Beyond his oratorical prowess, uncle Jimi Agbaje appears to be appealing more to our emotions, and forgetting that some people are pretty discerning and could decipher and differentiate between “issue-based campaign and that of recriminations.
He probably would have done himself a lot of good if he could raise the bar by dwelling more on life-transforming policies and take a break from politics of recriminations and divisive tendencies that will only make him appear to some minds as lacking what it takes to bring in fresh ideas that could rapidly turn things around in Lagos State.
Only emotions could do it in some other States but not in a highly sophisticated State like Lagos State, where captains of industries are driven by government policies and even the artisans who form the largest chunk of the voting population have come to a conclusion that the alleged Political god-father is more of a benefactor to them than a predator!
To me, the alleged god-father might be worthy of emulation, however not in all ramifications, his political brilliancy and dexterity, his vision to identify potential leaders is quite enviable and commendable, and that stands him out amongst several of his likes in Nigeria today, whose god-fatherism posture in their State is overly parasitic and without vision and the inner sight to propel and position their respective States for meaningful development.
The social media giant should disclose any information it has relating to crimes against the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Last month, Facebook moved to block a bid by The Gambia in a US court, in which it sought disclosure of posts and communications by members of Myanmar’s military and police. This legal step is related to a case brought by The Gambia before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in which it has accused Myanmar of genocide against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
The social media giant urged the US District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the “extraordinarily broad” request, saying it would violate a US law that bars electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.
In a consequent public statement, Facebook confirmed that it would not comply with The Gambia’s demand, but claimed to be cooperating with the United Nations Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) – an investigative body established to collect and analyse evidence of serious international crimes committed in Myanmar.
A few days later, however, this was refuted by the IIMM head Nicholas Koumjian. Koumjian explained that while Facebook has indeed been in talks with the IIMM for a year, it had failed to share “highly relevant” material that could be “probative of serious international crimes” with the investigators. Again, a few days after this, there were reports – confirmed by the IIMM – that Facebook has shared the first data set that only “partially complies” with requests from the IIMM.
Facebook has stated that it supports “action against international crimes” by working with the appropriate authorities. However, this series of actions on the part of Facebook may lead to the opposite conclusion, and rather than supporting The Gambia’s legal efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, is obstructing a case relating to genocide.
In August 2017, the Myanmar military launched a so-called “clearance operation” in Rakhine State, home to Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. Over several weeks, soldiers committed atrocities in the region, killing thousands, committing mass rapes, burning villages to the ground, and driving more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Since then, it has been established that Facebook was used as a medium for the dissemination of hate speech as a precursor to these atrocities. In September 2018, in a report on the situation in Myanmar, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar highlighted the role Facebook played in creating an enabling environment in the country for the commission of atrocities.
Around the time of the release of the report, Facebook suspended several Myanmar military accounts, including that of the head of the army, and subsequently commissioned a human rights impact assessment into its Myanmar operations. The latter was quite tepid, and the former, a case of too little, too late.
In November 2019, The Gambia filed an application at the ICJ, claiming that a conflict exists between it and Myanmar regarding the interpretation and application of the Genocide Convention, based on how Myanmar was treating the Rohingya population, which The Gambia claimed rose to the level of genocidal acts.
This was a legally unprecedented move – the first instance where a case was filed by a state not directly affected by the international crimes alleged. Nevertheless, The Gambia obtained an initial positive ruling this January from the court – a ruling relating to protective measures, which includes directions to Myanmar to cease and desist from certain actions that would violate the Genocide Convention, and to provide the court with regular updates on its compliance with the order.
However, The Gambia needs to take many more steps and overcome several hurdles to bring the case to a successful conclusion. One of these steps is to obtain more evidence that demonstrates the Myanmar military’s “genocidal intent” against the Rohingya. One likely repository of such evidence is Facebook.
Knowing that there is a trove of information accessible only to Facebook, which may shed light on various aspects of the international crimes alleged, in June 2020, The Gambia initiated legal proceedings in the US, to compel the company to hand over information that would be of assistance for the case before the international court.
