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Whither Slavery Reparation Talk?

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Our demand for reparation is based on the tripod of moral, historic and legal arguments. Who knows what path Africa’s social development would have taken if our great centres of civilisation had not been razed in search of human cargo? Who knows how our economies would have developed?
It is international law which compels Nigeria to pay her debts to Western banks and financial institutions: it is international law which must now demand that Western nations pay us what they owed us for six centuries. – late Chief MKO Abiola in London, 1992.

For much of the 1980s, it
was unbelievable that any University of Port Harcourt social sciences student taught by the likes of Professors Claude Ake, Ikenna Nzimiro, Dr Mark Anikpo, Thomas Taiwo and the then visiting Dr Patrick Wilmot from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria would graduate without owning a copy of the book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa written by Dr Walter Rodney from the West Indies.
These teachers and a few more of their colleagues had constituted a motley crew of radical thinkers that literally turned Choba to the hotbed of Marxist ideology in the country. Back then, no topic, sentence or action was spared a leftist scrutiny on campus. In fact, so discomfiting were their almost daily classroom criticisms of successive administrations in Nigeria that the then military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, could no longer tolerate it and, seeing Wilmot as the arrowhead of these academic ‘coup plotters’, permanently deported him back to his native Britain. Ironically, his socialist co-traveller, Nzimiro, was later appointed into an economic advisory team by Buhari’s successor, General Ibrahim Babangida.
For economic historians, Rodney’s book is, indeed, a must-read as it contains a brilliant expose of the political economy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade; especially how European slave merchants, driven by huge materialistic instincts, acquired almost freely and for centuries, several batches of young and energetic African natives and shipped same in chains across the Atlantic to work not only in the factories of Europe but also the cotton, tobacco and sugar cane plantations in the Americas.
How this wicked and atrocious human undertaking benefited the slave merchants with their buyers and home continents while truncating the development of African societies has since birthed a serious agitation for the payment of compensations by the defaulting continents.
Unlike the Choba socialism discourses, initial reparation agitations had presented little to prick the government until Chief Moshood Abiola, a Nigerian business mogul and publisher, volunteered to throw part of his time and huge resources into the effort. It was largely in recognition of this rare sacrifice that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in faraway Washington DC, USA bestowed on him the CBC Chairman’s Award for Excellence in service.
That was in October, 1990. And by December, Bashorun Abiola had sponsored a three-day conference in Lagos with the topic: ‘Reparation for Africa and Africans in the Diaspora’. In his opening address at the confab, General Babangida was said to have called on European and American countries to compensate Africa for the untold hardship and exploitation which the continent had suffered in the past, particularly the enslavement of about 30 million young and virile Africans taken away from a continent that was almost at the same development level with Europe.
The self-styled Evil Genius drew special analogy from the recompense made by West Germany to Israel for over a decade of atrocities committed against the Jews by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party which culminated in the Holocaust during World War II. Also raised at the gathering was the possibility that pressuring Western nations on reparation might provide African countries some leverage when negotiating foreign loans and repayment terms.
People now also cite the UN resolution which backed the payment of reparation by Iraq to the Government of Kuwait for the destruction and looting by its forces during Gulf War I.
But several Western diplomats, after the discussions, reportedly doubted that their home governments would be receptive to the call for slavery reparation, pointing out that the Lagos colloquium focused mainly on Europe and North America while excluding many Arab countries that engaged in trans-Saharan slave trade.
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now simply known as the African Union (AU), was said to have backed Abiola’s reparation effort in 1991 by passing a resolution on the injustices of slavery and the need for recompense. On June 28, 1992, the organisation reportedly raised a 12-man Group of Eminent Persons (GEP) to pursue Africa’s slavery reparation. The group had Abiola as chairman.
In April 1993, the first pan-African conference on reparation was held in the new Nigerian capital, Abuja, to officially form the body that would carry out a global campaign for reparation payment. That, incidentally, was when the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland was campaigning to become Nigeria’s next civilian president in an election he was clearly adjudged to have won but which was later annulled by the Babangida administration. And even until his death on July 7, 1998, under very questionable circumstances, Abiola still endeavoured to sustain the spirit of the reparation movement.
Abiola’s open sponsorship of the reparations agitation and the circumstances of his untimely demise had raised suspicions of international collaborations to eliminate him and possibly scuttle any further push for such demand. Could this explain why no other person in the vast African continent, including diaspora Blacks, has opted to pick up the baton from where the Aare left off?

