CASSAVA – Serving All Masters! BUT At What Pay Package?

During a presentation a friend and I made at Ducklington in Oxfordshire during the celebration of Africa Week 2012, we had little difficulty explaining to the kids that chocolate comes from cocoa and sugar from sugarcane, which are African cash crops. Not surprisingly,  cassava drew a lot of attention, not because it was popular among the kids but rather because we had so much to say about it but paradoxically, most of them were hearing it for the first time.

The question I could not stop asking myself was what made cassava such a household name in almost all African and Latin American countries but is barely known in most parts of the world.

I will not go through the drudgery of stating that cassava is a major source of carbohydrates, is consumed by more than 500 million people in the world; can simply be boiled and eaten on its own or with a wide variety of sauces; or that it can be used to prepare Water fufu, miondo, bobolo and nkunkum in Cameroon, eba and akpu in Nigeria, that the leaves of the crop are used to prepare the famous cassava-leaf soup of Sierra Leone; that the famous garri produced from cassava can be soaked in cold water (spiced with peanuts, sliced coconuts or palm kernels) or that garri can be poured into hot water to make a simple meal that can be eaten with an array of sauces.

Neither am I going to go through the mantra of stating that starch from cassava, when treated appropriately makes a good natural adhesive; or that in the textile industry, starches occupy an important place in such operations as warp sizing, cloth finishing and printing: or that alcohol production from cassava has an overall efficiency of 32%, or that cassava could become an industrial crop by developing cultivars with different starch compositions or more importantly that Bio-ethanol production is already making its way into world records as Brazil has already started producing bio-ethanol from cassava and many African countries are also becoming major producers of bio-ethanol.

After all the tossing, I guess you will agree it is time to get back to my initial question: What makes cassava so ‘popular’ yet never entering the hall of fame? Many may not agree but the simple answer is that it is because unlike other tropical crops that can be transported over long distance, any attempt to carry cassava across the ocean will in Mallam Sanusi’s words ‘be tantamount to transporting water’. This is because cassava disintegrates not too long after harvesting and hence cannot do with long-distance travel.

This is, therefore, the tricky part. Africans have never stopped accusing the west for plundering the continent’s natural resources. By crook or by design, one crop is such that no one can effectively exploit outside the area of cultivation, – and what is the result… it is languishing in obscurity. Nigeria for example which is the world’s largest producer of cassava is also a great importer of starch. Transformation of cassava beyond local consumable forms into exportable components is by and large left for a future yet unknown generation. The few factories that attempt to convert cassava into other marketable components are mostly located far from the areas of production.  This is the plight of cassava – so good a crop, grows in some extreme conditions, provides different forms of local consumption but a crop which completely hates travelling in its natural form and unfortunate to belong to a people who seem to hate transforming anything beyond the point of local consumption.

Yes! Cassava typifies the African plight. A continent so richly blessed but yet thinks that her successful transformation only lies beyond her shores. When this transformation fails to come, she becomes the sleeping giant. Mighty in herself yet ineffective in creating any influence beyond her shores. Full of potential, yet without the ability to market herself beyond her immediate surroundings.

This is the plight of cassava! Serving all masters but receiving pittances in the form of wages. Enough for subsistence but never enough to save for a rainy day. Enough to satisfy current wants but never thought of as a form of long-term investment. But like any other plight, there is a remedy! Cassava can get her rightful place in the world if and only if Africans begin to invest in the transformation of the crop both for longterm domestic consumption and for foreign markets. If foreign markets will not eat eba or drink garri, they will certainly need starch, ethanol, paper. adhesives, corrugated boards, gums, wallpaper,  textile, wood furniture, particle board, biofuels, dusting powders, drugs, plastic, packaging, stain remover, and moisture sequester, which are all produced from cassava.

If this is done, there is no way cassava will not receive a fair wage for her services. After all, a labourer deserves her wages!

Happy New Year 2013 – 2012 in review

It has been an eventful year and as we countdown the last few hours of 2012, I have just a few words:

“If you want to succeed in your life, remember this phrase: ‘The Past does not equal The Future.’ Because you failed yesterday; or all day today; or a moment ago; or for the last six months; the last 16 years; or the last fifty years of life, doesn’t mean anything…All that matters is: What are you going to do, RIGHT NOW!”

~ Anthony Robbins.

While thanking all who visited my blog this year, I am presenting this 2012 Annual report that WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon: Symptom of a Country in Travail

Introduction

There may be a relationship between good governance of a country and the performance of the national football team. Of course this is arguably a logic that may not hold true in most cases, but I do not want to simply sweep the possibility under the carpet. The dismal performance in the past few years, of the Cameroonian National Football team, fondly called the ‘Indomitable Lions’, may seem to the casual observer as one of the manifestations of the cyclic nature of history where institutions rise and fall. But to a person who takes a closer look at the last 3 decades, it is no isolated incident in the history of a country that seems to be marked for extinction.

The humiliating defeat on October, 14th, 2012, of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, a country of over 20 million, by the tiny Island of Cape Verde, a country of about 500,000 people, was not the first, but one of a series of manifestations of the imminent collapse of not just the national team but the country itself. The size of a country may not really matter in a game of football but the history of any institution does matter.

The Rise and Stagger of the Indomitable Lions

1990 - Oman Biyik lifts the team up
1990 – Oman Biyik lifts the team up

The entry of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon into the hall of Fame was in 1982 when they first played at the FIFA World Cup Finals. The team has made more appearances than any other African team for the FIFA World Cup, 1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010, and are credited for being the first African team to reach the quarter-final of the World Cup, in 1990, losing to England in injury time. However, it would seem the team sustained an injury during that time that has become difficult to heal. This is because the injury was not sustained in the field but off-the field as the makers of the Cameroon Polity saw it as an opportunity to get the team entangled in its politics of corruption and underdevelopment.[1]

In 1994 Cameroonians united as never before and maybe, never again on a common goal – supporting the Indomitable Lions. The Opération coup de Coeur launched by the then Prime Minister Simon Achidi Achu and the then Minister of Communication Augustin Kontchou Kouomegni, as a National Fundraiser to support the Indomitable Lions’ USA Campaign, came against the backdrop of the country’s refusal to disburse funds for the team that had made the Nation proud four years previously. [2] The operation was a resounding success as Cameroonians from all walks of life donated their widow’s mites that made up the 4 million that paradoxically, never reached the Indomitable Lions.  When asked of the whereabouts of the money, Kouomegni simply said: “l’argent s’est perdue quelque part dans le ciel entre Paris et New York[3] (Pigeaud, 2011, p 195). Kontchou’s crass remarks went unquestioned, while a journalist earned a suspension for daring to mention J. A. Bell[4]’s criticism of the infamous comments.

With such a gross act of broad daylight robbery against the Cameroonian people, little wonder the Lions had a terrible campaign in the USA suffering the worst defeat of recent memory to Russia, albeit with Roger Miller, scoring the lone goal and making history as the oldest player to have played and scored at the world cup.[5] One would have thought that this would be the end of the Indomitable Lions, but as their name signifies, they were not daunted. In 1998, they made another attempt on the World stage, which again failed to replicate the results of 1990, but two years later in the year 2000, the squad won the Nation’s first-ever gold at the Olympics in Sydney and it seemed to have signalled a new dawn for the team.