The request, made in accordance with a US federal statute, was opposed by Facebook because it violates a US law that “protects billions of global internet users from violations of their right to privacy and freedom of expression”.
However, the provisions of the law invoked – Stored Communications Act, 18 USC 2702(a) – do not seem to be a complete bar to sharing the information. As argued by The Gambia in response to the opposition by Facebook in court, the act aims to protect the privacy of private individuals in the US and not the unlawful acts of state actors such as the Myanmar government. Moreover, it would not apply to information already removed from the system – which is much of what is being requested – given the prior removal for violating Facebook’s own terms and conditions.
The optics of not supporting the disclosure of evidence that may assist in establishing the crime of genocide are truly terrible. As bad, is the obfuscation that seems to accompany this position. Facebook, a company that has built its entire business model on monetising user data, is likely aware of this.
August marked the third anniversary of the mass exodus and atrocities committed against the Rohingya – a time for reflection – and a time to act in support of the survivors, in their quest for accountability and justice. Facebook must walk the talk now.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect NRM’s editorial stance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Priya Pillai is an international lawyer, and head of the Asia Justice Coalition secretariat.
The government’s discombobulated stance on normalisation with Israel could be costly for Sudan.
On August 18, just a few days after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel declared their intention to normalise ties, Sudan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Haidar Badawi, announced that his government too is “looking forward to concluding a peace agreement with Israel.” The move by Khartoum was seen by many as a major win for the UAE, which is known to be supporting Israel’s normalisation of ties. However, the Gulf state was not necessarily the intended audience for this unexpected announcement.
It is well-understood that the number-one foreign policy objective of the transitional government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is to convince the United States to rescind Sudan’s State Sponsor of Terror (SST) designation, which presents a significant obstacle to the country in accessing foreign aid and dealing with its enormous national debt. Regionally, this means supporting the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel – the Trump administration’s key allies.
It could well be that the limited push-back the UAE received from the international community for normalising its ties with Israel, and Washington’s vocal support for the move, motivated Sudan to follow suit. However, Sudan does not have a reasonably stable political leadership or a resilient economy like the UAE, and this gamble to secure support from the US and its regional allies could, very easily, not pay off.
Worryingly, it increasingly appears that the August 18 announcement on Sudan’s intention to normalise ties with Israel was not even part of a cohesive governmental strategy, but a unilateral move by senior military figures in the chimeric transitional government.
Just a day after the announcement, Sudanese acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din “dismissed Haidar Badawi from his position as spokesman and head of the media division” at the ministry for making “unauthorised” comments – a clear indication of divisions within the transitional government over relations with Israel.
And this was not even the first time that Sudan’s part-civilian, part-military transitional government struggled to hold a united front on Israel.
In February, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s sovereign council, a joint civilian-military transitional body that has been governing the country since August 2019, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda. The meeting was denounced by Prime Minister Hamdok as something that happened without his knowledge and, if he were in a position to give it, his consent. In reality, it is unlikely that he did not know of it, even if he was not in favour of it.
If the civilian government’s denials on normalisation were aiming to gauge the public mood while a foreign policy position on Sudanese-Israeli relations is developed, then February’s confusion should have sufficed. This latest episode signals deeper fractions within the transitional government, which imperil Sudan’s transition.
Hamdok says his government “has no mandate” to normalise ties with Israel, and a decision can only be made after the end of the transitional period. Nevertheless, the ostensible end-goal of normalisation, rescission of the SST designation, still appears to be the leading foreign policy objective of his government. The current confusion has done little to instil public confidence that the transitional government can act as one, or indeed deliver SST rescission.
With ongoing protests calling for the transitional government to be reformed and, crucially, less power to be afforded to the military, this misstep on clarity about the relationship with Israel is one the civilian wing of the transitional government led by Hamdok could ill-afford.
