ABDUSSAMAD U. JIBIA: An open letter to Gen Muhammadu Buhari

Your  Excellency Sir,

Let me start by congratulating you on your well-deserved victory. It is Allah that gives and takes everything including power. He has given it to you. We pray to Him to guide you in the onerous task of restoring the lost values of our country. You are taking over when the dust is beginning to settle. Boko Haram are on the run. For six years, this group of people has unleashed mayhem on Nigeria, or at least Northern Nigeria. Thousands of people have been killed in cold blood; thousands of others have been displaced. Yet, several thousands of women, girls and boys have been taken as captives. Ordinary Nigerians have found it difficult to figure out the sponsors of Boko Haram due to the nature of their victims who cut across all segments and strata of the Nigerian society. Several conspiracy theories have been expressed, many of which are laughable. Some believe it is the Northern elders who created Boko Haram in order to make the country ‘ungovernable’ for Jonathan. According to another school of thought it is the Igbo who have been exploring ways to launch revenge against the North for what Northerners did to them during the Nigerian civil war. Some say it is you, others say it is Jonathan. There are a few other theories.

Whether or not any, some or all of these theories are correct or incorrect, it is well known that the original members of the group known as Boko Haram or Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad as they call themselves were students of one Muhammadu Yusuf who lived and preached in Maidugri until his death in the hand of the Nigerian Police in 2009. It is also well known that the final episode that led to confrontation between his disciples and security forces was the refusal of his followers to obey simple driving rules like the wearing of helmets by motocyclists However, my reason for writing you this letter is not Boko Haram. It is something worse than Boko Haram. Yes worse. It is a sect more dreadful than Boko Haram that has established itself in all strata of Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. They are in the civil service. They are in business. Their members have deliberately come close to several unsuspecting politicians of note.  It is shia

As a Muslim, you don’t need someone to tell you about Shia. But for the benefit of those who do not know, I would say the little they need to know. Shia is about the oldest sect in Islam. After the death of Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was both a messenger of Allah and a political leader, the Islamic faith continued to grow under the rightly guided Caliphs. It was during this period that the present day Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine came under the control of Islam.

However, the Jews who were expelled from the city of Madina by the Holy prophet because of their treachery and were watching these developments with agony decided to react by sponsoring some of them to pronounce Islam in order to have the license to cause confusion among Muslims. It was these ‘converts’ under the leadership of one Abdullah bn Saba that succeeded in sponsoring the rebellion against the third Caliph, Othman. They first articulated his shortcomings, amplified and disseminated them around the Caliphate. Thereafter they called for his resignation; when he refused to resign they killed him. The Muslim Ummah chose Ali, a cousin of the Holy Prophet to lead them after Othman, but these very people, who now called themselves Shiat Ali (the sect of Ali) frustrated his efforts to track and punish the killers of Othman. They now made Shia a symbol of love for Ali and other relations of the prophet and hatred for the other caliphs and the rest of the prophet’s companions whom they claimed betrayed the trust of the prophet. Shia was embraced by Persians because they saw it as an opportunity to distort a religion that destroyed their kingdom and culture. After the Iranian revolution which was led by Shiite scholars, the government of Iran set an agenda to spread Shia to other countries. In Nigeria, this task was to be carried out by one Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky.

The man Elzakzaky devised several strategies to achieve his mission. First, he banked on the gullibility of some Muslim youth who could easily be misled by slogans like ‘Islamic revolution’, ‘establishment of Islamic state’, ‘total change’, etc. His group, who initially tagged themselves as Muslim brothers (meaning, of course, that other Muslims are not their brothers) organized lectures and several demonstrations in their first phase. In those days in the 1980s he told everyone that he was not a Shiite, his group was not out to promote Shia and that what they wanted was Islam and nothing else. The other methods used by Elzakzaky to introduce Shia to his followers were the same methods that Shiites have used over their long history. One of them is women. Shiites legalize temporary marriage. In Shia it is possible to marry a woman for two hours. Many people find it difficult to understand why young men and women who are supposed to be in school would trek from cities like Kano, Gusau and Katsina to Zaria, spending nights along the way in order to listen to Elzakzaky. This is the secret. It is an open one because the Shiites do not deny they do it. What they may deny is wife swapping, which many people accuse them of doing. There is plenty more on Shiites and their doctrine. What, however, would be of major concern to your Government is their notoriety in dealing with Government and fellow Nigerians. Way back in the 1990s, the Shiites constituted a major threat to the public in Kaduna state. For a period, any Islamic preacher who dared to criticize Ibrahim Elzakzaky or Ayatullahi Khomaini in his preaching was attacked and beaten in his house in the presence of his wife and children. Infuriated by their actions, the Government of Col. Hameed Ali staged a clampdown on them and most of their leaders were arrested and prosecuted. This made them to change their strategy for a while.

