Monday, July 6, 2009

Dance Died

Dance Died

A tribute to Michael Joseph Jackson,


Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh

Have you ever seen grace and beauty embrace to make love to the eyes? Have you ever seen feline gracefulness shuffle its elegance onstage, to seduce our senses with the divine refulgence of beauty? Have you ever witnessed celestial agility mix with prompt and delicate responses to the sounds of the human heart to appease the eyes and seduce the soul? Have you ever seen a pair of human legs, gracefully conduct an orchestra of motions, to moon-walk an audience into a bewitching trance? Have you ever watched a man so artfully offer his body as a canvass of expression, where aesthetics blended seamlessly with measured, harmonious movements to convoke a festival of sensory surreality? Have you ever beheld something akin to a god of dance?

If your answers to the above questions are yes, then you have been among those privileged to see either in life or in film, Michael Joseph Jackson!

The sounds and music that this genius created defined an era that began long before I was born, and swallowed most of my young life. A consummate artistic and musical genius, he crowned himself the king of Pop, but in the estimation of anyone who has ever watched him perform on stage, this guy is the god of dance. In him all mathematical, geometrical and physical principles of dynamics and motion mix in a seamless expression of beauty dancing to sounds of music. I have never seen or known anyone who dances like him. Girls scream in his presence. Women faint in joyous ecstasy, whenever he takes the stage. Men cannot resist trying to imitate his genius.

This was the genius that was forever lost to the world on the 25th of June, 2009.

Like every great genius that has ever graced our world with their presence, and enriched us in the process, we never understood him. In most cases, to make our ignorance and insignificance before such giants bearable, we elect to misunderstand them. Our press and local gossip clubs feed us, what we clamour for; namely a desecration of the genius to make our mediocrities bearable. History attests to the crimes we have committed variously against genius. We committed a treasonable felony against philosophy by recommending hemlock for Socrates in ancient Athens. We killed the Christ; a radical and opinionated genius, who had a vision of a kingdom of peace and justice, and challenged the unjust, hypocritical structures of his day. We murdered Martin Luther King, Jr., who had a dream of Blacks and Whites dining together on the tables of brotherhood instead of sitting on the simmering fences of division perpetrated by consolidated ignorance and fear. We killed a Patrice Lumumba, who refused to swallow imperial bullshit, but chose to tell truth to power.

Was there ever a genius we did not attempt to kill or stampede into self-destruction and suicide? Is there a genius our world has not accused with the most terrible felonies resident in our sick hearts?

Our reaction to genius has been quite predictable. At their advent, we are dazzled by their meteoric refulgence. They continued to blaze our skies, even though we would wish them to fizzle out like meteors. The more time they spent on our horizon, the more they exposed our collective banalities. To restore some semblance of self-esteem to the fault-lines and mediocrities that the presence of genius makes us realise in ourselves, we try to domesticate them. Instead of listening to Longfellow and striving to make our own lives sublime like that of genius and on departing leave our footsteps in the sands of time, we give up and relapse in laziness. We then create cottage industries out of labelling geniuses with appellations in order to domesticate their boundless genius. We fail no doubt in these efforts as they continued to soar, refusing to succumb to our mercenary profanities.

That does not mean that they are not wounded by our assaults. But since they cannot help themselves from being who they are, they assumed in their bodies and souls all the contradictions of a bridge between humanity and divinity.

They became tortured souls!

Show me a genius, who is not a tortured soul? Aristotle of old after plumbing the depths of his own mind in a world still in the thraldom of ignorance gasped in ultimate frustration: “there is no great genius without a tincture of madness”!!!

The surprise was never that Michael Jackson died. The surprise is that he lived at all. He was a genius and to that end, a tortured soul like all of them. He wanted to live forever, but could never have lived the life we know.

Every genius bears the burden of being a hybrid between base humanity and celestial divinity. They operate at wavelengths that supersede that of ordinary mortals. Their vision is at home with the gods. They come rarely. Once they come, they blaze through their age, engendering revolutions in their chosen fields, and attaining immortality in the process, in a short span of time. Their humanity is sometimes a hindrance to the full expression of their genius. They attract always the opprobrium of the normal; and since they are above the normal, we label them abnormal.

Michael Jackson was a kid prodigy, who broke into the limelight with his five brothers, the Jackson 5. As the lights of others in the band was dimming, his was launching itself into stellar orbit, where he remained shining brilliantly like the Northern Star, with which every other musician and dancer after him navigated his path.

He was a gift of the gods. His music and dance plucked its inspiration from the trees of sublimity; and compelled the timbres of our souls to vibrate whenever we heard them. We labelled him “Wacko” because he could not fit into our conceptual prefabrications. We have never seen his like before. Today he acts in consonance with our rational expectations, and tomorrow, he is off every rational tangent we know. We sometimes had no patience for such gyrations that our minds could not domesticate. With that we continued to sear the soul of genius with a cognitive dissonance arising out of our cult-like devotion to him and marketplace-like denunciations of what we considered his eccentricities. All in all, he suffered at our hands.

Michael Jackson redefined dance. He revolutionarized this art, engendering a paradigm shift that will forever bear his impress. He can dance. He gyrate his hips and moves his whole frame in a way that relegates all others before him into the peripheries of insignificance.

Like every other genius, he most times defied the expectations of our narrow insularities in relation to social comportment. He remained eternally a child in a man’s body; a tortured soul, who chose to tarry on the lanes of childhood instead of maturing into the adult world of hate, violence and betrayal of innocence. Sometimes his naivety smacks of puerility, which attests to the fact that he spent his whole life fearing to grow up. If he had grown up, he would have compromised his genius, since I have never seen a genius who escaped childhood, and remained true to his vocation.