Squad of World Cup 1990
Squad of World Cup 1990

Reinvigorated, the team won the African Cup of Nations and came top of their group in the 2002 world cup qualifies but again, 1990 seemed to be a long time gone in to history as they produced yet another heartbreaking result for Cameroonian. However, the win of the African cup of Nations meant that in 2003, they were to participate in the FIFA Confederations Cup. The Lions put up their best performance in a competition outside of Africa but unfortunately, by the 72nd minute of the semi-final between Cameroon and Colombia, Marc-Vivien Foé collapsed and was pronounced dead a few hours later. Cameroon lost to France in the finals. This loss seemed to close the curtains on the Indomitable

2003 - Foe left the pitch never to return
2003 – Foe left the pitch never to return

Lions, as a team.

They failed to qualify for the 2006 world cup, (the first time since 1990 and the second since 1982), had their worst ever World Cup campaign in 2010 and have failed to qualify two consecutive times for the African Cup of Nations.[6]

The indomitable Lions and Biya’s Regime: The parallel

1982 is definitely an important year for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and Cameroon’s 2nd President, Paul Biya. While the Lions made their debut in the World Cup, Biya made his debut as president of the country. Both events however, could only have been possible through skilful planning of previous years – the former, because the Ahmadou Ahidjo regime had the largesse to host the 1972 African Nations Cup (the only tournament the country has hosted in the last 40 years), which ostensibly meant the provision of infrastructure of better training and preparation, and the latter because Ahidjo ‘loved’ Cameroon so much that he decided to resign and hand over power on grounds of ill-health. [7]

6 Terms for Biya - 6 Lions appearances at the World Cup
6 Terms for Biya – 6 Lions appearances at the World Cup

Diminishing returns seemed to have set in rather too early for both the team and the regime. One failed to qualify for the 1986 World Cup, and the other drove the economy to a crisis. The “Cameroon economic crises” resulted in rising prices in Cameroon, trade deficits, and loss of government revenue. The crisis was officially acknowledged by the Cameroon government in 1987. While external observers and critics blamed poor government stewardship of the economy, the government instead placed the blame on the fall of the prices of exports, particularly a steep drop in the price of petroleum. Cameroon balked at the condition to follow strict cost-cutting suggestions laid out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and took a seemingly wise decision to formulate her own plan, which turned out in principle, to be not much different from that proposed earlier.

As was to be expected these measures met with international approval, but violent crime rose as a result of the increase in unemployment. Cameroon’s plan failed to curb corruption. By October, 1988, the intended effect was less than had been hoped, and Cameroon was left with no other option than to agree to an IMF aid package worth $150 million and to accept a structural adjustment program (SAP) loan. The African Development Bank, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom loaned the government further funds (Delancey and Delancey, 2000). In the midst of this entire economic quagmire, the Lions bounced back and qualified for the 1990 World Cup finals.

The winds of change blowing across the world in 1990 did not leave out the Indomitable Lions and Biya’s government. On May, 26th 1990, the launching of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) meant the end of Biya’s one-party rule. The euphoria of the SDF launching was however, clouded by the success of the National team in the 1990 World Cup finals.

The 1992 presidential elections which the SDF allegedly won but was denied by the Biya government had been preceded in March of the same year with the appointment of Simon Achidi Achu[8], as the first Anglophone Prime Minister[9]. While the intention was to effectively orchestrate a dived-and-rule policy, Achu became the person to initiate and launch the 1994 Opération coup de Coeur. The outcome of the fundraiser clearly epitomises the level of Cameroonian politics and how festered it is by corruption. That both Achu and Kouomegni have never been called to answer for the disappearance of the said money, and given that upon leaving the Prime Ministry in 1996, the former has held many more positions of responsibility are only indications of how Biya’s government rewards corruption with better appointments. But corruption, like any dangerous virus, leaves a scar in its wake.

Thirty Years of ‘Undevelopment’

A trip I made across six of the ten regions of Cameroon, (Littoral, South West, Adamawa, North West, West and Centre) in September, 2011, revealed exactly what the country typifies. While it is fondly called ‘Africa in Miniature’ because of its diversity and richness, it also embodies the plight of the African continent. I was stunned to find this rich nation, an exporter of petroleum and many natural resources steeped in the morass of poverty and dilapidation. The effects of 30 years of rapacious political leadership, political patronage, large scale corruption, abject poverty, structural injustice, executive recklessness, total abuse of human rights and the widespread abuse of power were all too evident. [10]

Typical Cameroonian Road
Typical Cameroonian Road

 

The Cameroon polity and its National team both stand as the quintessence of the Marxian class society, the gargantuan disparity of privilege for a very tiny class, misery for the vast populace.[11] The sombre clouds of such a dismal reality, coupled with corruption across the government and governing body of FECAFOOT, to the failed promises made to Marc Vivien who died in the battlefield are reasons enough to destroy the fighting spirit of even the bravest lion.

When a child is born in a country, and grows up to realise that the only positive variable is their age, while everything else is held constant or diminishing; when a young person grows up to see roads and other transportation networks disappearing and becoming death-traps; when such a person, sees basic amenities like water and electricity supply drop in an age of increasing technological advancement in other parts of the world and all they hear from a stagnant political class are empty speeches about a ‘Cameroon of Great Ambitions’; when a young man grows in a country and believes that the only way to be successful is to travel to another; when the only thing that a country is known for is football and when this begins to dwindle into oblivion, then it is time to weep  for such a country.

Results of 30 Years of 'Great Ambitions'
Results of 30 Years of ‘Great Ambitions’

Conclusion

If anyone is wondering where I am going with this analysis, then, wonder no further than the Mo Ibrahim Foundation Index of African Governance which awards a $5 million Prize to a democratically elected former African head of state or government, who governed well, raised living standards, and then voluntarily left office.. This Index ranks African countries by progress across 88 indicators in four categories: safety and the rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity and human development. While Cape Verde in 2012 came 2nd, Cameroon came 37th. [12]

Last year, in 2011, Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won the prize while Paul Biya of Cameroon won another 7-year term in office, after 29 years. In 2012, it should not have been surprising then that Cape Verde beat the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon to qualify for the African Nations Cup. Hence, if one were attempting to look at the correlation between good governance and good performance in football, look no further than the case of Cameroon and Cape Verde.

Notes

[1][1] See Fanny Pigeaud, (2011) Au Cameroun de Paul Biya Paris: Editions Karthala, http://www.amazon.fr/cameroun-Paul-Biya-Fanny-Pigeaud/dp/2811105263#reader_2811105263

[2] Pambazuka News, “What makes Biya’s despotic regime tick” http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/77469

[3] Translation: “The money got missing somewhere in the sky between Paris and New York”.

[4] One of the goalkeepers of the Indomitable Lions

[5] FIFA.COM Roger Milla, the pride of the Indomitable Lions http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/players/player=79318/index.html

[6]APA News  Cameroon knocked out of CAN qualifiers http://www.apanews.net/photo/en/photo.php?id=185889

[7] Mark W. Delancey and Mark Dike Delancey, (2000) Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Cameroon, 3rd. ed., Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press

[8] from the same Bamenda where the SDF was launched

[10] See for example Banda, C. (2012) Much Needs To Be Done About Human Rights In Cameroon http://www.cameroonpostline.com/Content.aspx?ModuleID=1&ItemID=9326

[11] See allAfrica.com Cameroon: Fecafoot to Construct Ultra-modern Office http://allafrica.com/stories/201211141181.html

[12] Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance 2012 Summary http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/downloads/2012-IIAG-summary-report.pdf

“RED GOLD” – ANOTHER RESOURCE CURSE?

