as well as their collective past, in order to more effectively confiscicate and control their futures.
In this respect the various prejudicial, perjorative, condescending and dehumanizing references to the African person and his indigenous traditions, or the outright tendency to deny him any history, were all but attempts at reducing his essence, as a human being, by way of isolating him from his past as well as “convincing” him of his inherent cultural, and creative, or developmental, incapabilities as a justification for his domination by foreign powers. The battle against this process of mass inferiorization, and psychological attrition, define both the devil in imperialism and the humanitarian soul of Pan-Africanism, despite the baseless and unwarranted criticisms of Negritude by writers like Wole Soyinka.40 Literary output associated with Pan-Africanism reflect, among other things, efforts at confidence-building, and awareness-raising, measures designed to negate and overcome the discriminatory and dehumanizing impact of racism by way of criticizing unhealthy attempts by black people to become “white”, or to mimic the colonizers attitudes, through the consistent opposition to apism, or associated expressions of “colonial mentality”, using “Negritude” and other manifestations of African Renaissance in general.41
The colonial occupation of African societies also led to a form of socio- economic divorce, and division, which has remained central to socio-political conflicts in Africa. The imperial expropriation of all mines in favour of colonial monopolies, leading to complete destruction of local and indigenous mining activities, as well as the expropriation of land from many African pastoral and agricultural communities in favour of white settlers and profiteering foreign companies in most colonies, particularly South Africa, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Namibia etc greatly undermined local productivity and pauperized many. In addition colonial occupation also set in motion a process towards the increasing alienation, commoditization and privatization of communal land despite the fiction of so-called Native “homeland” propagated by ethnic ideologues. Furthermore the tendency towards the destruction of local indigenous industries through, among other things, the conversion of agriculture into an extroverted, mono-cultural activity basically producing raw material for foreign industries also adds to the tendency for this reduced, and de-industrialized, ‘economy’ to become less productive leading to increasing mass poverty. The trend towards widespread poverty and deprivation amidst toxic ethnocentric divisions, and ideologies, combined to generally foreshadow the potential development of regressive socio-political conflicts at various levels.42
Indeed the unproductive and exploitative character of the colonial economy tended to redirect both collective, as well as individual, efforts at economic self-improvement towards the struggle for the control of administrative powers at various levels. This is so because the totalitarian, or “totalistic” and “statist”, control exercised by the colonial powers ensured neither economic freedom nor alternative sources of economic support, or opportunities for advancement, in the colony.43 Colonialism greatly undermined and destroyed a variety of local, indigenous, free and private economic activities, or enterprises, in order to facilitate foreign monopoly control, extraction and repatriation of resources. The colonial administration became the major source of business opportunities due to its massive expenditure of collected revenues, control over local resources as well as its complete regulatory powers over all forms of local economic activities. The economic structure therefore tended to foreclose productive enterprises in favour of state patronage and the despoliation of available resources-the benefits of which, for the same and many other reasons, could not be largely expended or invested locally. Thus consumption of foreign imports, and the repatriation of both legal and illegal funds, tend to only result in an outward migration of both human and material resources with further implications for rural and urban poverty, as well as conflicts associated with the local scramble for public offices in the manner already pre-figured, or scripted, and directed by the colonial state. Where post colonial attempts to restructure the economy fail, and the trend towards local scramble for public offices prevail, only consistent agitations for division, and redivision, of administrative structures in the form of states and local governments, or positions as ‘traditional rulers’, will continue to occur even where there appears to be no logic to such demands. As some commentators observe agitations, unless somehow checked, will continue even up to the family levels.44 it was political conflicts founded under such circumstances that came to take on the form of destructive contests that increasingly led to divisive, indeed regressive, mobilization of local passions and fears rather than any constructive engagement with the problems of nation-building, wealth generation and regional integration, as is the case with the developed nations, or should have been the case with the newly emerging and independent nation-states of Africa.
It is important to also draw attention to how the loss of sovereignty in many ways influenced the tendency towards the extroversion of Nigeria’s colonial elites resulting in its disregard for local issues and public interests, as well as a corresponding disrespect for the rule of law, which have become the defining features of its identity-with grave implications for the solution of both local corruption and external dependency. Colonial conquest and control greatly undermined the role of the local communities, as well as all other forms of locally based and constituted social, political and economic interests , from exerting control over local affairs and politics, as would have been the case in an independent polity. Locally recruited imperial functionaries, such as Military, Police and Native Authority appointees, as well as other colonial officials, owed their positions and were accountable only to foreign colonial powers through their local representatives. After independence the tendency for the colonial elite to become a law unto itself, unaccountable to the local population, therefore began to manifest itself in many forms. Corruption, which tends to subsist on disregard for public interest as well as disrespect for the rule of law, or venality, was thus further anchored in the prevailing character of foreign colonial hegemony which tended to ensure the total absence of popular sovereignty as a necessary basis for its own dominance and inaccountability. Thus one very significant factor propelling the widespread occurrence, and recurrence, of violent communal conflicts in many African countries is the fact that those responsible for such criminal action were never identified and prosecuted in most, if not all, of the countries concerned. Inability to change, diversify and develop the economy, as well as govern on the basis of the rule of law and the Constitution, are thus very important factors impelling unruly as well as divisive politics, and conflicts, in Africa. These disabilities clearly indicate a major failure to undertake the major projects that could lead to both unity and justice through the pursuit of common political and socio-economic objectives in the national interest. Common national interest is mischievously presented as the promotion of cultural homogeneity, or uniformity, in the nation rather than the promotion of the common interests of its peoples, and the basic rights of its individual citizens.
- Colonial Policies of Social Segregation, Exclusion and Discrimination.
Policies of segregation between ill-conceived ‘races’ and ‘tribal groups’ played a very significant role in entrenching, promoting and institutionalizing divisions, and conflicts, in various colonized societies. Indeed the manner in which these divisions were configured, characterized and operated during the colonial times also came to shape the various ways in which so-called ethnic conflicts in the post-colonial period came to eventually manifest themselves as well.
The attempt to organize society along the lines of superficial differences associated with ‘race’ or ‘tribe’ was not only applied by imperial powers in their various colonies around the world but it also constituted the basis of fascist ideologies which many, in particular Hitler, attempted to impose in Europe as well.45 The relationship between culture and politics is both complex and multifarious not least among which is the fact that politics, as a creative process, is also a form of cultural expression. However in the colonial context references to civilization and culture were designed to promote an image of superiority, as a justification for imperial domination, and also serve as a devise for social division and control within the colony.46 It was more than simply “culture talk” in the manner Mamdani put it. The discourse on culture by various Pan-Africanists and nationalists, as a strategic factor in the struggle for liberation and nation-building in Africa, is instructive in this regard. However Mamdanis useful contributions in this respect are outstanding. For various reasons and in a number of ways colonial powers, as he rightly observed, crafted identities which were enforced by the colonial state on the basis of its policies and laws in the occupied territories concerned. This certainly made such identities more of political rather than mere cultural expressions.47 The objective of these efforts were, furthermore, not designed to promote any principle of ‘separate development’ or preserve any ‘tradition’, but rather to undermine independent processes of local socio-cultural integration in order to promote division and foreclose the possibilities of any unified resistance against colonial domination. This act, in turn, helped to rigidify and politicize cultural manifestations in the colony in opposition to their generally social, free, multiple, fluid, cumulative and creative character. The sole emphasis on racio-cultural identities in general, and ‘ethnic’ identities in particular, during the colonial period, was further useful in obscuring the oppressive, unjust and exploitative nature of colonial economic control and relations.
The very manner in which colonial societies were redefined reflected an abiding desire not only to promote division within them but to also ossify them into some permanent, isolated and submissive units of colonial domination. Indeed every single social, biological or environmental factor identified towards the fabrication of ethnocentric identities was viewed only from the point of view of its divisive functions. These were further designed into management principles that would ensure a foreclosure on the benefits of historical processes in the form of unrestricted migrations, settlements, intermarriages, fusion, diffusion and assimilation towards general socio-economic integration. Similarly important factors influencing social development and integration, in all societies and throughout history, were reduced into instruments of division and confrontation rather than cooperation. Thus the common and complimentary character of the environment in general was reduced to its perception as some ‘isolated’ and ‘exclusive’ so called ‘native homelands’. The overarching and inclusive character of cultural features were, in turn, reduced into some permanent, exclusive and divisive ‘customs’ or ‘traditions’ while multilingualism, so much a feature of all societies was reduced to a singular, and socially isolated, criteria of ‘common language’ used to define inchoate “ethnic” groups. Even the factor of a common state, or administration, generally serving as an important criteria in defining common political identities became, under colonialism, only an effective facility for the division of societies and the promotion of conflicts between them. It is also important to note that the confinement of the indigenous ‘ethnic’ societies to something characterized only by certain selected ‘traditions’ or ‘customs’ is not only in association with the task of denying it any history, in the sense of an independent and creative past, but is also an ideological license which ensures the domination of its present, as well as the confiscication of its futures, by identifying the colonizers as the only source for its “modernization”.
It is also important to draw attention to the manner in which colonialism greatly influenced the development of destructive, as well as regressive, elite political activities that were initially expressed in the post-world war II period in the colonies in the form of communal conflicts but which, in a number of places, continued to serve as serious sources of conflicts in post colonial societies.48 Colonialism was in the first place not only a spoil system in favour of foreign trading, financial and industrial monopolies it was also a totalitarian system of control in the sense that it intervened, restructured and operated in every sphere-political, economic and socio-cultural, of the life of the colony in order to gear it towards serving imperial interests.
Under colonial occupation urban, or residential, townships were segregated. Indeed further divisions were made between people sharing same languages and traditions on the basis of their “ancestral roots” or “indigeneship” as well as their religious beliefs. In many ways, and as many studies have shown, the processes of continual segmentation, division and regression in many African countries is not unconnected with the relative persistence of these socio-cultural demarcations which should be completely abrogated in favour of residency, as well as individual citizenship, rights in any democratic context as provided for in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, for example. Only this will promote the required commitment, contribution and dedication of individuals to their localities rather than the latters endless, and destructive, exploitation by those who have turned such ascribed rights into weapons for local despotism, and national spoliation, as is currently the case.49
Indeed it is important to draw attention to views which continually assess whether Nigeria is only a “geographical expression”, or “nation-space” rather than a nation-state or nation in the making. These views also tend to be associated with certain agitations for so-called Sovereign National Conference (SNC) which calls for organization of the Nigerian state on the basis of so-called “ethnic nationalities”.50 This position does not reflect any appreciation of the imperial sourcing of ethnic divisions as highlighted above, or indeed the theoretical discourse on the concepts of “ethnic” groups and “nationalities”, which many of them simply conjoin and refer to as “ethnic nationalities” which they also further tend to assume is simply given. Hardly do these advocates of “ethnic nationalities” realize that only under colonialism, fascism, and apartheid, have ethnicity and ethnic stereotypes ever been advocated as bases, or building blocks, of polities. Democracies are built on the basis of the unconditional recognition of individual citizenship rights, as well as the latters freedom of association and expression.
Indeed, as earlier mentioned, the views expressed by Pan-Africanists and nationalists did not only constitute a counter-discourse but also a corrective and liberating contribution, for both science and society. Its traditions of critical response to the methodology of imperial scholarship has contributed to the supercession of the various limitations of anthropological studies in favour of modern African history and sociology, as well as the increasing promotion of independent studies of the social sciences informed by the evidence of African history.51 In terms of the latter African historiography has also become greatly enriched by the broadening of the sources of historical studies to include the scientific use of oral evidence as well as the more critical studies of African arts, linguistics, languages, literature and archeology. Indeed research into African languages, and linguistics, from African perspectives in general has become a very significant factor in most African universities.52 General development in terms of methodologies and the variety of disciplines established is also greatly enriched by focusing on issues considered to be critically relevant to Africas development. From this point of view interests in the study of Africa’s indigenous cultures, sciences and technologies is increasingly becoming very relevant.53 In addition the study of African philosophy as well as the examination of Africas experiences from its own philosophical points of views is also an important aspect defining emerging perspectives in the development of education, in general, and research in Africa in particular.54 Furthermore gender studies are also assuming increasing importance in research activities.55
The most important contribution of PanAfricanism, however, is not simply in the manner it opposes imperial ethnocentrism in the study of African affairs but rather the manner in which it is constituted as the constructive alternative, and liberating approach, to Africas development. Its focus on Africas independence, unity and integrated economic development greatly promotes both academic and policy research, in an integral manner, from the local to the national, through to subregional and continental levels, dealing directly with issues of common concerns such as regional policy framework, natural resources, demography, migrations, infrastructure, trade, finance and administration from the point of view of their local and continental relevance, as well as towards their collective management, in favour of effective regional integration and development. The approach, in turn, tends to serve as a counterforce to the regressive tendencies that characterize the various colonial territories that were not only internally balkanised but also extroverted and subordinated to foreign powers. This approach further tends to encourage a broader, inward looking, creative, productive and self-reliant approach to common political and economic activities, as well as problems, in a way that could positively change Africa’s fortunes by helping to overcome the regressive politics of ethnocentrism. Indeed ethnocentrism induces retrogression whereas PanAfricanism prescribes progression.
It is clear that illegitimate attempts by bandit militias and privateering political adventurers, to plunder Africas natural resources for their own selfish purposes, in alliance with foreign interests, is becoming increasingly important in the development of conflicts all over the continent in Nigeria, Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan etc. Similarly the incapacity of most African states to formally agree, or fail to implement where they agree, plans for the common exploitation and management of land, water and other related resources of the continent might prove a significant source of further conflicts between, as well as within, them in the not too distant future. Currently many conflicts in most localities are mainly associated with the inability of the states concerned to establish orderly use of resources, or the peaceful mitigation of conflicts arising therefrom. It is worth emphasizing that Africa needs to transcend the imposed limitations of ethnocentrism in favour of constitutionalism and respect for the various laws established, or those that need to be established, for orderly development at local, national, subregional and continental levels. In this respect divisions of the continent based on racial considerations such as’indignenes’ and ‘settlers’ or “Sub-Saharan Africa” and “Black Africa” need to be superceded in favour of terminologies which do not only help us to appreciate the common, constitutional and democratic dynamics of its historical development but are also such that will continually promote the general integration of the continent in favour of its peoples.56 Similarly the imposition of externally formulated policies should be discounted, if independence is to mean anything, in favour of development plans created at the various levels – national and subregional development organizations, as well as the AU.
Ethnocentrism and the Perception of Africa’s Post-Colonial Political Identities
If we cast a glance at the manner in which current Africas political expressions and associations are predominantly presented from neo-imperial points of view, we will find that they are generally done in a manner that either preclude, or evade, the possibilities of their independent political existence in favour of continuous foreign hegemonic control, in their determination. In this regard we will find that there is a tendency to continue to perceive their political and economic outlooks, as well as relations, only in the ethnocentric or imperial stereotypes earlier referred to. In the alternative or, indeed, in addition we might find that they are assessed and explained from various points of views which always attempt to deny them any socio-historical existence independent of their foreign, as well as ethnocentric, determination. These perspectives greatly serve to promote dependency rather than affirm the recognition of, or the need for, independence.
To further appreciate this issue it is important to note that colonial regimes, in addition to creating the divisions noted above, also greatly precipitated divisions along political lines which are usually misrepresented as merely ethnographic or religious. In all the colonized territories the predominant forms of religious and cultural expressions were also divided along the lines of those who supported, versus those who opposed, colonial occupation. In other words collaboration with, or resistance to, colonial occupation were also expressed through cultural organizations or new forms of religious movements57. A number of cultural movements in general, and religious sects in particular, came to support the nationalist movement by participating in many political parties and organizations.58 It is important to also note that some such religious and related cultural opposition groups also tended to express themselves as autarchic and separatist movements on account of the uncompromising persecution, exclusion and violent disposition of the colonial state towards them reaffirming their political unity as well as common opposition to to colonialism.59 Such problems continue to fester in many African countries long after independence mainly because the nature of colonial domination, and repression, has hardly changed. Many studies and commentaries on African politics tend to gloss over such longstanding colonial traditions of political divisions within various religious groups, and communities, which were usually occasioned by the latters disposition to the colonial state. The uncompromising policy of the colonial state is founded on the double standards of patronizing its supporters, on the one hand, and persecuting those who opposed it on the other. Such policies should have no place in any independent and democratic state. Efforts at initiating dialogues and reconciling with all excluded groups ought to constitute the cardinal principle of African states committed to the democratization of their polities.
Inter-religious conflicts tend to occur only where foreign interests, and local elites, incite or promote them in order to achieve some political objectives. There is no records of such conflicts existing or occurring in the pre-colonial, or even the colonial, periods. Even after independence they began to arise well beyond mid-1980s in Nigeria, mainly as a result of intra-elite rivalry associated with the squabbles for office by some officers under certain military regimes. It is clear that these conflicts do not serve any religious purposes or objectives but rather promote the desecration, and subversion, of religion in terms of its moral teachings, philanthropic outlooks and humanitarian concerns. As a result decent religious leaders, and responsible citizens, are countering such trends through the promotion of inter-religious dialogue, and cooperation, at both the national and state levels.60
In line with the observations made above we find that most studies associated with neo-imperial points of view hardly appreciate the need to contextualize local political expressions on the continent in terms of their independent, historical, creative, proactive and visionary political outlooks ie as either reactionary, conservative or progressive. Rather we have blanket, and ahistorical, generalizations that attempt to deny the actuality and, indeed, the necessity for diverse ideological expressions in favour of a claimed lack of the need for ideology-due to the prevalent “reality” of ‘ethnocentric’ identities! In other words colonially imposed ethnic classification is not only used to promote a given stereotype of political identity, and relations, it is indeed deemed to have foreclosed the expression of any other type of political identity or ideology!
Similarly the manner in which existing socio-economic and political interests ought to define political associations, and identities, such as Democratic, Republican, Socialist, Labour, Social Welfarist, Fascist and Communists or Nationalists and many others are usually discounted with reference to Africa in favour of some subjective imperial appreciation of local political activities in terms of whether they are adjudged to be “moderate”, “extremist”, “fanatical”, “fundamentalist”, “pragmatic” “radical”, or, indeed, “terrorist”. The fact of the matter, however, is that not only do these terminologies obscure a critical, factual and objective identification of the substantive interests of the groups concerned but they also serve as a priori judgement which, today, justify imperial impunity in relation to such groups in much the same way that terms like “primitive” “savages” and “war like” served as justifications for unrestrained aggression against various innocent peoples in the past. We need to also recall that hardly had any African nationalist, from Kenyatta to Mandela, escaped persecution and vilification on account of being labelled as ‘terrorists’ or ‘extremist’ etc. by the imperial powers. Such labels therefore tend to serve certain political purposes rather than provide objective, and scientific, categories for impartial analysis. They thus do not express the political interests of the groups concerned but rather impose imperial judgements, and possible rewards or penalties, against them.
Finally it is important to emphasise that the use of ethnocentric terminologies in describing African socio-political realities also serves to continually obfuscate the various types of complex social movements, organizations, parties and processes that are generally associated with its transformation, as well as the struggle for its liberation and development. Indeed African history is replete, at both the international and local levels, with various movements, organizations and parties that did not only assert its common identity but were also dedicated to its common liberation and development. Such movements ranged from many local cultural, literary, political and armed resistances to the more general and popular organizations in the form of trade unions, women organization, professional associations, students unions, religious organizations, indigenous associations etc as well as leading international movements and parties such as the PanAfrican Congresses, Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), West African Students Union (WASU) among many others. It was the collective and coordinated activities of such various political organizations, social movements, civil society associations and trade unions, under PanAfricanist leadership, that demonstrated the positive alliance of Africans at home and those in the Diasphora. Similarly it was in alliance with, or under the inspiration of, the Pan-Africanists that African nationalist movements founded its leading political parties such as National Council For Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), Kenya African National Union (KANU), Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), African National Congress (ANC)and many others which fought for independence at the level of each colonial territory. It is misleading to present African nationalist politics, in terms of the ways it originated or even unfolded after independence, as basically “ethnic”. This does not only run contrary to the evidence but also betrays the tendency for some scholars to persist in unfounded ethnocentric bias even when, and where, the evidence clearly suggest otherwise.61 Ethnocentrism has thus come to serve as a tacit denial of the struggle for independence and liberation from imperial control by the new socio-political forces in the societies concerned. Indeed the arguments that public activities or politics in Africa is basically “ethnic” is a mere assertion which can not be demonstrated with reference to the activities of the political parties, pressure groups, national associations or the various governments involved either in terms of their stated objectives, composition, policies or programmes. Most of such arguments are therefore posited on the basis of mere presuppositions of “ethnic” sympathies or favouritism, which do not constitute evidence enough to warrant such baseless, general and emphatic conclusions.