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance, the civilian coalition backing the transitional government and the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which led last year’s revolution, have both been vocal about their objection to normalisation with Israel. Badawi’s assertion that the Sudanese government, military and civilian, is gearing up to normalise relations with Israel, did not help Hamdok’s hand with these groups. Meanwhile, by denying that any formal attempts towards normalisation are being made, the civilian government also caused many in Sudan who view improving relations with US allies in the region as a path towards SST rescission to lose trust in its ability to do what is necessary to address Sudan’s acute economic woes.
Now Hamdok’s government is either being framed as a mendacious cabal that is trying to obfuscate the details of a deal that is in the making or an incompetent and powerless body that lacks a well-defined foreign policy.
The military components of the government, meanwhile, not only appear to have a well-developed foreign policy strategy, but are also flaunting their ability to ignore the rules. Just a few days after Badawi’s announcement, and swift dismissal, for example, the deputy head of Sudan’s sovereign council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, met with Mossad head Yossi Cohen in the UAE to discuss security arrangements. According to media reports, during the meeting Dagalo told the Israeli official that “the Sudanese condition for reaching a normalisation agreement is that Israel starts working to remove Sudan’s name from the US list of the states that sponsor terror.”
The military, it seems, is neither concerned about “mandates” nor feeling under pressure to align its foreign policy with that of the civilian government. As the two key regional allies of the Sudanese military, Egypt and the UAE, have already normalised their ties with Israel, the military leaders likely believe the benefits of normalisation would outweigh the risks. Nevertheless, moving closer to Israel can also cause significant drawbacks for the military, which was once the cornerstone of Sudan’s anti-Israel stance. The military’s recent about-turn on the issue could cause its leaders to be perceived domestically as pawns of their powerful foreign backers, impeding any notion of sovereign policy-making.
The problems that the transitional government’s bifurcated stance towards normalisation with Israel can cause for the country became ever more obvious during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Khartoum. Though billed as an unprecedented show of US support for the transitional government, its timing and key focus on Israel frustrated many who had hoped that it would deliver some concrete pledge from the US before the November elections. That the prospect of rescission was floated with a presumptive price tag to the tune of $330m, for a country currently in economic freefall, did not surprise many who are familiar with Trump’s mercenary brand of foreign policy.
Hamdok’s insistence that normalisation would not occur until further administrative and bureaucratic elements were in place for the transition showed new political courage not often seen before and proved that the prime minister had the mettle to stand up to the Trump administration and the UAE. This was a rare domestic coup for Hamdok, though it remains a perilous gamble.
Sudan’s discombobulated stance on normalisation sets up a hazard for both parts of the government, civilian and military. But the risks are higher for Hamdok’s government, which still insists that it is not seeking normalisation.
If normalisation happens de facto and without the prime minister’s input, it will most likely be a security arrangement. In such a scenario, SST rescission and economic gains may not follow normalisation and could give Islamists fodder to stoke anti-government sentiment. All this could delegitimise Hamdok’s government but leave the military unscathed and in the good books of its regional backers.
Sudan’s fledgeling civilian government is nowhere near stable enough to be able to weather the political turmoil that could arise from a confused and seemingly unintended, yet serious, rapprochement with Israel.
Banking its political cache on either normalisation with Israel or standing up to the US and regional powers and yet still promising SST rescission could prove reckless. Not pushing through with normalisation, even though it remains on the table, and continuing to dig its heels in could prove more destabilising to the civilian government’s relationship with the military. Hamdok and his government find themselves in a catch-22 situation. If SST rescission does not follow this political risk after all, the civilian government could be plunged further into a political crisis that it, so far, seems to plan on fixing mostly through SST rescission itself.
And therein lies the true gamble for the civilian wing of the government, which has far more to lose, and is playing against a stronger opponent, both domestically and abroad. Its attempts to delay taking a decision on the issue risks strengthening the accusations of indecisiveness and inertia it is already facing.