In most African countries, the prices of basic commodies are greatly linked to the price of fuel. This could be attributed to the cost of transportation which increases with fuel price increases and the high elasticity of local demands which make it easier for the consumers to bear the biggest brunt of any increases. This no doubt makes one sees how the capitalist system is working harder than ever to increase the chasm between rich and poor. The removal of the fuel subsidy in Nigeria and the mayhem that followed seem to have been the test-drive by the IMF and World Bank. Since protests in Nigeria did not have much impact, there is now consideration of covering more grounds. Cameroon happens to be next in line – but unlike Nigeria that recieved so much attention, I will not be suprised if ‘France-dominated Cameroon’s removal goes unnoticed.

The thought of it has however made me go back to look at an article I wrote for FabAfrique Magazine  on the ‘Red Gold’. If the problem of black gold has been subsidies, what exactly is the problem of this resource?

Palm Fruits cut in half

Over the last few months I have not ceased to wonder if Africa would have been better-off without all the abundance of natural resources. What with all the appellations like Collier’s ‘Natural Resource Trap’, the ‘Natural Resource Curse’ or most strangely, the one that beats me most, the ‘Dutch Disease’[1]. The paradox of a blessing being a curse at the same time, is one too complex for my little head to fathom. But behold, the evidence is overwhelming and I cannot pretend not to see it – the conflict that seems to accompany natural resources and the widespread poverty in Africa – a land of affluence.

It is a fact that Africa is blessed with rich soil that permits it to grow almost everything needed for mankind’s existence. There’s cocoa for chocolate, and its related products, coffee for tea, timber for construction and the making of wooden instruments and paper, cotton for clothing, palm for palm oil, and many others.

Africa is also flooded with natural resources that the world largely depends on. Amongst these are gold, copper, bauxite, diamond, and the one that is usually called “black gold”, crude oil. Another form of “gold” has come up today, which I term “red gold”. This is crude palm oil that amounts for a greater part of income in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Cameroon. And it is these countries that stand tall in the hall of fame of crude palm oil production in Africa.

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that diamonds are responsible for Sierra Leone’s worst nightmare, that Nigeria’s fuel subsidy crisis is a manifestation of the case of a country ‘living at the banks of a river and washing its hands with spittle’, that the civil war in the Congo and the Libyan crisis are cases where resources have made people wolf unto their brothers – just to name a few.

Am I deliberately leaving out Cameroon here? This should not have been surprising since World Bank Director Paul Collier in his award winning book The Bottom Billion deliberately leaves out Cameroon in most serious discussions and only mentions it briefly when referring to the depletion of resources in the Country.

I am not going to delve into questioning why Cameroon seems so much under the radar or where the depleted resources have gone to, but I am bound by conscience to wonder if Cameroon is free from the resource curse. I am going to take a look at just one resource here – what I call The ‘Red Gold’. This is crude palm oil that accounts for a greater part of income in countries like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon. These are the countries that stand tall in the hall of fame of crude palm production in Africa.

The Republic of Cameroon which ranks fourth in crude palm oil production in Africa according to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has crude palm oil as one of its main agricultural products. The country which is fondly called ‘Africa in miniature’ can boost of a yearly production of about 200,000 tons of palm oil. In 2011, production was 210,000 tons up from the previous 200,000 tons.

Crude palm oil which has always been a part of the

Local Palm Oil Processing

people of much of West Africa, and Cameroon in particular actually gained industrial prominence in 1910 when the Germans established industrial plantation units around Edea under the Société de Palmerais de la Ferme Suisse. Then, came the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), in the 1940s. And later on the PAMOIL Cameroon Ltd.

Palm oil production in Cameroon is highly favored by the tropical climate that consist of 4 to 5 months of dry season, and about 7 to 8 months of rainy season, coupled with the South West Monsoon wind that blows across the coast of the country where large agro industrial corporations like the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) is situated, including the Palm Oil Corporation of Cameroon (PAMOIL), the Manyu Oil Palm Initiative. Independent farmers too, are involved in this highly lucrative business, and most of them have come under the Cameroon Association of Palm Oil Producers, headed by Claude Leonard Mpouma, and the Small Holders Scheme.

Large farms of palm nuts used in the production of palm oil which covers about 170,000 hectares can be seen mainly in the South West, South, Littoral, Centre and East.

This new form of “Red Gold” generates a yearly income of more 200 billion FCFA, about 400 million dollars, and provides about 65,000 indirect and direct jobs.

Because of the high quality of Cameroon’s crude red palm oil; which is cholesterol free and rich in vitamin E, there’s high demand for it at home and abroad. If it is not demanded for cooking, it is demanded for the making of soap and other cosmetic products found in the greatest shops around the world.

The exponential growth in demand has meant the supply is lagging as local production fails to grow simultaneously thanks to the poor state of farm-to-market roads, crude or rudimentary machines used by some small holders and the poor quality of some of the seedlings causing am almost 100% increase in the price of palm oil from the official 450frs CFA (almost a dollar) to about 750frs CFA in the black market. This poses a problem given that a majority of Cameroonians in the local areas live on less than a dollar a day. Much like Black Gold, this resource seems to be going down the road of becoming too expensive for the ordinary man.

The State of Most Cameroonian roads – Source: Cameroon Today Newspaper

While one could be optimistic enough to say that the future of palm oil in Cameroon is bright because of the ‘tarring’ of some farm-to-market roads, like the famous Kumba-Buea stretch of road, the widening of the Douala –Yaoundé road, and the provision of high yielding palm seedlings to farmers by structures like the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), PAMOIL Cameroon Ltd, Programme de Developémment de Palmerais Villageois(PDPV), which also coordinates the activities of small holders farmers, the question that remains unanswered is whether these modest achievements are worth commending in a country so richly blessed

Maybe I am not being reasonable here, given that the government has signed many agreements in favor of the farmers and in 2010, it jointly launched a project with the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Africa’s biggest producer of palm oil) aimed at generating income in the palm oil sector in four years time, supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Common Fund for Commodities.   Recently, Cameroon and UNIDO reached a deal in Vienna, Austria to promote the industrialization of palm oil production in Cameroon. Following this programme, four pilot centres were chosen; the Agro Industrial Unit in Bora in the East, Massoumbou Gardens in Littoral, the Agro Industrial Development Company in the South and the Manya Oil Palm Cooperative in the South West. This will certainly bridge the gap between demand and supply which requires the creation of about 20,000 hectares of palm tree farms yearly.

Modern Palm Oil Processing

These are wonderful efforts with great prospects but history and the reality of international trade dampen my hilarity. It is true that today, for the first time, most African countries have made the most impressive breakthrough into global markets for goods and services other than just primary products, it is also true that most of the firms established during the colonial era,[2] still continue to play a major role in the export-import trade of the now independent States which were their former colonial preserves. Most of these pay very low prices for the cash crops they export to Europe while they set very high prices for the finished products they import for sale in Africa. Also, the major share of their profits is sent back to their home countries rather than being invested in the African economies where the profits are made. This has the unfortunate effect that a structural imbalance is created in the African economies resulting from their over dependence on the export of one of few primary products and this makes their economies extremely vulnerable to external factors and seriously hinders their internal development.

This is my fear for the future of ‘Red Gold’.


[1] The Dutch disease is an economic concept that explains the apparent relationship between the increase in exploitation of natural resources and a decline in the manufacturing sector.

[2] e.g. UAC which is now Unilever

Contraceptives for Africa – A Misplaced Priority?