The main activities of Shiites are demonstrations which they organize on specific occasions like the Quds and Ashura days. During these demonstrations, they block main roads in cities across the North and intimidate the public including the Police whose permission they do not seek. Last year, this type of event led to a clash between the Army and the sect members leading to the death of several people including three children of Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky. In addition, these heretics organize an annual pilgrimage to Zaria for which they trek in large groups from certain points to go and meet their leader. In the process of this long trek, they block major highways and create a lot of havoc for travelers. This is watched by the security agents and nothing is done to stop it. Like the Boko Haram of Muhammadu Yusuf, the Shiites have no regard for any rule, no matter how harmless it is. For example, after a series of bombings in Kano metropolis, the Government of Kano state banned riding motorcycles after six o clock in the evening and carrying passengers on same. The public complied and defaulters were openly arrested and punished. The only group of people that did not comply were the Shiites. Even when the implementation of the ban was at its peak they rode motorcycles in the night on major roads in Kano sometimes carrying more than one passenger and none of them would be arrested. A friend of mine once stopped and asked the Police why they were not arresting Shiites. The answer was, ‘Ai su yan kungiya ne’, meaning ‘they are members of a group’. The Police was obviously afraid of triggering another crisis, but at the same time giving the impression that some people are above the law. The Shiites are well connected. Since most of their leaders including Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky himself are graduates, it has been easy to fix themselves in all sectors of the economy.

Although they publicly condemn the Nigerian political system and do not participate in partisan politics, the group may have been enjoying the support of certain politicians. For example, a former civilian governor of one of the Northern states patronized a Civil Engineering firm controlled by professionals belonging to this group. The group activities were allegedly sponsored by proceeds of the many contracts he awarded to them in addition to whatever little might come from Iran and other wealthy members. Ordinarily there is nothing wrong in that since they are also Nigerians, but the fact that some of those professionals involved were dismissed from public service for alleged breach of peace raised doubts about the action of that governor. Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky lives in affluence even when most of his followers live in abject poverty. Added to these is the large number of guards that accompany him wherever he is going.

These guards who are mainly unemployed youth also man illegal checkpoints on roads leading to his house in the Gyallesu quarters of Zaria. In addition to open display of weapons, these guards subject people living in the area, their families and visitors to constant harassments. Even after registering series of complaints to the police and Zaria emirate, nothing has been done to come to the rescue of these innocent Nigerians. Only last week, there was a widely reported clash between Shiite guards and residents of Gyallesu that claimed a number of lives. Yet, there was no response from the Government. My advice for your Excellency is this. If your promise to tackle insecurity is to be a reality you must cut Shiites down to size. To do that effectively you have to look around you and make sure that no member of this group occupies an important position in your Government. It would be a monumental scandal if Nigerians come to realize that a member of such a lawless group is very close to you and/or holding a key position in your Government. This is regardless of the intellectual prowess of the person. One would then wonder what would be the reaction of your Government when there is a clash between security forces and members of this group. The millions of Nigerians that voted for you do not include Shiites. Nigerian Shiites do not vote unless they engage in taqiyya which is a kind of hypocrisy allowed in their religion whereby a person can pretend to be what he/she is not and act accordingly in order to achieve a goal. Secondly, no member of the public including politicians, traditional or religious leaders must be allowed to use his followers to harass the public. If Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky or any other leader wants additional security for himself he should be allowed to employ trained private guards who would not harass his neighbours. Finally, there should be no double standard in dealing with different groups. I wish I had a direct access to you to give you this advice without making it public. Although I know a few people around you, I am not quite sure that a message sent through them would get to you at this time. And since office-seeking Nigerians have been sending in their CVs, any document dropped in your office, no matter its contents is very likely going to be treated as another CV in disguise. I wish you Allah’s guidance.

Dr. Abdussamad Umar Jibia Associate Professor and Head Department of Mechatronics Engineering Bayero University Kano

Culled from the Leadership Newspaper, May 12, 2015

MICAH STEPHEN: THE ARMS, THE ARMY AND THE ARMAGEDDON

The Armageddon is really nigh. There is nothing as precise and accurate an explanation as that. Nationals are increasing their knack to bear arms against the State. As each second ticks, the idea of genuine national rebirth or rearmament of the nation for genuine transformation seems to be as inane as it gets. Nothing can be more shameful. Woe unto a nation that is afraid of its nationals. Woe betides the nation that is scared of imposing its laws within its territory. To the thoughtful, these are strange times. The Shiites debacle that occurred a fortnight ago shows that Nigeria is still an idea, it has not evolved in its fullness. A time will come when this historical and political merry-go-round will come to a halt. When rhetoric of national unity will be exhausted and reality will unfurl. Meanwhile, as always, our responses have been filled with crass indecision and acutely implausible arguments powered by religious innuendos.