Indeed PanAfricanist activities defined a global perspective for African political and diplomatic relations far beyond, and long before, the present efforts towards the promotion of cooperation between non-alligned nations and any other form of global association for that matter. It saw the efforts towards the liberation of Africa as an integral part of the liberation, and advancement, of humanity in general. It, through the activities of Africans’ in the diasphora and such PanAfricanists as Mohammed Duse, brought into common political association all those concerned with African, as well as human, liberation from all parts of the world.62
Ethnocentrism is historically associated with the ideological justification of European imperial plunder of the rest of the world, in the form of racism, as well as with the organization and management of colonial systems established in various other parts of the world. Colonies were managed on the basis of ethnocentric policies of social segregation and exclusion, as well as discrimination and control, through the ‘racial’ and ‘tribal’ ordering of most colonized societies.
Ethnocentric concepts of ‘race’, ‘tribe’ and ‘ethnic’ groups, far from being actual descriptions of “reality”, indeed constitute only but distinct, indeed unique, perceptions of reality in a manner not only designed to explain but to, also, organize the latter on the basis of certain biological and cultural variables. These variables are further assumed to be both universal and eternal in addition to being constituted in some given, and definite, relations which predetermine, as well as govern, the conduct and development of human societies. We have seen that research in biology, as well as history and sociology have proved these assumptions, and the stereotypes they have promoted, to be false – constituting only mythical attempts at the explanation of the socio-historical development of human societies.
The ideological stereotypes founded on ethnocentric assumptions have however proven to be pervasive as well as persistent, particularly in Africa. This is because their views, and the policies of public administration and indoctrination founded on them, have remained dominant in the post-colonial societies of Africa as worldviews, political ideologies and public psychology, as well as the official doctrines shaping educational and media practice. This ideological predominance was, in the colonial times, further structured in a manner that divided each locality into excluded ‘native foreigners’ and ‘native indigenes’. This division was in turn designed not only to sanctify the unrestrained exploitation of local indigenes, through the establishment of despotic local agencies described as “native” or “customary”, but to also legitimize and reward all other categories of collaborating local elites on the basis of ethnocentric, particularistic and exclusive claims to public appointments, political and administrative offices, as well as business opportunities. This has come to define what is usually referred to as “ethnic” politics which is basically a localized scramble for state and administrative control which stakes its claims to power and privilege on the basis of divisive, or “ethnic”, criteria formulated by the colonialists resulting in regressive and, frequently, violent conflicts. Unfortunately many analysts have tended to indiscriminately describe any type of conflict be it economic or political in origin or, indeed, even criminal in nature as generally “ethnic” thereby promoting a general incapability towards specific as well as proper comprehension, and solution, of the matter. This situation is further complicated by the fact that the modern African political elites who promote such conflicts do so in opposition to the laws of their land as well as the interests of their people and they, therefore, do everything in their powers not only to mislead public opinion on these issues but to, also, avert the possibilities of the law taking its due and proper course.
The methodology of ethnocentrism, as depicted in such colonial studies as anthropology, ethnography, diffusionist archeology and also linguistics is limited to a crude empiricism, or positivism, whose approach to theory is both uncritical and dogmatic, while its disposition to evidence is essentially selective rather than comprehensive. As a result it uses terms and categories which tend to be ahistorical, abstract, universalistic, eternal and Eurocentric. These, in turn, greatly serve towards the justification, rationalization and organization of imperial exploits. Similarly neo-imperial perspectives, or “neo-liberalism”, also share the same methodology, and functions, although without ethnocentric trappings. Opposition to ethnocentric ideas in Africa were championed by PanAfricanists and African nationalists who tended to assert a common African identity, on the basis of its common history, problems and destiny. PanAfricanism tends to promote a counter-discourse to imperial ethnocentrism in Africa particularly in the manner it promotes the perspective for a united, independent, integrated and common development of Africa for the benefit of its peoples as opposed to their subordinate, extroverted, regressive and exploitative development under the control of foreign powers and interests, as championed by the imperial powers. The correctness of its views is reflected in the extent to which Europe, America, Latin America and Asia strive to promote their own development through policies of regional, and global, integration even as Africa suffers major set-backs to its own programmes of regional integration with devastating consequences.
The uniqueness of ethnocentrism as both the dominant worldview and ideology of European imperialism is also further demonstrated in the fact that it stands apart from most pre-15th C worldviews about history, society and empire whether seen from religious or secular perspectives. In a similar manner all forms of opposition against imperialism also tend to discount, and criticize, ethnocentrism as a necessary and corrective procedural imperative. Thus major theories like the Marxian and underdevelopment schools of thought posit perspectives and concepts which are not only critical of, but also opposed to, ethnocentric ideas. This is because the bio-cultural determinism characteristic of ethnocentrism has been associated with the degradation and domination of man, which is most dramatically reflected in the various acts of genocide it has sanctioned, and promoted, in white settler colonies, in Fascist Europe and particularly Nazi Germany, as well as in Zionist Israel, Apartheid South Africa and many colonial/post colonial African states. Its continuation, in any guise, constitutes acts of oppression against humanity in general, as well as the freedom of the individual in particular.
Ethnocentrism has greatly forestalled the peaceful and democratic development of African states. It stands, outside their formal national constitutions, as a subversive colonial structural and ideological legacy in society, economy and politics. As an ideology it sanctifies and facilitates the plunder and exploitation of Africas resources and peoples, by its ruling elites, in the context of the mono-cultural and dependent economic edifice created for that purpose. Only the promotion of effective, sovereign and popular democracy based on the rule of law, in Africa, will help to overcome ethnocentrism and the ‘ethnic’ conflicts associated with it. This is because only full citizenship rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law will promote the kind of public policy that could transcend inherited colonial structures, and privileges, towards popular sovereignty, the diversification of the economy and enforcement of the constitutions in such a manner that transgression of the law could be punished and substantially prohibited. This will have beneficial consequences that will greatly help to check corruption as well as elite fomented “ethnic” conflicts. The present attempts to punish such crimes though the World Court, at Hague, is a welcome development. However the need to ensure justice and respect for the law must be the full responsibility of both the national governments, and the regional union, in Africa. Every attempt, and any progress, made towards domiciling and Africanizing law enforcement in the region, as well as in each of its various countries, will contribute to a much needed antidote to both corruption and ethnocentric conflicts.
- Archie Mafeje, “The Ideology of Tribalism” Journal of Modern African Studies 9 No.2 (Aug. 1971) also Preiswerk and Dominiques Perrot, Ethnocentrism and History, (Lagos: Nok Publishers, 1978)
- Okwudiba Nnoli, Ethnic Politics In Nigeria, (Second Edition, Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 2008) PP. 18-24, Also Chinyere S. Ecoma, “Ethnocentrism and Nation-Building Process’: The Nigerian Experience 1960-2010” (Paper Presented at The Conference On Nigeria’s 50th Independence Anniversary, Hosted by The Historical Society of Nigeria, Zaria, 25th – 27th 2010) P.29
- Crawford Young (ed.) The Politics of Cultural Pluralism, (Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1993) PP. 182-184.
- Joseph Ki-Zerbo (ed) General History of Africa Vol. I Methodology and African Prehistory (New York: Unesco Publishing, 1990) PP. 89-103. Reference is made, on p. 102, to the United Nations Declaration to the effect that “Race is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth”.
- Terence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm (eds.) The Invention of Tradition, (London, Cambridge University Press, 1983), V. Y. Mudimbe The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and The Order of Knowledge, (London: Indiana University Press, 1988), V. Y. Mudimbe, The Idea Of Africa, (London: Indiana University Press, 1994)
- Kwame Gyeke, Philosophical Reflections On The African Experience, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) P. 77-114
- Archie Mafeje, The Theory And Ethnography of African Social Formations: The Case Of The Interlacustrine Kingdoms, (London: Codesria, 1991)
- Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism, by Joan Pinkham, (New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1972), also S. P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” In Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No3 (summer, 1993)
- Akinwumi, etal, (eds) Intergroup Relations In Nigeria During The 19th And 20th Centuries, (Makurdi: Aboki Publishers, 2006).
- Frantz Fanon. The Wretched Of The Earth (New York: Harvester Press, 1966)
- Andre Gunder Frank, Capitalism and Under Development In Latin America (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1976). Walter Rodney How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (Dares-Salam: Tanzania Publishing House, 1976)
- Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen And Subject: Cotemporary Africa And The Legacy of Late Colonialism, (Ibadan: John Archers, 2002)
- Sule Bello “Colonial Legacies and Violent Communal Conflicts in African States Since Independence”, In Journal of African Development Affairs I No.2 (June, 2009) PP. 22 – 43 Mahammood Mamdani, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War, And The Roots Of Terror (New York: Codesria, 2004) pp. 95 – 100.
- Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afro-Asiatic Roots Of Classical Civilization Vol. I., (London, Free Association Books, 1991) also Elazar Barkan, The Retreat of Scientific Racism: Changing Concepts of Race In Britain And The United States Between The World Wars, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
- Heinz Gollwitzer, Europe In The Age of Imperialism 1880-11914, (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1969) P.7
- B. Usman, “The Assessment of Primary Sources: Heinrich Barth In Katsina” In Beyond Fairy Tales: Selected Historical Writings of Y. B. Usman, ed G. A. Kwanashie, etal, (Zaria: The Abdullahi Smith Centre For Historical Research, 2006)
- F. Ade Ajayi, “19thC Wars And Yoruba Ethnicity” In War In Yorubaland 1793-1893, ed. Adeagho Akinjogbin (Ibadan: Heineman, 1998) pp. 9 -19 also Dike and Felicia Ekejiuba, The Aro of South Eastern Nigeria 1650 – 1980, (Ibadan: Ibadan University Press Ltd. 1990). I. S. Jimada, The Nupe And The Origins and Evolution Of The Yoruba C. 1275-1897, (Zaria, Abdullahi Smith Centre For Historical Research, 2005) see also: E. D Morel, Nigeria: Its Peoples and its problems (London: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd. 1968), Daryll Forde (ed.) Peoples Of The Niger-Benue Confluence, (London: International African Institute, 1955). A. B. Ellis, The Yoruba Speaking Peoples Of The Slave Coast Of West Africa, (London: Curzon Press, 1974). Major A. G. Leonard, The Lower Niger And Its Tribes (London: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., 1968) Paul Fordham, The Geography of African Affairs, (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1965) PP 40 – 57.
- Cesaire, On Colonialism; Mudibe, The Invention of Africa.
- Cesaire, On Colonialism.
- John StockWell, In Search of Enemies: How the CIA Lost Angola, (London: Futura Publications Ltd., 1979) also James Rusbridger, The Intelligence Game: The Illusions and Delusions of International Espionage, (New York: I. B. Tauris and Co Ltd., 1989)
- Preiswerk and Perrot, Ethnocentrism and History, 177
- Sule Bello “Culture, Education and Development In Africa”, In Culture Creativity and Development by Sule Bello, (Abuja: National Council for Arts And Culture (NCAC), 2000) pp. 68 – 109 Joseph Schumpeter, Imperialism And Social Classes Trans. Heinz Norden (New York: Augustus M. Kelly, 1951) Michel P. Hassell, The Dynamics of Competition And Predation, (London, Edward Arnold, 1976)
- Fanon, The Wretched; Immanuel Geiss, The PanAfrican Movement, (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1974); Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea: An African Peoples Struggle, (London: Stage I, 1969).
- Sule Bello, “Perspectives on Leadership And Development: The Role Of Shehu Usman Danfodio And His Associates In The Making of The Sokoto Caliphate” In Degel, The Journal of FAIS,Vol.VII, (June, 2007) PP. 119-142.
- Heinrich Simon, Khalduns Science of Human Culture, Trans. by Fuad Baali, (Lahore: Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, 1975)
- A. Enan, Ibn Khaldun: His Life and Works, (Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1979)
- Ibn Khaldun The Muqaddimah: An Introduction To History, (London: Routledge And Kegan Paul, 1967) p. 45
- Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, 59
- B. Usman, The Transformation of Katsina 1400 – 1883, (Zaria, A.B.U Press, 1981)
- Ajayi, 19C War and ……,11; Dike and Ekejiuba, The Aro of, 6: Ajayi refers to major precolonial identities among the Yoruba speaking peoples as Ife, Ijesa, Ekiti, Ebira, Owo, Akoko, Ondo, Ilaje, Ijebu, Egbado, Awori, Egba, Owu, and Oyo. Similarly Dike identified the various identities among the Igbo speaking peoples to be associated only with specific cultural groups, ecological zones or occupational activities.
- Temu and B. Swai, Historians and Africanist History: A Critique (Westport: Lawrence Hill, 1981) pp. 135 – 138.
- Dike and Ekejiuba, The Aro of ….., 9
- George Novack, An Introduction To The Logic Of Marxism, (New York: PathFinder Press, 1978) p. 39
- Arthur MacEwan,, Neo-Liberalism or Democracy? Economic Strategy, Markets and Alternatives for The 21st Century, (London: Zed Books, 1999) also Gaudenz Assenza, Beyond The Market: Economics For The 21st Century, (Bristol: New Economy Publications, 1992)
- Ali A. Mazrui, “Global Africa: From Abolitionists To Reparationists” In Tajudeen Abdul Raheem (ed.) PanAfricanism: Politics, Economy And Social Change In The 21st C (London: Pluto Press, 1996) PP. 123 -144
- Bello, Culture, Creativity And ….,68
- John Mihevc, The Market Tells Them So: The World Bank and Economic Fundamentalism in Africa, (Penang And Accra: Third World Network, 1995).
- I. Asiwaju, ed., Partitioned Africans: Ethnic Relations Across Africa international Boundaries 1884-1984 (Lagos: Lagos University Press, 1984)
- Basil Davidson, The Black Man’s Burden: Africa And The Curse of The Nation-State (Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1992)
- Chinweizu, etal, Towards The Decolonisation Of African Literature, Vol. I, (Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1980) PP. 230 – 238
- A. Ayandele, “African Renaissance: The Cultural Dimension”, in Culture, Creativity And Development, ed. Sule Bello (Abuja: National Council For Arts And Culture (NCAC), 2000) pp. 68-109 Also O. Oculi and Y. Nasidi (eds.) Brain-Gain For The African Renaissance, (Zaria, A.B.U. Press, 2009) see also Z. S. Ali, (ed.) African Unity: The Cultural Foundations, (Lagos: Centre For Black Arts And African Civilizations (CBAAC), 1988). See Also Henry Louis Gate and Nelie Y. Mckay (eds.) The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, (New York: W.W Norton and Co., 1997)
- Anthony Douglas, Poison and Medicine: Ethnicity, Power and Violence In A Nigerian City, 1966 – 1986, (Ports–Mouth: Heineman, 2002)
- Claude Ake, Democracy and Development In Africa, (Washington: Brooking Institution, 1996)
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“INTANGIBLE CULTURAL VALUES AND THE PROMOTION OF PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE: PERSPECTIVES ON THE ARGUNGU INTERNATIONAL FISHING AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL IN NIGERIA”
Prof. Sule Bello
Ahmadu Bello University
Federal Republic of Nigeria
(email: [email protected])
A Paper Presented at the “2018 World Forum for Intangible Cultural Heritage” Held at National Intangible Heritage Center (NICH) in Jeonju, South Korea, from 25 to 27 October, 2018.
“INTANGIBLE CULTURAL VALUES AND THE PROMOTION OF PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE: PERSPECTIVES ON THE ARGUNGU INTERNATIONAL FISHING AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL IN NIGERIA”
Prof. Sule Bello
Culture is perhaps the most important expression of our common humanity. Its association with the creative, and productive, processes of mankind has made it the most ubiquitous feature governing the conduct and character of both human societies and human histories. Its tangible, and intangible, dimensions demonstrate an interesting relationship in the pursuit of some of the broadest, and most persistent, human objectives of freedom, dignity, peace, justice and prosperity. In this paper we look at how, through the application as well as the pursuit, of intangible values, a most exemplary edifice for the promotion of peace amongst our various communities, and nation-states, was established. The Argungu International Fishing And Cultural Festival, as an edifice, represents one of the numerous institutions that have come to symbolise a beacon, as well as an opportunity, for the promotion of peace, goodwill and friendship amongst various communities, peoples and states.
The Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival is a regular event which takes place in Kebbi State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in West Africa.
It brings people from far and near-including such neighboring West African countries like Niger, Chad, Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Cameroons to participate in the Festival. Like many cultural festivals, in general, and fishing festivals in particular, it helps to promote deeper and wider bondages in the pursuit of unity, excellence, peace and friendship in both Nigeria, and the wider world. The creation, promotion and sustenance of such beacons of peace and friendship, the paper opines, constitute very important bases for the promotion and networking of peaceful relations at the levels of local communities, nation-states and the wider world in general.
Violent conflicts and the destructive, nay annihilative, dimensions they have come to assume in the modern world have made the search for peace, and the prevention of violent conflicts a most urgent task for the international community. Indeed the contemporary international community, epitomized in the United Nations Organization (UNO) as defined by its basic objectives, principles and membership has, as its most important single task, the prevention of violent conflicts amongst its member-states.
Two other very critical concerns of the UNO are the quest for socio-economic development and the effort towards the general protection of destructive influences on the Environment. These concerns are intricately tied up with the quest for peace in the modern world. Peace could be seen as a major precondition for social development in the world, if indeed it is not its most salient and loudest expression. The increasing degradation of the environment, owing to what is widely referred to as climate change, is equally seen to be, much like the absence of peace, a man-made problem. As such, their solutions, also need to be man-made. Human creative prowess in terms of its socio-cultural capabilities, expressed in the form of a number of informed measures and observances, is therefore seen as the most critical resource, or indeed tool, for the solution of the problems of peace, development and the environment in the manner clearly expressed and formulated in the various official documents of the U.N.O among other equally important policy prescriptions, as well as theoretical expressions.
Peace is both a wish as well as a condition. Peaceful conditions ensure that human and social relationships, at all levels, are governed by considerations of respect, hospitality, openness and mutually beneficial interests as opposed to aggression, hostility, deception and violence. Peace is therefore, in practice, observed in two principal ways. The first is in the form of binding relationships whose overall purpose is not decided on the basis of force or threat of violence, but rather on beneficial values of human and social relationships associated with mutual respect, independence and integrity. The second is the need for conflicts, where and when they arise, to be sorted out on the basis of dialogue and related measures, in the context of established humanitarian, social, ethical and legal principles. These measures help to forestall any recourse to war or acts of repression, at any level, as strategies for conflict resolution. In short, therefore, the observance, preservation and promotion of peace in society, as well as in international relations, is broadly dependent on the degree, and transparent manner, in which human, social, ethical and legal principles designed to ensure, as well as fortify, peace are truly observed by those entrusted with the task of securing the peace.
The special status given to culture in peace-building, as argued in the paper, is due to the fact it represents that unique power or talents of humanity with, and through which, it solves all its basic problems. This fact accounts for the diverse forms and expressions of culture as well as its definitions. Principal amongst these expressions are its identification as the human talent, tool or agency used to record the past achievements of humanity, as well as the very manifestations of such achievements in the form of the cultures, societies and communities represented in human history. Culture is also used to connote the legacy of cultivated, as well as highminded, human attributes such as knowledge, skills and values in the form of the arts, sciences, morality, ethics, law, religion, civility and civilizations.
In considering the issues identified above the paper looks at the theoretical basis, as well as policy implications, of the significant role that culture plays towards the achievement of the humanitarian and social goals of development. Further to this attention is also drawn to the need to combine the roles of both global and local agencies towards the achievement of the stated goals. The vital significance of both global and local agencies in the prevention of conflicts, on the one hand, as well as the cultivation and defense of peace, on the other, is highlighted.
Particular attention is paid to those heritages which serve as tools for building, defending and preserving a culture of peace through the ages. The importance, and status, of Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival in this regard is highlighted.