A proof of this was his supreme naïveté in relation to his finances, as well as his ultimate carelessness about so many things that people kill to lay their hands on. For us he was weird, but in his weirdness, he left his footprints on the sands of time, which polished his art and edified music. He died enroute doing the only thing that ever gave his life meaning. He inaugurated an era in entertainment, which will never be the same again at his regress.

No one could ever dance like Michael Joseph Jackson. We are lucky to have encountered such a genius on our pilgrimage here on earth. As he Michael Jackson is always “Startin Something”, we are sure that he would “thrill” the heavens, as his “Thriller” did us here!

As we mourn this genius, if anyone asks: why would Michael Jackson die at this time, “Tell Em That Is Human Nature”!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Operation “Throw My Shoe at Nigerian Looters”

Operation “Throw My Shoe at Nigerian Looters”

The Nigerian socio-political space is now a socio-pathological “Absurdistan”; an iniquitous amphitheatre, dedicated to the atrocious eroticization of political stupidity. This arena has degenerated into an essential arena where hopeless ignorance meets primeval greed. The leadership is not only intellectually challenged, irredeemably myopic and visionless, but convokes a conglomerate of petty egoisms, whose sole vocation in life remains the congenital consultation of primitive greed and the celebration of fraudulence in its most atavistic forms.

It has matriculated into a realm of infernal iniquity and political simony, where the ability to consult or advertise superlative impunity in celebrating the most atrocious of political brigandage, is the only admission fee. Such a congress naturally attracts the most destructive strains of visionless opportunism, sycophancy bordering on socio-historical imbecility, and the worst variants of Machiavellian perfidy. But its Nigerian impress confounds belief and floors the imagination. The internal syllogisms of such convocation, coupled with Nigeria’s peculiar history, and social evolutionary experience, conduced to our political space surrendering itself to the obscene banditry of monstrous hooligans and high-level charlatans.

From this temple of infamy, Nigerians are daily deluged with bacchanalian orgies of political debauchery, from the political and elite class, whose vocation in sane climes, is to drive the development of their people and confer dignity on the sources of social legitimacy, by their dignified actions, considered comportment, and utterances in public and in private. Such debaucheries stretching from the bland pedestrian to the sanctuaries of the hyper-ridiculous, has continued not only to affront our sensibilities, but to deny our land of development and its place in the apogee of human achievement. In the clutches of such purveyors of anomie, our land risks being embezzled unto extinction or surrendered to the bowels of history as one of the most tragic of comic disappointments in African political chronicles.

Everyday brings new scandals in its wake, which is in competition with its previous incarnations and latter epiphanies, to dwarf commonsense with their brazenness and ability to shock our multiply brutalized, and shell-shocked sensibilities. A visit to any online news portal or weblog dealing on Nigeria on any day; a mandatory pilgrimage to which many of us are daily condemned by the nebulous and mysterious medley of distance, bi or multilocational impossibility, technology and the love of our homeland; you be left in no doubt that the Nigerian public space is hostage to the intellectual filth and scandalous obscenities of haughty micro-emperors and midget conquistadores going by the name of politicians and public servants. Every such visit leaves a bland taste of hopelessness, and anger in one’s heart by what a cabal of scoundrels have made of Nigeria; conscripting our active collusion, postural apathy, or conspiratorial silence and inaction to their reign of knavery.

One such scandals that has unforgivably flogged my fragile sensibilities shitless for a week now, is the news report that a group of Nigerian governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) dressed themselves in infamy, marched up to the guardians of knowledge in an American university; Harvard to be precise; and begged and pleaded in obsequious servility unbecoming of their office, to be allowed to come and celebrate their ignorance in her hallowed halls. They allegedly signed an MOU, which they proudly published to thumb the face of Nigerians and indicate their disdain for the Nigerian educational system. Harvard issued a wooden denial. The Nigerian governors according to news reports went on the offensive, drumming it down our throats that there was an MOU to that effect. The truth of the matter is buried somewhere in between the two parties. But what is undeniable is that there were contacts between the parties in question, and intentions were expressed to have Nigerian governors come to Harvard for the said capacity building exercise. What Harvard is denying is that it does not indicate an official sanction of what is still in process.

What is seriously disturbing is that such a move could be made by Nigerian governors, without giving thoughts to the message their actions would be sending to the world in relation to our own local universities in Nigeria? It beggars belief that after all the accusations we lay at the feet of colonialism for both its guilt and our own self-tailor problems, our leaders are still conceptually colonized and so very mis-educated that everything that comes from the Whiteman’s land is the best for us. It pains my heart that these leaders would elect to mutilate a perfect right foot in other to look like a left foot because “Massa’s” foot is left.

Over and above that, one then begins to wonder how low a man could stoop to disgrace himself with a pomp and pageantry that attests to a diseased, consolidated, and irredeemable ignorance and self-loathing; let alone, governors of States, in the most populous Black nation on earth. How could Nigerians empower such constellations of individual ignorance and inferiority complex, to pretend to the majesty of our offices? What is it in our political genes that recommend our abiding such a tasteless insult to all that we cherish? Are we a people bereft of pride, as to be so very willing to lap up every inanity that comes from the West because it bears a name, made reputable by its owners in service to their objectives, which never included us in the first place?

The questions could not stop flowing in my shocked mind. Why go to Harvard to get educated on how not to steal state’s resources in obeisance to their avarice? Do we need Harvard to make a governor know that his primary responsibility lies in attending to the needs and welfare of his people? What can Harvard teach these men of ill-repute about patriotism and democratic practice? How could these guys pass a vote of no confidence on Nigerian universities, and turn around to wonder why our graduates are unemployable? Why tell the world that our universities cannot withstand global competition?