Let us lay it as bare as possible; a bunch of miscreants in the name of religious beliefs, armed with machetes, planks and other dangerous weapons, mounted a road block. In the ensuing intervening events, the Chief of Army Staff who by a stroke of sheer fate, was passing by and needed that road as a route, happened to meet a resistant bunch of scoundrels, claiming he had no right of way. A mental replay; the Nigerian soldier that we have grown to know is passing by your neighbourhood and without any reason; you said he had no right of way. Well, without equivocation, a slap and a kick would have been the most civil of responses you would have got. But this Chief of Staff, for some consideration ( I doubt if it is mere dictates of reason, or maturation of the soldier’s mind, or awareness of fundamental human rights which the soldier considers mundane) came down in person to beg the machete-wielding goons to leave the road. A plea they turned down. Their “civil” responses were chants and abuses, with some of them claiming that even if the president was passing, he would not be allowed. Now that is as unreasonable as it can get.  Few hours after the altercation, many were on their way to the afterlife. Well, let the dying bury the dead.

To my utmost chagrin, many have berated the army for being blood-thirsty and having flagrant disregard for human rights. Many a phrases have been thrown into the marketplace that is the internet, like “the reckless” , “unprofessional” Nigerian soldiers. Without any ounce of apology, I say poo. I think we have been stressed by the caterwauling state of the Nation, that proper analysis of happenstances is no longer our forte. And we are also being dragged along the global penchant for political correctness, that we say things as soothingly as possible, even if untrue. And I must also say that we have evolved an attitude of greeting the efforts of our armed forces with derision and ridicule. Nigeria is a fundamentally flawed state with fundamentally flawed institutions, but our arms men in spite of their much avowed irritability have held their own very well. The political and security architecture of the nation will stress any armed force anywhere in the world no matter how best equipped, talk less of an ill equipped one as ours. Our armed forces are handling the rage of internal security challenges, national orientation programmes in NYSC, external aggressions, international collaborations etc, and still they are always derided by the people they protect. It is as unconscionable an attitude as it can get.

We are currently in a dicey situation, a semblance of terrorist attack against the state, which in the rambling odyssey of our nation, we have never experienced. We have lost many lives and properties, consequentially stretched beyond limits, by the travails of our displaced compatriots and stretchered by the tragedy of the yet-to-return chibok girls. All these oddities emanating from this same zone. We have so much wailed at the number of our maimed friends, but we have not asked ourselves the numbers of dead soldiers. What I saw was a soldiers’ chief who in all civility, tried to douse an unwarranted tension caused by the arms-bearing young ones. He did what we do not always see a Nigerian soldier do. He should be commended not condemned, he tried his possible best.

The militarization of religious sects is the reason we are where we are. There are efforts being put in place to pacify the aggrieved sect. Once again, as always, we dress our problems, we do not address them. Ethno-religious militarization is the effect of the inability of the state to impose itself when it is faced with challenges. People are talking about caution. There is nothing; absolutely nothing to be cautious about, but to uproot this menace totally. These people can never be assuaged. That Iran was the first to raise eyebrow (reports have it that Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky even called an aide of Iran’s president), shows that we are yet to see the last of this sect. While rummaging through informations available on the Shiites, I found an open letter written by one Abdussamad Umar Jibia, an associate professor     and Head of Department of Mechatronics Engineering Bayero University Kano, quite instructive and educative. It is crucial to note that this open letter, predates the current hullabaloo as it had been written as far back as May 12, 2015. The academic is a seer. He stated that “it is well known that the original members of the group known as Boko Haram or Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad as they call themselves were students of one Muhammadu Yusuf who lived and preached in Maidugri until his death in the hand of the Nigerian Police in 2009. It is also well known that the final episode that led to confrontation between his disciples and security forces was the refusal of his followers to obey simple driving rules like the wearing of helmets by motorcyclists. However, my reason for writing you this letter is not Boko Haram. It is something worse than Boko Haram. Yes worse. It is a sect more dreadful than Boko Haram that has established itself in all strata of Muslim Ummah in Nigeria. They are in the civil service. They are in business. Their members have deliberately come close to several unsuspecting politicians of note. It is Shia”. He stated further that “Shia was embraced by Persians because they saw it as an opportunity to distort a religion that destroyed their kingdom and culture. After the Iranian revolution which was led by Shiite scholars, the government of Iran set an agenda to spread Shia to other countries. In Nigeria, this task was to be carried out by one Ibrahim Yakub Elzakzaky. The man Elzakzaky devised several strategies to achieve his mission. First, he banked on the gullibility of some Muslim youth who could easily be misled by slogans like ‘Islamic revolution’, ‘establishment of Islamic state’, ‘total change’, etc. …….”