The role of cultural activities in the form of festivals is seen to be particularly relevant because they constitute, in their essence, the most important signification of the achievements of various communities towards the attainment of the principal aspirations of humanity in the form of peace, prosperity and development through the pursuit of time-tested, humanitarian, social, ethical and peace-inducing principles within, as well as beyond, such communities. Cultural festivals, in general, constitute the edification, transmission and application of those practices and principles which deserve to be continuously recognized, and pursued, because they conduce peace and development in many ways.
Towards A Theory Of Culture And Its Usages As Policy Premise For The Development Of Mankind
As mentioned earlier there is the increasing realization, resulting partly from the various activities of UNESCO, of the critical role of human resourcefulness, or culture to the solution of its most vital problems. Such view points are widely represented in current researches on the histories and theories of social growth, changes and development. There seem to be some increasing convergence of views, across various disciplines, of the significant role that culture needs to play in its capacity as human creative prowess, towards the solution of the key problems of humanity. This is particularly so in the role it needs to play towards the creation of a new humanity that more truly operates on, and answers to, the indispensable quest for true humanism, justice and equity as the most important responses to the yearnings for respect, dignity, equality, prosperity and freedom which tend to underlie the struggles for both development and peace in human societies as they are so ably, and aptly, captured in most UNO documents.
The question of peace needs to be appreciated in the context of the relationship between humanity as a given category, on the one hand, and the character of its socio-historical development which is replete with both aggressive relationships of domination as well as claims of concern and compassion, on the other. We need to begin from the viewpoint of the UNO which avows that we ought to focus on the cultivation of the human mind because that is not only where war begins, but also where peace needs to be constructed and perpetually waged. (UNESCO: Africa Department, 1996; Jan Visser, 2000)
The Seville statement on violence draws attention to the fact that violent behavour in human societies is neither genetic, natural or ‘instinctive’ but rather a socio-cultural behavior that is learned, organized and deliberately deployed, by a certain category of people for the purposes of achieving premeditated and definite social goals or objectives. The socio-historical dynamics of human learning, as responses to the various challenges faced by mankind, therefore need to be invoked in order to discuss the question of peace as a human problem that needs to be approached on the basis of; “the wholeness and complexity of the issue as it calls for a search of human and social ways of being that reflect the multiplicity of levels of organizational complexity inherent in the problem addressed” (Jan Visser, 2000, P.3).
It is imperative to draw attention to the fact that the creative capabilities of mankind, which are at times expressed in destructive terms, also symbolize its abilities to affect its development either positively or negatively. This is greatly reflected in the choices open to it-which could be either positive or negative, good or evil, constructive or destructive and, indeed, basically expressed in accord with either its virtues, or vices.
Human cultural capabilities, expressions and manifestations have also been delineated into the tangible and intangible formats. Tangible cultural expressions in the form of historical sites, monuments and other physical objects have been identified, secured and promoted for the purposes of preserving the heritages of nations and promoting the well-being of mankind, by way of advancing the business of tourism as well as extending copyrights protection over distinct products and inventions.
For the purposes of this paper it needs to be emphasized that intangible cultural expressions in the forms of social knowledge, values, skills and relationships represent the most important factors responsible for social development, as well as tools for the preservation of peace in society. They thus deserve to be more closely studied as sources of both human development and the promotion of peace for humanity. Indeed greater investment, towards making humanitarian, social and ethical values more relevant in human relations, alongside the enforcement of the law at all levels, is critical to the promotion of peace in the world.
Peace has always been both a vital precondition, as well as a value in its own right, in respect of human development. Beyond the prevention or cessation of wars, and the need for conciliation and reconciliation respectively, it has also implied harmony and well being in terms of the relationships of individuals in society. Furthermore peace is also used to denote healthy, wholesome, joyful and harmonious relationship between man and his fellow man, as well as his natural environment.
Peace, therefore, is a factor that is intrinsic to the development of humanity in many ways and at different levels. Peace has always been critical to social development. It has, however, in our modern world come to assume a significance of its own, due to a number of developments. These could be seen in three major cases comprising processes of social alienation resulting from increasing causes of violent conflicts, war propaganda and the production, as well as application, of weapons of mass destruction. As is well known the destructive consequences of the 1st and 2nd WWs and the fear of the recurrence of further violent conflicts, given the ominous characteristics of modern arsenals of war, made the quest for peace all the more necessary. Human societies throughout history have always sought to maintain and promote peace between members of their own societies as well as between them and other communities, societies or polities. They have always preferred to prevent, reconcile or adjucate conflicts at social levels between individuals, married couples, social entitities, associations and gangs, or any other type of social groups. At the levels of political relations, between states or communities, the problem of peace has always been approached through various types of associations designed to promote peace in the form of alliances and friendly, as well as diplomatic and cultural, relations.
The necessity for peace in human societies therefore arises from the need to avoid the destructive consequences of violent conflicts, as well as the impossibility, and costs, of forging socio-political relationships on the basis of a policy of violent conflicts. Interdependent, and organic, relationships within as well as between societies has therefore tended to be the only rational, fruitful, integral and humane path to socio-political development. It symbolizes peace and harmony at all levels – psychological, political, socio-cultural, economic and environmental.
A cursory survey at the organization of all human societies indicates that they are constructed on the basis of three important socio-cultural considerations. The first is that they are designed to develop and cultivate the required cultural capabilities that promote the well being of members of society in general, ie human developmental talents in their creative, constructive and productive senses.
The second is the prohibition of destructive human behavior that undermines the integral, and organic, development of society on the basis of self-serving activities which constitute acts of domination or criminality as well as forces of degeneration and corruption, through the enforcement of various forms of ethical and moral, as well as legal and political, sanctions.
Finally societies also try to promote peaceful relationships with their neighbors based on similar principles of mutual benefits and peaceful coexistence. Where socio-cultural, economic and political relationships fail to take into account the concerns for mutual interests, and move in opposite directions to them, they tend to spawn violence and breach of the peace.
An important factor defining the nature of violent conflicts in the modern world is the degree to which some major nation-states of the world have come to gain control over its affairs through aggressive imperial activities which were, furthermore, associated not only with the industrialization, centralization and globalization of militarism, but were also equally used to promote the processes of establishing political control over global resources, commerce and finance. It is the fusion of political and economic interests at the highest levels, at the expense of humanitarian and cultural considerations, that makes violent aggression, as both a global and local phenomena, truly problematic. It is also this fact that constitutes the highest threat to the building and perpetuation of peace in our modern world. The capacity to build a defensive force, working to safeguard key humanitarian and social values as well as the enforcement of the laws related to the promotion of peace, is therefore a factor of supreme importance. This cannot be divorced from the democratization of the UNO itself.
Summary Perspectives On The Quest For Peace
In order to generalize on the history of the quest for peace in previous societies I believe we should concentrate on two major factors. The first is the lesson we need to learn on the absolute, irreversible, unconditional and invaluable role of peace to the development of humanity, in and of itself. The second is the equally absolute lesson we all need to imbibe on the futile and destructive nature of violent conflicts, as strategies for the solution of conflicts. Violent activities are only permissible where they are designed to safe-guard the peace and prevent aggression. Otherwise violent conflicts and the acts of suppression and repression, as well as depression, usually associated with them only lead to anarchy, alienation and emotional destruction.
Three basic approaches have always been critical to peace-building and the prevention of violent conflicts. All the approaches emphasize the supreme importance of observing the values that seek to promote peace as well as the capacity to enforce it. They draw attention to the fact that the humanitarian, social, ethical and legal principles, as well as the institutions designed to enforce them at all levels, need to be seen to be effective.
The first set of values are those that define our common social objectives and preoccupations in terms of the quest for the well-being of all members of society on equal bases in terms of the dignity, freedom, prosperity and equality of humanity as a whole. A collective, unalloyed and committed concern by the relevant institutions for the achievement of such common objectives of humanity, at all levels, is therefore very critical to the construction of peaceful conditions, objectives and endeavours that will greatly help to eliminate existing sources of divisive conflicts and promote bases for the common cooperation of mankind.
Secondly a survey of the various national constitutions and international agreements indicate that they are rooted in principles, procedures and purposes that identify, and promote, the achievement of the basic human, citizenship and civic rights of humanity as the most important objectives for the development of all human societies at both the international and national levels. These constitute the major quest and indices for equity, equality, fairness and justice as well as the only basis on which our world should be judged as a peace-builder or not.
Thirdly in order for the humanitarian, social and national values to which we all subscribe to be effectively achieved they need to be promoted on the basis of other related values which attest to the fairness, objectivity and commitment with which such goals are actually being pursued in practice. Such values underlie and help us to evaluate our social transactions at all levels, constituting yardsticks for the organization, operations and assessment of our societies in terms of what they are and what they need to be, in the light of what we have set out to achieve. They are the basic test for the credibility of our actions, and the sincerity of our claims. It is in this regard that terms like Transparency, Democracy, or Anti-corruption, not to mention Trust and the Rule of Law, cannot be simply reduced to mere ideological clichés or labels. They are principles rooted in definite political and administrative processes, and procedures, designed to achieve definite ends which alone could guarantee justice, equity, fairness and peace in the conduct of our societies.
It needs to be observed that what we have referred to as the futility, as well as destructive, character of violent conflicts need to be viewed in certain given contexts. At the level of our nation-states instruments of violence, or coercive action, are usually designed to shore up, defend and promote the legitimate values, and rights, we have expounded above. The same assumptions underlie the possible and combined use of military force at international levels. However various accusations of chaos, and impunity, have been made even at the level of the 2018 UN General Assembly (UNGA) in respect of the dominant, and defiant, role that a number of powerful nation-states, constituting the UN Security Council, usually exhibit in the pursuit of their own isolated interests against the common interests of the UNO. It has been observed that such behavior constitute major threats to global order or peace. An international force which could be seen to fairly, and duly, police international affairs need to be increasingly pondered on, and developed, as an essential or primary factor for the preservation and advancement of peace in the world.
Agencies For The Promotion Of World Peace
It has been indicated earlier that the UNO, constituted on the basis of the membership of the various nation-states of the world, under the guidance of the Security Council, serves as the principal peace-building agency of the world. Its activities have been greatly supported and promoted by various local, national and global agencies as a well as individuals committed to the search for a better world. Its indispensability, critical role and achievements have been widely recognized and commended. In the same manner attention has also been drawn by relevant member states, professionals and organizations to many of its shortcomings, lapses and problems.
The task of the UNO need to be appreciated against the backdrop of its predecessor, the League of Nations, and the critical problems that led to the latters failure to ensure world peace resulting in the outbreak of the World Wars. In the first place the League of Nations was organized around very few states that did not actually have the power to maintain, or guarantee, world peace. Similarly, the League of Nations was not, in any serious sense, committed to the very values that were necessary towards ensuring the common development and well-being of humanity on the basis of the principles, rights and obligations that were seen to be in the interest of humanity either at the levels of their own societies or in relation to their colonial possessions. It was only out of a desperate need for survival that the Allied Powers themselves appealed to, and mobilized, the support of their various colonies as well as other independent nations in the world, in opposition to the policies of aggression of the Axis Powers..
Indeed even well after the 22nd WW the Allied Powers did not only persist in holding down their colonial possessions but, in many cases, actually went to war in order to deny them independence, as well as continue the racist and apartheid policies which greatly defined the Nazism which they claimed to oppose.
In the available literature on world peace, and more recently the increasing chaos in the global order of things, there is a tendency for many observers to associate the extreme nationalist policies of the U.S President, Donald Trump, with the prevalent problems of the global order. According to these views there is a tendency to see nationalism, as opposed to globalization, as the key problem of world peace and development. It however needs to be remembered that German Nazi National Socialist Party, in terms of its ideology, was not only national-it was also global. It believed, like all the other major imperial powers of the day, in subordinating other nations to itself on the basis of its own fabricated ethno-cultural mythologies and other related pretexts. The problem of peace in the world was not nationalism, per se, but rather the unequal relations between nations, or impunity on the part of the imperial powers, which was here and there promoted in one nationalist disguise or another. The problem of the world is not simply ‘globalization’ but the need for global integration on the basis of equality, mutual inter-dependence and equity between the various nations of the world, signifying a partnership founded on the basis of respect, fairness and justice.
The UNO need to be seen, in particular, to embrace the very principles of human rights and democracy which it seeks to promote as the most ethical principles for the rest of the world. With over 180 member nation-states and 7 billion people under its jurisdiction it is time for the UNO to ensure that the Security Council is more democratically representational in line with basic democratic principles.
The UNO relates to a good number of civil society organizations as well as global NGOs in the process of conducting its affairs. This very significantly ensures popular participation and, specifically, the participation of civil society organizations (CSO’s). This should enhance cultural and diplomatic relationships between the various states, as well as at the level of global institutions. These should tend to prevail over militarist, and hostile statist affairs, in international relations in favour of more cultured, civic and peaceful activities. The latter have for a long time been identified as time-tested processes for enhancing peaceful, civic and development-oriented relationships within, as well as between, nation states. Relations at the levels of cultural activities in the form of artistic, educational, scientific and sporting activities in addition to the promotion of commercial, industrial, technical and other social linkages, as well as people to people visitations, go along way to build friendship and promote peace between nation-states. In this regard contemporary educational, tourism and cultural exchange programmes count among the key peace-building activities of our world. Cultural policies of nation-states, along with the international cultural exchanges and relations they engender, therefore, constitute very important peace promotion instruments.
In order to fully appreciate and consolidate the contributions of cultural processes to peace-building it is essential to recognize the role that cultural festivals in our various communities, in their own right, play in this regard. Such festivals are not only agencies for the promotion of peace and development they also constitute institutions which tend to expand and integrate, creating a universal space for peaceful development as opposed to institutions which generate, promote and consolidate violent conflicts.
Festivals, and the fiestas usually associated with them, are built around some of the most important, enduring and iconic achievements of mankind that are seen to deserve being celebrated, as well as transmitted, to other generations as worthy sources of knowledge, information and entertainment. They stand symbolic of the socio-historical localities within which they have grown, as well as representational of the common humanity to which we all belong. They strive to transcend their localities by the ever-increasing, and dynamic, appreciation of our common quests through the very principles we all share and which they have always, in turn, cherished, embodied, adopted and transmitted across the ages-for the sake of peace.
The world is today home to a number of global cultural and sporting events many of which could be traced back in history to certain distinct customs or traditions in the past, but most of which have expanded, developed and changed to suit the needs and requirements of the modern world for knowledge, skills, fun and peaceful coexistence. As earlier noted these include artistic, sporting, educational and various other vocational activities. Such activities are not only found at the global levels, they mostly have their roots deep in our various cultures, societies and nations. They operate not only to ensure our diversity as peoples, but also our common integration as humanity in the modern world. One example of such important cultural heritages is the Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival.
Perspectives On Argungu International Fishing And Cultural Festival
The Argungu International Fishing And Cultural Festival is an annual event, usually held in the first week of March in Argungu, Kebbi State, Nigeria. It is a festival that has come to enjoy the support of various governmental agencies starting with the Argungu Emirate Council and the Kebbi state Governments that have been the principal promoters, financiers and hosts of the Festival. Furthermore the Festival had enjoyed the moral, technical and financial support of the defunct Regional Government of Northern Nigeria, as well as the various Federal Governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
As a festival that takes place in Kebbi state, one of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it has on various occasions also enjoyed the participation of the various other states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), of the Federation. In the words of one of the principal officials of the Festival: “The fact that the Argungu Fishing and Cultural, Festival has been able, over the years, to draw audience from other states of the Federation, the West African neighbours, the European Community, global corporations, and the Diplomatic corps resident in Nigeria is eloquent testimony to its having international recognition and participation” (Omar, N. Umar, 2005, P6.)
It is important to draw attention to the fact that the Argungu Fishing Festival is only one of the fishing festivals, and probably the most-successful, in the country. It, along with numerous other agricultural, hunting, occupational, religious and related social festivities in the country represent the eternal, as well as enduring, quest for peace, prosperity and development deeply rooted in Nigeria’s various communities, much like in other human communities (Aig-Imoukhuede, 1991). It is equally important to emphasise that the enduring success of Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival is reflected in its unwavering focus, and consistent commitment, to the humanitarian and social values that make peace-building both possible and sustainable.
Finally the lesson that the story of Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival teaches, like many such cultured, friendly and peace promoting ventures, is that the cultivation and development of spaces of peace and friendship, as opposed to militarism, espionage, war and the incitement of violent conflicts, is very necessary for the creation of functional and enduring peace that is critical to development.
In order to appreciate the importance of the above observations in respect of the relevance of the Festival, as an integrative and peace-promoting venture, we need to look closely at its objectives, origins, scope and development.
Objectives, Origins, Scope And Development Of The Argungu Fishing Festival
It is important to draw attention to the fact that Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festival has, since its inception in antiquity, been a planned activity designed by its principal promoters to achieve certain basic humanitarian and social ends. The successive planners of the Festival have always been the agents of the local community working in cooperation with the governing political powers responsible for the control, and day-to-day administration, of the area over the years.
It is in this regard that the role of the Federal government of Nigeria in collaboration with other levels of its administrative organs, as well as the international and global partners with which it is associated, constitute the most dominant influence on the current conduct of the Festival. To a great extent the modern organization, administration and promotion of the Festival cannot be divorced from the achievement of the objectives of Nigeria’s Cultural Policy, on the one hand, as well as the discharge of Nigeria’s international obligations towards global peace and cooperation, on the other. Notwithstanding the influence of the Nigerian state, a closer look at the origins and development of the Festival also reveal similar, and earlier, concerns with the quest for peace for human and social development at all levels.
As a modern cultural Festival, with national and international obligations, oriented towards peace, unity and development the Festival is similar to many other such festivals in Nigeria as well as in many other countries. What distinguishes it is its deep-rooted commitment and endurance- demonstrated in the historical development of the festival for well over eight hundred years. Its commitment to peace as a human, and social, factor is designed to directly support the productive activities of its own local communities. From this we can all learn a very important lesson relating to the overriding value of peace for productivity, and the wellbeing of our communities, as well as the necessity for its patient construction and preservation. The second lesson is that the commitment, as well as investments, made towards the persistent and endless promotion of peace have combined to create a positive attitude towards the possibilities of peace and the containment of violent conflicts. Such a tenacious commitment to peace, and hope for peace, is reflected in most other social and community festivals especially in the manner they are continuously, and persistently, staged despite all odds. In part, all festivals are not only festive, commemorative, educative and informative but also integrative and dynamic. Moreover cultural festivals, and related social edifices, contain within them the wishes, prayers and hopes of humanity on the possibilities of better futures, even amidst the most disturbing turbulences and pestilences.
This spirit of hope, even amidst some of the most hopeless of circumstances, remain one of the very important lessons we can all learn from the various human struggles, and quests, for survival, freedom, peace and prosperity that are usually communicated through festivals and other related iconic cultural symbolisms.
Argungu Fishing Festival originated as communal rites among the fishing communities around Argungu and its surroundings long before the 16th century. As a communal rite it was designed to appease the gods and also celebrate bounty catches, in addition to transmitting the skills and values essential for the existence and development of a viable fishing community far beyond the festival itself. It is important to stress that these practices, even in their earliest origins, were not only committed to the well being: peace, prosperity, health and vitality of the community, they were also organic in their character-in other words they recognised the need, and necessity, for wider and broader peaceful associations as the basis for social development. It needs to be noted that the Bori cult, which served as the basis for the coordination of the rituals under consideration, was itself a very broad and widespread cult in the West African subregion, practiced far beyond the confines of Argungu and Kebbi.
Similarly the early fishing rituals of the communities around Argungu were practiced alongside, and in conjunction with, civic and agricultural rites which brought together the civil population, and associated occupational groups, into common social observances and practices. From its earliest origins the festival was centred around the observance of four major, and interconnected, objectives as follows;
- Gyaran Gari (The preparation/propitiation of the Town)
- Shan Kabewa and Fura (Agricultural celebrations in the form of feasting on pumpkin soups and porridge made from milk and millet balls)
- Gyaran Ruwa (Preparation/propitiation of the Waters)
- Fashin Ruwa (Permission for, and the Initiation of, Fishing in the Waters)
It is to be noted that these festivities were not limited to fishing rites but also included other rites which served as prayers, in addition to other physical preparations, for a healthy town as well as bountiful agricultural and fishing seasons.