They would not wonder why more and more Nigerian graduates are becoming armed robbers or kidnappers because they armed most of these guys in the first place, to butcher anybody legitimately opposed to their gubernatorial ambitions. They would give no hoot to that since they marshal and conscript half the men and resources of the State Police into their obscenely ostentatious entourages, as well as that of their wives and mistresses; and convert the remainder into their “mai guards” (watch and gatemen). To this end, armed robbers can ravage ordinary citizens in their homes, which they have walled-in like some Super-maximum prison facilities with burglary proofs and high walls; waylay them on the notorious stretches of human abattoir or slaughter slab, pockmarked with pot and manholes, that we call roads; murder them in broad daylight on the streets on their way to work and play; storm houses of God and that of men; and even sack banks and market stalls, while the state, which we theoretically allowed the monopoly of violence to protect us looks on in grotesque paralysis; superlatively bereft of ideas.

If the Nigerian situation of today is not a testament to the consolidated ignorance manacling the leadership of the Nigerian state at all levels, I wonder what is. To this effect, one cannot be legitimately accused of defamation, if one asserts that the Nigerian leadership corridors, right from the lowest to the highest level, is in the thraldom of pervasive ignorance. We have battled hard to resist the temptation to say that Nigerian leaders at all levels, are simply self-aggrandizing nincompoops, but the action of the Nigerian Governors Forum signing an MOU with Harvard to train them on the content of their jobs, weakened and compromised our resistance.

Our anger knew no bounds in spite of the wooden apologetics of the paid hirelings and other mercenary voices oozing inanities in defence of such a profound affront to reason. The fact must be recognized for what it is. These governors who are nothing but absentee landlords came before the whole world to pass a vote of no confidence on Nigerian universities, by signing a Memorandum of Understanding for capacity building seminars for the Nigerian Governors with a foreign university. Are there no universities in Nigeria that can train these guys? This is to say that they know that the Nigerian educational system suffers compound dysfunctionality due to what they and their predecessors did to scuttle education in Nigeria. The same could be said of every other sector of our economy and national life. The kids of Nigerian governors and public officials do not study in Nigeria. How can they do that after their parents have succeeded in destroying every public utility and source of social legitimacy? They are soaking the best of western education on public funds. Our president buys his paracetamol at the HSK hospital Pharmacy in Wiesbaden, Germany. The legislators check their blood pressures in Paris, Washington, New York and some other Western capital. Why wouldn’t they? Their visionless squandermania, incompetence and primitive thievery have succeeded in forestalling the articulation of any healthy policy for our health system, and destroyed any policy that showed some potential of success.

Why wouldn’t they go to Harvard since the facilities in Nigerian universities today are the obsolete ones left by the founders some four odd decades ago? The same could be seen in our infrastructures. The paltry ones dotting our landscape were in the many parts of the country, the ones left by the colonial masters. This attests to the fact that the British colonialists were more benign than the local colonialists that have ruled Nigeria from independence till date. The Niger Delta is the ultimate desecration and monumental testament to the failure and criminality of our ruling class. Sitting atop huge resources, our leadership and elitist class have succeeded in bequeathing Nigeria with inexcusable poverty that invites a revolution in climes where people still lay claims to sanity.

These fools in their impious and corrosive tomfoolery think that they are fooling anyone save themselves. In their haste to seek a new avenue to launder stolen public funds, they couldn’t come up with a smarter excuse. Harvard is an American university primarily attending to American needs, and the need of American world dominance policy. Anybody who is really thinking about capacity building for Nigerian actors in the art of governance, should first of all have consulted local universities in Nigeria, who have the epistemic privilege as well as the gneologic and ontological priority as far as it concerns knowledge of Nigerian political space and the complex dynamics and range of factors that gave it birth, sustains and nourishes it. There is nothing like local knowledge in proffering functional answers to contextual problems obtainable in their locality; much more than any external body ever could. But our governors feigned ignorance of this in obeisance to their conceptual slavery, and marched off to Harvard to advertise same on a global pulpit.

What these governors, nay African leadership actually need is above all, conceptual decolonization. They are still bestriding Nigeria with the same mindset, which informed colonial policies of her majesty’s errand boys sent to Africa, on the exploitative mission of raping the continent for British pleasure. The same dysfunctional conceptual scheme and pathological metaphysic is what our politicians have drank to the dregs; and which unfortunately informs their celebration of anomie in the Nigerian public space.

I have never known of a Western politician coming to Nsukka to consult the world renowned political scientist Prof. Asobie on political matters or any matters at all. George Bush will never consult our brilliant Wole Soyinka or how to rule the USA. Hilary Clinton, the American Secretary of State will never come to Igbobi to repair her fractured elbow. The German chancellor Merkel would never come to do her shopping at Alaba international or Ochanja market in Onitsha. But ask any Nigerian or African politician where they buy their underwear? These guys are so hopeless that they order toothpicks from China and bottled water from the Philippines. They have even passed a vote of no confidence on made in Nigeria Ashawos!!!! Abacha was not the only one that had that disease. Many of our tainted “honourables” come abroad to sleep with European prostitutes, with public money. Yet, they come, plate in hand to beg for aid from western governments. I wonder how many Nigerians are working in Western embassy except as drivers, cooks or cleaners, but a German sits in the deepest halls of the Nigerian embassy in Berlin, giving consular appointments to Nigerians, who needs consular services from their embassy.

You only need to mingle one day in decision making circles here in Europe to see the level of disdain and mockery that African leaders are subjected to. Many Western governments are now aware that every African minister or Nigerian public official is a potential money launderer. And they are gradually doing away with diplomatic niceties at their airports. Dora Akunyili, Nigeria’s information (read propaganda) minister, was frisked early this month at Chicago airport in utter violation of diplomatic protocol. This is not even made better by the personal comportment of our officials when they are abroad.