He continued “There is plenty more on Shiites and their doctrine. What, however, would be of major concern to your Government is their notoriety in dealing with Government and fellow Nigerians. Way back in the 1990s, the Shiites constituted a major threat to the public in Kaduna state. For a period, any Islamic preacher who dared to criticize Ibrahim Elzakzaky or Ayatullahi Khomaini in his preaching was attacked and beaten in his house in the presence of his wife and children.

The main activities of Shiites are demonstrations which they organize on specific occasions like the Quds and Ashura days. During these demonstrations, they block main roads in cities across the North and intimidate the public including the Police whose permission they do not seek. Last year, this type of event led to a clash between the Army and the sect members leading to the death of several people including three children of Mallam Ibrahim Elzakzaky. In addition, these heretics organize an annual pilgrimage to Zaria for which they trek in large groups from certain points to go and meet their leader. In the process of this long trek, they block major highways and create a lot of havoc for travelers. This is watched by the security agents and nothing is done to stop it. Like the Boko Haram of Muhammadu Yusuf, the Shiites have no regard for any rule, no matter how harmless it is….”

I would have continued the reduction of his letter but for space constrains. What we have at hand is an Armageddon waiting to happen. It is no time for ethnic masturbation or stroking religious egos. Disaster is waiting to occur. If the Northern Elite in the long term refuses to reinvent their region anew through mass education of the populace, that part will be torn into shreds by needless extremism. In the short term, all appearances of extremism should be nipped in the bud. No two ways about it. Else the only way is hell.. Arms must be wrestled away by the Army to prevent this impending Armageddon. I stand by the Army on this.

Hamza: Book Review – Khaled Housseini’s The Kite Runner

Many Khaled Housseini fans say this is his best work yet. I don’t quite agree but I can assure you this is an exceptional book.

It’s a tale of Amir, a morally-conflicted young Afghan boy, born with a silver spoon, and his experiences on one hand with his demanding father whom he loved dearly and on the other hand, his young, brave and tolerant friend Hassan.

The novel was set in the US and Afghanistan. The tale depicts Afghanistan — from her glory days of peace, harmony and the no-longer-popular kite running sport where hoards of people gathered to fly, watch and “fight” kites; to the days of pain, poverty, anger and war resulting from the invasion of Russia and sets at the rise of the Mujahedeen and the Taliban. Also, one could sense how devastating it must be for refugees to rebuild their lives after so many years of clueless gathering.

The Kite Runner contains several razor-sharp plot twists, seasoned with Khaled Housseini-esque honey-sweet, almost poetic writings and thought-provoking dialogues. As also in “And the mountains echoed”, Afghan culture was portrayed and their views on Arabs, life, family, marriage and religion as a whole can be perceived in this beautiful piece of literature.
On a scale of 1–10, I’ll give it an 8.5

“ For you, a thousand times…”

TATAALO ALAMU: The Invention of African Intellectual Tradition

Illustrious members of the high Table and the table not so high, distinguished members of the audience, notable and budding philosophers, Professor Sophie Oluwole, the keynote speaker who is also the moving spirit behind the whole event, it gives me great joy to be here as the chairman of this interactive session on the occasion of the World Philosophy Day. I must particularly thank the Centre for African Culture and Development for putting the issue of Africa’s lost intellectual heritage on the front burner of discourse again.

Given the multifarious problems confronting humanity, it is only sensible that once a year, a day should be set aside for sober philosophical reflections on the state of the human society and the prospects for the survival of the species. Some of these concerns are not to be taken lightly or dismissed glibly. As Claude Levi-Strauss, the great French Structuralist anthropologist, has put it with caustic relish, “the world began without man and will end without him”.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination a professional philosopher. But there is a philosopher in everybody. The ability to think and to think through problems is what distinguishes human-beings from our animal cousins. If prostitution is the oldest human profession, philosophy must come a very close second. It is impossible to conceive of a human society without thinking of its thinkers and savants. These are the wise people, the cognoscenti, the visionary dreamers and conceptual pathfinders without which the great strides and the epic feats of knowledge and self-knowledge recorded by humanity would have been impossible. Without philosophers, a society must atrophy and perish.

This year’s World Philosophy Day is coming against a background of great global unease, of human eruptions on a revolutionary scale and scope, of a fierce contention between man and a capitalist machine that no longer recognizes even its own. There is a trans-societal struggle to bring to heels a world in which inequity and inequality among classes, races, hemispheres and nations have assumed a staggering and idiotic proportion.

A consensus appears to have emerged that the world cannot continue along the lines of the present economic disorder and disequilibrium. After almost six hundred years of unrivalled hegemony, the World Order imposed by the capitalist mode of production and its twin bye products of liberal democracy and the nation-state paradigm appears to be at the end of its historic tether.