In the dynamic nature of the Festival it increasingly shed its earlier cultic, and limited, origins due to the increasing wider developments and broader influences in the region, leading to its increasing incorporation into the West African subregion to which it adapted very well. It similarly came to expand, in terms of the various events hosted at the Festival as well as the various participants and peoples patronizing it. In this regard some important observations on the conduct of the Festival need to be made.
The first is that it established rules of conduct which operated to retain the technical, or technological, integrity of the festival by ensuring that the original fishing equipment, boats and the practices related to them were retained. This has greatly helped to maintain its picturesque character, as well as ensure its cultural authenticity.
Secondly it has worked to enforce restrictions on the fishing season, in line with its earlier origins, in such a manner that over-fishing does not undermine, and deplete, the industry. In keeping with the earlier practices the local authorities have tried to ensure that at the end of every fishing season, the required plants that are needed as feed for the fish to re-grow are duly planted, in order to ensure new stock for the coming seasons.
Finally Argungu and the various settlements associated with it have adapted very well to the historical changes that they had to go through in the last one millennium. They have been able to preserve and develop the productive activities, as well as the peaceful relations they have forged with their neighbours and the environment, to the extent that they have outlived and outgrown many other settlements and societies which were not anchored in creative, productive and humanitarian ventures such as the ones they pursued. Most of the urban centres that became capital cities associated with Kebbi kingdom, such as Surame and Birnin Kebbi, today lie in ruins. (Balogun, 1974, P.404: Boahen, 1964.).
In terms of its overall objectives for peace, prosperity and development the Festival has remained relatively consistent and has, above all else, demonstrated its ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
In line with its earlier origins it is important to note that the Festival which started as communal rites prevailed even when these localities came under the influence of the Songhai Empire, which was the largest state in the history of the West African subregion between the 15th and 16th century. In the 16th century, heralding the fall of Songhai Empire, the Kanta of Kebbi led a rebellion which created the Kebbi kingdom. Towards consolidating his powers the Kanta of Kebbi came to rely on the Chiefs of the waters, as well as communal heads, of the fishing communities in and around Argungu. Through them the festivals were consolidated into recognized activities in the various riverine communities resulting in the consolidation of general annual festivals centred around the key rituals, or social concerns, identified earlier. The festivals continued to grow due to the various catalytic developments impelling the growth and integration of the region up to the coming of the British, and their conquest of the area, between 1903 – 1906 (Olagunju, A, 2010: Boahen, A. 1964)
After the British conquest of the area between 1903-1906, Argungu Fishing Festival was greatly reactivated in 1934, as an activity designed to enhance peaceful cooperation between the Sultan of Sokoto Sultan Dan Muazu and the Emir of Argungu Muhammadu Sama. Relations between the two had remained sour, since the precolonial times, due to a number of political and religious disagreements. As part of the reconciliation process, it was said that “The Emir and his Council decided to organize a grand fishing festival devoid of the traditional rituals of spirit propriation and focus more on showcasing the hospitality, dominant personality types and values of the Kabawa”.(Olagunju,A. 2010, P. 71)
It was in the spirit of harmony and hospitality, as well as overtures for peace and cooperation, that the Festival was built and rebuilt, as well as sustained, from its humble beginnings to date. The Festival had been used to promote, as well as enhance, peaceful relations within the Sokoto, province; Protectorate of Northern Nigeria; the Northern Region of the Federal Republic Nigeria and the Nigerian Federation, in addition to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Festival was used, after the Nigerian Civil War, to promote reconciliation between the aggrieved parts of the Federation concerned. It was also showcased as an important part of the 2nd All-Africa Festival of Arts and Culture (Festac) hosted by Nigeria in 1977. Today the Festival hosts participants, and visitors, from all parts of Nigeria, West Africa and the World. It has remained and continues to operate as one of the peace-building cultural edifices of our times, in the context of its own locality and times. Over this period the activites hosted have, among other collaborative activities, expanded to include the following programmes:
- Kabanchi Display (Canoe Racing, Swimming, Diving, Bare-hand Fishing and Wild Duck Catching)
- Agricultural Fair
- Local Boxing and Wrestling
- Racing sports competition (Motor Rally, Bicycle and Camel Racing)
- Cultural night (Music, Songs, Dances, Drama and Acrobatic Displays)
In order to conclude on this aspect of the paper it is worth while to note that within Nigeria the Festival also serves as a nodal point for the celebration and promotion of fishing communities, and activities, thereby serving as a people-centred perspective on economic development matters.
Finally it demonstrates patient, consistent and enduring commitment to the noble values which alone make the building of peace possible; the prevention of violent conflicts necessary, and the reconciliation of warring parties critical to the well being, development and civility of humanity.
Peace-building and promotion are essentially efforts geared to establishing and maintaining a sustainable culture of peace. This is what makes it a human and social project that is intricately tied to humanization and socialization activities through processes of enculturation which depend essentially on educational, and legal, strategies for their constructive development.
Of critical significance to the process is, therefore, the need to promote an appreciation and general, as well as deep, commitment to the humanitarian and social values that define, qualify and strategize the very objectives and programmes of peace building as indicated above. Further to this there is also the need to ensure that the agencies designed for the construction and defense of peace, at all levels, are not only seen to be committed to these values but also capable of enforcing the provisions of the law relevant to the promotion of peace as well.
Commitment to peace promotion is also greatly demonstrated in the organization and conduct of various community cultural festivals. They tend to signify enduring commitment to the principles and objectives of peace in society, as well as the necessary activities and relations needed to sanctify them. They constitute very important efforts towards the building, and expansion, of spaces of peace and development. They stand and develop in opposition to those activities which tend to promote hostility, aggression, violence and destruction. They therefore deserve to be seen, supported and promoted as important bases for the construction and development of peace at both the global and local levels. The International Argungu Fishing and Cultural Festival provides a good example of such constructive Festivals.
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THE CHALLENGES OF DEMOCRATIZATION IN AFRICA: PERSPECTIVES ON NIGERIAS APRIL 2011 ELECTIONS
- SULE BELLO
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY
A.B.U SAMARU ZARIA
Histories, theories and ideologies of democratic revolutions
Sources, nature and conduct of African politics and democratization processes.
The successes and problems of March 2011 elections in Nigeria
Nigeria and the challenge of democratization in Africa
- Nigeria’s Nationalist-cum-Democratic Politics: its Transformation under Military rule.
- Scope of Political influences on the democratization process in Nigeria
- Justice and the rule of law as the foundations of democratic politics.
The recent election of March 2011 in Nigeria greatly provoked, in a number of ways, the debate on the possibilities as well as feasibilities, of democracy in Africa. This article looks at the character of nationalist activities in Africa in terms of their origins and development as, principally, struggles against colonialism in favour of decolonization. In this regard free and popular African participation in political activities were expected to provide the bases for both national and regional independence, as well as their relative integration and overall development. The paper looks at the prospects of democratization in Africa in the context of Africa’s politics, as well as in the light of Nigeria’s 2011 elections. In addition it examines these issues on the basis of Africa’s internal political and economic structures, as well as its external relations. The paper concludes that the key obstacles to democratization in Africa are the entrenched local, as well as global, interests that are ill-disposed to the full and general expression of popular sovereignty on the continent, in general, and Nigeria in particular. Each African state is, on its own, faced with the dilemma of either working in favour of its national and popular interests or succumbing to the imperious designs of some of its elites, and their foreign “partners”.
In many ways the politics of the last half of the 20th century, and the opening decades of the 21st century, constitute unifying and accelerated processes of democratization in the world. The highlights of these processes were symbolized in the defeat of Fascism at the end of the 2nd World War as well as the rise of anti-imperialism and nationalism in the ‘third world’ resulting in the achievement of independence in most of these colonies in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s which, in turn, facilitated their various attempts at sovereign and self-determined tasks of nation-building. The collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R), as well as the more recent rise of popular protests in favour of democratization in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East, in addition to the on-going popular opposition to what many have characterized as “corporate greed” in many parts of Europe and the United States of America (U.S.A), tend to indicate the growing scope and relevance of democratization in world, or global, affairs.
Democracy has thus, broadly as well as increasingly, tended to become associated with processes of national liberation, nation-building and the promotion of citizenship rights based on political activities, and choices, anchored on the expression of popular sovereignty, in each country, as well as in the context of international relations. The widespread popularity of democracy as a mode for political action, and relations, is based on the fact that it is necessarily a neutral, non-partisan and unbiased process that basically facilitates, as well as guarantees, freedom of expression, and choices, between competing ideologies and candidates in an orderly, free, fair and credible manner at various levels.
The March 2011 Elections in Nigeria, despite some problems of credibility along with the violent upheavals associated with it, exhibited some indicators worthy of critical interest and attention. The election, the Federal government claimed, was the most expensive ever-with over N130bn expended by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) alone. This disclosure was made by President Jonathan when he was trying to convince the country to adopt a single tenure of seven years for the President and Governors immediately after the 2011 elections. He stated that “the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), spent as much as N130 billion in conducting the last election besides the much more expended by other agencies and political stakeholders” (Vanguard Newspaper, 13th Sept. 2011). There was no reference to funding from foreign source. In many ways the elections also exhibited the highest and most extensive level of foreign involvement ever, in terms of both its organization and execution. It, furthermore, took place under conditions which many observers refer to as “neo-military” rather than a truly democratic republic, given the extent of the centralization of power characterizing it. The conduct of the election was however, in general, adjudged to be freer and fairer than the elections of 2007 and, in the judgment of many, those of 2003 and 1999 as well. Furthermore it also indicated some measure of official responsiveness to public pressures, in relation to popular demands for some political reforms, by the national officialdom.
The often quoted statement of Abraham Lincoln to the effect that “Democracy is the rule of the people, by the people and for the people” is a good indicator that democracy can only be possible where popular sovereignty truly reigns. Democracy is, for this reason, essentially a form of political activity associated with states in which the principle of public determination of public affairs is dominant. It is thus associated primarily with the evolution of modern nation-states in their many varied forms. It is for this reason that we also need to look at the peculiar and distinct socio-historical contexts in various countries, under which the struggle from an imperial subject people and territory, to nation-hood, took place in order to appreciate the actual origins of democratic demands, structures and problems ,in both their national as well as their international contexts. Failure to pay attention to such important socio-historical distinctions, particularly in the study of African politics, has led to many wild generalizations that have only promoted a misunderstanding, rather than any objective appreciation, of African politics and its democratization processes. The essay draws attention to the fact that although free, lawful and fair elections are important in the promotion and determination of the democratic credentials of any given political system it needs to be understood that electoral outcomes are also largely dependent on many other relevant and, indeed, more primary political and economic functions. An important aspect to this is the fact that in verifying various democratic practices, either individually or collectively, the most essential consideration is the extent to which they are founded on, or validate, expressions of popular sovereignty in the communities concerned.
In the struggle for Africas independence, and the democratic rights of its inhabitants, challenges to the assertion of popular sovereignty were expressed at two important levels. The first is that the struggle for the liberation of African countries from foreign imperial control took various forms under different conditions, ranging from armed resistances, to more peaceful processes of political struggle in the form of public demonstrations, civil disobedience and other forms of “positive action”. The second is that the outcome of both of such struggles, in terms of their democratic relevance, impact and potentials, have also been generally and continuously contested, and reversed, by the imperial powers mainly through the so-called Cold War. In other words the Pan-African, anti-imperial, anti-colonial and nationalist character of Africa’s political struggle for independence and democratization did not remain, or develop, in an unopposed and unimpeded manner. It was consistently challenged, and in a number of cases reversed or forestalled, by those opposed to both independence and democratization in favour of the retention of the colonial status quo. Varied, as well as numerous and persistent cases of foreign intervention, designed to undo the possibilities of independence, in order to retain imperial influences and structures, constitute the principal expressions of opposition to both sovereignty and democratization in Africa.
Nigeria’s role in the development of Africa’s democratization is not only dependent on the extent to which it is, itself, democratized but also on the extent to which, in conjunction with other countries in the region, they are together able to move in the direction of a united, sovereign, democratic and economically integrated continent. In order for this to happen Nigeria need to overcome its current problems of democratization which define the Fourth Republic in a manner that makes it unique in a number of ways.
Histories, Theories and Ideologies of Democratic Revolutions.
A discussion of democratization in Africa needs to examine the issues in the context of Africa’s historical evolution as well as define the categories, conduct and character of Africa’s politics on the basis of the substantive issues, and relations, responsible for its development. The extent to which prevalent and dominant imperial ideologies determine both policy prescriptions as well as academic perspectives on issues of development in Africa is reflected in a number of works dealing with the subject (Aime-Cesaire, 1972; Ake, 1982; Frederick, 1996). There is, for this reason, a need to study these issues in the light of all available evidence if valid and objective inferences, as well as broad generalizations, are to be scientifically arrived at.
An important problem in the discussion of political issues generally, and those that concern western imperialism in Africa in particular, is the need to distinguish between scientific procedure, on the one hand, and issues relating to ideological propaganda, or public relations, on the other. This is why it is important to base our discussions on substantive and verifiable evidence, as well as distinguish theory from ideology in order to be able to critically evaluate both. The key stumbling block in this regard is not only the extent to which imperial ideologies attempt the promotion of their own interests but also the absolute and exclusive manner in which they lay monopolistic claims on principles that constitute the common values, and heritage, of humanity such as freedom, development, human rights or democracy per se. This problem of imperial absolutism, and the opposition between what it claims and what it actually does, usually referred to as double- standard, has led many to criticize its views as double-faced, self-serving and self-contradicting claims. It is in this respect that Ali Mazrui characterized the conduct of the Western powers as something akin to those of the fictional character in the novel titled Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Mazrui, 2010).
This study is based on the understanding that western imperial control, as argued by Rodney (1972) and Fanon, (1967), has not only constituted the bane of development in Africa but that contemporary western interventionist policies, particularly as manifested by the Cold War, constitute active designs by European imperial powers, and the USA, to reverse and contain the successful trends towards political independence, as well as local economic control and diversification that is represented in Africa’s liberation struggles. This has, in turn, led to various attempts towards undermining both national and popular sovereignty on the continent, by such powers, despite numerous claims to the contrary.
Until recently most imperial viewpoints, championed by “neo-classical” economists and ‘neo-liberals’, tend to promote the impression that politics ought to be, and remain, divorced from economics. After many years associated with the consistent failures of the various economic development policies they have imposed on Africa they, finally, came round to advocating for “good governance” and “democratic” politics as the most required factors toward achieving economic development in Africa, in addition to being the major defences against the consistent tendency for foreign-imposed economic policies, and programmes, failing the continent. The logic of this so-called “reforms” by the self-styled “donor” agencies is that it is designed to combat “dictatorship”, “corruption” and “human rights abuses” which have always acted as bottlenecks against the successful and transparent implementation of the policies they had imposed. This conclusion is, however, not only wrong but also decisively evasive. In the first place the fact that these policies were not only formulated by foreign interests but also designed to promote foreign interests, which should have been the most logical explanation of why they all failed to develop the local economies in the first place, was simply not considered or examined. Similarly the assumption that abuse of human rights, corruption and dictatorship was only a local phenomena associated exclusively with African dictators negates the evidence of how Western interventionism in general, and the conduct of its Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) in particular, greatly undermined popular independence and democratic movements, as well as regimes, in favour of monarchical, military and civilian dictators, along with their inherent tendencies to human rights abuses, corruption and the politics of god-fatherism (Mamdani, 2004, P. 229ff; Blum, 2009, P. 125ff; Bello, 2010).
In addition, views which tend to present the development of democracies from a Eurocentric perspective as entirely exclusive to certain regions, states or races tend to presume that their development in other places is only, or primarily, the outcome of some processes of diffusion from particular centres of their origination thereby perceiving general struggles for freedom in narcissistic terms, rather than as the manifestation of a universal tendency to freedom by humanity, in general, and oppressed peoples in particular. Talking of democratization as merely some fleeting “wind of change” or international tidal “waves” as Macmillan and Huntington have, respectively, characterized them tend to give the impression that these are essentially extraneous influences on some dormant, and static, societies from certain active epicenters (Huntington, 1991; Myers, 2000; Ferrara, 2011). Indeed in reality most colonies tended to struggle for their freedom from the very same imperial powers which, variously, claim to be democratic as well. However developments in each and every society reflect, above all else, the very conditions under which they have arisen, even if these were greatly influenced by factors extraneous to the societies in question. Indeed social development in general, and democratization in particular, arise more as diverse types of bubbles in different places, under definite circumstances, leading to their increasing growth and fusion through various processes of expansion, and adaptation, partially expressed in the form of alliances, and cooperation, with similar movements, institutions and regimes (Baechler, 1995, Pp 145-164).
Democracies are the product of social revolutions against feudal, or colonial, empires designed to promote the total independence of the polities or future nation-states concerned, and its citizens, on the basis of the principles of popular sovereignty. Political choices, struggles and institutions associated with democratization are defined by efforts, and trends, towards the public determination of public affairs at three important levels. In the first place they tend towards the promotion of free expressions, and choices, by individuals as the most important bases for the selection of political representatives as well as the promotion of popular participation towards the public determination of public policies. In the second place the process redefines the polity more and more away from aristocratic or imperial control, and privileges, towards an independent and sovereign nation-state governed by its own constitution. Finally, the nation also participates as an independent member, in external or foreign relations with other states supposedly on the basis of its own popularly determined interests.
Contemporary democracies are, in terms of their general evolution, associated with important historical antecedents which developed in various forms under different conditions. These were always propelled by the universal tendency for human beings to struggle for freedom, justice and dignity under whichever conditions they found themselves. This, in turn, also imply that they always tended to oppose domination, injustice and corruption as practices subversive of common, or public, interests in many diverse ways. It was such a consistent inclination towards opposing domination, in favour of freedom, that led to the increasing assertion of two basic social principles in politics in various forms and places, at different times. These principles, in common, tended to enhance the practice of public participation in, and control over, public affairs. The first was popular participation in decision making while the second was popular control over the conduct of selected, or elected, representatives and executives. These were always represented in various forms, as well as in varying degrees, in all human societies. While various examples of democratic antecedents, in the forms referred to here, were represented in various ways in different places it needs to be emphasized that in both acephalous and state societies gyrontocratic or autocratic, rather than democratic, politics predominated. This was the case with the slave societies of the Greek city-states and the Roman Empire as well as many other precolonial African states, empires and communities.
The tendencies to popular, and republican, control of political activities noted above therefore stood in sharp contrast to the more common, and opposite, tendency towards exclusive, usually dynastic, political control geared to the promotion only of the interests of a minority in control of power. These autocratic systems of political control were variously defined as gyrontocracies, slavocracy, monocracy or plutocracies-symbolizing powerful social forces, and classes, that control society in their favour, and towards the exploitation of a majority of its population.
Wherever substantial opposition developed against feudalism, as it did in Western Europe, or against colonial imperialism as happened in many European colonies all over the world, such democratic antecedents were usually identified, uncovered, revivified and adopted in the context of much broader and deeper political revolutions, geared to a transition from empire to nation-hood in which both the polity and its citizens, were presumed sovereign, and capable of determining their own futures. Thus modern democracies are generally the outcome of popular, and distinct, forms of political revolutions against specific systems of imperial hegemony in terms of social, political and economic relations (Ossowska, 1970 P. 57 ff; Davidson, 1981; Baechler, 1995).