English: Logo of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun...
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Source: 2007 Annual Report (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The past week has been a stormy one for me on an intellectually stimulating Facebook Group Perception. The most challenging discussion has been the issue of 2Billion Dollars worth of Contraceptives that is being sent to Africa by the Gates Foundation and the UK government over the period of 8 years.

WORLD CONTRACEPTIVE USE

Despite being a Catholic (who should according to her religion denounce any form of modern contraceptive), Melinda Gates argues that this is going to be a milestone in curbing the rate of women dying in the continent due to child birth. While it can be argued that statistics support her, given that a study of 172 countries published in the medical journal The Lancet says that although bleeding, infections and other problems are the leading causes of mothers dying during pregnancy and childbirth in developing countries, “family planning is the primary intervention to prevent maternal mortality.”

The Lancet study further argues that family planning is already responsible for the prevention of a record 270,000 maternal deaths annually. These statistics are further given credence by the prime ministers of Rwanda and Ethiopia who state that more than 40 million women in sub-Saharan Africa would like to stop or postpone childbearing but have no means to do so.

Unfortunately, contrary to the research stats and the views of the Rwandan and Ethiopian PMs, opinions in African seem to be divided about the seemingly wonderful project.

Before I make any analyis on the situation, it will be good to look at some of the reactions posted by Nono Nkele on Perception.

***************** CAMEROON: *************

This is a misplaced priority. The world’s poor do not need this. What they need is basic necessities like potable water, electricity, decent and accessible healthcare, quality good roads, quality education for their children and accountable governments who do not steal their tax and national resources but they use them to enhance their quality of life. These monies will just end up subsidizing the pharmaceutical industry in Europe and America.

GOD SAYS GO AND MULTPLY WHY ECONOMISE? I thick it those with empty wallats who are advocating for contraceptives.

******************* GHANA: ******************

If abortion means killing, then the use of contraceptive like condom is kidnapping since the semen is trapped

I do support family planning. But it has not received much attention because of the misconceptions about its practice. It’s sort of looked at as something that will cause more harm than good in the end and so people are not patronising it at all. It is only found among the elites and the slightly educated folks around. I pray it will get the needed attention to help save our women and our mothers.

I think the issue is not about one supports family planning or not. Let us be fair to ourselves and stop this craze for wholesome acceptability of everything from this white people. How do you expect Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation to give you their millions of dollars for free when their own citizens are living in constant fear of joblessness and poverty? There cannot be any free meal and I don’t believe all of them. Until Africans are consulted in some of these things (not the elite) this effort will be in vain. It is not real!

I think is good and would help mothers and teenagers in Ghana

***************** UGANDA: ******************

Our president together with the first lady are doing much to see that people get to know as well as putting it in use, with those deep in villages coz many shun away after hearing it’s disadvantages but most of them are trying to use it. I think it’s ok to be brought and used in Africa coz the growth of our population is failing to be managed and think that it’s the best way to control all it’s disadvantages.

Some new drugs have been manufactured so lab rats are getting readied for tests

The hardest and most worrying state of it is that when financial or medical support lands in the hands of the corrupt officials in government. The poor will only hear about it but not giving them freely or cheaply

Africa is a third world nations with many diseases of no proper treatment, therefore we can produce many children as well so that disease will kill the rest while other remain

********************** KENYA: *****************

No! God is planning for us.

After getting educated most of us don’t understand ‘intercontinental politics’, VERY UNFORTUNATE. As a Registered Nurse I will not buy that idea contrary to my profession. Every child must be born and in turn must multiply is my greatest believe. What is the essence of believing in God and at the same time you want your own way of procreation. Yes I agree that too many births have its own challenges but what do you understand by ‘NATURAL FMLY PLANING’?. Why don’t they talk of ‘health services, proper sanitations, improved lifestyle’? I believe they are up to something, two billion dollars for free? NO DAY. I was raised too disagree with manmade family planning but strongly believe in NATURAL

Family planning is not yet welcome in my country. People are still ignorant about the benefits of it. Especially those in the rural areas are against it as they view it negatively. There is also major cultural and religious aspects to the whole issue of family planning. The priority is creating awareness on the need for family planning especially to the poor and vulnerable in rural areas as well as the urban poor who often have large families that they cannot cater for adequately

FAMILY PLANNING, exclusive breastfeeding and polygamy. These are the solution not Millions of dollars.

********************* NIGERIA: ****************

If there is only one country that supports birth control, that country should be Nigeria. Looking at the level of inequalities in allocation of resources and high level of illiteracy, particularly in the northern parts, the birth control policy could have been a good option of ameliorating our plights. But, because of religion sentiment and extremism, some unpatriotic Nigerians are seriously kicking against it.

The crucial question we must answer is Why do third world countries have a higher population growth than the developed countries? Britain did not talk of birth control until she put two things in place; free education and socialised medicine. What is family planning to a young girl or boy in a remote village whose stock in trade is to eke out a living by hawking in the street. Children are social safety nets and security to an average family in Africa. I am skeptical of developed countries’ patronising do-gooders. Money ploughed into these laudable projects may not filter to those who really need it. My take is (i) provide free and compulsory education accessible to all (ii) free medical services to the poor, children, and elderly (medi-aid, medi-care) (iii) use the media to inform the people of government programs.

Over population is one of developing countries greatest challenged.

Advocating birth control without explaining the benefit is a failure in itself never rely on Nigerian Government to pick your map and locate these rural communities if you wish to attain any meaningful impact

As it is in Nigeria now you don’t need to be told before you go for family planning because the standard of living over here is unfavourable to polygamous families

********************* MALAWI: ***************

Ha ha ha why do they have so much attention on Africa, why don’t they Use that Money in providing good housing and sanitation services in the areas they deem over populated. They should try China, it is exporting to many people to Africa. Or that Money should be used for sound and transparent economic reforms that can be favorable for all Africans, that is if they do that in True faith. Instead of contraceptives they should be aiming at building better hospitals, health centres and provide midwifery training in rural areas, buy ambulances and introduce other convenient services that would reduce maternal deaths. Africa is not only found in the Cities and Town Centres. Africa is in my village, where people do not have proper health services, Proper water ETC. I couldn’t agree more with this view notwithstanding I am for promoting contraception in Africa

I am sure that One’s mind is a Contraceptive on its own, it just needs to be well equipped, You tell people about contraceptive in my village they will laugh at you. Some of us are able to understand the goodness of contraceptives because we have learnt to equip our minds with knowledge, good and health life. We do not need contraceptives, we need services that can transform and change people’s mindsets. Otherwise transformation as an objective won’t arrive home…..otherwise, Africans are really African in their African Environment.

Contraception is anti-God. I support family planning but doubt if it is getting the attention it deserves

It’s not you who takes care of life but God alone. You have to read Mt 6:24-34(This is why I tell you not to be worried about the food & drink you need in order to stay alive,or about clothes for your body…..)

******************** ZAMBIA: ******************

Use of condoms, child spacing, pill and many others.

I live in rural Zambia and I work in a hospital and work mostly with pregnant mothers. My observations is that most women in rural areas don’t understand how some contraceptives work, and some can’t access the family planning drugs because they have to walk very long distances to the clinic/hospital. With proper education and easy access..It can work effectively.

Developing countries such as zambia were most of its population survives on less than a dollar per day and looking at the income per house hold family planning is inevitable. I support family planning because that’s the only way we can slow down the fast growing population in Zambia and Africa at large.