It is hard to predict what will follow, but it is a profound irony that while the system bequeathed to the world by western modernity is unraveling at the seams; while the philosophical and intellectual assumptions that underpin and power its baleful hegemony are being daily rubbished by new and novel imperatives, Africa is bogged down at the level of clearing the intellectual debris of misconceptions and misinformation imposed and inflicted on it by the expiring World Order. In a classic case of double jeopardy most of Africa has joined Europe and the west on the road to economic and political ruination without being able to develop the substantial infrastructural insurance of the capitalist metropole.

The misconceptions about Africa’s intellectual heritage are many indeed; the orchestrated misinformation very scary. But intellectual misconceptions do not just arise in a vacuum or out of a void. There is always a philosophical fundament which underlies and structures such misconceptions. In the particular case of intellectual misconceptions of Africa, It might have started out as mere prejudice colouring the worldview of sea-faring merchants and buccaneering adventurers, but it was later to receive its philosophical ballast and intellectual scaffolding from dominant western intellectuals and thinkers as a means of providing rationale for the project of modernity and its systematic brutalization of the human species from Africa.

Let us now put the matter as crudely and as graphically as possible. Can the Blackman philosophize? At face value, this appears to be a particularly inane and vexing question. How can there be a people who cannot philosophize? But by philosophizing, we do not mean stringing together witticisms and wise-sayings into a coherent cosmogony or worldview. We are talking of the capacity for conceptual formulation and rigorous abstractions; the ability for sustained intellection and paradigmatic speculation.

A whole retinue of western thinkers and intellectuals are united in the belief that beyond empty story telling and the regurgitation of received wisdom, the African is incapable of sustained abstractions. From Hegel to Karl Marx and down to Hugh Trevor-Roper who noted that African history is a dark void and an embarrassment to humanity, these western intellectuals are unanimous in the notion that Africa has no cultural or intellectual heritage worth talking about.

In an infamous passage from his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and Third President of America, noted thus of the African American: “It appears to me that in memory they are equal to whites: in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous”.

It is note-worthy and interesting that whatever the ideological temperament of these western intellectuals, they were all united in their denigration of Africa’s cultural and intellectual heritage. The project of modernity, being a “national” project that transcends individual ideological proclivity, does not brook intellectual dissension. The discursive formation behind the formulation of western hegemony suffers from its own tyranny of the mother culture.

Karl Marx, for example, thought that pre-historic societies, such as was the case with all societies preoccupied with mythology, tried to dominate nature in and around the imagination and that this fixation with idiotic superstitions gives way once humankind masters his environment through scientific certitude and the knowledge that comes with enlightenment.

To be sure, it is possible that at the time of the colonial incursion, the African continent might have suffered a brutal and catastrophic regression into the state of nature. But it does appear that what we are dealing with here is the substitution of one set of superstitions for another. The absence of western-type formal academies of learning from Africa at the time of colonial conquest does not invalidate the African capacity to learn and to philosophise at the most rarefied level of abstraction.

In the twelfth century, there was a university in Timbuktu which had an attendance of twenty five thousand students in a city of a hundred thousand, although this might have owed its provenance to the dominant Islamic culture. Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth century Tunis-born Arab African philosopher and globally acclaimed political theorist, anticipated most of Marx and Vico’s theories about the cyclical nature of historical evolution. His notion of asabiyah, or group coherence and bonding in conditions of exacting harshness, showed a remarkable insight into the construction and deconstruction of tribal hegemonies.

Although there were no formal schools in pre-colonial Africa in the sense that we have come to know them, traditional African societies had their own informal system of education which produced the requisite elite to man the institutions. It was a capillary network of politicians, diplomats, historians, judges, spies, shamans, votaries, savants, psychiatrists, native healers, astrologers, information gurus among other traditional professions.

Indeed the extant ideological apparatuses of the pre-colonial African states still retain an efficacy and power of compliance long after their political and material basis and rationale have been subverted by the colonial irruption. It was not for nothing that Peter Morton described the Yoruba Ogboni confraternity as “mystery-mongering greybeards.”

Even if we are to put all this aside, even we are to concede that medieval Africa did suffer a terrible regression to the savagery of the state of nature, the roots and foundation of western modernity in the ancient African civilisation of Egypt cannot be denied. The myth of the black savage shambling about in the cave of cultural and intellectual darkness is just that: a myth rooted in intellectual superstition.

In order to deal with the conquered and subjugated people of Africa, but, more importantly, in order to explain away the systematic cruelties of western colonisation, western intellectual tradition had to “reinvent” the native African cultural heritage to suit their preconceived notion. Terence Ranger, following the conceptual breakthrough of Eric Hobsbawm in his landmark study of European elite, has written copiously and eloquently on this reinvention of African tradition by the colonialists.

This was the same phenomenon observed by Edward Said, the late Palestinian American cultural theorist , in his path-breaking study of the colonial imaginary in the orient. In order to handle better and justify the brutal decimation of India and the orient, a particular notion of the orient has to be invented and erected in place of the real thing. Thus orientalism, or the reinvention of the orient by the colonial imagination, has little to do with the real orient just as the reinvention of African intellectual tradition has little to do with the real Africa.