The first set of nation-states that arose in Europe such as Britain, France, Germany etc. were born out of revolutionary struggles to free their societies from the domination of an empire that was feudal, theocratic and ‘medieval’ in character. The second set of nation states to undergo democratic revolutions were led by settler colonists, in the form of USA, Australia, Canada, South Africa etc who struggled against the domination of their imperial mother countries. These had, however, significant and unresolved problems in terms of the freedom of their indigenous and minority racial population, as well as women and social underclasses. Finally, the colonial revolt by the ‘native’ populations in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Middle East in favour of decolonization gave rise to the development of contemporary third world nations. Thus while these various nations struggling for democracy share certain common features, it is also obvious that they differ from one another on account of the nature, conditions and structures that define the problems, and character, of their domination and, therefore, their democratic struggles. (Baechler, 1995; Frederick, 1996; Mamdani, 2004)
As many writers have shown, contemporary politics and democratization processes in the third world is generally defined by its anti-imperial character. (Nkrumah, 1965; Davidson, 1981; Mazrui and Tidy, 1987). African politics, as well as its democratization processes, in terms of structures, objectives, and strategies is primarily defined in relation to the struggle for Africa’s unity, independence and development. The struggle to transform the colonial system into an independent, free, diversified and integrated economic system has always been greatly opposed, and resisted by imperial powers in favour of the continued subordination, control and exploitation of African economies. Due to such a crisis many activists, politicians and scholars have tended to characterize the post-independence, or post-colonial, period as the continuation of pre-existing colonial, and dependent, relations in new, or neo-colonial forms. The question of national independence, as opposed to foreign control, has thus not only tended to define the struggle between the forces of decolonization, on the one hand, and the imperial powers, on the other, but has also become the major bone of contention in respect of whether or not the inherited colonial status quo should be substantially changed (Palmberg, 1982; Davidson, 1992; Ake, 1996).
What therefore partly defines democratization process in Africa has to do with an indirect attempt to contain its independence, in order to maintain the colonial status quo, by the U.S and its NATO allies. This, in turn, involves various types of foreign intervention, designed to facilitate control over African affairs by western imperial powers. This, furthermore, is done in a context within which the denial of malevolent interventionism, on the one hand, as well as the contradictory profession of a more public-relations oriented and therefore benevolent commitment to Africas freedom, on the other hand, increasingly comes to define both the ideology and practice of the neo-colonial powers. In other words there is a crisis, on the part of the neo-colonial powers, between an expressed commitment to democratization and their realpolitik, dedicated to the preservation and promotion of imperial relations. This contradiction is occasionally identified in the form of discrepancy between words and deeds as hypocrisy vs democracy. In the field of realpolitik however, this is expressed as impunity, generally, as well as in the form of subversive and covert activities, in particular (Stockwell, 1979; Mamdani, 2004; Nnoli, 2010).
In support of the above perspective most current studies see the conduct of the western powers, who generally define themselves as the “leaders” of the “free world”, as the major threat to democratic development in the world. In respect of Africa many independent scholars indicate that the interventionist activities of the western powers constitute the greatest threat to both independence and democracy in the region (Ake, 1996). Similarly many other studies and commentaries also indicate that the efforts of these same powers towards exercising exclusive and undemocratic control over the affairs of the United Nations, through vetoes as opposed to votes, also constitute the major source of the opposition to the democratization of United Nations system, in particular, and the conduct of international relations in general (Adeniran, 1988; Mathews, 1988; Ake, 1992). Finally a number of studies, which are currently supported by widespread demonstrations in Europe and the USA, claim that what is promoted as multi-party democracies in the western nations are but only some kind of Hobson’s choices in the form of advanced plutocracies, where the interests of the majority are either subordinated to, or disregarded, in favour of those of a wealthy few (Frederick, 1996 P. 335ff).
Sources, Nature and Conduct of African Politics
As earlier indicated a major shortcoming of many discussions on African politics is that they are hardly based on the actual, and relevant, evidence in terms of the activities, conditions and relations defining them at any given time.
Such shortcomings, as Hodgkins (1976) observed, derive partly from the fact that African politics, much like African history, was also considered to be non-existent by most Eurocentric scholars. The result of such misperceptions is that a number of discussions on African politics tend to be superficial, amounting to no more than the promotion of some foreign interventionist agenda in Africa, along with associated attempts at imposing foreign points of views, and policies, on its population. These are generally characterized as “westernization”, “modernization” or “political development”. For these reasons we need to pay heed to what Hodgkins referred to as the need to study African politics with reference to “those who were actually making African politics” in the form of its political movements, thinkers, activists and statesmen by paying attention to the actual development of PanAfricanism, and African nationalism, in association with the key figures involved in them (Mutiso and Rohio, 1975; Hodgkin, 1976, PP. 6 – 16; Abdul-Raheem, 1986; Lipede, 2001).
In order to properly appraise African politics we therefore need to identify the agencies, principles and strategies associated with the assertion, liberation and management of Africa’s common affairs through efforts to control, and use, public power in the pursuit, and defense, of its own interests. A number of factors contributed towards the evolution of African politics in addition to giving it a certain focus, coherence and drive as a struggle for freedom, in the form of both national and popular sovereignty. In the first place the process, as a whole was associated with the struggle for freedom from Trans-Atlantic slave trafficking, and slavery, that engulfed a number of African societies since the 15th century. It was further associated with the struggle for the decolonisation of the African continent. Lastly it has, since independence, become associated with the struggle for the sovereign development of African states. The nature of this struggle is most epitomized in the conduct of the so-called “Cold War” which still rages on between Africa and the Western powers.
It is important to categorize political activities in Africa into two forms in order to fully appreciate the common nature, and character, of African politics. We will differentiate them into politics in Africa, on the one hand, and African politics, on the other.
Politics in Africa refers to the various types of political activities, as well as the various traditions and legacies associated with them, in Africa. These include specific forms of precolonial politics, in addition to the exclusive conduct of imperial political activities in Africa. These, generally tend to reflect interests which are in some senses exclusive and could not therefore be described as reflecting common African positions, in terms of their principles or expressions. It is however important to draw attention to the fact that the legacy of African precolonial systems, in terms of their typology, values, functions and development have not only served as important sources of inspiration but have also helped towards the formulation of PanAfrican ideologies by its political thinkers, ideologues and activists. African politics, in general, and Pan-African politics, in particular, refer to the evolution, assertion and promotion of a common African political agenda, and identity, committed to the collective unity, liberation and development of Africans at home, or in the diaspora. PanAfricanism was, for example, connected with the struggles against slavery and for the independent status of Ethiopia, as well as the development of an independent republic in Haiti, in addition to the return of freed slaves to Africa, resulting in the establishment of Liberia and Sierra Leone, not to mention its commitment to the liberation of all the colonized territories in Africa. Furthermore it was part of the vanguard for the struggle against imperialism and racism at the level of international relations especially through the PanAfrican Congresses it organized, the Negritude movement it precipitated, and the various global alliances it promoted leading to the formation of the Non-Alligned Movement. PanAfricanism was thus greatly, if not wholly, responsible for the articulation, organization and pursuit of African Liberation and, in the process, the projection of its democratic ideals, conduct and principles which are clearly represented in the evolution of contemporary Africa’s political thought, theories, programmes and projects associated with it. These have come to constitute the intellectual foundations, as well as the global organizational structures and expressions, of Africa’s struggle for freedom and democratization, in its entirety. The Literature on PanAfricanism is vast and very critical to a proper understanding, and promotion, of African politics. There is need for some general studies on PanAfircanism along the lines conducted by Immanuel Geiss, (1974). There is, furthermore, a greater need for more focused studies along the line indicated in some works on the subject (Mutiso and Rohio, 1976; Abdul-Raheem, 1986; Lipede, 2001). Such studies will be required to cover new themes like economic thought, international diplomacy and gender issues, in addition to other more indepth studies of specific geographical areas, or subjects, and biographies. It is the neglect of the evidence of PanAfricanism that makes possible the uninformed discussions of so-called African politics which hardly touch on the specific activities, issues, structures and relations actually defining it.
What formal colonial conquest, and occupation, facilitated for the imperial powers was control over policy making in the colonies, allowing for the imperial restructuring of Africa’s hitherto diversified and integrated economies into mono-cultural ones, designed to satisfy foreign, rather than local, needs in addition to making the establishment of foreign monopoly control over Africa’s economic resources possible.
The struggle to roll back the independence of African states, which became particularly noticeable during the Cold War, was purposely designed towards the reclamation and retention, as well as the deepening, of colonial structures and relations rather than their undoing. Some studies of the so-called Cold War hardly ever mention Africa as an important factor defining its evolution, conduct and consequences. An example of this is the book edited by Morgan, P.M and K. L. Nelson, (2000), titled Reviewing the Cold War: Domestic Factors and Foreign Policy in the East West Confrontation, in which Africa is hardly mentioned despite its strategic economic and political significance in the conflict, as indicated in Mamdani’s work (2004).
An important strand running through the history of African politics is the extent to which its tendency to struggle for freedom, towards the sovereign conduct of its own affairs, have consistently been countered by foreign imperial powers in favour of their own domination. It is for this reason that the history of Africas political development, since the colonial times, is usually seen in terms of the activities of those resisting, or collaborating with, the imperial powers. Thus the issue of collaboration with, or resistance against, foreign imperial activities in Africa also tend to greatly define the nature of impunity on the continent. This is expressed in terms of foreign imperial patronage and rewards for its collaborators, on the one hand, as well as punitive measures against those, in any way, opposed to it on the other.
Indeed the centrality of imperialism, in the determination of the nature of African politics, is reflected in the fact that even the imperial powers characterize political activities only with reference to the same phenomena-along the lines of collaboration versus resistance, albeit from an opposite point of view. The imperial powers see those collaborating with them as “moderates” and even project, as well as promote, them as “pro-democracy activists”. Those opposed to them, and committed to unconditional independence were usually referred to as “extremists”. Those who, furthermore, were willing to resist colonial imposition by force, where these became necessary, were in turn usually referred to as “terrorists” (Palmberg, 1982 PP. 27 – 47). From an African point of view the same categories are usually referred to as collaborators, nationalists and freedom fighters in that order.
Colonial legacies signifying subordination and extroversion, expressed in the form of national political and bureaucratic structures; educational curricula and monocultural economies; or in the character of subordinate partnership in foreign relations, continue to constitute major institutional, as well as structural, constraints to African countries in their quest for independence, democratization and development.
Economic dependency, rather than self-reliance, makes virtually all the African countries greatly vulnerable to external pressures, and control. This, in turn, tends to greatly undermine their sovereignty and denude the prospects of their democratic development. (Ikoku, 1980 PP. 299 -373). It is important to recall that the protest by Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Algerian who set himself on fire, which precipitated the so-called “Arab Spring”, was occasioned by the fact that despite being an unemployed graduate for many years, when he finally decided to set himself up as a street fruit vendor his fruit cart was confiscicated by public officials. It was in protest against this act of injustice that he finally decided to kill himself. Similar, and probably worse, conditions of widespread and deepening poverty, as well as increasing levels of unemployment, in Nigeria, are indeed daily being further worsened by the fact that job creation is hardly an item on the agenda of Nigeria’s local politicians. On the contrary the problem tends to become further exacerbated through acts of corruption, and official high-handedness, also involving the practice of placing some ban on several self-employed people by both the federal and state governments, occasionally involving the confiscication or destruction of their limited assets. These, moreover, occur in an economic environment in which the industrial sector has almost totally collapsed while the agricultural sector is distinguished only by the neglect, and abuse, to which it has been subjected. Furthermore the abysmal inavailability of infrastructural facilities is only matched by the official inability to account for the massive financial appropriations ostensibly made in favour of their provision. As a result the great deal of disaffection, insecurity and social violence in various parts of the country could be traced to these harsh economic realities as well as the various illegal and high-handed atrocities committed by public officials which include extra-judicial killings, rape and armed robberies not to talk of political thuggery and electoral misconduct, as expressed in many official reports of the various panels set up by government to investigate such incidences.
The extent to which colonial economics and politics, in Africa, were organized against the common interests of the colonized and indigenous peoples is, to some extent, reflected in Peter Ekeh’s work on colonialism (1975). The author sees in the colonial society a dualisation of the colonial public into “modern” and “traditional” realms, with the latter functioning as the “civic” and “moral” realm while the former constitutes the alienated and exploitative realm. The extent to which imperial conceptual categories also hinder the proper understanding of African politics is similarly reflected in the degree to which the article in question is also captive to the perspective of political modernization, which, using the categories of “modern” and “traditional”, becloud the critical issues of political sovereignty, decolonization and nation-building, which are historically associated with Pan-Africanist and Nationalist politics-resulting in a general trend towards undue, and misleading, emphasis on cultural “modernization” or uniformity.
African politics, or public affairs, cannot be projected as essentially some form of “cultural” and “moral” configurations, created by colonialism, and manipulated by its local elites. This perspective tends to assume that the categories of “modern” and “traditional” are objectively real, rather than constructed ideological stereotypes, supposedly reflecting some given and unchanging, as well as foreign and indigenous, formats.
However modernization, as a socio-historical process, cannot be seen to be characteristic of only one culture or race in such a manner that its occurrence is simply conferred on some while denied to other societies and cultures (Ekeh, 1975 PP. 91-112; Gyekye, 1997 PP. 217ff). Similarly the all-important question of the extent to which the colonial system both influenced , as well as redefined, social relations, classes, morality, and the general character of the colonial society, at various levels, were rather treated in keeping with the simplistic imperial hypothesis of “modern” vs “traditional”. In fact as a result of this perspective the various changes, as well as conflicts, associated with the cultural, political and economic nature of the colonial societies concerned, along with the very important structures, agencies and trends critical to the development of African politics, in this regard, were overlooked. For example PanAfricanist, as well as nationalist, forces were hardly reflected in the analyses. This, no doubt, is partly due to the fact that the term “civic public” is defined in the article only in terms of the various agencies of the colonial state, such as the military, the civil service and the police rather than the independent, popular as well as civic, and political, expressions in Africa, in the form of the PanAfricanist or nationalist organizations. As a result major national, cultural, professional, gender, literary and trade union movements as well as organizations and associations, or political parties, which redefined African politics and the struggle for its liberation, were more or less omitted from the discussion (Ekeh, 1975 PP. 91-93). In this connection, it is important to emphasize that a number of studies have, however, shown that the political, economic and cultural profiles, as well as structures, of colonialism, gradually emerged and developed out of a process of socio-cultural changes and fusion leading to important processes of social differentiation, and the development of social classes, which have important implications for colonial politics (Palmberg, 1982 PP. 49 – 77; Davidson 1992 PP 192ff; Bello, 2011). The combined influence of these changes, and the inception of a united struggle against colonialism, was expressed in the emergence of the nationalist struggles. It is important to stress that the struggle against colonialism, in terms of its socio-political composition and outlook, transcended any kind of expression characteristic of ‘primordial’ or ‘colonial’ public. In the main the struggle for independence was neither the reflection of a struggle for any ‘primordial’ order, nor was it generally simply a quest for the reform of the colonial systems. They were rather associated with a visionary, popular as well as national struggle for independent and sovereign nation-states directed against foreign control and exploitation. This was widely reflected in the search for a new society, and political order, depicted in the PanAfricanist and nationalist literature, as well as in the adopted constitution of every individual nation-state in addition to the various manifestoes, and programmes, of their competing political parties. Studies of African politics in the post-colonial period have, unduly, suffered from the ethnocentric biases of many of their practitioners due to the fact that most of such practitioners were colonial administrators, anthropologists and missionaries who, after the independence of African states, took to African studies as “experts”. They thus tended to bring the colonial experiences they garnered in the various tasks they undertook on ethnocentric studies, and “tribal” segregation, in the management of colonial societies to their new tasks of academic discourse, in various areas, with very destructive consequences (Mafeje, 1971; Akinyemi, 1976; Usman, 2003).
Deriving from the observations made above we need to appreciate the defining character of democratization in Africa, as a struggle for both independence and majority rule, found on the basis of universal suffrage, towards the establishment of sovereign nation-states. Its democratic character was embedded in its objectives, and methods, which were geared towards public mobilization in order to promote the public determination, and control, of public affairs. In terms of conduct the nationalist movements aimed at public mobilization through sensitization in order to make the public assert itself politically. They operated at three levels essentially. These were the national, regional and international levels all with a view to the decolonization of the continent.
Firstly colonialism impacted on contemporary Africa in many different ways. The most important ones are in terms of the foreign ownership and control of the region’s most vital economic resources, especially minerals, it was able to effect. The next is in the form of the external control exercised over the continent’s economic structures, institutions and relations. There is, furthermore, the foreign control exercised over the formulation and implementation of its domestic public policies as well as, finally, the control exercised over its external political and diplomatic relations. No wonder these issues still continue to constitute the principal areas of contestation between nationalist elements and neo-colonial powers in Africa today.
Secondly impunity, or the tendency to disregard the rule of law as the key instrument for the defence and promotion of public interests have, in Africa, an imperial and colonial character. Impunity defined the conduct of the imperial powers in all their dealings with African states, whether individually or severally, as well as at the levels of their internal affairs or in terms of their external relations.
Thirdly, in the post-colonial period impunity is expressed in the interventionist conduct of the neo-colonial powers which are designed towards maintaining the imperial status quo, as well as improving the capacity for further indirect control over nominally independent African states. Africas on-going efforts towards the coordinated articulation and administration of its own regional democratization agenda, at various levels, need to be fully supported by many African countries if it is to bear any fruits. It is also on this basis that the common AU opposition to military coups, as well as cases of constitutional abuses and electoral irregularities, by elected African leaders is being promoted. It is also in this regard that calls for coordinated programmes of popular participation in governance, and a common stand in international affairs, need to be promoted. These, indeed, constitute AU’s official position on the democratization of Africa as expressed in some of its policy documents (African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance).
Finally it is important to note and emphasise the fact that the sovereignty of the African continent need to be recognized, and enabled, in the determination of international issues, especially as they relate to and affect it in an equal, participatory, free and democratic manner. Its continual exclusion, and marginalization, in the formulation of decisions which greatly impact on its numerous nation-states and peoples, at various levels, is greatly subversive of its democratization programmes at the level of each nation-state, as well as that of the region in general.
The Achievements Successes and Problems of March 2011 Elections in Nigeria
There is a need to draw attention to a few important factors that define the relative achievements, and problems, of Nigeria’s 2011 elections.
In the first place it was an election that was organized in response to widespread demand for changes in the conduct of electoral administration in the country, in the light of the numerous complaints against the elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007. This led to the establishment of a “National Electoral Reform Committee”, by the then incoming administration of Shehu Musa Yar’adua. The recommendations of the committee were partially accepted by the Jonathan-led administration which oversaw the 2011 general elections.
Secondly, the fact that the training, conduct, outlook and disposition of the regimes of Shehu Musa Yar’adua and Jonathan Goodluck, both of which came into power after 2007, were more civic, assuring and cultivated in their relations to the public also greatly did a lot to convince members of the public that the government was committed to free and fair elections. This was further reinforced by the reorganization of INEC, and the various campaigns it also undertook along similar lines.
Finally there was widespread support from various countries and the United Nations , as well as various NGOs, that also greatly helped towards cultivating an image of transparency, due process and acceptability for the anticipated elections.
Although the elections were adjudged to have been rigged, by a number of people as well as most of the opposition political parties in addition to the violent outbursts associated with its outcome, especially in the northern parts of the country, these did not seem to have negated the fact that there was something different about it. What was different, many people believed, was the fact that despite the various problems indicated, it was a far better and more credible attempt than the elections of 1999, 2003 and those of 2007. Many people saw in it a promise towards the possibilities of, and the potential for, the realization of the nations dream towards popular democracy. This was particularly important in the light of the increasing tendencies to dictatorship represented in the other elections since the inception of the Fourth Republic. Indeed, to many, the elections provided some measure of vindication to the effect that real democracy, rather than some endless and fruitless agitation for it, might indeed be possible.
Many studies (Bello, 2007; Nnoli 2010; Nnamani, 2010; Balogun, 2011) therefore, in the lights of the above, indicate that in order for Nigeria to successfully consolidate and promote the development of democracy as well as contribute to the overall democratization of the continent it needs to address and overcome certain important challenges. The key challenge is the need for the regime in power to transparently address the problems of democratization specific to the country on the basis of its own laws, and in the interests of the nation. In order to fully appreciate these issues there is a need to cast a cursory glance at Nigeria’s struggle for independence in relation to its democratization processes.
- Nigeria’s Nationalist-Cum-Democratic Politics: its Transformation Under Military Rule
The struggle for independence in Nigeria was led by a number of political parties. They were supported by popular, national, civic and professional associations in the form of trade unions, womens organizations etc. The achievement of independence was expressed in the termination of colonial occupation, on the one hand, and the evolution of a constitutional, federal and republican Nigeria on the other. Military interventions in Nigeria, which started in January 1966, lasted up to May 1999, the only exception was the period between 1979 and 1983, when the Second Republic, dominated by political parties with roots in earlier nationalist movements, prevailed. The long period of military rule in Nigeria had a very deep impact on the country’s current politics. It was an impact that greatly undermined both nationalism and democracy in favour of dictatorial trends. It also greatly undermined federalism as well as respect for popular sovereignty and constitutionalism. This dictatorial legacy greatly contributed to the abortion of the Third Republic as well as the dictatorial tendencies of the prevailing Fourth Republic, in many ways. The extent to which military rule changed the nature of Nigeria’s politics is partly reflected in the fact that some veteran politicians used to refer to the dominant military Junta as “militicians” while some scholars see the Fourth Republic as more of a “neo-military”, than a democratic, expression (Balogun, 2011 P. 185ff).