In fact, their personal comportment on such occasions makes you so very ashamed to have come from the same climes as these people. The bloated and noisy ostentation of their entourage, the ignorance and grovelling nature of their exchanges with European technocrats are so convulsively ugly that you keep wondering, why Africa is so cursed. Just as an aside, I was a participant at the German Bundestag-The German parliament, in the caucus of the CDU/CSU faction of the German government, about a week ago, where German foreign aid policy on Africa was discussed. An African president came in with his retinue of hangers on. First and foremost, he was so very late for the occasion. Secondly, on this day, it seemed that he had to depopulate his country to fill in his entourage. It is no exaggeration. Almost half of the men in his country were a part of this of this entourage that was flown to Germany at public expense. And they are there to seek help from Germany. Contrast this with the Germany chancellor Angela Merkel, who was billed to speak at 2.45pm on that day. AT 2.43pm. She walked into the hall with only four body guards and no fanfare. Very prompt, punctual and simple. It was a festival of contradictions in relation to our African entourage.

Back to our point: Against such backdrops, one cannot cease to marvel and get angry at the imbecility of African leaders and particularly Nigerian governors, who allowed themselves to be tainted by that monumental goof. I wonder what Harvard and its professors know about the deepest dynamics of the local context of Nigeria, which Nigerian universities is not ontologically prior in its possession, by the epistemic privilege arising from their being products of that environment, as well as its living, breathing part.

In the face of all these, one is at a loss for answers on why haven’t Nigerians risen up to chase these usurpers of our commonweal off our land. Anyone who passes a vote of no confidence on his charge has lost every moral right to continue to enjoy the duties and privileges of that office. These governors are shameless scoundrels. Asking a Nigerian public official to resign an office that he has desecrated is like asking faecal matter to give up its vocation of smelling. They would not. How do we get them to leave the office they have so despoiled and tainted with dishonour, when we cannot even vote on Election Day?

Electoral democracy in Nigeria since independence has remained a personification of farce. Charade in Excelsis! The Nigerian people who are supposed to be the repository of ultimate power are denied their voices, and stampeded into timid acquiescence. Once their silence is squeezed out of them, the trans-tribal cabal of Machiavellian opportunists bestriding our land like robber barons, then sit down to unveil new master plans and manifestos of embezzlement. With these blueprints in operation, Nigeria continues to generate darkness instead of power and light for her people. She continues to haemorrhage her resources into rogue pockets. The Nigerian state then graduates into the colossal cannibal, whose great vampyrean appetites must be regularly assuaged by the blood of her intellectuals, the poverty of her people, and the dysfunctionality of her institutions.

This has been the case that so much so, today, at the dawns of the 21st century, Nigeria in spite of boasting a brilliant population and superabundant natural resources remains a valley of tears for ordinary Nigerians who are now over 75 percent of the population, but a feudalistic paradise of medieval dimensions for the politician and man of power or wealth. This paradise is naturally irrigated by canals of milk and rivers of honey requisitioned off the poor, and accessible only to this tiny cabal of remorseless monsters ruling Nigeria, and their acquaintances. The land has remained an essential arena were obnoxious rascality has married an audacious impunity that is brazen, dangerous and impoverishing.

This explains why the fact that some Nigerian State governors would abandon their states to perennial dysfunctionality, and came to the United States of America, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Harvard University, so that Harvard will train them in the art of governance fills me with fiery rage. And that such a bunch of political scoundrels, whose political simonies bought desecrated gubernatorial offices for them, could throw all cautions to the wind, and elect to televise their consolidated stupidity to the world, and were not met at the airport with sacks of stones, and the fiery rage of an oppressed people, is a testament to the totalizing and pervasive political emasculation of the Nigerian populace.

This emasculation created a very unsettling equation in the Nigerian social space. This equation sired by a eons of bottled anger, and primitive appreciation of justice fertilizing the failure of the State to live up to its responsibilities of monopolizing violence, and guaranteeing justice; paved the way for a conceptual scheme and ratiocinative framework in which Nigerians are more likely to lynch petty thieves and celebrate monumental bandits.

The promulgation of this toxic equation went on to erode every semblance of restraint in the commission of high crimes against the commonweal, by those who could advertise raw, undiluted violence in their hijack and latchment to power; a pedestal from which they could celebrate the rascality, with ample impunity, and expect no sanctions of the law. But on the other hand, it equally eroded every restraint in the vengeful anger of an oppressed populace, to exact maximum punishment on their fellow wretched of the earth, for petty crimes, which may have been recommended by the terminal necessity to forestall gastronomic emergency.

This is why Nigerians have now resorted to giving chieftaincy titles to people like Andy and Chris Ubah, whom Nigerians have come to know as monumental rogues, while petty thieves or pick pockets caught in the act are roasted over some slow barbecues, convoked with tyres hung burning around their necks.

My question to Nigerians remains: why do we burn petty thieves and celebrate our governors? Who is worse? A guy who pilfers a few pennies to buy bread for his starving kids, or a president who stole billions of dollars he doesn’t need, to hire a Concord to fly his daughter to a wedding? On whom should the stones of our anger descend? On an Amina Lawal whom patriarchal arrogance designated an adulteress, or on an Ahmed Sanni Yerima, who sanctioned a cow-thief losing his wrist, but ended up stealing billions of his state’s funds and sitting in our senate to laugh at our timidity? Who should we lynch? A thug, who to earn some bread for his stomach snatches a ballot box or the president and politician, who, pursuant to stealing our mandate commissioned and underwrote that heist? Who should the armed robbers visit? The poor hapless Nigerians, who are not sure where the next meal would come from, or the Representa-THIEVES, who embezzled funds mapped for job creation for these youths? Who should the Niger Delta Militants kidnap? The innocent kids of parents legitimately earning their keep in Port Harcourt; or our officials, and their collaborators, who have cooked a soup of ecological infamy, off the Niger Delta landscape and resources?