 

Western modernity had to resort to this fictional and ideological reconstruction of reality because it was first and foremost a power project based on the application and manipulation of knowledge. In order to cast itself as the unique bearer of a new universal order and an emergent world-historical rationality, it has had to deny what went before it and to suppress what is contemporaneous with it.

Yet there was nothing divinely pre-ordained or inevitable about its subsequent global dominance. Before its ascendancy, there were other competing projects of modernity. For example before it succumbed to internal disorder, China was the leading world nation around the twelfth century. Portugal was the first truly modern nation-state. The old kingdom of Benin had a representative in the court at Lisbon by the middle of the fifteenth century.

But it is one thing to uncover the roots of misbegotten representation, it is another thing to know how to go about reclaiming a lost heritage. The power of knowledge cannot be confronted by the power of superstition. As Terry Eagleton famously noted, “one sure thing about the organic community is that it is always gone”. The myth of the organic community is the cudgel we employ to beat a recalcitrant and hostile contemporary reality into place.

Much as we idealize and romanticize the ancient African community and our lost heritage, it is virtually impossible to reclaim that mythical past. Yet, the greatest problem facing the Black race collectively and as people sequestered within strange and alienating nation-states is the reconstitution and reconstruction of the colonial subject from a serf of colonialism to a citizen of the post-colonial realm of freedom.

The question is: is it possible to philosophize in a strange language? It is to be noted that countries and societies such as China, Japan, India and the oriental tigers, while enduring the odd colonial infraction or even brutal decimation, never surrendered the cultural and intellectual initiative to the colonialists. They swiftly reverted to their indigenous cultures and powerful philosophies once the colonial masters departed. Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism acted as binding glues for these societies helping them to survive and even leverage to their advantage the worst of the psychic and cultural atrocities of colonization.

In the particular case of colonial Africa, it is a major historical tragedy that there was no major or dominant African culture strong and resilient enough to withstand the ravages of colonization and to subsequently act as a cultural and philosophic hub for the rest of the continent. A feeble attempt to impose the Swahili language as this pan-African cultural hub could not even get off the ground probably because the Swahili culture itself emerged from the crucible of Arab colonization in Africa.

The urgent task at hand, then, is how to salvage what is still crucial and important about Africa’s cultural past without going completely “native”. Much as we may wish, we can never return to that old world and the pre-colonial African society. It is gone forever. No human society can wish away six hundred years of its history.

We must now turn the adversities of alienation into great advantages as famously echoed in Abiola Irele’s inaugural lecture. But while enjoying the paradoxical bounties of creative alienation we must also warily patrol the field in order not to turn out as metropolitan mimic-men or hybridized trapeze artists permanently walking a cultural tight rope just for the sake of grudging applause from our former masters.

This is an urgent task for African knowledge producers and the pan-African cultural and intellectual elite. The world does not wait for anybody. Even as the old order is crumbling and collapsing before our very eyes, the extant dominant powers are furiously and frenetically reconstructing the vanishing world to suit their interests and permanent prejudices. The NATO-led liquidation of Gaddafi’s Libya, America’s renewed military interests in Africa, France’s not so covert military intervention that saw off the ancien regime in Cote D’Ivoire, are all pointers to a ceaseless power project even in the face of historical superannuation.

Knowledge is both power and self-empowerment. Before political subjugation comes intellectual subordination. African elite must seize the day and the initiative to invent the continent anew as the past and possible future of humanity. Otherwise, it will be done for them and Africa will be reinvented once again by the emergent masters of the universe with even greater and more drastic consequences. As we have seen with western colonisation, if the adversary wins not even the dead or their heritage are safe. I thank you all.

Being an article written by Tataalo Alamu, culled from the Nation’s Newspaper on 20/11/2011

 

 

Udofia Joseph: Addressing rape and other sexual offences in Nigeria

Rape is the crime of forcing another person into sexual intercourse. In Nigeria, this includes Statutory rape, which is the act of having sexual intercourse with a minor – anyone under the age of 18. Often times, Nigeria no 1 discussion forum, Nairaland is flooded with news and discussions about cases of rape, usually involving girls far below the age of 18 at the receiving end.

One cannot but ask, why is rape on the rise? How does one justified nairaland.com/2211434/man-32-rape-defiles-10-year-old? How exactly? It is inane to imagine that such animalistic behavior have found domicile in a right-thinking human being. In our society today, men have wives, young male adults have girlfriends and “side chicks” who often rise to the occasion whenever the man calls, and vice versa.

