moral musings, Nigeria, Nigeria, dear native land!

Of Nations and a Continent

Africa!The s**thole statement accredited to Mr. Trump has received enormous attention, and rightly so. Till date, he has refuted using the alleged words.

This is not quite my concern here. My concern is more of this crazy, unfortunately popular, idea of lumping of nations in Africa and referring to them as a continent when in essence what is often meant is some disparate or few nations. It is almost as if the unbelievable ignorance which Neanderthals would surely have grown out from, were they to survive, continues to fester. Or maybe they did!

I mean it is simply ignorant of any individual worth a name, popular or not, to lump nations of a whole continent together when describing, especially in negative terms, the situation of a country or at best some few countries. This unlearned attitude has also being popularized by the media, the supposed fourth estate which is actually supposed to know better. You begin to wonder if this attitude is therefore a deliberate attempt, changing the discourse from mere ignorance to culpable ignorance and mischief.

In any case, it is never too often to repeat, even if for the umpteenth time, that Africa consists of 55 nations (with the recent inclusion of Morocco), independent countries with clear sovereignty. It is mere foolery to cover a whole continent  with an unjust blanket name when actually one is just referring to a few. Nobody would accuse Asia of being the hotbed of terrorism when intending to refer to a specific country, Afghanistan for instance! That would be stupid ignorance of the highest order, right? I thought as much.

Again, if it did not matter, perhaps President Trump himself would not have singled out Norway as a “desireable” country for immigration to the United States. He could easily have said “why don’t we have people from Europe come over here!” Rather he is alleged to have desired citizens of Norway. Specific name, specific country. Why is is to difficult to know such specificity runs across board?

Ignorance is a disease, a chronic one too. Let us not let it fester. When next anyone speaks of a country in Africa, be specific and talk of the particular nation. Unless you are talking of a phenomenon that is proven to include every single 55 nations of Africa, do not be caught in the ignorance of over-generalization.

It is evil enough to speak of people with such derisive language. It is unpardonably ignorant to speak of  a continent as if it were a nation. If we have gone to school, let us show we have and not display intellectual and moral darkness while describing an entire continent with dark, ignorant perjoratives.

moral musings

I call you friends…

It is not merely that we are called to love the poor. Jesus who calls us friends in the liturgy of today reaches out to us in our misery not in our worthiness. Thus he loves not the worthy but the loved. It is a love that is given, not earned. It is that same love that he calls us to. And it is a love that must essentially seek out the disadvantaged as our world often perceives/castigates the poor of any kind (either poverty of mind, of material things, of companionship, of kindness, of inability to share time etc). Poverty of any kind.

This special love for the poor makes one remember the words of Africae Munus, precisely that “in the spirit of the Beatitudes, preferential attention is to be given to the poor… (no. 27).

To do this is therefore not to do the extraordinary of love, it is to practice the very necessary element of love.

moral musings

Black on black


1. intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

The world appears to have gone berserk with all these waves of attacks globally. From the brutal beheading by ISIS to the barbaric killings and kidnapping by Boko Haram; to the ridiculous switch-over of roles by American Police (apparently turning from protectors of the people to hunters of  the people with a terrible racial prejudice); and now to the xenophobia playing out in South Africa.

Each of these categories of violence is totally condemn-able and unacceptable. But in a particular manner, the xenophobia stemming from South Africa is actually making one to begin to wonder if there is more to the visible black skin of the African man.

This is the same country that cried out under apartheid and oppression by the United States, and now that the tide has turned and the country is by and large under black governance, black men of other nations have suddenly become unwanted. That is in spite of the fact that the freedom of South Africa from apartheid was fought for by many African countries, some of whose nationals are now targeted like criminals.

There is the argument that the source of this hate is the poverty in which the locals of the country find themselves. In their poor conditions, they find nationals from other countries as competitors for very scarce jobs. The resolve is therefore to drive these people out of South Africa at all cost, even by murder. But if the country is not thriving and there is sprawling poverty across the land, how could the killing of fellow men of same racial affinity be the solution?

Unfortunately the institutions that are meant to foster harmony and a culture of peace in South Africa have been fingered as promoters of this xenophobia. The Telegraph of April 18 reports that the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, is alleged to have told a cheering audience on March 20 that foreigners were “lice” who should be “plucked out and left in the sun”.

South Africa has indeed made a terrible mistake in letting this xenophobia get out of control, just like in 2008 when some 62 people of other nationals were reportedly killed. This time around, the country has not only been unable to protect the security of those who find themselves within her walls, but has apparently left unchecked those who actively  promote a culture of hate like the said Zulu King,  who is from the same province as the President of South Africa.