In the first place due to the popular, nationalist and PanAfrican character of the politics of the First, and to some extent the Second, Republics they were substantially Federal, Republican and Constitutional in orientation, pursuing policies which were relatively popular and independent, as well as inclined towards the increasing diversification, indigenization and integration of the local economies at both the national and regional levels.
In the second place the conduct of electoral politics, during the First and Second Republics, although subjected to a good deal of abuse, were still substantially moderated by the then prevailing systems of checks and balances in the form of federalism, virile opposition parties and through the relative enforcement of the rule of law. This also made it possible for opposition parties, through various types of local as well as national alliances, to check, politically, the tendency to impunity. The autonomous nature of the regions, and the formidable federal structure resultant from this, as well as the relative administrative decentralization associated with same, also made it possible to exert checks and balances on impunity.
In the third place a key and game-changing outcome of military rule was political centralization leading to the top-down transmission of public policies and appointments, as well as the modalities for general administration, rather than the determination of such through independent processes of popular political mobilization. In association with this, the Cold War in general, and military dictatorships in particular, all over Africa, gradually subverted nationalist politics through the various campaigns of vilification, assassinations, overthrow and other forms of harassment of nationalist leaders, as well as the practice of banning all democratic activities, parties and constitutions. In addition they also further introduced the process of organizing, or administering, public and civic associations as well as political parties on the basis of what can be called command and control, or patronage, system. As a result independently formulated policies, in particular, and independent political associations or parties in general, were systematically undermined by most military regimes in line with the political objectives of the Cold War in Africa, and thus in association with the relevant foreign “partners” or powers. These efforts resulted into some general assaults on all pro-independence political expressions, under some general opposition to “ideology”, as well as the corresponding exertion of a policy of foreign indebtedness on each African country by the western powers, which eventually made it possible for them to drain them of huge financial ‘interests’ as well as exercise control over policy formulation in such countries. The western nations pursue a uniform political agenda which only supports subservient and compliant dictators while opposing, censoring and disabling all pro-independence leaders or movements, in one way or another, including the promotion of covert operations under the guise of “democratic” or electoral support programmes (Nkrumah, 1965 P. 239ff; Blum, 2000, P. 168 -179). This is also why the political options promoted in the so-called “democratic” systems advocated by the western powers deny self-determination, in favour of a single policy alternative, or Hobsons choice: – the one imposed by the same western powers. As a result, in all of the African countries, there arose a similar trend defined by the external imposition of Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP), along with “privatization” and “deregulation” programmes formulated, and administered, by the World Bank and the IMF on behalf of the western powers. The most important feature of this imposed policy is that although it has never succeeded in any country in the world it has always, persistently, been imposed on weaker nations at the expense of more informed, and popularly determined, economic development plans formulated at their own national and regional levels. As such this policy has only led to massive drain of human and material resources from the countries concerned, in favour of the more developed countries. In addition it has also greatly resulted in the processes of leadership selection, at both the political and technocratic levels, coming under the control of the World Bank and the IMF. It is despite this very real, and contradictory, process of teleguided political and economic determinism in Africa, that the same powers also pontificate about “democratization” — as if it were not supposed to determine both policy and leadership options based on popular, and sovereign, choices. In effect what this only tends to achieve is the provision of a semblance of legitimacy to a system of external control that is totally devoid of morality, accountability or responsibility (Mihevc, 1995 PP 86 – 102).
It was the combined effects of popular agitation against military dictatorships associated with such policies, as well as the determination of the military to remain in power, that greatly account for the distinctly flawed and fraudulent character of electoral processes underlying the endless transitions from military to democratic rule in Nigeria(Olagunju, etal, 1993; Oseni (ed.), 1999). Legacies of military rule in Nigeria have also greatly influenced electoral administration under the Fourth Republic. These influences are reflected at several levels. Key among these are the country’s economically dysfunctional federal structure; the all-powerful position of the president in the presidential system; the consequences of the denudation of nationalist politics in favour of its increasing external subservience, and the increasing degree of foreign intervention in the determination of the country’s affairs, which all tend to combine and define the politics, or failures, of the Fourth Republic as something greatly alien to the democratic, federal and republican spirit, as well as letter, of the nations Constitution. This also tends to explain the lack of any clear, original and purposive goals, or ideologies on the part of the various political parties of the Fourth Republic, in relation to the country’s prevailing problems of poverty, violent conflicts and economic underdevelopment. As a result of these various factors the fourth Republic has become especially distinguished by its tendencies to god-fatherism, along with the associated abuse of power by incumbents which, in turn, greatly breed injustice, corruption, communal violence and increasing degrees of foreign involvement in the internal affairs of the nation (Imobighe, 2003; Nnamani, 2004; Alubo, 2006; Iwebunor, 2007).
- Scope of Political Influences on the Democratization Process in Nigeria
A broad survey of commentaries on the various influences critical to the democratization process in Nigeria indicate seven significant factors shaping its nature, relevance and trends in Nigeria. These are (i) the structure of international relations and the processes of globalization (ii) The degree of regional coordination towards democratization within Africa and (iii) The extent to which constitutionalism, and the rule of law, dictate the national conduct of democratic politics. Others are (iv) The level of development of democratic culture within the polity, (v) The conduct and effectiveness of the opposition parties,(vi) the degree of independence, or autonomy, enjoyed by electoral institutions and agencies as well as (vii) the extent to which democracy and democratization are considered, and treated, as important national security concerns. Let us examine how each of these impacts on the democratization process in Nigeria.
Many studies (Ake, 1996; Mamdani, 2004) draw attention to the fact that both Africa and Nigeria need to assert themselves, independently, at the global level in order to secure, as well as promote, their democratic rights at every level. In particular this is seen as the only manner in which they could both protect themselves from foreign as well as local predation(Nnoli, 2010; Nwolise, 2010).
Secondly, and deriving from the above, many writers draw attention to the fact that in the very manner that the liberation of all African countries was only made possible on the basis of PanAfrican unity, its democratization and economic development could not in any way be otherwise. There is thus the need for an independent regional agenda towards the coordination and promotion of democracy in Africa. This is because in their isolated capacities African countries lack the political, diplomatic, military and economic capabilities to withstand pressures against their independence from foreign powers. This is also why the region remains marginal in international affairs, where it is yet to fight for its democratic rights and protect itself from the impunity of the powers that be (Ake, 1996).
Thirdly democracy in Nigeria could not be effectively, and sustainably, achieved without due regard to the nations Constitution as well as respect for its laws, and in response to the wishes of its peoples (Nnamani, 2010).
In the fourth place the deliberate cultivation and promotion of democratic culture in the polity, anchored on patriotic commitment to national and public interests, is seen by many to be at a very low ebb. These values need to be strongly promoted through the exemplary conduct of the national leadership, as well as activities of the elites at various levels-such as in schools, residential districts, work places and political parties. Democracy is necessarily an exercise in nation-building, as well as a citizenship acculturation programmes, in favour of common and constitutional interests (National Council on Inter-governmental Relations, 1994).
In the fifth place many people, including virtually all the observer teams associated with 2011 elections, have recommended that efforts need to be made by the country towards mitigating the negative influences of incumbency factor in the conduct of national politics, and elections, at all levels. In this regard many have called for decentralization of powers, as well as increased autonomy and independence, for legislative, electoral and law enforcement agencies, from undue executive control and influences (David, 2009).
In the sixth place the conduct, effectiveness and capacity of the opposition parties also play an important part in the conduct of democratization. Ideological clarity and commitment, as well as patriotic conduct, on the part of the opposition parties, rather than unprincipled lust for power, will greatly help to check the excesses of the ruling party, or parties, in addition to providing possible alternatives to the electorate in the country. The opposition parties in Nigeria have been widely denounced for their docility, opportunism, incompetence and shoddiness-attributes which have tended to render them politically ineffective.
Finally a number of observers have also drawn attention to the fact that a major security threat to any nation lies in the extent to which its politics, defining the path to its sovereign, self-reliant, peaceful and prosperous development is undermined by inimical, local or external, forces. Local threats to peaceful and democratic development through military, monetary and other forms of non-constitutional and undemocratic activities need to be checked through the law as well as on the basis of wider collaboration with other African countries. Such security considerations must also be promoted in a manner that fortifies African countries against external threats, pressures and invasions, as well as their marginalization in global affairs. In particular there is the need to check the influences of local anti-democratic expressions (militarist, cultic, aristocratic, patriarchal, ethnocentric etc.), monetary inducements as well as foreign interventions in the country’s democratization process (Victor and Ezekiel, 2009).
- Justice and the Rule of Law as the Foundations of Democratic Politics
The degree of confidence reposed by a number of Nigerians in the possible outcome of March 2011towards the democratization of the country seem to have rested, among other things, on three important presumptions. The first is that there would continue to be official respect for, and responsiveness to, popular demands for political reforms as earlier demonstrated. The second is that the government would also continue to build on the positive legacies of the Yar’adua administration not only in terms of democratic political reforms but also in terms of an inclination towards peaceful resolution of disputes, in the manner pioneered by the Yar’adua regime towards the resolution of the Niger Delta conflict. Finally it was widely assumed that the government would, after the elections, vigorously commit itself to the solution of the various problems of the Fourth Republic, in particular, to which it is an unenviable heir.
Furthermore there is widespread belief that the government needs to demonstrate the key importance of both national independence, and regional cooperation, in its efforts towards democratization. In this respect the government needs to send out clear, rather than mixed, messages that tend to indicate lack of clear objectives and principles on its part. For example while many have hailed the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill as an important achievement, on the part of the Jonathan-led administration, many others have also condemned the regime for championing, as a priority measure, the so-called bid to change the constitution in favour of one-term of six or seven years for elected executives.
Similarly many have called attention to the increasing domination, and determination, of the nations key policies by foreign powers as opposed to their constitutional, as well as popular and national, determination. This is clearly expressed in the extent to which the country’s economic development policy is being unnecessarily dictated by the IMF and the World Bank as expressed in the widespread condemnation of the corrupt and subversive nature of the World Bank promoted privatization exercises so far carried out, as well as the on-going disputes on the unwarranted and disruptive attempt to remove the subsidy on the price of petroleum, in line with the prescriptions of the World Bank and the IMF.
There is similarly widespread condemnation of the tendency for the country’s leaders to pursue foreign policy objectives which are in opposition to both the constitution of the country as well as the common position adopted by the member states of the African Union. These were indicated in the establishment of an American military base (Africom) on the continent, which the Nigerian government allowed for in the Niger-Delta. It is further reflected in the position unilaterally adopted by Nigeria in respect of NATO activities in Libya which also broke ranks with the common position of the AU.
It will similarly be interesting to see whether the government will respect the various views expressed by the very panel it had constituted under Ambassador Galtimari, as well as the positions adopted by the community of elders and the state government of Bornu state, in addition to Obasanjo’s highly publicized solo advocacy in favour of the peaceful resolution of the ‘Boko Haram’ conflict or it will, rather, act on the advise of the US to the effect that ‘Boko Haram’ is “unreconcilable” (Desert Herald, 0ct 2011).
It is also important, in the interest of improving on the conduct of future elections in Nigeria, for the government to act in the greater favour of the recommendations of the Political Reform Conference, as well as the provisions of the nations constitution. In this regard it will be necessary to promote greater decentralization of, as well as checks on, power in the polity in order to curb the present level of impunity exercised by the president, and other executives at the state and local government levels, in terms of control over administrative agencies as well as other arms of governments, in addition to their own political parties. In this regard there is a need to also make federalism truly functional in addition to making all electoral agencies, and personnel, genuinely independent, autonomous and credible. Rules on the funding of political parties, in the country, from both local and foreign sources, are not only ambiguous but hardly ever adhered to, even where they seem to be relatively clear. This problem clearly spells dangers in terms, particularly, of external funding and control of the country’s political processes. There is a need to borrow a leaf from the United States in this regard. In this respect it is important to draw attention to the fact that in accordance with Title 2, United States code Amended (USCA) section 441e(a), it is unlawful for foreign nationals to attempt to influence conduct of elections in the country (Blum, 2000, P. 168ff)
Indeed the Justice Ahmed Lemu-led report of the Federal Government Panel on the Investigation of Post Election Violence in the country has further confirmed the negative character, and tendencies, of the Fourth Republic from the point of view of nation-building, economic development and democratization. It has also greatly explained the major source of the many malfunctions that have come to dominate the affairs of the country. Toward identifying the causes of the 2011post-election violence the report observed that “the first and probably the most important major cause is the failure on the part of the previous successive regimes since the military handover of power in 1999 to implement the recommendations of various committees, commissions and panels that had taken place in our nation”. They further associated this failure with the extent to which serving political office- holders have turned their offices into instruments for the pursuit of their own private gains and have, in the process, perpetrated massive acts of corruption, in addition to attempting to perpetuate themselves in office through some more massive acts of corruption-including the instigation of violence in order to inhibit the possibilities of highly desired, legitimate and more beneficial political changes. Due attention to, and the implementation of the report of this panel, as well as many others, will greatly help to put the country on the path of democratization (Daily Trust, Oct. 11, 2011).
Finally it is important to stress that in order for democratization to be successful in both Africa and Nigeria the government needs to approach its activities, in terms of the various issues raised here as well as from many other sources, on the basis of three very important considerations. These are the consistent demands on it to always act only in a just and constitutional manner, in accordance with the rule of law and in favour of legitimate national, as well as popular, interests. This is the only way to attempt the promotion of genuine democracy in the country.
The sovereign and independent status of Nigeria, as well as other African countries, constitute the primary basis for the development of democracy on the continent. A common, united and independent regional coordination of the conduct of democratization in Africa is the only way to secure, and guarantee, the sovereignty of each African country as well as the collective sovereignty of the region. For this reason Nigeria’s efforts at democratization will be incomplete, and substantially unattainable, outside its collective pursuit and assertion by all of the African region. It is clear that most, if not all, of the African countries are individually too weak and vulnerable to defend their independence against powerful foreign interests, not to talk of their incapacity to assert their democratic demands in the context of global international relations.
Nigeria’s democratization in the context of Africas politico-economic integration, and development, therefore need to be anchored at three levels (national, regional and international) and operated on the basis of three essential principles.
At the national level there is the need to recognize that operating in the interest of popular expressions, and choices, on constitutional bases is the purpose of democratic politics. Popular empowerment towards such ends therefore need to be enabled, promoted and protected in every possible manner. There is a need to ensure that, at both the official and unofficial levels, the conduct of political activities, as well as governance, are designed to ensure justice on the basis of the rule of law.
At the regional level the centrality of Africa in Nigeria’s constitution, in respect of its foreign policy, is an important indication of the latters relevance in the country’s political and economic affairs. It is the key indication that it is only on the basis of Africa’s integration that Nigeria’s independence could best be articulated, asserted and secured at the national, regional and international levels. Only through such an association could local democratic forces be harnessed and collectively promoted while disruptive local conflicts are also genuinely and effectively attended to and resolved. Similarly only in this way could Africa’s interests, at the international level, be collectively asserted, promoted and defended.
In order for democratization, at both the national and regional levels, to succeed in Africa they need to be based on respect for the three important principles and processes: justice, rule of law and popular sovereignty at every level, especially at the level of international and global relations.
In this regard the relative democratization of the international system, towards justice and the rule of law, will help promote, rather than contain, the independence and democratic development of the weaker states of the world. In this respect African countries need to negotiate at international levels on a common platform in addition to taking common stands on all issues, through the AU. They further need to empower themselves through the pursuit of positions on the UN Security Council, in common. They also need to formulate and implement their common political, economic and cultural activities in line with existing agreements, and without interference from any foreign country or group of countries. They need to promote greater interaction between the AU and the African public through, partly, the promotion and coordination of popular movements geared to the achievement of unity, integration and democracy on the continent. In this regard the AU need to have its own independent voice, and media outlets, for the defense and promotion of Africa’s interests at the international level as well as for the common sensitization, coordination and involvement of the African public in its own programmes. In all of these efforts Nigeria should play a leading role, as it had earlier done, towards the common liberation, democratization and development of Africa in favour of the welfare, security and dignity of its peoples.
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THE CRISIS OF INSECURITY AND ITS DESTRUCTIVE CONSEQUENCES ON NIGERIA TODAY
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI (PMB) ON THE URGENT NEED FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF RULE OF LAW AND ORDER FOR THE SECURITY OF THE LIVES, PROPERTY AND WELL-BEING OF ORDINARY NIGERIAN CITIZENS
This letter is in line with various other expressions of concern by Nigerians on the breakdown of law and order in all parts of the country and, particularly, in the northern states.
It is an outcry against the prevailing state of insecurity resulting from the failure of government, and its security chiefs, to safeguard the country from widespread and violent lawlessness as well as the resulting desperate, and anarchical, attempts by Nigerians to devise for themselves any type of self-protecting outfits wherever this was possible. The situation bespeaks of the lack of any workable security architecture – in terms of policies, outfits and programmes, for the country.
We, as concerned Nigerians, hereby register our association with, and also enlist our contributions to, the widespread quest for the security of life and property in the country.
We fully associate with all those who have dutifully and positively come out, in the exercise of their democratic rights, to call on the government to take control and fulfil its most important constitutional obligations of protecting the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens as a necessary step toward the promotion of their welfare. This is also in line with the campaign promises earlier made to Nigerians by the present government to the effect that it would focus, and deliver, on the problems of security, unemployment and the fight against corruption.
The present dimensions, and levels, of insecurity in the nation is completely an expression of the failure of governance. It also therefore constitutes an indictment of the present government in all respects. We thus hasten to urge all concerned Nigerians to discharge their democratic responsibilities by calling on the government, through positive, constitutional and constructive action to ensure that it discharges the responsibilities it is sworn to uphold.
The government ought not be arresting people who are legitimately discharging their constitutionally guaranteed rights. It should, rather, be seen to be arresting, prosecuting and in all other possible manners containing the wanton criminal activities of those engaged in evoking, convoking, inciting, fomenting, promoting and inflicting violent and criminal assaults against innocent Nigerians.
- Observations on the State of Governance and Insecurity in Nigeria
Violent activities and the criminal, as well as destructive, outcomes associated with them have continued to multiply and spawn since the inception of the 4th Republic. It has also further increased in the last five years since the ascension of PMB into office.
While acts of political thuggery are occasional and intermittent it is to be noted that violence associated with Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSSOB), Niger Delta Militants and Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the southern parts of the country have tended to remain at the levels of latent and subterranean threats to the nation.
It is however, in the first place, the increasingly escalating return of Boko Haram, despite its total defeat and expulsion from the country in 2015, that is a matter of major concern. This is because it always manages to elude or defeat the security forces and make the headlines in terms of the carnage it is able to wrought in the North-Eastern parts of the country, and particularly in Borno and Yobe states. Similarly in the central parts of Nigeria and particularly in Kaduna, Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau and Benue states violent activities, initially identified as conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, have come to assume more complicated dimensions on account of the ways other criminal activities, of socio-economic and political nature, such as banditry, cattle rustling, illicit expropriation of land and even the demographic reordering of political constituencies, along with many other violations of the constitution, have come to be added unto the mix. As a result, in most of these cases, campaigns of ethnic and religious divisiveness, animosities and conflicts tend to be additionally mounted, in opposition to constitutionally guaranteed provision of inclusive citizenship, in order to divert attention away from the criminal atrocities in a manner that will pre-empt the due, as well as constitutional, processes of criminal investigation and prosecution in the country.
Further to these a higher level, and scale, of violent campaigns has recently come to engulf parts of Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Niger states resulting in the total abandonment of various rural areas by the resident population due to the carnage visited on them by rampaging, and murderous, marauders. The failure of the security agencies to check these offensives have led to a situation whereby most of the traumatized survivors tend to emigrate to various IDPs in the states concerned. Many have lost their livestock, personal belongings, relations and the opportunity to till their land this rainy season. These destructive activities are not only tearing the fabric of social life and national integrity apart they are also undoing the earlier efforts, and achievements, made towards nation-building and the development of the country.