******************* SIERRA LEONE: *************

I support it and I hope the Catholic Church will get out of the way and stop misinforming people about its use

In my country where I live, Sierra Leone do accept and take family planning, contraception seriously, youth both male and female counterpart do prevent themselves from unwanted pregnancy except for teenagers who may not aware of it.

************** SOUTH SUDAN: ******************

Our population in our sub region is fine we don’t need family planning but we need basic needs like health, support agriculture ,roads, regional market, education etc.

Yes if it is true, then my country South Sudan should be served the first because it is one of the poorest Countries on the planet due to it being the youngest nation with the majority of the population under 25yrs.

It will really help my people in South Sudan, because we are still using traditional midwifes & our ladies are always victim.

**************** SOUTH AFRICA ***************

To the benevolent Foundation, thanks. But no, thanks. We are aware of the agenda of depopulation being pushed in the name of economy and helping us to better manage our families. It does not end with contraceptives but also with experimental vaccines that do not work against disease but against fertility. Investigative journalists worth their salt should look into that. It does not go down well with some of us that your work is done only in our lands. Lands with the potential to produce lots of food given all this manpower. Instead of supporting farming, people are concentrating on altering ovaries… Serio

******************* RWANDA******************

Family planning is needed because the number of people does not match with our resources,

*********CENTRAL AFRICA REPULBLIC: *********

We don’t need family planning. Stop all thing not contraception because it’s against the religion we’re Christians and we love God the meaning of contraception I read is not all for our society we must fight against deseases and family planning.

*************** SWAZILAND: ***************

I thought using condoms was the best and,not pills, injections and every thing

I suggest the Brits should start at home. Which will curb on the spiral of young single mums, or their draining resource on excess child care support. Cameron recently purported for a 3 child benefit policy- I think if they are really serious on budget cut. Then this package load of conceptive pill will work wonders in the UK than developing countries. After all Developing countries need to increase their economic market to align with the long time growth procrastination … While the Uk and the west need to shrink their market as it is over stretched. SO PILLS WILL MAKE A BETTER PLACE IN THE WEST THAN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES… Simply tosh

Oral Contraceptive Pill

After going through these comments and engaging in a heated debate with some critical minds across the globe, I was beginning to wonder if the problem was because I already was sceptical about any form of aid that came to the continent in the form of finished goods that were simply handed out to the people. I was also wondering if the problem could be the knowledge I had about the failed development paradigms since the 1960s. However, I was vindicated when Jerome Ngoh  came powerfully arguing that:

I can’t remember who said it but I can remember what he said: “it’s easier to pretend to be rich than it is to pretend to be poor”. Most of the comments in these thread make me laugh. Poverty is a societal self-sustaining philosophy. Yes, it starts with a male-dominated economic system in developing country but what keeps it in place has little to do with men. societal norms recruit previously exploited women to espouse and perpetuate this doctrine. Dady Kboy, is right: To change the story we need to tackle it from the economic/ educational empowerment of women. That is the recipe the West used. I am puzzled they deemed the chemical solution more appropriate for the “backward” people of the planet. That we are buying into it is more troubling. I hate bringing personal anecdotes into a story. I grew up poor. I remember the first time I told my mum about contraception, my grandma, not my father scolded me for bringing it up. I have discovered something about effecting change: I give my sisters the beat education money can buy. After exposing them to what the world has to offer, they don’t need a Bill- Melinda Gates foundation to educate them on the benefits of contraceptives.

I could not agree more with the above reasoning given that contraception is not a way of life – IT IS A CHOICE! Many women will have to choose to accept it or not! The ability to make that choice comes from education and awareness of what they want in life.

Provide all the contraception in the world to illiterate women and girls without the right economic and political atmosphere and they will become simply baby-less zombies.

Provide education, create jobs and an enabling environment and women will not need the Gates Foundation to provide for them – they will go look for it themselves and pay for it.

Empower the young women of Africa to think and stop thinking for them. Since a majority of these women are definitely illiterate, Melinda and her team have done all the thinking and decided that these women need it.

Actions such as these are what rob women of the ability to make informed choices and not the other way round.

Another aspect is the fact that when the West was faced with a similar crisis Malthus came up powerfully with his theory of population. As for the Malthusian theory of population I am not going to go in to all the theoretical debates he had with Ricardo and Keynesian contributions which clearly showed the contrary. However, let me state two points that are relevant to our discussion:

First, Malthus’s pessimistic conclusions have not been borne out by the history of Western European countries. The gloomy forecast made by Malthus about the economic conditions of future generations of mankind has not been realized in the Western world. Population has failed to grow as rapidly as predicted by Malthus and production has increased tremendously because of the rapid advances in technology. As a result, living standards of the people have risen instead of falling as was predicted by Malthus.

Secondly, Malthusian theory of population is based upon the law of diminishing returns as applied to agriculture. It on the basis of this law that Malthus asserted that food production could not keep pace with population growth. By making rapid advances in technology and accumulating capital in larger quantity, advanced countries have been able to postpone the stage of diminishing returns. By making use of fertilizers, better seeds, tractors and other agricultural machinery, they have been able to increase their production greatly. In fact, in most of the advanced countries the rate of increase of food production has been much greater than the rate of population growth.

Which brings me back to my basic question – can contraception solve any real economic problems in Africa? If so how?

Can education solve the controversy of contraception? YES! HOW? By giving women the knowledge to make informed choices.

Therefore – what Africa needs is the ability to think and not one foundation thinking and drawing conclusions – ones which they never implemented in their own case. Contraceptives may be good for birth control but when it comes to Africa as it is – I am apt to conclude that spending 2 billion is a misplaced priority.

Africa And the Plight of a Wasted Generation

From St. Ives to Inverness; from the Isle of Man and stretching across the City of London; and even in places like Tristan da Cunha, a UK Overseas Territory and the most remote inhabited island chain on the planet, this has been a long weekend of celebrations. It started officially on Saturday (and even with the characteristically gloomy British weather) the streets of all cities have been aglow with images of the Union Jack. It has been a long weekend awash with celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond jubilee.

As I sat watching the incessant dripping of the rain through my window, I could not help but wonder if an average African born 60 years ago will have any cause for celebration – that is if they were fortunate to see their 60th anniversary. As if to lend credence to my thoughts, the double tragedy in Africa’s most populated country on a day so aptly tagged ‘Black Sunday’ seemed to have been the one thing I needed to realise the futility of any struggle to make meaning of life – especially as an African.

I was forced to take a look at what Africa was in 1952 and what did I see? I saw US-educated Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who had been elected prime minister of the Gold Coast (the British Colony that later becomes Ghana). That seemed to be the beginning of a new era for a continent that had not known any form of freedom for centuries since it was enslaved and colonised. There was hope for the continent as continental Africans who were at that time studying in America and Europe such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Leopold S. Senghor of Senegal Julius K. Nyerere of Tanzania, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafami Awolowo of Nigeria were all returning to mother Africa, preaching and applying their political ideology for African nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Their political philosophy which assumed the new role of pedagogy for promoting internal liberation.

There were beacons of hope across the continent 10 years later,  by 1962, when a majority of the continent gained independence. But unlike the  about 4200 beacons of the Diamond Jubilee which as they  were  lit, had three generations of Royalty watching, with smiles on their faces, I wonder if anyone can look back and smile at any of the beacons of hope that were lit in Africa in the early 1960s.