The disconcerting feeling is that the black man, unable to solve his problem on his own continent, is turning with anger to the wrong person while leaving the sources of their sad situation uncontrolled. Those sources, principally located in corruption and gross incompetence of the leaders of the people, has now added yet another source: that of moral depravity of morbid hatred. In time, It might prove to be the biggest of all the sources of problems in South Africa. For a culture where life is not sacrosanct is a culture open to further grave ills to come.

At a time that many African countries are trying to get out of the throes of oppression, misrule and corruption, turning to each other and making targets of each other is the least solution that the African person should be tempted with. Neither should the scourge of religious hatred like the one reported among the immigrants on the ship to Italy be ever found among us. The irony of that episode is that apparently while the black person is running to Europe and beyond for succour, asylum and a better life, the same problem that caused him to leave the shore of his homeland is travelling with him. He seeks fair treatment in the hand of the white in his new-found-land and treats his brother with hate.

Or else how can you explain such indignity, hate and maltreatment of the black in the hand of the black?

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Nigeria, dear native land!

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A key country to regional stability in Africa and the entire globe: consider the festering nuisance of Boko Haram and its incipient twining with ISIS. A stable Nigeria is a stable Africa and, in the final analysis, a stable world. Ensuring a fair and credible election this approaching Saturday is a necessity to achieving the aforesaid.

dear native land!, moral musings

Cause of bad African leadership? Africans themselves.

This is an insightful one by Friedman. It resonates so much with what we have always reiterated as the cause of what has often been called the African condition. Namely, the African situation exists because Africans fail to hold their leaders accountable. Much  more than Friedman however, I would surmise the reason to be be more. We probably fail to hold our leaders accountable because they represent what a lot African followers would equally do if they too had the opportunity. In any case, whether because these leaders represent something sordid in us or not, the fact remains they thrive because we do not hold them accountable.

From the over-running of a big country like Nigeria by Islamic terrorists who continue to maim and kill, to a domination of the Zimbabwean people by a Mugabe who has ruled the country for 34 years and is now poised to make his wife take over the dynasty, our inability to hold the African leader accountable continues to produce an African condition of “sorrow, tears and blood.”

Will Nigerians continue to let this happen. 2015 will tell. Have a good reading.


AFRICAN “strong man” leaders are not the cause of Africa’s  problems — they are symptoms. And some African citizens may slowly be fixing the problem and its symptoms.

The end of the 27-year reign of Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaoré, Botswana’s election and the death of Zambian President Michael Sata have revived a common diagnosis of Africa’s problems — the complaint that it is afflicted by “bad leaders” who care about themselves and not their citizens.

Analysts have pointed out that Compaoré was one of several presidents who confused their countries with themselves. Botswana President Ian Khama and Sata were seen by their critics as evidence that African leaders behave in this way even if they are elected. In all of these cases, the critics have repeated the common wisdom among many African intellectuals that the continent’s problems stem from the flaws of its leaders.

SA is not exempt from this tendency to blame everything on leaders. President Jacob Zuma is routinely assumed to be the cause of just about every problem, which vastly exaggerates his power. Senzo Meyiwa’s murder has triggered a “Bring Back Bheki Cele” movement, which seems to assume that we can abolish violent crime simply by replacing one head of the police with another, even though Cele didn’t end murders when he was in charge.

Criticism of leaders is often valid. But it ignores an obvious question. Why has Africa produced leaders who try to stay forever and prefer exploiting their societies, to serving them?

Hopefully no one who blames leaders believes there is something inborn about Africans that makes rulers exploit their countries. But what then is the explanation? The water? The climate? And what is the cure? Finding “good leaders”? But where do we find them? And how do we make them leaders? The “bad leaders” explanation doesn’t explain the problem and so does not allow us to find solutions.

To discover what is really happening, we must ask what decides how leaders view their societies. The answer is that this has far less to do with their personalities than with whether they feel they will pay a price for not doing what citizens want. If leaders are to care more about society than themselves, they need to be held to account by citizens. And that means that citizens need to be strong and organised enough to ensure that government does what they want it to do.

If we recognise this, “bad leaders” in Africa are a symptom of a larger problem — that citizens have been unable for many years to hold public office holders to account. Most African societies moved from rule by unaccountable colonial governments to rule by unaccountable domestic governments.

So the problem is not some unexplained African personality trait but that colonialism usually left African societies with a small elite, which worked closely with the new government, and a citizenry without the means to make itself heard.