There are, as is to be expected, many important reasons accounting for the insecurity and destruction referred to above. Key, however, among them is the failure of the nation’s security forces to check these developments in order to maintain law and order, this being their principal, constitutional and statutory responsibility. There are also other contributory factors among them the problem of increasing unemployment, and the associated economic hardships, which tend to lead many restless youth into criminal, and violent, undertakings.
Furthermore increasing corruption, and the failure to check it, is also leading to such problems as complicity, on the part of many public officials, community leaders and commoners, in criminal undertakings.
It is also important to draw attention to the fact that the failure, or inability, of government to deal decisively with criminals, and derelict public officials, is resulting in the dangerous, widespread and misleading view that crime might under certain situations tend to pay. Finally the current elected officials, at various executive and legislative levels of governments, have not been effective in either the presentation and promotion of the interests of their various constituencies or the protection and amelioration of the conditions of the communities concerned. The combined effects of all these factors is that of widespread and mounting frustration with the authorities as well as increasing dissociation, and alienation, from both the governments and the state – with very dangerous consequences for national unity, democratization and development, or the task of nation-building.
- We call for purposive, as well as constant and effective, supervision of all national programmes and projects being undertaken by the government. In this regard the President, and all his principal appointees, need to be seen to be visiting, inspecting and assessing developments in all parts of the country, and in particular the crises areas, in order to fulfil their key role as leaders and supervisors in addition to the need for them to motivate and mobilise the state governors, as well as the local population, so that they too could keep their eyes on, and fully attend to, the principal responsibilities assigned to them.
- We support the nation-wide calls for the immediate removal of the present security chiefs in favour of those who will be seen to act more sincerely, and seriously, in the defense of our national and constitutional interests.
- We also demand the formulation and application of effective security arrangements that could provide the required answers to the existing security challenges in a manner that clearly synergises the contributions of, and coordinate cooperation between, the federal, state and LGAs as well as, in particular, traditional and empowered community agencies.
- Earlier security arrangements which proved to be functional and integrative, as well as cost effective, because they were largely self-determined, such as the West African Community Security Organisation (ECOMOG) and the successful OAU coordinated intervention and defeat of Boko Haram in 2015 as well as the successful national effort leading to the defeat of the attempt at seccession and the balkanisation of the country under the Gowon regime, need to serve as important guides and models for our national security.
- We demand changes in the attitudes and conduct of the present leadership of the country especially towards respecting the various rules and regulations guaranteeing the accountability of elected executives, and legislators, to their respective political parties and constituencies at all levels. Nigerian politics will not lead to any positive achievement until a majority of those entrusted with leadership responsibilities approach the task with commitment to humanitarian, national and democratic concerns on the basis of high minded ideals and principles rather than the prevailing self-serving, retrogressive, corrupt and unpatriotic preoccupations.
The choke-hold presently effected on political parties in Nigeria by political godfathers and elected executives is not only disallowing the country to breathe freely, it is indeed suffocating the practice of democracy – in favour of dictatorship. It is also becoming a major tool for the perpetration of corrupt practices. There must be functional party supremacy and separation of powers between the executive and the legislature as well as the judiciary, in a manner that ensures effective checks and balances, rather than collaboration in corrupt practices – to the detriment of oversight functions.
The present practice of subordinating the political party to the whims and caprices of the executives differs substantially from the relative autonomy, and functionality, of the parties of the 1st and 2nd Republics especially in terms of the effective manner the earlier political parties were able to focus on their electoral promises and guide their elected candidates to pursue the identified interests of their political constituencies – in addition to creating nationally agreed, as well as planned, local and national development programmes and projects. The present problems of the inaccountability of political representatives, as well as the lack of separation of powers between the various tiers of government, is serving to promote monumental acts of corruption which, in reality, constitute the development and institutionalisation of impunity in our body politic.
- We strongly recommend that efforts to combat the insecurity situation in the country need to be complemented with a purposive plan towards generating mass employment opportunities that will help to provide programmes and projects, of enduring importance, towards raising the socio-economic status of our local communities in the form of afforestation, agricultural activities, irrigational facilities, small and medium scale mining activities, local pioneer industries and related constructive infrastructural facilities in both the urban and rural areas. Adhoc and arbitrary acts of doling out cash to a few selected individuals, as the government is presently doing, cannot lead to the achievement of these objectives because they are not targeted, transparent and enforceable. In the opinion of many they are more open to abuses than the achievement of any purposive goal
- In the light of existing state of general hardship, as well as the Coronavirus pandemic, we do not support the idea of taxing salaried staff or, in particular, medical workers, in the name of so-called financial strategies towards combating the Coronavirus pandemic. On the contrary the government should look towards, and use more effectively, other sources of revenues, in a manner that is especially accountable and prudent. These should include the effective and broader curtailment of corruption, the use of anti-corruption recoveries, (in the form of funds and estates) as well as the reduction of the administrative costs of governance in the forms of the over-bloated incomes, allowances and recurrent expenditures of political appointees, along with the members of the legislative assemblies at states and federal levels. In line with these the government should, in fulfilment of its anti-corruption promises, review the self-created “pension” schemes and the purported allowances that state governors and legislators have approved for themselves. Similarly the various donations made from various sources towards fighting the Coronavirus pandemic should be seen to be used in a manner that is fully effective and accountable.
- Most importantly we insist that the government should, and be seen to, honour its own statutory commitments of making due payments to those who have not only earned it but are also lawfully entitled to it in addition to the fact that such payments will enhance the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. They include:
- All salaried staff and workers, at all levels and in all parts of the country, who support a large part of the population on the basis of their productive engagements and earnings.
- All small, and medium level, contractors that have duly fulfilled the terms and conditions of their contracts deserve to be paid their due entitlements, especially in view of the employment opportunities they generate in the economy.
- Payment to all pensioners whose earnings were earlier deducted and paid to such funds for such purposes.
- The government should also attempt to develop new, creative and viable employment opportunities for various categories of Nigerians. This should include expanding and paying various categories of scholarships for students, particularly those that are internal, as very important investments for the future creativity and development of the nation.
- We call for the immediate restoration of security, law and order as well as the introduction of measures designed to guarantee normal socio-economic activities in the localities concerned. This should be done in a manner that would help to address some of the losses sustained by the local population in the forms of the destruction of lives and properties as well as the inability to conduct their normal economic businesses. There is thus the need for a special commission to address these issues.
We need, in conclusion, to stress and affirm that the problems of violent assaults and terrorism, resulting in rape, theft, plunder, arson and kidnapping which have led to the death, maiming, impoverishment and destitution of many be treated with the iron fists that they deserve, in a manner that is designed to promote law and order as well as ensure that justice is done to those who deserve it. In this regard the government should immediately set up an expanded judicial authority structure for the public trial of all those arrested in connection with these criminal activities. Only in this manner will it be possible to do away with the kind of ethnic mischaracterisation, and stereotyping, that is used to conceal, cover up and avoid going after the actual criminals involved in such dastardly acts. This will also help the communities involved towards treating, and healing, the trauma associated with such crimes. Furthermore this will greatly help to promote some awareness of the fact that crime does not pay in opposition to the present situation where criminals tend to hold sway while innocent citizens remain dead, injured, impoverished and displaced without any succour, or help, on the horizon. Justice heals but in order for it to do so it must be seen to be done.
Prof. Sule Bello Alh. NajibKwoury
Mall. Bashir Wali Comrd. Kabiru Ali Saliff
Dr. Kabiru Suleiman Mal. Ibrahim Baiwa
Alh. Habib Abubakar Wambai (FIIA)
30th June 2020
ARADA SENSITIZATION SEMINAR
“MASTAYIN AREAWA A SIYASAR NIGERIA A YAU” A LECTURE DELIVERED BY ELDER STATESMAN ALHAJI TANKO YAKASAI ON THE 16TH SEPTEMBER 2018
As part of its research efforts for the progress of Nigeria, African Research and Development Agency (ARADA), founded by Prof. Sule Bello (History lecturer ABU, Zaria and Maitama Sule University, Kano) organize series of seminars for public sensitization. This is the first of such seminar. The organizer of the seminar, Prof. Sule Bello said that the purpose of the event was to enlighten the public on the political development of Nigeria to date.
Alhaji Yakasai thanked the organizers of the seminar and also appreciated the representatives of NGOs and CSO’s for coming to discuss the problems of Nigeria and the way forward. He said it has always been his dream to form something like what he has seen and it is his hope to continue supporting this laudable initiative by ARADA.
The lecture was divided into seven parts: pre-colonial era, colonial era, independence struggle, post independent era and the struggle of building a nation, military era as well as the 4th Republic to date.
The lecture started with the historical relationship between the people of the North and the South before colonization which was centered on trade between especially the Yorubas and the Hausas. Although prior to independence there was nothing called Nigeria, there was free movement of people and trade without any hindrance to any part of the “Nigerian area.”
The Northern Nigeria has a leadership which was established by Usman Dan-Fodio who united the people through Islamic principles. The extension of the Sokoto Caliphate came with the promotion of Islam and therefore extended into some Yoruba territories, thereby consolidating the existing relationship.
The coming of colonialism affected the relationship between the South before North. In fact, the colonialists deliberately complicated the situation to their own advantage. Western education, for example, was introduced in the South for almost two decades before extending it to the North.
During the colonial period especially in drafting constitution for the country, the leadership of the North demanded for half of the seats in the legislative council and the South agreed with the hope that they could use the smaller tribes in the North who were mainly Christian to out-vote the North in forming a government. The Yoruba plan failed because of disagreement within the NCNC where the Zik faction refused to support the budgetary proposals. This even resulted in the collapse of the First Republic.
STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
Meanwhile, the Northerners participating in the government were under the Native Authorities who controlled them for the colonialists. There came the formation of Northern Elements progressive Union (NEPU) which was against the NA system. Also, there were those Hausas who served in the British Army in India during WWI. They were influenced by nationalists around the world who had fought for their independence.
In 1953, the Yoruba’s Action Group tabled a motion seeking for independence without consulting other parties especially the NPC. The NPC on its parts refused to support the entire motion unless an amendment was inserted that they want the demand to read “as soon as practicable”. This would give the NPC time for the region to develop.
As mentioned elsewhere to support the motion would mean surrendering the people of the North to Yoruba’s Action Group. This invited the anger of Action Group and its supporters in the House who started booing and insulting the Northern delegates. Even on their way home aboard the train the Action Group supporters continued insulting and stoning northerners. When the news reached the North, people became furious. Therefore, when the NCNC sent Akintola to the North to “console” the people, he was stopped at Zaria and advised to return home, because there would be trouble for him in Kano. Unfortunately, some newspapers published photos of Awolowo embracing each other with Zik in the spirit of “we dealt with them”.
Meanwhile, some politicians in Kano started propagating that Akintola was afraid to come to Kano. Due this, about half of the people at the station went to Sabon Gari and surrounded businesses and began attacking the Igbos. This was the Kano Riot. The refusal of the northern delegates to support the call for independence led to the suspicion of mistrust which lingers to this very moment.
The Yoruba’s started using political terminologies to cause more problem within the polity. In fact, organizations like Omo-Odudua, Afenifesi UPN, were set up to achieve this objective. They used terms like “power shift”, and “cross carpeting.” These were meant to undermine the North politically and economically.
STRUGGLE FOR BULDING A NATION
This political development, led to the hatred of the Hausas by the Yorubas and the Igbos, and further led to the blind acceptance that the problem of Nigeria is Hausa/Fulani. And, it culminated into the killing of top Northern politicians and senior military officers in the first coup. This led to the Civil War in Nigeria.
However, during the thirty-month war it was only in Kano that Igbo businessmen abandoned their properties only to be looked after by the committee set up by the N.A. administration with Dr. Mohammed Uba Adamu as the Chairman. The properties were rented out instead of destroying or seizing them. The collected rent was saved and eventually given back to the Igbos.
THE SECOND REPUBLIC
Even recently, Gen Adeuinka Adebayo wrote to Senator Ahmed Timubu to stop calling himself a Yoruba leader, because he did not do anything to Yoruba people like Awolowo, Shonibare, Akintola etc. He lamented that 70% of all industries in the west belong to Igbos and the rest belongs to Indians and Lebanese and this challenge is what Tinubu is facing in the current dispensation.
Alhaji Tanko argued that with our land mass which is full of moisture, number of population and what the united Nation Law of the Sea declare that 2/3 of our sea belong to the North. The North or Hausas has a friendly relationship with most of the smaller tribes in the North. And in the South-south we have a political understanding that exists up to now. Therefore, it is left to Northern politicians to consolidate upon. Both regions need each other to develop. Therefore, we must reach out to consolidate our friendship and position in the polity. He finally called for the formation more NGO’s, CSO’s and CBO’s in all the 44 local governments of Kano being the most unifying factor in order to influence the selection and election of leaders of the.
Later members were asked for contributions or questions.
Dr Saidu Dukawa(Dept. of Political Science, BUK, Kano) – wanted to know how relationship with our neighbor members of Sahel could be improved.
Alh. Tank replied that even before the creation of Nigeria there existed socio-economic relationship that even led to inter marriages. Even now the relationship could be improved by political parties as it happened with NEPU and Sawaba Party in Niger Republic.
Barr. Tukur Bello asked why Northern politicians did not support Alex Ekueme bid to contest for presidency.
Alh. Tanko replied that the zoning/rotation as practiced by most parties, gave Ekueme a chance to contest for what he wants. But, he blames the Northern politicians for sponsoring a military coup to stop him from contesting. This belief was natured into suspicion and even hatred, making Northern politicians to view Ekueme as someone to distrust with the leadership of Nigeria.
Hajia Aishatu Jafaru Fagge called for more sensitization for our youths to be involved in politics and that more women representatives should be supported by parties.
Eng. Bashir Wali asked why there is no leadership in the North like what is happening in the South.
Alh. Tanko said it is lack of “manufa” (agenda and commitment to service). He gave an example of Gen. Buhari who could have filled this gap. But, he had failed the people as majority of those who had voted him seemed to have lost confidence in him.
Finally, Prof. Sule Bello delivered the vote of thanks and gave a commendation certificates to the participants.
Talking about Africa’s problems the topic before us today nearly sums it all. There is widespread concern with the state of Africa today as a result of the failed expectations for peaceful, prosperous, sovereign and dignified development since the independence of African countries in the 1950’s and 60’s. These problems also constitute an important area of political and ideological conflicts in Africa.
Looking at the theme before us which I have adjusted to read “Nation Building in Africa: The Reality, Challenges and Prospects” we will find that the diverse ideological, as well as theoretical, perspectives evident in its evaluation, in themselves, reflect a diversity of interest that need to be identified and appreciated. Nation-building, from whichever perspective we look at it, is above all else a visionary, constructive creative, self-determined and patriotic activity. It is not a predator, self-serving and subservient spoil system characteristic of colonial societies – both old and new.
A survey of the literature on this topic indicate some widespread assumptions which have come to constitute what could, more or less, be referred to as the dominant explanation or explanatory framework. This is the idea that the problem of contemporary African states, leading to the widespread crisis or “failure”, of nation-building is to be found in the corruption, incompetence and mismanagement associated with African rulers per se. This, no doubt, is a factor which is clearly relevant in explaining Africa’s problems but it cannot be the sole reason, or indeed even the basis, for the explanation of the crisis of nation-building. This is because this, in itself, begets the questions: what constitutes African leadership?, and what also accounts for its inherent and extraordinary tendencies to corruption and incompetence?
It is important to observe that in many cases the very important factor of foreign interventionism in Africa, which has been identified by many scholars as a key element responsible for its present predicament hardly features in the viewpoints of those referring to “African leadership”, as the major source of “Africa’s problems”. Critiques of the “failed state”, on account of “Africa’s leadership” perspectives, have drawn attention to the fact that this viewpoint fails to take into account the various successes recorded by Pan Africanists, and African nationalists, in the struggles for nation-building in Africa.
Similarly such critiques have also drawn attention to the failure of all policies and projects imposed by the imperial powers through the IMF and the World Bank on Africa. They further observe that no responsibility has ever been admitted, or accepted, by these bodies in a manner that would warrant any major reviews. Despite the problems noted it is also observed that these same agencies have also achieved successful returns on all their investments in Africa, whereas Africa has always failed to achieve its own professed objectives. This situation thus portrays a one—sided, and an unequal, relationship.
Three important factors are immediately apparent if we are to view the subject in a comprehensive manner. The first is the need to differentiate negative foreign interventionism in Africa from its positive international support, cooperation and relations with foreign nations. This, we believe is clearly discernible on the basis of the fact that the latter is in support of, rather than in opposition to, independent as well as sovereign African initiatives and interests. Secondly foreign interventionism, by its conduct, also fuels and exacerbates impunity in African politics. Finally it also redefines what has generally been referred to in the literature on “failed states” as “African leaders” into “agents of foreign powers in Africa”.
In the discussion that follows we draw attention to the fact that the key problem for Africa has been foreign imperial interventionism, in various forms, utilizing a diverse range of agencies and organizations in order to control, or influence, both internal and external politics of African countries as well as their economies.
It is important, at this stage, to draw attention to the extent to which the crises of nation-building in Africa could indeed be attributed to a number of factors: poor leadership, foreign intervention, impunity, and disunity, for example. All of these could, in addition, further be associated to an inherent incapability of African countries to diversify and industrialize their economies, or promote democracy and good governance, in order to ensure peaceful and integrated development at all levels. However the question still remains that such observations need to coherently, and comprehensively, be explained on the basis of a common denominator or variable.
This contribution draws attention to the need to continually apply three essential principles in the conduct of such discourses. The first is the need to draw, as broadly as possible, on the essential evidence pertinent to the discussion in general. Associated with this is the need to bring into focus the evidence of Africas nation-building processes, in the form of PanAfricanism, as well as related practices of nation-building in the various countries. The second is the need evaluate all relevant theories, in the light of evidence, as well as on the basis of their own logical consistency. Finally there is also the need to discuss the issues in the context of both national constitutions as well as on the basis of international declarations and laws.
Significance, Typologies and Processes of Nation-Building.
Nations, and nation- building processes, constitute the most significant and defining political management principles of our modern world. They determine the essential features of all modern polities, as well as define their ensuing relationships as a global union of states in the theatre of international relations.
There are diverse perspectives on the concept of nation-states, nation-building and nationalism. This is to be expected, as well as accounted for, partly on the basis of the diverse range of problems, and issues, that different nation-states have to grapple with in the course of their development.
Another factor provoking controversy on the notion of nation-states is the subjective, supremacist, narcissistic and Eurocentric perspective usually brought into the discourse on the subject by ideologues with such persuasions. This, as we will highlight subsequently, has greatly promoted the predominant influence of ethnocentric ideologies in politics at the level of various colonies, as well as in their relations with the imperial powers.
The above issues notwithstanding it could be argued that all nation-states are, in the first place, products of modern development collectively differing in many remarkable ways from the polities, and societies, that preceded them in history, and thus sharing certain definitive, and common, features between them.
In the first place they all came into being through opposition to one form of imperial domination or another. Secondly their essential organisng principle expressed in their constitutional objectives is the achievement of freedom for themselves, as political entities, along with their citizens in a manner that promotes democracy anchored in national, and popular, sovereignty. Finally they all dedicate themselves to working for peace, freedom, equality and development at both the national and international levels.
While these might be some common features characteristic of all nation-states the circumstances of their creation also stamp them with differing characteristics, as is obvious in the differences to be observed between, as well as within, the following categories of nation-states:
- European nation-states: Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain etc.
- European settler states: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel.
- Third world nationalist states and territories: India, Brazil, Zambia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Libya etc.
Revolutionary socialist nation-states: Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam etc.
The above typology brings into consideration a number of issues which are characteristic of modern states – including their cultural, ideological, ‘racial’ and territorial differentiation as well as their independent or, dependent, status.
Once again, on the basis of the above, we could say that such differences notwithstanding all modern nations make attempts to build themselves on the basis of the following essential considerations:
- Sovereignty in internal matters, as well as in foreign relations, in addition to the conduct of participation in global institutions.