Even, the sex role has even been outsourced to the hundreds of sex workers who line the street, lying in wait for their employers. While prostitution is considered criminal in Nigeria, little is being done to curtail it, seeing the awesome reception it receives from people of all classes and strata. From the shanties in the popular Oju Irin, off Bodija Market, Ibadan, where a round can go for N500 to the GRA streets of Port Harcourt where the rich get their share of the cookie, at mouth-watering prices, clients and employers return home – satisfied.  While I do not support prostitution, the Nigerian society seem to have decriminalized the crime, as it seems to do more good than harm, in providing a solution to the insatiable libido of men. So why do we still have cases of rape?

In society today, rape is far from being frowned at in the society. This is largely so because ladies are generally seen as objects of sex. This is further worsened when a lady pays a visit to a male colleague. More often that not, such visits are interpreted as coital visits. You cannot hang out with a lady without society seeing you two as active sexual partners. Ladies are viewed as investments and men, as great business moguls, expect a high ROI. I remember a friend of mine who was terribly sick after a long day’s work. His female friend came visiting and in that state, he still had carnal knowledge of her. When asked, his reply was simple: “I have spent so much on that girl. I have to get a return on my investment”. In cases like this, among others, if the lady is unwilling to open her legs, rape is the man’s final resort.

Rape could also be homosexual. I know of a young male adult, who was nearly raped by another in 2010 in one of the nation’s citadel of learning. According to him, this happened a little past midnight. He was about to alert the neighbours, when the attempted rapist said “How will U tell people I want to rape you. Do u know how they will look at you”. At that moment, the attempted rapists’ words were indeed words of wisdom. He returned to his bed like nothing happened.  Rape victims usually undergo a bad ordeal. The trauma they pass through, possible panic attacks and stigma from the society. Evidently, the stigma faced by rape victims largely contributed to the victim’s muteness in the face of such barbaric experience.

Are they not friends? Maybe they had consensual sex but something went wrong. People will come up with different excuses in defense of the accused. They even go as far as calling the girl, a gold digger, who was after the man’s wealth. The moment you receive a gift from an average guy, he will come asking for the cookie one day. You either make the cookie available or return the gifts.

You cannot totally blame the man anyway? More ads on our TV screens continue to objectify women as sex products. Take a look at the recent ad by New Age Charger and PowerBanks, imploring us to get our phones charged so as to capture the butts of women. How obtuse!

Popular artistes use erotic scenes and lines in their songs, without which the songs or videos may not gain wide acceptability. As we know, songs are the gateway to the human soul. Songs aptly capture our emotions. We are bombarded daily by sex scenes. Nollywood is also upping the ante, in a bid to catch up with Ghanaian films, which are getting popular among Nigerian youth for the ardor contents. Charles Babbage cannot be righter- Gabbage in, gabbage out.

The big question is: What are we doing to stem the rising case of rape in the society? As the custodian of the society, what is the government doing to stem the rising case of rape in the society?

Parents have a huge role to play in this issue. In many homes, the film ratings are generally not adhered to. I was in a friend’s place watching a movie. His friend’s brother, well below the age of 10, was also around. We had started watching a movie and some ardor scenes came up. Apparently, I told the young boy to excuse himself as the film is above his age grade. My friend replied deviantly: “Leave am joor. Eruku leleyi” loosely transmitted as “Leave him alone. This one is a don”. A don at age ten?

In order to address the issue of rape and sexually-related offences in Nigeria, families need to be more vigilant. A friend narrated his ordeal to me while he was younger. Having lived in a one-room apartment, popularly called “face me, I face you” while growing up, he recalls his neighbor, a young lady, who often came to pick him from home while he was between ages 5 and 8. After spending some time with the lady, the only thing he remembers about their experience is “hair”.  He recalled the lady did many things to him which he didn’t understand at such a tender age. After his first sexual intercourse at age 15, the memories became clear to him. Evidently, the lady always played with his genitals and rub it in her pubic hair. Today, this experience has had a profound effect on his sexual life, and while he is still single, he remains sexually hyperactive, with an insatiable urge to perform sexual activities.

While the twitter community anxiously awaits the outcome of the Sugabelly vs Audu Mustapha rape scandal, it is pertinent as parents to nurture, and listen to our children well. Parents need not be shy in engaging their children in discussions on sex. Sex education is not unholy and should be treated in our churches, mosques and other religious gatherings. The younger generation is getting smarter and the need to be well informed, cannot be over-emphasized. The younger generation should not objectify women as sex objects, but appreciate the rarity of such a gem.

Also, the ladies should not see sex as the means to a fulfilling life. Using sex as a tool to secure juicy offers, money or assets is no different from the prostitutes who line the streets at night. Government should crackdown on clubs and shanties, as prostitution remains illegal in Nigeria. The truth is, people in Government know these places as they patronize them. Let us secure the future of our country, the girl child, and the vulnerable kid on the street.