 

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Flooding And Environmental Sustainability

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Last week, on the 27th of May, 2021, the people of Rivers State celebrated the 54th anniversary of the creation of Rivers State. The state has achieved so much in terms of infrastructure and human capital development. It has achieved good governance and not so much good governance in some dispensations. The present dispensation has given the people more hope to celebrate the dividends of statehood.
However, the common failure of many societies across the globe is the failure to conquer their environment as God commanded. What we see is the ravaging of the environment which has made it more vulnerable to environmental disasters, which include flooding and desertification. Rivers State has 60 percent of its 10,500 square miles and beyond covered by water, and large areas of mangrove and rainforest. Its flora and fauna are of enormous natural resources. The struggle to sustain this God-given environment has been a great task.
The Niger Delta environment has endemic challenges which require scientific and deliberate consciousness of the inhabitants to mitigate. It also requires immediate solutions as the people in the region who are ravaged by flooding cannot wait for medium and long term plans to mature. There is the need to start from what can be dealt with immediately to provide shelter to the people, what can give the people safe home, on dry lands in the face of drowning floods. Enough consciousness has been created to the world at large by the United Nations.
On the 5th day of December, 1972, the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 2997 in Stockholm, Sweden created the World Environment Day celebration to sensitise all member-nations on the need to ensure environmental safety and sustainability. The environment is the only human habitation known to man. This will remain the case until the superpowers find another solar system habitable.

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Trust Deficit And Governance

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Trust deficit has come to be a common refrain in the polity used to explain lack of trust in government pronouncements and programmes. Its foundation is rooted in political party soap box promises and manifestoes that are never kept. Sir Walter Scott (1808) wrote “Oh, what a tangled web we leave, when first we practice to deceive”.
Reflecting on this truism, it is clear that those who prevaricate in their speech or actions cannot be trusted. Their social capital budget will be fraught with deficit.
They are persons or institutions whose words or actions are of double standards.
They who betray the common trust, thrust upon them by Nigerians are many and varied.
If trust in Nigeria were a national budget, it’s deficit profile would be more than 90 per cent.
We often hear social commentators in Nigeria say, “you can’t trust anybody in power”. This may be in the context of Frayed political relationships among and between those in power and the people they govern. It is about mutual distrust.
It is important to state that trust is a two way traffic; those who govern must be trusted and the governed must trust the system for it to work and generate positive impact.
Stephen Covey placed trust as an important ingredient in any relationship, be it political, social or economic, when he said “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It is the fundamental principle that holds all relationships.
Sadly, the political ecosystem in Nigeria has eroded these values. Can Nigerians as a people continue to dwell on the pessimism expressed by William Shakespear when he said “Don’t trust the person who has broken faith once”?
Will this perception not create a web of complex social relations and a complexity of failures and retrogression in the polity, if strictly adhered to? What can a people do without trust?
Frank Grane a social Psychologist gave an ambivalent view when he said “you may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough”. Trust deficit simply refers to a degree of lack of trust.
The term deficit in this context implies that there is trust but not enough trust because of broken promises in the system. People now choose who and what to trust.
In political relations which talks about social contract, huge promises are made to the people. The people on their part often bask in the euphoria of expectations, which are broken. So they make choices or effect a change of leadership based on those expectations.
Lady Gaga on trust, said “Trust is a mirror, you can fix it, if its broken, but you can still see the crack in that …reflection”. This explicates the danger in trust deficit in a polity where a people are afraid to trust in their government and functionaries.When trust deficit becomes systemic, it becomes a dangerous phenomenon in governance.
How can a people trust the harvest unless they see it sown.
There is trust deficit in police relations with the people of Nigeria.
Bail is free means bail is not free. Police is your friend means police is your enemy. Election will be free and fair means it will be rigged.
Boko Haram has become inevitable and the military cannot contend with it. When the spokesman of the Federal Government of Nigeria says “I do not lie”, many evidence will point to the contrary; he lies most of the time. The promise of Federal Government to mend the East West road has beccome an unending wait and only when MEND strikes that a portion will be white washed with alsphat. The Military Prevarication on the Lekki Toll Gate debacle is a source of distrust. How can a civilized group claim that no one died in that protest?
Poor ethnic relations in Nigeria is another source of distrust. An Ijaw man does not believe that an Hausa Fulani man at the helm of affairs can protect his interest.
In a similar view an Igbo man can hardly accept that a Yoruba politician is out to protect his political interest.
Among the minorities the story is the same, mutual distrust prevails. Political distrust among the ethnic groups in Nigeria is rooted in the nature of the colonial administration where the country stood on a tripod of centrifugal polity.
There were three regions in Nigeria. The East was dominated by the Igbo, West Yoruba and North Hausa Fulani. Unfortunately every region/ethnic group was inclined to fight for their interest rather than national interest. The interest of the minorities are also not taken into consideration.
Bad governance and military coups have further created distrust in the system where the struggle to govern by different geographical regions took over the merits of democratic values.
Class distrust has heightened as a result of growing poverty in Nigeria.
This has even take a demographic dimension. The youths do not believe that the class of persons they refer to as ancestors because of their age can governor this country well any longer.
This mutual distrust can also be seen in the stereotyping of youths as a bunch of irresponsibles. The fallacies above are unfortunate, because age has nothing to do with leadership. This type of distrust is retrogressive.
The growing spate of infrastructural deficit is a function of distrust and a result of rivalry among groups and the political class. A leader emerges and concentrates in the development of his clime rather than spreading the joy. He does so with the conviction that if he does not do it the next leader will abandon his people.
When trust and sincerity of purpose exist, true spirit of governance will unfold to allow development take a foothold in Nigeria. Many believe that restructuring will mitigate mutual distrust in Nigeria.