- Regional and global alliances such as Pan-Africanism, Non-Alligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in respect of Africa. In todays supranational world national interests can hardly be achieved where they are not supported by broader and wider regional, as well as global, processes of political, economic and cultural alliances and cooperation.
- Promotion, at the national levels, of such unifying policies as constitutionalism, multiculturalism and political, or ideological, pluralism.
- The eternal struggle towards nation-building is designed to ensure its sovereignty through the development of democracy, on the basis of popular sovereignty, as the popular expression of nation-hood in the polity.
The processes of nation-building identified above have been successful in some nations of the world. Why have they tended to “fail” in Africa?
Explaining the Crisis of Nation-Building in Africa.
If we state that nation-building ‘failure’ in Africa is simply and basically due to the incompetence, corruption and mismanagement of African leaders we commit a generalization which does not only leave many questions unanswered but also raises many others as well. This is, in the first place, because leadership cultivation, conduct and operations is an essential, and indeed leading, component of the nation-building process. Where the latter actually fails, the former will be deemed to be part and parcel of that general failure as well. In this case so-called leadership problem could not be expected to explain the general failure of nation-building processes because it is part and parcel of the process, and ought to fail where the process in general fails.
A number of studies indicate that the African leaders under reference were mostly serving as western agents in their various countries, and where they were not, and remained independent, they stood the risk of being assassinated, overthrown or in many other ways sabotaged. In many cases serving African leaders were said to be in the employment, and on the pay register of certain foreign secret services. In addition to this Africa’s ruling ideas, policies and structures in most, if not all, of the countries under reference were imposed, and promoted by the western powers. It is in consideration of these facts that such leaders could not be described as simply African but rather as African surrogates, or agents, of western powers.
It is important to draw attention to the fact that the available evidence testify to the initial successes recorded by Pan Africanists as well as nationalist movements in all parts of Africa, as in the diasphora. Such developments profoundly influenced the subsequent nationalist achievements in all African countries. Let me use this occasion to call on the management of the Daily Trust to invest in the publication of the biography of one of the most important figures in the development of PanAfricanism, in the person of Mohammed Duse, who finally settled in Lagos and was instrumental to the founding of the NCNC as well as the establishment of the African Pilot Newspapers, which were subsequently inherited by the late chief Nnamdi Azikwe.
Pan Africanism and the African nationalist movements account for the following achievements:
- The earlier independence of Haiti; and the establishment of Liberia, and Sierra Leone in addition to massive support for the independence of Ethiopia.
- The achievement of independence in many African countries between the Mid 1950’s to 1975. Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Kenya, Somalia etc.
- The establishment of relatively effective constitutional, federalist democratic and republican regimes in many independent African countries, following their formal independence, before the wave of interventionism undermined them.
- The establishment of the OAU in 1963 which, despite its problems, was quite able to coordinate a common African agenda, and diplomacy, which greatly helped the continent to liberate its remaining settler colonies, in addition to asserting a common diplomatic front at international levels against imperialism and racism.
- Initial successes in many Portuguese colonies constituting the liberated areas, under the various liberation movements, which had promising starts towards the transformation of their political, economic and cultural conditions in their respective countries before the wave of foreign interventionism greatly disrupted them.
It is important to stress that these successes were also possible due to the widespread, and diverse, levels of support African countries were able to marshal from well-meaning international organizations, associations, political parties, multilateral organizations and nations in the west as well as the rest of the world. Indeed it was such support that made possible the successes of the liberation, as well as independence, movements especially in southern Africa.
The most important reason for the crisis of nation-building in Africa is thus seen to be the interventionist policies, and activities, pursued by the west against the development of local nationalist forces and the achievement of PanAfricanist ideals. Indeed the efforts to undermine constructive and successful nationalist movements could be traced to the efforts made by the colonial rulers to substitute reformist, collaborationist and surrogate agitators for popular nationalist leaders, resulting in many of such leaders like Nkrumah, Lumumba, Kenyatta, Mandela, etc becoming “Prison Graduates”, as they were then popularly nicknamed.
At other levels the colonial regimes tried to influence constitutional provisions in their favour as, for example in Nigeria, which later had to abandon the constitutional provision inserted by the British for the retention of the British monarchy as “ceremonial” president of an independent Nigeria, in favour of a Republican status for the country in 1963.
Both before, and after, independence the tendency for African regimes to move in the direction of increasing independence in terms of policy formulation, foreign relations, economic diversification etc. was countered though the promotion, and the prop-up, of local monarchical, military or civilian dictators by the imperial powers. This process, after independence, led to the policy of assassinations, political overthrows, military invasions, economic blockade, sabotage and consistent acts of subversion against all independent minded African rulers, and their governments, in favour of regime change. Where overthrown, such leaders, were generally replaced by conformist rulers, as well as regimes.
Prevailing Challenges, of Nation Building in Africa
From what we have said so far it is obvious that part of the conditions for successful nation-building is having a group of independent, patriotic, selfless, dedicated and capable leaders. In other words the evidence of world, as well as Africa’s, contemporary history point to the fact that nation-building has only been successful where, among other things, it has been led by informed political leaders who are also independent of foreign control and committed, as well as accountable, only to the popular national support that is the basis for their coming to power. Nation-building has never been achieved, any where in the world, by “leaders” who are also surrogates, or agents, for the achievement of inimical foreign interests. This is also why all Nation States take great care to ensure that neither their political leaders, nor their political activities, are unduely, and indirectly, influenced by foreign nations or, indeed, by local self-serving cabals. The crises of Africa thus stems from the extent to which its independent political process have been subverted in favour of teleguided politics and controlled economies.
In order to appreciate this situation, further, we will draw attention to some of the major contributions that contemporary African statesmen, intelligentsia, politicians and activists are making towards the attainment of this goal of successful nation-building. The idea of a “good governance” agenda that is teleguided by foreigners as a standard prescription for what has been described as bad governance, or “Africa’s leadership problems”, is an act if foreign interventionism that is a ploy which presents only more problems.
In the first place it is not a solution to the problems of leadership but rather an attempt at the legitimization, as well as actualization, of the increasing number of schemes for the continuing recolonisation of Africa. It cannot lead Africa out of its present problems. It can only serve the interest of those powers that have crafted it in much the same way that all earlier prescriptions have only served those who crafted them to the detriment of Africa. In order to appreciate this we only need to look at how their key operational principles, and strategies, stand in opposition to both democratization and economic development in Africa.
The level of impunity underlining the relationship between the proponents of the policy of “good governance”, illustrated in wanton interventionism, stand in direct opposition to constitutionalism as well as respect for international law. They preach “democracy” in weaker nations and deny it at international levels, as well as in the U.N. They preach democracy in weaker nations and yet arrogate to themselves the right to impose the ruling ideas, and development policies, on the same nations.
Furthermore there is, in the collective experience of various African nations, in terms of their relations with western powers, an increasing, realization of the successful subversion of their sovereignty through the various policies of interventionism pursued by the western powers. The experience of Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia, in nation-building, is important in this regard. At another level we can look at another pattern in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa where the effort has been to forestall popular sovereignty, and contain local decision making processes, in particular. Furthermore another pattern is observable in the Francophone countries where the objective is to keep its excolonies under its immediate supervision and control. At a more general level there is also the systematic and relentless subversion of Africa’s regional integration processes as well as its collective interests, in many ways, by the combined force of the USA, EU and NATO as is exemplified in the war they waged against Libya.
Another standing policy is that of keeping control over Africa’s natural resources, in addition to maintaining imperial hold over Africa’s economies. Added to this is the increasing disinvestment climate promoted in Africa due to the massive extraction and repatriation of wealth by western governments, and corporations, as well as the criminal laundering of looted funds abroad by corrupt African rulers. These expose the hollowness of the campaigns for job creation and poverty alleviation, on the one hand, as well as economic development and democratization on the other.
In particular nationalist and nation building principles in the form of local political movements and parties, indigenous interests, independent popular movements, constitutionalism and pan-Africanism have been systematically, and consistently, sidelined and repressed. In view of this tendency towards the constriction of the political space, in favour of foreign interests, there is a significant resurgence of the politics of sectionalism, signifying that the character of national leadership is only capable of promoting subversive national scramble, and despoliation, rather than nation-building. This, as many writers have said, is in many ways associated with the functions of the characteristically imperial, and divisive, ideas of ethnocentrism.
The on-going deconstruction, by Africa’s academics, in all disciplines, of ethnocentric imperial ideologies is perhaps one of the greatest developments in the evolution of Africa’s political philosophy, as well as a major theoretical support to nation-building, and Pan-Africanism, on the continent. Various scholars such as Diop , Mafeje, Mamdani, Gyeke, Dike, Usman, Ajayi, Nnoli, Ake, Ranger and Davidson, in addition to many others, have been able to make very important, and ground breaking, contributions on the basis of historical research, as well as theoretical evaluation, which greatly confirm that ethnocentrism, and with it the ideology of racism and tribalism, were indeed not only a substantial fabrication but also the prejudicial policy instrument used by the imperial powers to achieve their common political, administrative and doctrinal objectives. As a result these have come to constitute significant sources of division, and conflicts, in contemporary Africa. They have in many ways proved to be the Achilles Heel for nation-building, regional integration and peaceful development in Africa for a good number of reasons. They have affected, and redefined, African politics in many negative ways, a few of which we will highlight hereunder.
The extent to which ethnocentrism tends to become the dominant, and hegemonic, ideology in any African country, as well as at the level of the region in general, is a function of the extent to which foreign powers, and their local lackeys, gain domineering political control at the expense of independent, nationalist and PanAfricanist forces. It is important to note that ethnocentrism, by design, negates and defies multiculturalism, as well as pluralism and constitutionalism. Another important reason for this state of affairs is the fact that while nationalism is committed to sovereignty, as well as constructive and creative change of the colonial status quo, in favour of Africa’s integrated development, local politicians that are submissive and subservient to the continuation of the colonial status-quo are generally beholden to ethnocentric ideologies. This is because the ideology also serves the interests of inter-elite, as well as intra-elite, scramble, rivalry and continuous division, at various local levels. It is due to the continuous manner in which tribalism is used to justify political opportunism, at the expense of community building, that it leads to increasing division in African politics at every level – right down to the family level! Over the last ten years we have witnessed how the development of corruption, and inter-elite rivalry, anchored on various ethnocentric claims for certain undeserved privelleges, rather than service to nation-building, on the bases of diverse appeals to “origins” such as “indigeneity”, “customs”, “traditions” and “tribal” groups rather than humanitarian, constitutional or legal claims, have led to lots of conflicts and loss of lives in Nigeria. These conflicts are thus not only criminal in nature, in the manner they are variously executed, but also constitute the greatest disservice to the promotion, and development, of genuine African cultures at the levels of community, locality, nation and region. While in some parts of Africa, and at the level of international relations, these are beginning to be legally addressed Nigeria is yet to take any definitive stand, or make any progress, on the issues.
The negative impact of ethnocentrism and the politics it breeds, briefly referred to above, is on account of the fact that racial and tribal concepts were crafted purposely to promote separation, exclusion and discrimination rather than integration and inclusion, or justice. They have as such promoted view points, ideologies and policies that are both fissiparous and disintegrative. They deny as well as oppose two important considerations, necessary for constructive community building, in their articulation. The first is that they deny of the multicultural nature of the evolution of human societies which is based on the diverse processes of migrations, fusion and integration in favour of an assumed process that is supposedly defined by separation and exclusion. The second is the fact that it’s views are based on stereotypes, informed by prejudices, that are further utilized for the purposes of a priori judgements, of whole groups of people. They, moreover, were applied on Africa by the colonial powers on the basis of a double standard, in other words such is not applied in the analysis, description or evaluation of western societies themselves.
The return to so-called democratic rule in Nigeria under the 4th Republic is accompanied by widespread development of sectionalist conflicts, as well as corruption, and a related tendency to civilian dictatorship on account of the various factors we have highlighted. We will illustrate these negative trends with reference to some important issues influencing Nigeria’s current political development.
The first is what is generally discussed as Nigeria’s federalism especially in terms of its current tendencies to dysfunctionalism. Attention has variously been drawn to the increasing centralization of its activities under the military, as well as the economically unviable nature of its federating units as currently constituted. However very few people have critically looked at the racialist, or tribalist, nature of the organizing principles at basic community levels. This has greatly contributed to the development of some policies of discrimination and exclusion in addition to the proliferation of more states, and local governments, or the agitation for “federating units”, founded on the basis of “ethnic nationalities”. These constitute nothing but the uncritical reproduction of colonial ethnocentric principles in the creation and organization of political and administrative structures.
Ethnocentric principles indeed, as of necessity, induce “inter-group” conflicts as well as policies of ethnic cleansing. In a recent paper one of Nigerias leading political scientists, Bolaji Akinyemi, draws attention to the fact that one of the major mistakes affecting Nigeria’s federalism is the notion that it should be based on the “ethnic nationalities” rather than on the basis of functionalist, democratic and constitutional principles. Such divisions, he noted, have only been promoted to support destructive elite squabbles, leading to endless subdivisions of the polity, for the benefits of certain individuals and cliques, as well as to the increasing detriment of the polity and its peoples. Added to this dysfunctional character of federalism it is to be noted that even the earlier Republican status of the country has been compromised, as is evident in Nigerias decision to provide military base for the U.S.A, as well as supporting NATO campaign against Libya, both of which opposed the stance of AU on the issues.
A second level of observation relates to the discourse that has attended the publication of Achebes recent publication on the Nigerian Civil War in Nigeria. Much as this is not a review of that discourse it is important to draw attention to at least three important issues that have so far accompanied and defined it. The extent to which the work is able to generate this level of discourse, and the constructive manner in which the author stated his own views, attest to Achebes credibility as one of the leading, as well as patriotic, Nigeria’s and Africas intellectuals. He has promoted on open discourse, as opposed to other members of the Nigeria elite that have only incited sectarian, divisive and violent conflicts. The future of Nigeria lies in our ability to promote the open, constructive, honest and independent discussion of our own problems. This is the essence of democracy.
An important observation is the fact that Achebe based some his own interpretation of the civil war on ethnocentric considerations rather than on the basis of the available evidence, and a rational theoretical frame work that is true to the historical circumstances. Many of his critics have also attempted to defend the figures he criticized on the basis, mainly, of similar ethnocentric afflictions. Our elites, if they are to lead effectively, must do everything to avoid the negative influences of sectionalism in their judgements and utterances in favour of principled, factual and considered judgements. We need to recognize that the objective cognition of our past in general, as well as the contributions of our past leaders in particular, are important to us in common. We can choose to learn and build on their positive contributions, or continue to wallow in negative and counter productive sectionalist acts. Awolowo, Azikwe,Sardauna of Sokoto, Balewa etc. were each Nigeria’s nationalists and we do them, or ourselves, no favour by insisting only on a parochial appreciation of their personalities. Nigeria has to truly own them, appreciate them and learn from their contributions, as well as their mistakes, if we are to develop good leadership for the country. Indeed in this regard Achebe himself is more than just a symbol for any kind of “ethnic identity”. He is a great African, and Nigerian, figure whether we agree with him or not.
Finally it is important to draw attention to the specific, and exemplary, response from General Yakubu Gowon which further demonstrates his standing as one of the greatest Nigerian, as well as African, leaders. His declaration to the effect that he is willing to account for his tenure in office at the International Criminal Court (ICC), is a positive indication of good leadership and character. How many of such Nigeria’s former, or serving, leaders could be able to seriously offer any similar pledge? In fact on the basis of the various accusations on the ground, most of them would do well to account for their actions, at whatever levels. It is imperative, if the democratization process in Nigeria is to mean, and prove, anything that all the chief executives of the federation, beginning with chief Olusegun Obsansajo, are seen to account for their tenure, as well as address all accusations against them, in the nations judicial courts.
We also need to properly look at the manner in which positive cultural attributes, such as languages, religions and customs, or traditions, of our peoples are being politicized, and subverted, to serve very negative and destructive purposes which stand in opposition to the very essence of both culture and religion. It is gratifying to see that religious leaders, and followers, are working hard to put a stop to such negative trends in order to enhance the moral, philanthropic, peaceful and unifying principles of all religious beliefs.
The present efforts towards so-called ‘good-governance in Africa is hardly working because it has neglected the essential issues in nation-building and the so-called development it promises, as Claude Ake rightly pointed out, was never intended in the first place. For nation-building to be successful it must achieve and be based on the critical objectives of national sovereignty, constitutionalism, unity, citizenship rights, national development plans and practical issues of regional integration which are outside the purview of the so-called good governance agenda.
Clearly the question of development in Africa must be able to transcend the limitations currently imposed on it by foreign interventionism, local impunity, dysfunctional economic structures and the tendency to disintegral divisiveness partially occasioned by the prevailing dominance of the imperial ideology of ethnocentrism. These need to be overcome by building on PanAfricanist, as well as nationalist, achievements in respect of Africas sovereignty, at both popular and regional levels, through a regional structure that could independently mediate local conflicts within, as well as between, African countries and also check foreign interventionism in favour of popular and national sovereignty. Constitutionalism: multiculturalism, political pluralism, economic diversification and industrialization on the basis of regional integration, as well as a common and united African stand at the international levels in terms of diplomacy, would appear to constitute the most essential building blocks for Africa’s nations successful development.
At present in terms of its essential ruling relations, structures and ideas the question of both development and democracy is flawed because they are imperial and neo-colonial.
Nation-building in Africa, or anywhere else, has never essentially been an exercise in the preservation and administration of any, or a galaxy of, “primordial” and “ethnic” groups. It was always a struggle for independent, and sovereign, nation-states anchored in the universal principle of popular sovereignty.
Similarly nation-building was nowhere ever simply designed to recreate the precolonial past, from whichever point of view this is perceived, or to basically preserve the colonial status quo in whatever guise, but rather to change it in favour of the development of new constitutional opportunities that guarantee, and promote, peace, justice, equity and prosperity for all citizens.
The search for a solution to the problem is already underway and it is on account of that fact that we are all here today.
In line with the exemplary conduct of one of your awardees, AbdulRaheem T., we must not only all work on this together but also do so in the spirit, and towards the achievement, of the goals of PanAfricanism. Patriotic African elites need to organize locally, actualize nationally and integrate regionally.
It is also significant to note that Haiti has decided to be part of the AU. It is imperative that the AU promotes greater relations with the African public through the initiation of diverse policy principles designed to address the needs of the continent.
Meanwhile in the spirit of the moment, we need to promote relevant platforms of the type that has brought as here today, as well as network their activities in a manner that will make them a significant force in the conduct of affairs at the AU.
Being a paper submitted to the 10th Daily Trust Dialogue as a Guest Speaker on the theme of “Nation-Building: at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria on January 23rd, 2013.
Source: Daily Trust
Nigerian historian Dr. Sule Bello said Olusegun Obasanjo is not only the most corrupt leader in Nigeria, but the “most corrupt on Earth.”
The history professor at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria expressed disdain about what he perceives as an excessive amount of influence that Obasanjo has over President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I see somebody who is trying to do good for his country but does not seem to have gotten out of the clutch of people who are interested in their own immediate thing [gain] like Obasanjo….” stated Bello in a critical assessment of the overall performance of President Jonathan.
Bello continued, declaring that Obansajo sent the nation into “chaos” during his presidency, yet does not receive a fair share of the blame of the present problems in the country due to ethnic prejudice against Northerners.
“Everyday it is the northern region. Everyday it is the Hausa-Fulani…these people don’t know about you and they are trying to live a decent life and out of your own ethnic chauvinism you always blame them for everything,” Bello said.
The ethnic chauvinism that Bello described is what he says is causing most of the problems in Nigeria, obstructing attempts for a peaceful dialogue with Boko Haram leaders, who according to Bello, are venting frustrations over the killing of their members and leaders since the inception of the extremist sect after the initiation of the Fourth Republic.
Additionally, “ethnic chauvinism,” according to Bello, sustains an erroneous rationale that Northerners cannot lay claim to oil wealth simply because the oil comes from the South.
The fiery interview concluded with Bello’s warning to President Jonathan that he will go down the “way of the rest” if he continues his over-reliance on foreign advice while neglecting the National Assembly, Nigerian constitution and needs of the Nigerian people.
Watch the full interview here and more exclusive interviews on SaharaTV.