Let us secure the nation. Say no to rape and let us put an end to this scourge. Remember, the next victim could be your sister, mother, friend or you!


 

Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo: The Forgotten Ones: Abandoned  in a foreign  land by the Rivers State Government

I recently stumbled on a piece posted by a friend on Facebook about the of some ‘abandoned’ Rivers States students on government funded undergraduate scholarships at various Universities in Canada. At the moment, Canadian Universities are being owed tuition fees for about two terms, a sum amounting to about $2.5million. The scholarships were awarded by the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), under the office of the Executive Governor of Rivers State. There are currently about 240 students spread across 14 Canadian Universities on the RSSDA scholarships.

The RSSDA undertook to pay their tuition and provide a $1,100 monthly living allowance. Unfortunately, they haven’t received that allowance for 11 months, and much of their tuition fee payment has been delayed too.

According to Gift Amadi, a third year student at the University of Manitoba, his education and his future are in doubt because he’s been abandoned by the Nigerian government agency that brought him to study at the University of Manitoba. About 50 of the students are currently enrolled at the University of Manitoba. Leah Janzen is the University’s vice-president of outreach and engagement and according to her, the RSSDA made a partial payment some few weeks back, but the accounts of a dozen students are still two terms in arrears.

“Our policy is you can’t go into a third term having not been able to pay for the previous two terms in their entirety. So we don’t want to get to that position with these students. We remain in contact with this organization, and they’re asking us to be patient,” she said. “But at this point, we’re not sure what to expect from them with regards to those arrears.”

The students were given a 30-day ultimatum to pay up, some of the students were able to raise the funds on their own and have paid. However, many have been left hanging without any form of financial assistance capable of settling the debt. Many of them have had to resort to taking small loans from friends or church members to feed.

Godwin Poi, the CEO of RSSDA, said the government is experiencing a revenue shortfall due to plunging oil prices and fluctuations in currency. As a result, the government has not been giving his agency money regularly, he said.

“I can only tell you what the government tells me which is that the funds are not available. Allocations from central government and state government have dwindled and the state government relies predominantly on the central government for funding.”

This is not the first time the RSSDA will be under scrutiny. In 2012, the agency was accused of abandoning  some undergraduate medical students who were supposed to undergo training in the United Kingdom. The parents of the students cried out and petitioned the Rivers State House of Assembly. The House investigated the matter and found that the RSSDA had in part mismanaged the whole situation with the students.

In all fairness, the scholarship program of the RSSDA is a commendable scheme which should be replicated in other states. According to the RSSDA website, more than 200 indigenes of Rivers state have successfully benefited from the program having graduated and returned home from various countries of study. However, it is important that schemes such as this do not in any way expose the students to ridicule in a foreign land. Adequate provisions should be made at all times for the students, a scenario where the Universities are being owed for more than two terms does not speak well of the Rivers state government.  Really, nobody goes to war without  planning how to execute  same. The RSSDA is not adequately  equipped to execute  a project  of such massive  financial  commitment.

At a send forth ceremony in his honour, Noble Pepple, who preceded Poi as the CEO of RSDA, noted that approved fund for the agency at the beginning of the 2014 was ten billion naira noting that six billion naira was the agency’s total receipt in 2014 where two billion was the carryover from the previous year and four billion was the actual amount released from the budgeted ten billion naira He further disclosed that between January and May 2015, the agency received 800 million naira part of 2014 budget out of which 600 million naira went into overseas scholarship. He also noted that more than five billion naira was dedicated to the scholarship scheme alone but that due to the fall in funding, it was difficult for the agency to maintain key programs, including the scholarship program.  As at the time he handed over, the RSSDA had received zero amount of the ten billion naira approved budget for 2015.

This explains why the students have been left abandoned. Not a single sum of the 2015 budget has been released to the agency which still maintains a total of six hundred and seventy six (676) students studying in foreign countries. To make matters worse, workers and staff at the RSSDA are being owed seven months’ salary by the state government, and when they threatened to boycott work, the Governor Wike led administration which inherited many of these problems from the Rotimi Amaechi led government decided to suspend the operations of the Agency. The Government directed that all activities of the Agency should be carried out directly by the state ministry of agriculture pending the resolution of the issues. This is nothing  short of a mess. The government is playing chess with the  lives of next generation.

The students are in a precarious situation considering the fact that they are expected to sit for their Fall semester exams in a matter of weeks. They are currently in a dilemma that will definitely disturb their assimilation and concentration, this is a national disgrace and the government needs to take urgent measures to preserve the faith of these students in the Nigerian project.

The Nigerian media have largely ignored this story. I checked many of the news media and I didn’t see any report on the plight of these students. I believe however, that well-meaning citizens of Rivers State should have made attempts at getting the Governor to intervene. If you are reading  this, kindly tweet about it, post it on your Facebook wall, lets help these students out of the precarious situation their own government have put them.

 

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