Occasionally, some occurrences on the African continent remind us of how vulnerable we are. Or, put in the lingo of neocolonialism advocates, how tied to the apron strings of the west Africa is, over six decades after the colonialists physically left the African shores. Such also tell us, as our late brother, Robert Nesta Marley, musically sermonized in our ears, that though there are no chains around our feet, Africa is not free. The occasions afford us opportunities of going back to the literature of decolonization, dependency theories and even looking inwards into how Africa herself has contributed largely to her own setback in the perception of the world. The most recent indicator of this is the current travails of Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina, embattled President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) whose tenure of office is being queried by America on alleged ethical infractions.
Beginning with the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon’s analysis of the dehumanizing effect of colonialism on the psyche of the African, to the 1972 locus classicus book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Guyanese revolutionary and historian, Professor Walter Rodney, which submits that the exploitation and underdevelopment of Africa by Europe was deliberate, it is obvious that both the west and even Africans themselves competed evenly in the responsibility for her current deplorable state. Rodney had argued further that Europe economically exploited Africa but conversely developed her own land with extracted enormous natural resources of Africa. This underdevelopment was so huge, in the words of Rodney, to the extent that by the 20th century, the poor state of Africa had become manifest as a result of the over a century of manipulations and deliberate degradation. In the midst of this, however, Rodney said that the “ultimate responsibility for development (is on Africa’s) shoulders… (and that) every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow.” The capitalist system, that is.
Analysts of the deplorable state of Africa, in spite of her enormous resources, have however moved away from the obvious gross exploitation of Africa to how the continent contributed immensely to the facts of her current decay. The most notorious narrative in Africa today has moved from Rodney and Fanon to a conversation which states that if Europeans contributed hugely, as accepted, to the underdevelopment of Africa through colonialism and neo-colonialism, they succeeded through the evil of African leaders’ complicity. Apart from Fanon’s submission that Africa’s psyche had been so tragically warped by colonial lords to the extent that Africans do not believe in Africa nor think Africa, the most tragic calamity that befell the continent was inept and self-serving leadership.
Thus, while countries that were at same level of dependency with Africa have moved away from the Third World tag, many parts of Africa are still caught in the web of indices of underdevelopment. The most obvious of the evils that befall Africa range from the phenomena of corruption, weak institutions, distortions of law, ethnic conflicts, absence of freedom of speech, endemic poverty, naïve leaders and the blight of sit-tightism among African leaders. Added to these are terrorism and religious violence, with the incidence of coup d’etat having gladly receded from view.
Corruption, for instance, has led to gross dependence on the west for survival. Africa cannot continue to delude herself that her leaders were not the greatest culprits of the dependency of the continent on the west for survival. This African capital flight, which has necessitated illicit financial outflows, is estimated to cost the continent, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, between $50 and $148 billion every year. Among so many others, the 2014 case of Teodorin Nguema Obiang, second vice president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea and son of Equatorial Guinea’s president, who a US court ordered the sale of his estimated $30 million worth property which included, among others, real estate, luxury cars and collections of Michael Jackson memorabilia, is a case in point. The most recent is late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha, suspected to have stolen between $3 and $5billion from the country’s wealth. This is not to talk of African leaders like Mobutu Sese-Seko and the likes who pillaged their countries wantonly.
So how do all these connect with the travails of Adesina’s AfDB? Closely answering to the psychological underdevelopment of Africa thesis propounded by Fanon was the revelation made by late Nigerian Second Republic President, Shehu Shagari, in his 2001 published book, Beckoned to Serve. The hub of Fanon’s thesis is that the colonialists first dismantled the African belief in himself, even before taking physical charge of his affairs. His culture, his colour and his ways of life thus appeared to him subservient to that of the colonizers. As a manifestation of this colonial mindset, the Tribune last Saturday, brought to the fore how African leaders, in 1981, went against the statutes of the then ADB which hitherto outlawed non-African countries’ membership of the bank’s Board of Governors. Apparently suffering under the huge burden of debts and threats of funding to sustain the continued existence and survival of the bank, Africa had to open its gates to 27 non-regional members which included Argentina, United Kingdom, China, Denmark and the like, with America becoming one of the bank’s major shareholders.
If Africa’s perception of self as inferior and organizationally incapable wasn’t at the heart of invitation of America and others to the board of this African bank in 1981, it would be hard to locate a stronger reason. Never would it have crossed the minds of African leaders at the time who opposed Shagari’s decision to keep ADB within the ambit of Africa, that a day would come when a rabid iconoclast would take over the presidency of America. Today, Donald Trump has successfully deconstructed the myth of a superior thinking and superior mind associated with America. He acts like a typical African despot of the hue of Idi Amin Dada and displaying the unconscionable intellect of a village tyrant. Now, when the west points at Africa’s low examples in leadership, it will be manly enough to own up that at some point, she also paraded a garrulous Trump.
In unravelling, Trump sees AfDB as an extension of his American colonies which must be subdued, with a combination of gruff and ego. By insisting on an independent investigation of Adesina, even when it had been established that the constitution of the bank does not approve of such, Trump is in pursuit of his self-profile as a global gadfly who the whole world must do obeisance at his feet. Only a few days ago, he pulled America out of the funding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic, at a time an African, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is its Director General. It is gladsome to see that America, through Trump’s irritant stiff-necked disposition, is the one pulling self out of global leadership.
Kudos must go to Olusegun Obasanjo for rallying African past presidents to condemn the apparent tyranny of Trump in an African concern. This should be complemented by Muhammadu Buhari. Getting his minister to register Nigeria’s support of Adesina is grossly incomplete. Buhari must muster the last of his receding governmental energy to provide leadership in this regard. He must rally current African presidents and leaders to stand up against Trump’s bullying and conquistadorial tendencies in AfDB.