 

By: Bon Woke

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At A Time Like This…

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At a time like this when Nigeria is drifting off the radar, like a ship without compass, something needs to be done. A time when multitude of voices are resonating in different directions, some too distant to make much sense, others raising valid arguments and near solutions.
In all Nigerians need clear messages and solutions to the myriads of conundrum that confront the survival of the nation. The caliber of the purveyors of these timely calls-to-order is important. We Nigerians need mass action, but the nation needs voices too.
Every change begins with conscientization. Between the states and the federal government, the state is in a better place to call for an effective and meaningful structural changes in the country. This is why the present apprehension being expressed by the leadership of the National Assembly over the 12 point communiqué raised by the Southern Governors in their meeting in Asaba, should be scrutinized and taken with a pinch of salt.
The Governors have important roles to play in the Nigeria question because they are closer to the people. They have raised the bar by coming out despite their respective political party affiliations, to speak the minds of Nigerians. The Governors did not speak _tongue in cheek. They did not exonerate themselves while talking about the failure of government because the business of government is not restricted to the Federal Government alone. They have only declared the obvious position that leadership starts from the top. If the right thing is done from the top it will trickle down to the grass root.
They have called the Federal Government to order and they speak the truth. This is the message the leadership of the National Assembly should take home. The fact that the state Governments need to begin the restructuring from their backyards by looking at the independence of the judiciary and local Government Administration does not and cannot detract from the axiomatic fact that there is convolution of powers at the center which must devolve to the states and local government. According to Henry Adams “chaos was the law of nature and order was the law of man”.
The above refers to the tendency of society to jump into anarchy while it is incumbent on men at a certain time and space to realize the need to bring law and order to bear. If this is the time that 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria have woken up to call the country to order, so be it. Let the leadership of the national assembly come down from their high horses and work with the governors to legitimize their call through legislation and the follow up legal frame work. The intendment of any grand norm is that all the arms and segments of government should work in synergy for the good of the people. The governors’ call for total ban on open grazing by herdsmen in the country which has generated more heat than light is timely. The addendum that efforts should be put in place to encourage ranching will go a long way in encouraging the optimization of the diary and meat industry in Nigeria. The ban will go a long way in deescalating the current violence in the country. The leadership of the National Assembly should realize the fact that this is a timely call as the herdsmen conflict is the most volatile issue in Nigeria today. It is responsible for the replication of violence across Nigeria.
Every section of the country especially in the south and middle belt seems to be copying and pasting the licentious savagery due to the latitude given to the herdsmen. They seek self-help in different legitimate and illegitimate means.
Today the country sits on a keg of gun powder. The call for state police by the Governors has become very important. The various states of the federation have now seen the need to set up quasi community policing structures with different names and apparatus of operations. These vigilante groups have proven to be very potent in supporting effective policing operations in the various states. They therefore make the call for state police plausible. In Rivers State a local vigilante group which started in Omoku and spread to different parts of the state has proven that the involvement of the local populations in policing is a very effective tool for crime prevention and control. OSPAC, as it is originally called in Omoku has diminished the invincibility of cult groups and kidnappers in many parts of Rivers State. These vigilante groups can be seen manning security posts at police stations in Rivers State to defend them against the invading “unknown gun men” who recently had an unfortunate hunting spree at police and J.T.F installations in Ikwerre, Emohua, Abua and Obio/Akpo local government areas.
A state police structure will surely be more effective. Devolution of powers to the Federating units of Nigeria is surely the way to go, but Nigeria needs a constitutional process to realize this dream.
Politics and Governance involve the equitable allocation of resources and it defines who gets what and how.
The call for fiscal federalism by the governors must be taken seriously .Most importantly, the President needs to address the nation on these issues and set the pace for a jaw jaw among the various interest groups in Nigeria.
There is a dire need for a radical review of the current revenue formula; many have called for a return to the first Republic era where states or regions enjoyed the bounty from their resources. However, there is a current and recurring agitation for resource control where states will have control and utilization of their resources and pay tax to the centre. If this happens states will be forced to look in wards rather than go for handouts at the center every month.
The President has kept quiet enough. His silence could be misconstrued as an endorsement of the conflagration engulfing the country, especially as it concerns the ills perpetrated by herdsmen who are his Fulani kinsmen.

 

By: Bon Woke

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