Let me look at a few:

The first is Leopold Sedar Senghor. According to Senghor the value of African socialism was founded on the African understanding of family based on philosophical intuition through the concept of Negritude: “The family in Africa is the clan and not as in Europe ‘mum, dad and the baby’ it is not the household but ‘the sum total of all persons, living and dead, who acknowledge a common ancestor.’ As we know, the ancestral lineage dates back to God”.[1]

Leopold S. Senghor – Negritude

Senghor saw a common factor of Africanity as consisting in the state of being ‘black’, ‘negritude’, ‘negroness’. Hence the Afro-Negro worldview could be sustained by an intuitive consciousness that opens itself up in communal embrace to the rest of the world culture. African culture was therefore, a symbiosis of different elements, in a symbiotic encounter, in which association was free and beneficial to all. Senghor felt that Negritude could open up a harmonious basis for integration of black and white values with a view of bringing into being a new African personality which necessarily contributes to the civilization of values. In this light negritude was seen as a cultural heritage of the Negros and an embodiment of cultural, economic, political and social values of the Black people.

It is against this backdrop that negritude was seen as being not just a mere theoretical speculation or simply a philosophy of being but also a philosophy of praxis aimed at liberation. Its aims and objectives were considered the same as those pursued by all African nationalists following independence, namely, the truth of their “being” and “culture” as well as the full mastery of their environment. Negritude was nothing more than the Black man’s attempt to regain what Jean-Paul Sartre calls an ‘existential integrity” on the original purity of one’s existence.

60 years on: the African still lives on an existential mirage. The lines between life and death are blurred. People go to church and do not return. Others board flights or cars but never reach their destination. Children are born only for them to witness the agony of starvation, deprivation and die of curable diseases before their first birthday. Maybe the problem was Negritude – either hoping too much or too little!

Julius Kambarage Nyerere, like Senghor saw in African socialism, the only

Nyerere – Ujaama Socialism

veritable tool that could affect the political and economic liberation of Africa. Like Senghor, Nyerere felt that “the foundation and objective of African socialism is the extended family.”[2]  The familyhood depicted by Ujamaa, therefore, went beyond the basic family nucleus; beyond the tribe, the community, the nation. It must include the entire human race. It x-rayed the traditional life of the African people where the sense of brotherhood was strong: where “society is so organized that it cares about the individual”.[3] In short Ujamaa socialism was said to be an attitude of mind needed to ensure that people care for each other’s welfare. In Nyerere’s conceptual schemes, therefore, the solution to the African predicament and the sure road to freedom, laid simply in the adoption of African socialism which was antithetical to capitalism. Nyerere’s Ujamaa was clearly a theory that was aimed at transforming independent Africa.

60 years on: capitalism reigns supreme in Africa. Individualism is manifested in the grabbing attitude of politicians who think only of making quick gains at the expense of the masses. Even China which is communist at home is capitalist in Africa. May be there should have been a middle way!

Zik – Neo-Welfarism

This was sought by Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik) whose major political thought centre around the idea of the regeneration of Africa in socio-political life and what he termed “neo-welfarism”. The idea of the regeneration of Africa represents a call to a New Africa. Beyond the general tendencies prevalent in his time, to favour and refine socialist teachings and to reject capitalist principles, Zik was among the few thinkers who made frantic efforts in the search of a middle way between socialism and capitalism in his later years. Finding the major political systems – capitalism, socialism, welfarism – wanting, Zik, feeling that since none of them is totally bad, there was the need for the harmonization of these systems by combining what he believes to be the good elements in each of them. These results in what he called “neo-welfarism” which is “an economic system which blends the essential elements of Capitalism, Socialism and Welfarism  in a socio-economic matrix, influenced by indigenous African mores, to enable the state and the private sector to own and control the means of production, distribution and exchange, whilst simultaneously enabling the state to assume responsibility for the social services, in order to benefit the citizens according to their needs and officially specified minimum standard, without prejudice to participation in any aspect of the social services by voluntary agencies.”[4] The philosophical basis for neo-welfarism is eclecticism and pragmatism.

Unfortunately, pragmatism and eclecticism have been painstakingly removed from Nigerian political dictionaries and hence the via media has no place anymore. The fuel subsidy crisis was just one of many examples of where socialism and welfarism have been binned in favour of resolute capitalism. This should not have been surprising because Nkrumah had prophesied about them.

One of the most systematic and speculative of the freedom movement of post-

Nkrumah – Consciencism

colonial Africa was the theory of liberation of Kwame Nkrumah, which he expounded in his book Towards Colonial Freedom, written in 1947 and published in 1962. Nkrumah spoke of liberation as being mainly from colonialism, which to him was “…White man’s burden which rest heavily upon the shoulders of the so-called “backward” people who have been subjugated, humiliated, robbed and degraded to the level of cattle.”[5] .Nkrumah saw in the policies of the colonial masters a lot of hypocrisy. In their crafty nature, they masked their real inhumane nature and evil intentions so well that it was very difficult for the people to notice. “ the attitude of Britain, France, Spain, Italy and other colonial powers towards what they call “participation” by colonial people in colonial government and public affairs are half-way measures to keep them complacent and to throttle their aspiration  for complete independence”.[6]

In the light of this, Nkrumah saw the need to present a model theory for the liberation of Africa. He was partly motivated by the hope that the Socialist movement in the world at the time would overtake the capitalist – imperialism that exploited Africa.

Nkrumah, and other Africans having deciphered the distortions and platitude of European colonialism saw the importance of knowledge in the African crusade of decolonization against European colonialism, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the African liberation and development. Knowledge was necessary for power and for action. Nkrumah further wrote that

… there are vast numbers of ordinary Africans, who animated by a lively national consciousness, sort knowledge as an instrument of national emancipation and integrity. This is not to say that these Africans overlooked the purely cultural value of their studies. But in order that their cultural acquisition should be valuable, they needed to be capable of appreciating it as free men.[7]

There was a pressing need for Africans to get engaged in the de-colonial campaign as free historical beings, since, “the main purpose of the organization is to bring about a final death of colonialism and the discountenance of foreign imperialist domination”.[8]. This is because it was glaring that “outside interference does not help to develop their country, for it impedes and stifles and crushes not only economic progress, but the spirit and indigenous enterprise of the peoples themselves.[9]

60 years on: Outside interference has never been far from Africa. Its legacies are clear for all to see. Africa produces no guns but records the highest number of deaths by guns. The DRC, Somalia and Libya are living examples of foreign imperialist domination. The IMF and the World Bank have only succeeded in impeding and stifling economic progress with proposals that never seem to work but are always imposed on African governments.

60 years on after Nkrumah won  the first election in Africa as the PM of the Gold Coast, we are apt to wonder if it will be better if Africa could simple forget all the years of civil wars, genocides, apartheid, famine and diseases. Maybe we can start anew! But should this option be considered, Africa will have WASTED A GENERATION!

NOTES:


[1] Senghor; Poetry and Prose (Selected and trans by Reed and C. Wake) (London: Oxford University Press, !965), p. 43

[2] Nyerere: Ujamaa: Essays On Socialism (Dar-es Salaam :Oxford University Press 1968) p. 2

[3] Ibid p. 3

[4] Nnamdi Azikiwe; Ideology for Nigeria: Capitalism, Socialism or Welfarism. (Lagos: Macmillan Nigeria Publishers Ltd, 1981), p. x

[5] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” (London: Panaf Book Ltd., 1962), p. 29

[6] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 27

[7] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 4

[8] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 41

[9] K. Nkrumah; Towards Colonial Freedom. “Africa in the Struggle Against World Imperialism” p. 42

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

HAPPY NEW YEAR BOYCOTT WAR (nsnbc.wordpress.com)

2011 has been a year with so far unprecedented aggression against sovereign nations, in which the United Nations Security Counsel has been utilized to instigate aggressions that are the antithesis of the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

The ousting of President Laurent Gbagbo with the aid of French sponsored “rebels” , trrops from the French Foreign Legion and UN-Peacekeepers is one example.