There are signs that this is changing. The change is slow and uneven, but it does seem that citizens are becoming better able to force governments to listen to them. Over the past couple of decades, citizens in more than a few African states have forced their governing elites to hold elections and to recognise their right to be heard. In some cases, the change has been fairly smooth, as in Ghana; in others, such as Kenya, it has been more difficult, while in Zimbabwe the fight continues. But it is easier for citizenries in many African states to make themselves heard than it was a decade or two ago.

Research shows a growth in citizen organisations in Africa. This is not a coincidence — because citizens are becoming better organised, societies are becoming more democratic as leaders are forced to serve for shorter periods and to take citizens seriously.

This does not mean that the fight for accountable leadership in Africa is over — it may have just begun. Some governing elites have become expert at using democratic rules to bolster their power. Citizens have proved powerful enough to get governments to submit to elections, but not to get them to listen and serve. The citizens who have been able to organise are the elite — business and professional people as well as activists in nongovernmental organisations — and most people are still not heard. The trend is far stronger in some countries than others: it is still not clear whether citizens in Burkina Faso are organised enough to prevent a new unaccountable elite replacing the old.

But, however limited progress may be, it does show that there is nothing inevitable or automatically African about leaders who overstay their welcome and prey on their societies. They are a product of circumstances that can be changed. We need to bear this in mind if we want to understand where the continent may be headed — and the solutions that might solve some of its problems.

 Steven Friedman is director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy.

moral musings

Beyond Assad’s ugly fame

Let us think this through and perhaps it can be seen in another light. It is said that the United States and the Western world generally are concerned that the Syrian government still has chemical weapons. The question which goes through my mind is “would any country not be tempted to have any sort of weapon to combat the sharp scourge of ISIS terrorists which threatens its corporate existence and the good of its people?” With the sort of ruthlessness which terrorist groups, particularly ISIS, has demonstrated lately, one can hardly blame such governments like the Syrian government without also looking at the fire that has been consuming it underneath all this while. That fire has now come into full glare and to say the least, one appreciates better the pathetic nature of these insurgents.

I do understand the benign, civilized culture of the West. It is a great culture which has enabled the emancipation and growth of peoples. And we need its framework in the world right now more than ever. Such a culture syncs well with the spirit of the Christian scriptures which affirms that in His days justice shall flourish, making reference to Jesus Christ. Or rather one should say with Benedict XVI that Christianity is the very foundation of that culture. I however do think it is the simplicity and open-trust of that same culture which terrorists like the ISIS terrorists are leveraging upon.

Great as the said Western culture is, all the scenes playing out in the Middle East and North Africa all come together to strongly point out that it is not a culture that could be copied verbatim and simply adopted everywhere imaginable. Not without some modification at least. It would appear the political clime which such a culture encourages can not be sustained in a number of regions of the world which do not have the same religious foundation which has given birth to such a pacific culture, the aforementioned Middle East and North Africa regions for instance.

These are regions which have peculiar situations and need to be managed in very peculiar ways. Democracy is beautiful, but democracy finely uprooted from the West and planted in the Middle East or anywhere for that matter without a re-cultivation in line with its new ambience is poised to cause trouble. It is this sort of trouble that has brewed to the full in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt to mention a few.

No one doubts that the leaders or erstwhile leaders of the aforementioned places had some issues that had to be corrected; they had some way of ruling that had to be refined; some dictatorship that had to be stopped. But from what we have seen, sudden and violent removal of such leaders have only led to even worse evils and greater perils for the people. Such sudden removal, apart from undermining the sovereignty of these countries, more often than not quickly shows the many problems that these so-called dictators/leaders have had to combat with to uphold the integrity and security of their different countries. In candid assessment, removal of these erring leaders without looking deeper into the situations in which they find themselves is a political gaffe which we have seen just too many times lately.

In the face of the awkward position which the United States now finds itself: precisely the difficult choice of either having to work with Assad or let ISIS continue its spree in Syria, I’ll choose the former. It is not only logical, it is equally in line with the Western desire to rid the world of such brutal terrorism which ISIS truly represents. It is only in partnership with legitimate governments that the community of nations can then move forward to encourage such legitimate governments to be more responsible and less inimical in its carrying out of its functions.

For all we know, ISIS and its allies will not as much as bat an eyelid to use any weapon, chemical or worse, to get rid of both its perceived enemies and any innocent people in its way. The West must now re-examine its policies at this political crossroad which it finds itself, even if it means aligning with non-traditional governments like Syria. Dialogue works; political estrangement only strengthens such groups like ISIS. We have seen it in current experiences in Iraq, Libya, and perhaps even in Egypt.