By not learning from the public response to February’s meeting between Burhan and Netanyahu, which was followed by pushback less on the meeting itself and more on the confused messaging on the meeting from the prime minister, the civilian government may have missed an opportunity to consolidate its position domestically as well as soothe leaders in the UAE, a key supporter of Sudan’s military. Doing so would go some way in resolving the power imbalance within the government.
With all the government’s hopes pinned on SST rescission, there is no guarantee that the US would not follow through with a delisting with the military, rather than civilian, leadership. Despite the US Department of State’s repeated assertions that it supports the civilian government, the recently announced sanctions list for those who undermine Sudan’s transition is extremely opaque. The civilian government’s backtracking may have risked its position within an already confused American foreign policy: it would do well not to take this administration’s unwavering support for the civilian government for granted.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect NRM’s editorial stance.
Khair is a managing partner of Insight Strategy Partners (ISP), a policy think-and-do tank based in Khartoum, Sudan.
As the world gathers aid for the people of Lebanon, it must ensure that it gets to those who need it.
On August 4, one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history wreaked havoc on Beirut. Nearly 200 lives were lost, and more than 6,000 people were injured.
An estimated 300,000 people were instantly left homeless. The blast obliterated homes, schools, medical facilities, and the port of Beirut, which supplies nearly 85 percent of the country’s food.
Humanitarian relief efforts are already under way, but the longer-term reconstruction will take years.
For Lebanon to truly recover, the country and its international partners will need to address something more insidious than the blast: corruption.
Lebanon was already on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. In 2019, the country’s economic collapse threw hundreds of thousands into poverty and exacerbated an already spiking unemployment rate, especially among the youth.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown further deepened the hardship, including for more than one million Syrian refugees.
Donors and international aid agencies have launched a humanitarian intervention to help the population cope.
But the effort faces a significant challenge: how to channel hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in aid without it being siphoned off by corruption.
For decades, Lebanon has suffered from systemic corruption that bankrupted the country.
Many Lebanese hold political leaders responsible for the country’s economic collapse and today, many consider the port explosion to be yet another example of neglect.
Several reports make clear that Lebanese officials knew about the presence of these lethal materials for years and failed to act.
Unlike in the past, Western donors appear wary of traditional assistance strategies that rely on the Lebanese government. “If reforms are not carried out, Lebanon will continue to sink,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.
John Barsa of USAID said firmly: “Our aid is absolutely not going to the government. Our aid is going to the people of Lebanon.”
To limit the opportunities for corruption, many donors are largely betting on the UN to spearhead the emergency relief efforts. However, this route is not without challenges. Some Lebanon watchers have voiced concerns over the undue influence of the Assad regime on UN aid operations in Syria. In Lebanon, the UN and other aid agencies have partnered in the past with Lebanese entities now associated with corruption, like the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), a “key partner of the UN in Lebanon,” or with NGOs founded by or tied to members of the political elite.
To address these fears, international aid organisations must reassert their independence from Lebanon’s political elite. For example, UN agencies should exercise greater scrutiny when partnering with governmental or non-governmental bodies. They should also strive to strengthen transparency around aid delivery. Such measures could include the timely and regular release of programme budgets and aid distribution data; a communications plan and formal dialogue with aid beneficiaries; and dedicated staff to monitor aid delivery. Indeed, some of these steps may already be under way.
Second, international aid agencies must empower Lebanese civil society in the relief effort. Fortunately, Lebanon already has a robust landscape of local activists and groups dedicated to the needs of the vulnerable. In addition, new grassroots networks emerged last year during the country’s economic implosion, and the blast sparked a groundswell of citizen mobilisation. Donors and the UN will need to prioritise the flow of resources to these groups and include them in decision-making. The UN’s Lebanon Response Fund allocated roughly a quarter of its money through local NGOs in 2019. While impressive, that local share will need to grow. Finally, Lebanese civil society should be given a greater role with respect to oversight and accountability.