Why is it that the aphorism “Do not steal because the government hates competition” has remained the operative principle of our men of power in Nigeria? Is it because we have empowered that with our silence, or because this cabal deploys the army and police force on any peaceful protest to break the will of the Nigerian people and secure Nigeria as their ngwongwo pot; thereby further consolidating our emasculation?

If the latter options in all these questions are the case, Nigerians should do the right thing. They should start now to gather stones for the job at hand. They should get ready to tell these guys who the real masters are. George Bush got a shoe thrown at him in Iraq for what the Iraqis perceive as the devastation of their land. The Harvard insult is a clarion call for all Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora to rise up and be counted. It is a fatwa passed on all Nigerian governors and public officials. It is the duty of every patriotic Nigerian to get his shoe and “takalami” ready to be hurled at any Nigerian governor or public official that visits a western capital, or the part of the western world where he resides.

For the Nigerian governors and public officials: we are going to make the globe so very hot for any of you that comes to any western capital to launder our funds again. We will never give the goldfish a hiding place any more. You guys have squandered my generation. We are not going to let you squander that of our children. Get ready; shoes will be landing on your faces pretty soon. You can ask George Bush what the experience is like. In Bush’s case, he was granted the immunity of occupying the powerful office in the world. But in your insignificant cases, the Western press and government will smile under the table and let us do our thing of hurling shoes at your inglorious faces. Ask Mr. Obasanjo what his London experience was like. This is a warning, you guys better stay put in Nigeria and start finding solutions to the mess that you have made of our homeland.

With this article, I am inaugurating a mass movement “Operation Throw my shoe at a looter”. This is a movement of Nigerians who are angry at what the politicians have made of Nigeria. We would pledge and dedicate ourselves to meeting Nigerian public officials of whatever configuration, and known looters of our treasury, who come to Europe or America for any public or private engagement whatsoever, with our shoes.

We would be throwing the shoes at them, like was done to George Bush in Iraq. With this we would be sending the message to the whole world that the era of African leaders and politicians coming to Europe or America, or any western capital to launder our funds or fuck white prostitutes with public funds are over. We are to inaugurate an end to the era when your paracetamols are purchased in Europe, your toothpicks in China and your blood pressures checked in Paris, while ordinary Nigerians are dying of curable diseases, hunger and ignorance.

I urge every Nigerian of goodwill to join this action.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nigeria Betrayed Them

Our consideration was in receipt of news relating to the sentencing to life-imprisonment of 27 Nigerian soldiers, who participated in United Nations Peace-keeping Operations in Liberia. They were charged and convicted of mutiny and to that effect, were sentenced to life-imprisonment by a military tribunal constituted to that end.

We must confess that all the information consulted by the tribunal in reaching its judgment is not available to us. To that end, we are not in a position to critically appraise this judgment from a legal perspective. It is our understanding that some other more competent hands and heads have had a field day in this regard. Besides, we equally understand that the defense is considering an appeal of the judgment, and we would never want to prejudice a process that is ongoing.

Be that as it may, we wish to offer some ethical perspective to this whole saga. First of all, let’s deal with the preliminaries!

We understand that mutiny is a serious charge, when preferred against a soldier, who is trained to obey orders at all times. But time and time again, history has shown us that the obligation to obey orders cannot trump the tugging of one’s conscience. The obligations to obedience are never excuses to underwrite injustices or human rights violations. Such arguments like “I was bound to obey orders” or “I just did my duty”, never sufficed as grounds enough to excuse the criminal complicity of Nazi War Criminals during the Nuremberg trials. It neither justified their active complicity in convoking that “Banality of evil”, nor did it suffice to excuse the inaction that made such an abomination possible.

We are equally of the opinion that such excuses in whatever modern shape or form it assumes, would never suffice in any other occasion or context, where injustice runs the risk of having a walk-over.

To this end, we wish to submit that every human being reserves the right to disobey illegitimate orders, or orders that stands contrary to the dictates of his conscience. A soldier is trained to obey orders, but to refuse to obey orders which violate the dictates of natural justice; equity and good conscience could never be a crime in any legal tradition. To create a criminal out of a soldier, who dared protest the injustice meted out on him is to my mind a very cheap benediction that collective or bureaucratic stupidity pays to injustice.

The facts speak for themselves in condemnation of this injustice. 27 Nigerians soldiers were a part of the United Nations Peace-keeping force in Liberia. They served their charges, and fatherland creditably and gallantly, as no cases of misdemeanor or crime was hitherto preferred against any of them. No disciplinary action was recommended against any of them prior to their arraignment for mutiny.

They served well fulfilling their own part of the contract. To that end, they are entitled to the fulfilment of the other party to the contract. Unfortunately, the other party defaulted. Their salaries and entitlements were withheld from them after their service. They were not paid. They received no money although they served their part in full.

They may or may not have exhausted other avenues of getting their entitlements paid them, but there are examples in recent memory, of retired Nigerian soldiers, whose entitlements were embezzled; and who were forced to sleep on the streets of the Nigerian capital.

They decided to protest this injustice. Their protest would be deemed a peaceful one. They carried no arms to do that. There was no report of an arson or destruction of properties recorded against them and their protest. They were arrested by the military authorities for daring to protest; and arraigned before a tribunal.

They were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment for protesting!!!