The appalling abuse of UNSC-Resolution 1973-2011 to conquer the sovereign nation of Libya is another.

If you ask me for advise pertaining 2012, that is, if you wish to make a new years “resolution” my advise is this:

” It´s time to move from resolutions and intentions to action”

” It´s time to not only to criminalize war by “resolutions” but to establish a permanent office where war crimes can be reported, and that assists independent and sovereign nations world wide to prosecute war crimes”.

“It´s time to make war unprofitable by consequently boycotting any corporation that is delivering arms to a waring party that is the aggressor in a given conflict, any corporation who has stocks in such companies, and any corporation whose major share holders have invested in such companies. Let´s establish a Blacklist of Companies, their merchandise, their services, and let´s begin to make war the least profitable business possible. As long as our corporate leaders are educated according to the principles of the Chicago School and similar, this is the one and only language that is understood by them ”

“It´s time to act upon the “resolution” that such boycott is a good idea. I suggest editors of independent media contact one another and discuss how we best could facilitate such a Blacklist and the Boycott by means of our media. . This is a standing invitation to get in touch. ”

I wish you a hopefully more peaceful 2012, so let´s DO IT!

Christof Lehmann on nsnbc

nsnbc editor

From Libya to Nigeria – Is Sharia Really the Problem?

Preamble:

In the early hours of the 2nd May 2011, US President Obama greeted the world with the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most notorious terrorist leader. One thing that was not lost in the drama that ensued through and after the announcement, ranging from the widespread jubilation; assurance that the war on terrorism was not a war on Islam to the hasty burial that was attributed to be in ‘line with the dictates of Islam’, (Whitaker, 2011) was the undertone that the international political scene in the last ten years has had this shadow of a war cast on it. This is a war that from all intents and purposes began as a form of religious extremism and will not simply go away with the killing of Bin Laden. This therefore is not simply about one man but about religion – either interpreted wrongly or misunderstood. Whatever the reasons, religion is making headlines so much in recent years to go unnoticed. For on New Year’s Day of 2011 there was the case of Egypt where a suicide bombing at a church killed 21 people and wounded 79. The Daily Times quotes Time magazine as having written that “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians — in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam” (Daily Times Editorial, 03/01/2011). Meanwhile, in April, the declaration of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South of Nigeria as winner of the 16 April presidential elections, against his main opponent Mohammadu Buhari from the Muslim-dominated North, was the only signal that the Northerners needed to go out on the rampage and cause the death of over 500 people (The Guardian, 2011).

But the questions that need answering ab initio is whether when a thing looses its essence it can still be rightly called the same thing. If we are in agreement that it is the essence of a thing that gives it being, we are apt to agree that when that essence is lost, that thing should cease to exist.  Hence this question could be extrapolated to ask whether when a group becomes extreme and commits heinous crimes and terrorist activities like the recent bombings on Christmas Day in Nigeria, it is logical to keep labeling them ‘Islamist’? How logical is it to label Boko Haram as bad because they are asking for an ‘Islāmic’ State according to Sharia Laws when NATO powers effectively installed a government in Libya that declared it was going to be governed according to strict Sharia Laws? If Boko Haram which claims to be adherents of Sharia are extremist, does it follow that the new government of Libya is extremist? Does this have any bearing on the facts being peddled that arms are leaving Libya to Nigeria? Is the problem really a religious one or religion is simply being used as a pawn in a broader political game to create chaos and division, which could be the prelude to another imperialist intervention in Africa?

Before answering these question, I will like to take a look at how religion has been playing out with politics and development, especially in Africa.

Religion, Politics and Development:

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, suggests that religion, like morality, should be eliminated if the world were to achieve a new political and economic existence. According to him, “Communism abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on new basis” (1968:52) hence, it would seem therefore that Marx did not simply seek to criticise the logic of religion as a set of beliefs but rather, his criticism sprang from the fact that he saw religion as a hindrance to the realisation of an egalitarian society. His argument was therefore that religion reflects society hence any criticism of religion must of necessity be a criticism of society itself.

These sentiments of Marx were also expressed by different writers in different forms but who all arrived at the conclusion that religion was going to wither away (Bruce, (Ed.) 1992; Aldridge, 2000). The prevailing rationale of such discourse has been underpinned by the four major assumptions of the Westphalian synthesis (Philpott, 2002) that: Political sovereignty lay with the state and the states were the key actors in the International Relations system; states would not interfere in the religious affairs of other states; states increasingly refrained from promoting the welfare of the church; as the functions of the modern state increased, the temporal functions of religious bodies also declined.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the foundations of modern sociological theory is the assumption that the modern world is becoming ever more secular and that religion is dying out or becoming irrelevant to modern life. (Berger, 1969) But it is now apparent that the facts do not bear this out. Even in China, as in the rest of the world, especially in the developing world, religion is evolving dynamically and having a great influence on public life and “…refusing to be condemned to the realm of privatize belief, …is once again reappearing in the public sphere, thrusting itself into issues of moral and political contestation” (Haynes, 1998).

Conventionally, development studies and international political economy focused on the causes of poverty, income distribution, disparity in wealth, and some baseless dichotomies between politics and economics while, religion was viewed as detrimental to progress. More recently, however, far from fading from political relevance, religion has assumed a new and more important, mobilising role in many cultures, including those considered fully ‘modernised'(Haynes, 1998). This has led to a breakdown of the negative view about religion, partly due to the widespread failure of secular development programmes to achieve poverty reduction and end inequality and injustice. Religion is now seen as a potentially crucial to the achievement of developmental aims (Haynes, 1998; 2007).

Setting the Records Straight…

While it may not be difficult to see that religion became divided from politics in the Western world with the increasing rise of secularism, this has not been the case with most third world countries (Haynes, 1998). A case in point is that of Nkrumah who, despite his adoption of Marxist materialism, makes it clear that “strictly speaking …Philosophical Consciencism even though deeply rooted in materialism, is not necessarily atheistic.”(1964, p.84) Nkrumah’s intention was to make his ideology an option for the African to rise up from their slumber and assert the dignity of the African personality. It was his conviction that the African personality is not an exclusive personality but must take cognisance of its historical experiences. This is because;

…with true independence gained… A new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and Euro-Christian African, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principle underlying African society. …A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time and ideology which will not abandon the original humanist principles in Africa. (Nkrumah, 1964, p.70)

Unfortunately, the level of progress anticipated by Nkrumah did not materialise and this can be said to be partly due to the great divide between theories of development and the practical realities in Africa.  It is in the light of this that Haynes (1998) analyses the effects associated with modernisation – socio-economic and political change, involving urbanisation, industrialisation, centralisation of government, and the insertion of national economies of Third World countries into a world political economic system, and comes to the conclusion that the nature of religion is accountable to structural and systematic traits and developments.

It is therefore obvious that the failure of most African nations to be able to forge that harmony that Nkrumah advocated, could be at the base of what is today termed Religious extremism or inter-religious conflict. Let us get back to the case of Nigeria then.