The reality however is that many of the African leaders like Nigeria’s Buhari do not have the gumption nor the bravery to look into the dilating eyes of Trump. This is because they are his lackeys and he holds their livewire. Having brought their countries down on their knees through a combination of corruption, destructive and limp policies, they needed Trump holding feeding bottles of sustenance to their mouths. Added to this is the regime of decades-old assistance by America to Africa which has continuously brewed a culture of dependency, as well as fostered a paternalism by America and other western countries on Africa.
The above is why Trump and his gruff would win this war and Adesina, with his hallowed credentials and celebrated knowledge, may be thrown into the Bandama River pretty sooner than we imagined. The Bandama River is reputed to be the longest and in its commercial value, the most sought after river in Côte d’Ivoire, AfDB’s headquarters. It has major tributaries in the river called Red Bandama and the Nzi. Bandama also has the renown of a river which drains half of the surface area of the enclave where Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina holds forte.
Buhari’s May 29 dividends
In the last few days, the Nigerian presidency, as well as many state governments, have been regaling us with claims of their infrastructural impacts in the lives of their people and society at large since being sworn into office. The Muhammadu Buhari administration, for instance, listed physical infrastructure it said it had executed which made its leg-men thump their chests as having trodden a path never trodden in the annals of governmental leadership in Nigeria.
While the list does not suffer in terms of its bogey claim, it does suffer immensely in terms of its human input. What do I mean? It would have been great if these presidential trumpeters could affix to those infrastructural claims a conservative measurement of the greatest happiness of the greatest number of Nigerians who government had pushed from the brinks of misery to the periphery of happiness in the last few years. While the mathematics of the amount of cash government claimed to have spent to provide infrastructure is quite monstrous, the actuals of the joy on the lips of Nigerians is indeed very lean. Thus, the most accessible indices would have been for government to tell us that in 2015 when Buhari took up the reins of governance, while a million people, for instance, could afford to eat two meals a day, with a million also having a roof over their heads and another million possessing jobs that gave them joy, today, it had pushed those indices to a higher Level X.
In the absence of a verifiable equation as painted above, it will be convenient to label government as merely glorifying dud figures. We are aware that those claims of infrastructure are at best not representative of the state of mind of the Nigerian people under the leadership of Buhari, as well as many of the state governments.
The miseries of Nigerians in the last five years under Buhari and many state governors far outweigh whatever joy that resides in those monstrous figures and decimals released by them. The miseries are locatable in Kaduna State where hundreds have been killed under the overall suzerainty of Muhammadu Buhari, with his godson, Nasir el-Rufai superintending; the hundreds killed in Sokoto by bandits; hundreds yet killed by avoidable diseases that a proper healthcare could have prevented and the millions who are pauperized on account of the self-serving policies of government. These are what we see as “dividends” of May 29.
Nnamani: The artist and his brush at 60
On Saturday May 30, 2020, former governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Ogbonnia Nnamani, clocked 60 years on earth. Inside this sixty years, Nnamani packed so many exemplars into it. An obstetrician and gynecologist with a hugely successful practice in America, he was one of those who heeded the clarion calls to return home to participate in the return to civil rule that began in 1999. Thus, at age 39, Nnamani became the first civilian governor of Enugu state in this republic.
Nnamani’s eight years at the Lion Building seat of power in Enugu were marked by a queer class philosophy that was anchored on lifting the sons and daughters of the lowly to the zenith of leadership. His area of specialty was identifying brilliant but unrecognized crop of young men and women and catapulting them to the top of society. In eight years, he had changed the class equation of the Coal City, with a new crop of nouveau-riche, equipped with a power apparatus that clearly irked entrenched elite, the big names who were clearly de-muzzled in the class struggle of the state.
With an alliance with the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nnamani succeeded in lifting up people not hitherto reckoned with but who were brilliant, to places where they never imagined. These he hid under a familial tree he nicknamed Ebeano. This equation brought people like Ike Ekweremadu, Ayogu Eze, Ken Nnamani, Frank Nweke Jnr, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Peter Mbah and several others to the cusp of political and industrial leadership of Enugu State. He had a mastery of identifying talents and took pride in seeing them shine in the global firmament.
Ekweremadu, for instance, he picked from the jungle of his local government while struggling for its chairmanship, made him his Chief of Staff, Secretary to Government and would have made him Senate President but for providence saying no. It is the same Ekweremadu who struts all over the firmament today like a self-made peacock. Again, he picked his old secondary school mate, Sullivan Chime, from an uninspiring law practice and hoisted him at the top of the state leadership as his successor in office. Chime was to unleash a stab on him akin to the Shakespearean tragedy of Caesar and Brutus.
For this daring, Nnamani irked the Enugu elite and received their flaks. His magisterial audacity provoked their anger and they shelled him repeatedly with their orchestrated pellets. Many of those he prodded up were used against him, so much that he recorded one of the most massive fatalities in terms of followership desertions in the history of politics in the Southeast. One does not need to be told that at some point during his travails in the hands of those he lifted up, Nnamani would have wondered why he didn’t stay put in America enjoying the success of his medical practice than getting embroiled in a Nigerian politics that is a game of knives and bile.
Today at 60, Nnamani can look back and see his investments in the human person and the yields scattered all over the country and outside. This is a fitting salute to a recreationist; a man who covets the creative genius of providence and spent eight years in office recreating the lowly with his artistic brush; drawing the portraits of people’s greatness on a canvass of colours.