According to some authorities, soldiers in uniform are not supposed to protest. That may hold true if that entertains the risk of destroying military discipline, which is a condition-sine-qua-non, in the world of the military, where obedience to a simple order may be the difference between a battle won, and a war lost. This is the ideal upon which protest from soldiers was banned or view with serious consternation in military quarters. One can understand that under normal circumstances. But the funny thing remains that no Nigerian circumstance is a normal one. Injustice is so rife and has penetrated the system so very much that only extraordinary measures can awaken our authorities from their visionless slumber. Nigeria is a state where the abnormal has metamorphosed into the normal. The Nigerian Police is on record as going on strike to protest poor conditions of service and the non-payment of their salaries and arrears. The government has on many occasions released and failed to release the money appropriated in the budget to these parastatals. But the rank and file has been on record as being owed their salaries in many years’ arrears. Tafa Balogun for instance; a Police chief was on record as stealing over 103 Million dollars Police fund, while his men were living in chill penury. This extravagant thief instituted an Operation “Fire for fire”, where petty thieves were massacred on sight, instead of being brought to justice; while his dishonourable self; who is a high thief, got on 6 months suspended sentence. What a mockery of justice?

These 27 soldiers live in a society that abided these kinds of chill injustice! They wanted their just reward for the service they performed. All they got in exchange is being sentenced to life-imprisonment by an establishment bent on laundering a non-existing image, and the deafening silence of their fellow country men and women.

The treatment of these soldiers smacks of high handed wickedness. The question the tribunal failed to answer is: Where is the salaries of these gallant men and women? Who sat on these monies? Has it grown wings and flown like all other instances in Nigeria which are too numerous to mention? Many pensioners have died on queues waiting to claim non-existing pensions. Many of them worked all their lives and contributed their hard earned cash to these funds. The funds were embezzled and these people who contributed their sweat, blood and youth to serve their country, were taken for a ride and treated with absolute disdain.

Yet, nobody has ever answered the question that justice has continued to pose: what happened to their money? Are they not in justice entitled to an answer in order to make their memories rest in peace? Is their posterity not entitled to access what their father’s worked for? What precedents are we setting in Nigeria? Is Nigeria a Black-hole of justice? What about common decency? Where are we heading to as a nation? What has happened to natural justice? What has happened to “A worker deserves his wage”? Every principle that comes to Nigeria is raped and plundered of meaning, before being deployed as a corrupt vestige of irresponsible power. These Soldiers placed their lives on the line to serve. They did not betray their country, rather their country betrayed them.

Nigeria betrayed them!

The military authorities that sentenced them to life-imprisonment are trying to cover up the fact that for years, thousands of Nigerian soldiers have perished on the job, with the compensation due them and their families growing wings and flying, without the families getting a kobo. The wives, families and kids of many dead soldiers, who we proclaimed heroes on the days we buried them, are today living in absolute poverty due to the fact that they got only promises from the military authorities that should in justice accord them the monetary compensation due them. What happened to their money? No one can tell!!! This is because a cabal of senior officers and their corrupt vestiges sat upon these funds and embezzled the entitlements due our heroic dead; and all we do as Nigerians is simply to keep quiet because it does not concern us.

What actually concerns Nigerians, one may ask? The plunder of our nation by leeches does not concern us. The rape of our common posterity by the elitist bandits of today does not concern us. The visionless wickedness of our government officials and public servants does not concern us. The destruction of our educational system does not concern us. The dysfunctionality of our infrastructures does not concern us.

What actually concerns us?

It seems that Nigerians of today in timidity have sold their futures, with their silence and inaction, to a gang of buccaneers, who are hell bent in ransacking every sanctuary of decency and meaning in genuflection to their yawning greed. The plight of these 27 soldiers is an advertisement of the worst form of official callousness. Those who sat in judgement over these soldiers only showed the world how leprous their consciences are. Either way, they deserve nothing more than to have history efface their memories forever. If they were tools in the hands of a cabal trying to bury their cosmic crimes, then history will rightly visit them with derision. If they were simply following their consciences, then those consciences are seriously malformed and remain a danger to our body politic. If they are obeying the orders of a higher authority to deal with these men in order to forestall future occurrence, then justice really needs a radical redefinition in the Nigerian context.

That Nigerians save for a few voices virtually kept mum at such a military outrage bespeaks of a populace sleeping on duty. The vigilance quotient of the average Nigerian happens to be 0.5 on a scale of 100. He is too engrossed in chasing after his basic Maslownian needs to understand that these needs will never be guaranteed if the higher questions bordering on social and political justice in his country are not answered. He would never be sure of his daily bread if the government remains construed as a huge distribution agency designed to distribute unearned privileges to the rich, the powerful and their cohorts, which constitutes less than one percent of every normal population. He and his children will always be raped, plundered, lied to, abused and killed by its government, if he fails to rein in the government and through mass action establish the boundaries for government and ensure compliance with it. If the people fail to govern their governments, their government will degenerate into a tyranny that will endanger the civil rights of the people and jettison its responsibilities to its citizens in obeisance to the selfish and mercenary considerations of those in power.

This is why Nigerians should seek every opportunity to protest the inanities of their government. They should never plead their fears as reasons not to engage their governments and its agencies; or hold them accountable for their actions. It is either liberty or death proclaimed Patrick Henry as an attitude that one should adopt for his country. It is either, we live as free men or we live a life, where our government is a huge slave master, and we the slaves to the capricious whims of a few corrupt men, in whose interest it is that we remain slaves.

Nigerians need an explanation from the Nigerian Army, the Defence Headquarters and the Presidency, on why these soldiers did not receive their salaries in the first place, which opened the way for their protest. We need explanations on why they should spend a day in jail, while those who starved them of their legitimate rights got off with slaps on the wrist.