First: Is the Boko Haram a religious group and if so are they Islamic? 

The name Boko Haram in Hausa translates to ‘Western education is sacrilege’ while the Arabic interpretation of the Sects’ name is ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. There is therefore no denying that Boko Haram is a religious group. What however is debatable is whether they are Islamic. The natural tendency for most mainstream media has been to take the easy way out – create news that will be popular no matter how cheap. Yes! Cheap because I have rarely seen a media house questioning how a group can be called ‘Islamic’ simply because they claim they are. At the beginning of this discourse, I made the point that if a thing looses its essence, it ceases to be that thing. If a group comes up claiming to be Muslim or Christian but has a unique interpretation of these religions, all what one has to do is go to the foundations of these religions and verify if their claims tie with the essential creeds of the religion – if they do not, the it is logical to look for another name for them rather than simply qualifying them as ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’. The fact that a person or group of persons claim to be Muslim or Christian does not make them that. A Muslim is one who lives according to the dictates of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet (and not their  personal interpretation of it) while a Christian will be a person who lives according to Biblical principles and inline with the teachings of Christ Jesus. Anything outside of these as St. Paul rightly captures “Comes from the evil one”.

Does Boko Haram bear any similarities with the New Government of Libya?

The answer is yes. First they both claim they want the institution of Sharia. Secondly, they are all rebel movements. The new government of Libya was a rebel movement that was given legitimacy by NATO and her allies. It therefore means that if Boko Haram is only illegal and bad today because it has not received the blessings of a UN Security Council Resolution and the backing of NATO forces – or have they not, perhaps not yet!

Which brings me to the issue of the recent unprecedented sophistication of  Boko Haram, a group which can effectively be traced back only to 2002. Where were they all the years following Nigeria’s independence? Why did they not surface during the periods Nigeria was going through one military regime to the other? How did they come to realise they had an ideology to propagate only during the so-called period of Nigerian ‘democracy’? How come Obasanjo, a ‘christian’ president could not stop them but Yar ‘Adua a Muslim was able to get them and get their leader killed only for them to wax stronger during Jonathan another ‘Christian’s’ regime?  The answer to these are obvious. During military regimes, it was difficult to simply play a political game hiding under the cloak of religion because  religious leaders such as the Emirs somehow had a voice then, and could easily rally the people to denounce such aberrations to their religion. Meanwhile, while Yar ‘Adua as a Muslim was able to forge the harmony needed for Nigeria to move forward, most of the so-called ‘christian’ leaders are not able to do so.

Malam Garba Sani, a senior official at the Nigerian Muslim Forum on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story points out that  “Boko Haram is not only expanding in terms of its area of operation, but also in terms of targets, in terms of strength, in terms of overall ability to strike. However it is only indicative of the level of strength and ability that Boko Haram has. It hasn’t yet elaborated or disclosed the strength of this organisation yet.” Has anyone paused to question why Goodluck Jonathan was quick to support a no-fly-zone against Libya and one of the first to recognise the National Transition Council? Has anyone questioned why it is that shortly after this recognition, there was a bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja? Has anyone questioned why it is only after the Libyan conflict that Boko Haram has become this sophisticated only in 2011, effectively extending to the capital only in August? Has anyone questioned why it is that Boko Haram until the  July 10, 2011, bombing of the All Christian Fellowship Church in Suleja, Niger State and the recent December, 25th bombings been attacking mainly Muslims and government Institutions?

Patrick Wilmot, a Nigerian writer also on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story provides an insight but when he states that “Boko Haram is trying to create the maximum effect in terms of killing large numbers of people. The political effect is to create tensions within the ruling party itself, the PDP, which is a coalition of people from the north, the south, the east and the west and also Christians and Muslims. In the larger society itself, it aims to create more tension between Muslims and Christians, leading to a greater degree of segregation between the populations“.

This viewpoint shows that the original intention was to create antagonism within the political sphere, effectively destabilising the ability of the ruling party to take effective action as Yar ‘Adua did and crushed the group. When this has been somehow achieved given the willingness of the government to play ball in the Libyan case, with President Jonathan consciously or unconsciously providing the backing by supporting the no-fly-zone and recognising the NTC, the next phase is now in operation. Religious antagonism is therefore the trump card.

Any forewarning…

Gaddafi in one of the messages accredited to him, while denouncing all forms of religious extremism hiding under the cloak of Islam, issued a warning “Do not let them use you. Be united. Build your defences for they are coming if they manage to pass Libya.This warning was not hearkened to and the result is what we witness in Nigeria today – a very sophisticated Boko Haram which is now capable of creating a religious war in Nigeria. Does that ring a bell? Yes it should. Libya was just the first phase of a bigger game and having passed the litmus test, it seems it is time for Africa to await its recolonization – this time it will be under the guise of humanitarian interventions. The arms crossing from Libya into Nigeria is therefore not a coincidence. It is also not coincidental that arms that leave Libya should be able to find Boko Haram when the group has been and still is seemingly faceless with no known central leadership.

Final Words:

This write-up does not claim absolute knowledge of Boko Haram and neither are the assumptions made here considered dogma. What however I can say with certainty is that whatever the political game being played using Boko Haram, it is yielding dividends. The Nigerian government is gradually loosing the monopoly of violence over its territory and Nigerians are gradually getting to the stage where any tiny spark will ignite a horrible clash between Muslims and Christians. Unfortunately, neither the Muslims nor the Christians will be able to find the source of the problem because the ideology called Boko Haram will become faceless as the country disintegrates into a failed state.

THERE IS CLEARLY A MOVEMENT FROM LIBYA TO NIGERIA – A SHARIA STATE OF REBELS NOW RULE LIBYA AND A GROUP OF REBELS HAVE GAINED PROMINENCE IN NIGERIA WITH THE SAME INTENTION OF INSTITUTING SHARIA. THE ARMS THAT CREATED THE LIBYAN ‘STATE’ IS NOW IN NIGERIA WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF CREATING A BOKO HARAM STATE.

The difference however is that while Libya was small and her case could easily be manipulated using the so-called Arab Spring, Nigeria is so large that unless there is sufficient internal chaos it will be difficult for any external intervention to make headway.  Note should be taken then that Boko Haram far from being anything Muslim or Christian is simply a political cancerworm that is being used under the guise of religion.

NIGERIANS BE WISE!

References:

Berger, P.L. (1969). The social reality of religion; London: Faber

Bruce, S. (Ed.) 1992. Religion and Modernisation; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 170-94;

Aldridge, A. (2000). Religion in the Contemporary World. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Haynes, J. (1998). “Religion in Global Politics: Explaining Deprivatization”; A paper For the ‘Religion and Politics’ panel, PSA Conference, Keele University, (April)

Haynes, J. (2007) Religion and Development Conflict or Cooperation? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1975. On Religion Moscow: Progress Publishers, Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1968 [1848] , “Manifesto of the Communist Party” in Selected Works Moscow: Progress Publishers, 35-71

Nkrumah, K. (1964) Consciencism, Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation with Particular Reference to the African Revolution. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd

Petito F. & Hatzopoulos, P. (eds.) (2003) Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile, New York: Palgrave,

Philpott, D. (2002) The Challenge Of September 11 To Secularism In International Relations World Politics, Volume 55, (1), (October) pp. 66-95

Whitaker,  B. (2011) Bin Laden’s Body Buried At Sea, The Guardian Newspaper, 02/05/2011 Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/binladen-body-buried-sea