Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Reviews

Just Before Dawn by Kole Omotoso

Bought this book at Lagos Domestic Airport on my way to Abuja in January due to boredom and am glad I did. Quite an easy read for a books that is high in politics, intrigue and power plays. Couldn't put it down until I devoured every page of it. Any student of Nigerian politics must read this book. It traces the immediate pre-colonial Nigerian history in context of the politics between the various factions, personalities and groups involved

It is a well researched book; partly fiction (using illustrative stories to make an instructive point e.g. loss of property after Biafra and attendant brutality that accompanied that war) and facts hither unknown -like the story of Madam Adunni Oluwole, an iconoclast feminist and nationalist who made a prescient statement in the march towards independence from the British (to the consternation of her countrymen) that " Nigerian political leaders had abused the responsibility they had already secured.  ". It shine light on well known history facts like the cross carpeting in the West that put Awo in power in 1953  (now I know AG actually had plural majority but needed  absolute majority to form a government without Zik) or the favoritism of the British colonial office towards the North.It elaborated on the facts like th coups and counter-coups as well.

In the end, one is amiss to ask...was it worth it? What has changed? What could have our early leaders done differently? On the last questions, I posit that was "a lot". For those who don't get drama and nuance, read with care. The details of conversations and going on when not in quote, are generally fiction. Otherwise, a solid , well researched work of history...put in interesting context!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It was about time I guess..before reality hit the conservative hawks that blocked a very routine constitutional goal of seamless transfer of power. It was a shame... I am not convinced the Jonathan Goodluck will bring an appreciable difference in governance unless he focuses on three key things: Security/Justice in the Niger Delta, Energy (Power & Petroleum Scarcity), and Fair/Just 2011 Elections. In these three areas his leadership may make a difference. Our fingers are crossed. Good move on dislocating that Attorney General anyway..hope Aondokaa can rest well now.

I wish Mr. Goodluck, plentiful of luck and a lot of wisdom. President Yar'Adua was and still remains a greek gift, and Jonathan is not a far off beneficiary of the dirty process that trumped up the duo in 2007. Let us hope 2011 will be better..may be if we can get rid of OBJ and IBB. About time they just go.

Here..gotta be the best quote on the legal mess Jonathan's ascension really is...from IYC leader..

“The National Assembly resolution is in good faith. It is a victory for democracy. Some people are already arguing on the legality of the resolution, but I am one of those who believe Nigeria itself is illegal. Nigerians did not say we want to be Nigerians, we were forced into being one country. The formation of the country is illegal. The Constitution we operate is also illegal. The Constitution says ‘We The People’ but there was no time I, as a Nigerian, was consulted. A cabal just met and gave us a constitution just like the National Assembly met and gave us a resolution. If the constitution that binds us is acceptable to Nigerians, I expect the resolution to also be accepted not only be Nigerians but also the International community.”

Monday, February 08, 2010

Supersize Africa?

I had written in the past about how the fractious geographical and political state of Africa paralyzes the continent and her people and puts them at obvious disadvantage in the world. Part of the reasons for this fractious state was the Berlin conference, and the other which led to the Berlin conference was the fractious state pre-colonialism that saw development of miniature states (and few empires that lasted). As a result, Africa is a variegated maps of many colors, tongues and tribes...yelling for unity. Unity for the sake of it (Nkrumah and Ghadaffi style) is however unrealistic. 

Any unity in Africa must be premised on the concrete distinctions between the rich cultural diversity that abound on the continent and must give a nod to this diversity. The resulting states must be drawn along the lines of ethno-religious commonalities and deep rooted cultural shared norms. States that result from this super-sized African phenomenon must also adopt political system that acknowledged the diversity of modern history (differing colonial masters and languages) as well as broad cultural swath that exists within the federations while adopting systems that unite her. To this end it makes sense to recommend these super states take on multiple capitals; it makes sense that they adopt unifying languages and encourage a truly multi-lingual society; it makes sense to practice lose federation where local and municipal governments wield greater influence than the center. It also makes sense that they acknowledge the traditional system of government in place prior to colonization while ensuring democratic ideals and development remains at the core of the new enterprise. 

However to ensure political unity, these states must move towards a system that disallow miniaturization of the political system. I am not sure the classical western systems that allow formation of multiple parties will suffice i.e. multi-party democracy. I think a society sponsored (constitutional mandated) binary structure is probably more realistic model to meet this goal sans the 1990-93 experiment in Nigeria: Africa's most populous nation (which worked ). 

I think this language map shows the "ideal" 6 nation states that should emerge from a less fractured Africa, divided into nation-states along common ethno-lingua lines that generally correlate with common cultural will involve breaking up present countries and being willing to see Africa as a cluster of language nations rather than a creation of Berlin conference with rigid boundaries determined by non-Africans with no recourse to realities of commonalities on ground..To make more states participate in these lose unions, the South African strategy of multiple capitals for each arm of government (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary can be adopted)

Of course this is a fantasy and my new fantasy nations read as:

  • United Afro-Asiatic Confederations - Capitals: (Cairo, Addis Ababa, Tunis) Official Language : Arabic, Hausa  
  • Federation of Niger-Area States - Capitals: (Abuja, Abidjan, Accra) Official Language: Pidgin English, French  
  • Swahili Republics of Africa - Capitals: (Nairobi, Harare, Kinshasa)  Official Language: Swahili, English  
  • Saharan Federation States of Africa- Capitals: (Tripoli, Maiduguri, Niamey) Official Language: Arabic
  • Federation States of South Africa: Capitals (Pretoria, Luanda, Gaborone) Official Language: English & Portuguese
  • Island Republics of Africa (Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros Islands) : Capital (Antananarivo, Moroni , Victoria) Official Language: French 

May be the Niger Area states and States of South Africa will face some language problems, but pidgin English is fast spreading like wild fire in West Africa anyway! 

Monday, February 01, 2010

In 2010, I am doing the Screwing!

Yeah, you read that right. That statement came from lessons learned from 2009. Here it is...there are two categories of people in the world 1. Those being screwed 2. Those doing the screwing. A friend did ask me, does being screwed mean being poor? Well, it may well be. But poverty has many definitions...

The engineer with 3 million dollars in 401k and 40 years of service is not poor but he comes scared to work everyday, not knowing if he has a job in this period of economic uncertainty in the world. That is a different kind of poverty. It is poverty of job security! Poverty of freedom, poverty of time, poverty of money, poverty of ideas, poverty of relationships
there are different kinds of poverty. And make no mistake, it is the non-money kind of poverty that sticks to a majority of us in the educated class.

At the end of the day we all have to decide if we intend to escalate the kind of poverty we've been inflicted with to the next generation. Assuming you have the poverty of time, do you want your child to live with that liability? What of poverty of ideas? Is that all okay by you? 

This is especially true in the capitalist system (sorry, commies) where there is a requirement for stabilizers that allow a small cadre of poor people to escape poverty and expand the market for the capitalists (those doing the screwing!). Generally speaking, that stabilizer is called education matched with opportunity for the new capitalists (thank God!) and welfare for the continued impoverished (or those who plan to take it and never move on).

That is why I believe President B.H. Obama when he said in his state of the union  and I quote that.."In the 21st century, the best anti-poverty program is a world class education!". Well just before you sign off, the only poverty that education releases you from is a poverty of opportunity! No the question is...will you make use of that opportunity to exit the other kinds of poverty?

Make yours...

P.S: Had a helluva trip to West Africa. Accra, Abuja and Warri are gorgeous. Lagos as usual needs more work. Funny he is the only one actually working! Do they have a government in Ibadan? Here are my pics...

Is she not cute?


this is