If due to arrogance of power or position those responsible deem it below their dignity to explain to Nigerians the reasons for their actions, they should be aware that a Pharaoh who never knew Joseph once arose in biblical Egypt. And the rest they say is history. A woman who manhandled her aged mother in front of her kids is invariably and inadvertently teaching the kids how to manhandle her in her old age. The next generation is watching.

These 27 genuine Nigerian heroes should be released, with their positions restored; full apologies rendered them, and compensation paid them for the insults that a country they served so well meted out on them.

This is what natural justice recommends.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Zimbabwe is being murdered: Critiquing the Journalist

Mr. Bob Herbert writing in the New York Times of 16th January 2009, submitted an opinion article titled “Zimbabwe is Dying” . That article was a brilliant enterprise. It was very brilliant in the way it repackaged the unexamined narrative presently making waves in the metropolitan conceptual schemes, as the truth of the Zimbabwean situation. It was superlative in the way it suppressed the fundamental problem with Zimbabwe in other to highlight the demonization of Mugabe, which was the objective of his article. In the process he showed some corrugated partisanship and a surprising disregard for balance. He did not lay aside the arrogant and proud stubbornness of ignorance that litters many submissions on Zimbabwe. His is nothing but an attempt at manufacturing consent and opinion. His enterprise here consolidates the position of those who view journalists as those who write with the certainty and conviction, which profound ignorance breeds.

Most mercenaries in this mould allow their laziness to unmoor them from reason as they take up the refrain of their paymasters. This drives them to the shipwreck of peddling agreeable rumours as facts. Most of them anchored their submissions on second-rate conjectures, which reason cannot substantiate or facts corroborate. Most of the opinions they advance on these issues were primarily the logical fall-outs of their worldview, which stand most times impervious to reason and facts. This is what they hawk around unchallenged, as facts. The congenital instabilities of these conjectures conspire to reveal them as wandering minstrels of cant, easily carried away by the official narrative. They avail this narrative the vehicle of their prose to market this mainstream propaganda to gullible audiences.

But it remains rather a splendid blasphemy whenever a journalist, whose august vocation and dignities recommend truth, take liberties with the truth under the pretext of a necessity, which is neither necessary nor justifiable. It blows the heart and scandalizes reason, whenever one allows his craft to degenerate into a knee-jerk marketing of cheap stereotypes. It smacks of scurrility. But I don’t blame these guys. I blame ignorance. I blame intellectual laziness as well as willingness to pose a nelson’s eye to facts. Such an attitude comes from the paternalistic conceptual scheme, which many Western journalists and experts on Africa suckled on, and consult blindly whenever Africa comes to their surgical theatres.

For decades, Africa and African issues have been pontificated upon by Western experts, who amply armed with an insular view or what I may call the Joseph Conrad’s vision of Africa, sit in comfy offices in DC or some cosy hotels in Johannesburg to condemn a continent to the hells created by their impious ignorance of the continent. African voices and other voice dissenting or protesting this arrant hawking of stereotypes are neglected; shouted down with a deluge of manufactured facts and figures; treated with formalized disdain and relegated to the peripheries of irrelevance.

On another occasion that called for our intervention, we laid out a trend, which the so-called Western experts and their surrogates subscribe to while addressing issues concerning Africa and the global south as a whole. We contended that whenever they make pronouncements on African issues; scarcely are views from the peripheries entertained or allowed admittance. Though, “local peasant uncontaminated by scientific orthodoxy knew better”, the experts always claim to know how the patient is supposed to be feeling, with the kind of certainty which only profound ignorance breeds. Mainstream thought and expert opinion essay assiduously to eclipse and becloud the realities. Never are the voices of the victims of history, who are sitting on the sidelines of major historical processes; those who are on the frontiers and frontlines of the circumstance, even those that affect them, their destiny and their posterity considered. Even in those areas where their local knowledge supersedes and makes the loftiest armchair theorizing, look carelessly pedestrian; they are never given the attention their competence holds out in crafting solutions to their predicament. To this end, the experts keep on advertising the sublime ignorance, born of the alchemic crosspollination of arrogance and paternalism, which neither ameliorates the situation nor provide credible solutions, but succeeds abundantly in creating, fostering, and reinforcing negative stereotypes about those on the periphery as fundamentally helpless.

Today most of the major voices dominating the Zimbabwean debate are as usual mainline ultra-specialist champions, peddling and propagating their insular wares, with inspired mediocrity. This debate has lacked every element of objectivity since Mugabe sacked White farmers from the land their ancestors seized from the black natives, murdering them in the process. The major contributors to this debate have been hawking the metropolitan viewpoint manufactured in White hall and peddled by BBC as its most vocal mouthpiece. The Mugabe debate is increasingly showing Western media as the propaganda ministries of their various governments.

I have always known that Noam Chomsky is eternally right.

For instance, when the West wanted a final solution to the Sadaam Hussein problem in Iraq, the media was co-opted into hawking the manufactured intelligence, which were all doctored to drown every other voice of reason, attesting to the innocence of an accused bad guy. The western contributors to this debate and craze to sack Mugabe all come from the narrow pedestals availed them by their stereotypes. The narrowness of conceptual haughtiness comes in handy to endow them with the necessary blindness, which seduces theory with gusto. This empowers them to becloud and magnificently misinterpret the issues at stake in the deepest possible way, while empirical evidence writes itself into prominence daily in the lives of the people at the receiving end of the policies, which their verbal darts strenuously evade.

It is edifying to note that for Bob Herbert’s cause, righteousness stands aloof. He had forsaken the ethics of public discourse. One reserves the right to his opinion, but that opinion must not be a surgical suppression of truth, in service to one’s prefabricated conclusions. His opening lines identified Zimbabwe as hell on earth. I have had cause to use the same description when I was randomly interrogating the Nigeria situation. Here, I believe we share some love of picturesque metaphors. Our ways diverged when the issue comes to depth. His was a monosyllabic sculpting of Mugabe as the trouble with Zimbabwe. That is a lazy oversimplification!!!

Mugabe is a deranged tyrant that deserves every pellet of wrath that our anger and disappointment can command. He is a political debauchee and a dinosaur that should have been retired into a political museum long ago. He neither attracts my envy nor respects. But in allegiance to the truth, there are things that should never be concealed from the charity of reasonable mankind. The lessons and parallels of history should never be allowed to suffer effacement at the hands of revisionists on a mission. Never before, since after Biafra, until this present crucifixion of Zimbabwe, have the perfidies of a rogue empire, the false grandeurs of a presumptuous press, the ingenuities of profound propaganda, the subtleties of an exploitative power, and the rash impunity of consolidated greed been so combined to brutalise and bludgeon a nation into submission to the will of neo-colonial birds of prey.

Mugabe is not the trouble with Zimbabwe. He is a part of the problem, but not all of it. Sidestepping the fact, by converting a part to the whole is a classical symptom of propaganda. And this is the kind of propaganda one should never allow to stand. Such articles written from the snug comforts of an office in New York or elsewhere are capable of doing prodigious mischief. Zimbabwe is dying. And the reason why the country is dying being Mugabe only is such a nauseous oversimplification as to warrant any serious consideration.

Mugabe like all other Dinosaurs in African tribunes of power is in reception of our greatest reprehension. We reprehend all rogues in African power corridors and the international consortia of collaborators that help them in the plunder of the continent. But our disagreement with submissions, such as Herbert’s, lies in the fact that these tyrants were primarily inventions or creature of the imperial enterprise. They were used by the imperial powers, even against the interests of their own people, until they outlived their usefulness, or became expendable embarrassments to their handlers in London or Washington, then the machinery was set in motion to eliminate them with unemotional economy, like the Orwellian Napoleon shipped off boxer, the workhorse to the abattoir, after he succumbed to infirmity, working his life off for this clever rogue.

The question is: Why do these guys want Mugabe out at all costs? Why now? Where were they when Mugabe converted Zimbabwe into his private real estate? They gave him a knighthood. But once he took over white farms, he became dangerous. All the time that blacks were in reception of his tyrannies, the world looked the other way. But once it came to the issue of white farm land which British perfidy worsened, Mugabe became the bad guy, and sanctions which were meant to punish him was tightened on the economy wasting further the potentials of this country. What did these guys do to other African examples, when Africans themselves screamed at their vice-like stranglehold on power? The West armed them to suppress their own people. What did Western journalists do to Mobutu? Many of them contributed opinions to the narrative that canonized him as the pedestal of stability in central Africa, and sang his praises to high heavens, even when it was crystal clear that he was raping and plundering his country for good measure.

Bob Herbert in this article did an excellent job of unlocking the reservoirs of contemporary prejudices resident in the Western conception of Africa. His hatred for Mugabe pushes him into a historical amnesia, which he ameliorated with sidestepping facts to suit his conclusions. This guy is not reporting from Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a country blockaded on all sides. How can a country so blockaded survive? Democracy peddled by the west is now the smokescreen to deal with governments who refused to succumb to neo-colonial intimidations or those that refuse to take orders from Whitehall or the Whitehouse.

As the article unfolded, Bob Herbert showed himself as possessed of competences that dwarf the laughable pretensions of Goebbels. And The New York Times lent its podium to such a spectacle giving this mockery of our sensibilities a wide audience. Propaganda has now a new advocate. He set out to make a case for the decapitation of Mugabe. He fulfilled his ministry with an audacious competence that has been the hallmark of mercenaries. Suggesting that such a pen is purchasable is a very lame conclusion. We wouldn’t succumb to that. His disposition simply shows an inadvertent victim, caught in the web of a pseudo-imperial narrative that sees the whole world as raw materials for its wellbeing. Zimbabwe is now the favourite material for that narrative. To that end, they are busy churning out apocalyptic Jeremiads seasoned with large doses of mainstream propaganda, to justify a decapitation, which should be visited on Mugabe, like the one visited upon Sadaam Hussein, even when it was apparent that the bad guy was being sacrificed to give Halliburton and other members of the American military-industrial complex, a canvass to try out the doctrine articulated by Naomi Klein as the Shock Doctrine.

The West should lift their sanctions on Zimbabwe. Mugabe is not Zimbabwe. He does not feel the effect of the sanctions. It is the people who bear the greatest brunt of it. Western sanctions have never worked anywhere to overthrow a tyrant. Ask the Cubans. Ask the Iraqis. It rather toughens them and creates cheap propaganda fodder for the tyrant. The sanction on the people of Zimbabwe is criminal. The only thing needed to disguise and justify this crime against the Zimbabwean people is the invocation of Mugabe’s name. These apologists forget that Mugabe was propped up for donkey years in power by British perfidy.

Mugabe is a dangerous fool. The Zimbabwean people should find local solutions to the Mugabe problem. But Zimbabwe does not need Western intervention to sort out her political problems for her. Britain is too tainted in this regard to be a voice of reason. She has a vested interest. Besides, the West will always miss in action whenever their actions are needed. They disappeared in Rwanda as the Hutus massacred the Tutsi, although many Western governments had advance knowledge that the Hutu militias were stockpiling Chinese machetes to that effect. Darfur is still bleeding and Western governments are posing a nelson’s eye to that. These areas require attention as well. That the British government hates Mugabe and have been working assiduously to install their lackey in his stead is so apparent that they now seem to be conscripting the services of the New York Times to this inglorious enterprise.

The journalist should never be a servant of propaganda. I hope the relevant parties are listening.