Third, donors and international financial institutions (IFIs) must address corruption as part of the wider reconstruction effort. The World Bank estimates that Lebanon will need up to $2bn for recovery. Fortunately, it appears to be taking the corruption issue seriously, calling for a series of anti-corruption measures as part of the rebuilding process. These include a new national anti-corruption commission and a call for Lebanon to join the Open Government Partnership. The Bank has also floated the idea of a new type of financing facility that could channel resources directly to NGOs engaged in recovery.
All of these would be steps in the right direction. However, bilateral and multilateral donors will still need a legitimate Lebanese governmental counterpart with whom to do business. This is particularly true for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with whom talks have stalled over a bailout for Lebanon’s economy. Addressing this dilemma will certainly require some innovative thinking.
Any real reform agenda – one that uproots Lebanon’s entrenched corruption – will face great resistance by the elite. But as the world gathers support for the people of Lebanon, it cannot lose sight of this goal if aid is to get to those who need it.
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Noble Reporters Media’s editorial stance.
Anti-Blackness is not an individual feeling, but systemic global conditioning.
As I considered the toys on the initial rack that had caught my eye, a store associate appeared with a basket but did not say anything; she just stood at the wall a few feet away from me, watching.
I greeted her, but she still did not smile or make eye contact, just nodded and mumbled an almost inaudible “fine”.
I would have tried to let this go, would have told myself she was just having a bad day, and that we need to stop expecting poorly paid store associates to give us eight hours of cheer in addition to stocking shelves and serving customers.
Except that, as I continued through the store, more associates appeared, also saying nothing. There was the man to my left, another to my right, a woman to my far right, all in addition to the initial woman with the basket who was now so close behind me that she seemed not to be helping so much as stalking me.
The men, when I made eye contact with them, said, “How are you Ma’am?” This would have seemed innocuous if not for the conduct of the man to my left, who appeared startled when I looked at him, as though I had caught him doing something he shouldn’t have; he muttered his greeting before drifting back behind the mid-store display that he had approached me from.
I slowly put the stuffed animal I was looking at back on the shelf. When I looked up, I saw my sister. She had been standing just outside the store, but came inside when she observed what was happening.
“Do you still want to get anything from here?” she asked evenly; she would tell me later how furious she had been watching the moment unfold.
“No.” I adjusted my bag on my shoulder and walked away, saying a mumbled “Thank you” to the four store associates as I did – I am not sure why, perhaps to convey the civility they had presumed me to be without.
TravellingWhileBlack – the hashtag might have been on my US Twitter feed. Except that this is a complicated hashtag, because what I just described happened not in the United States, where I now spend most of the year, but in South Africa, one of two countries I transit through whenever visiting my mother in my home country of Malawi.
Furthermore – none of the store associates were white. Each one, including the manager I returned to the store to later speak to about the incident, was Black.
When something like that happens, race is both the first and last thing one imagines as the reason.
First – because it is always first. Living as a Black woman in the US, race is never far from my mind and a person of colour would be foolish to ever let that particular guard down completely.
Last – because I want to believe that in 2020 the reason I was presumed to be a criminal had to have been anything but that.
Maybe I was not dressed right; maybe I did not flash my British Airways boarding pass openly enough; maybe I did not engage in loud enough mindless conversation with my sister so that they would hear my virtually flawless American accent; maybe I did not strategically angle my roller bag so that they could see the Delta Silver Medallion tag attached to the side handle.
Maybe there was something I did, some signal I gave, whereby as soon as I walked into the store I was immediately branded not as a customer but as a thief, and this by people who looked exactly like me.
Xenophobic attacks In September 2019, South Africa descended into the latest of many waves of xenophobic violence against Black Africans of foreign origin.
Shops were looted and destroyed, people were beaten in the streets, and, in at least one horrific case, a man was burned to death. More than 100 Malawians were displaced in the violence, and the Malawi government repatriated 75 citizens back to Malawi.
The claim among the rioters and attackers was that foreign Black people were taking their jobs, their money and their marriage partners.
But Malawians in South Africa are there for the simple reason that the opportunities we want do not exist in Malawi; if they did, we would be at home, and I am indeed in the US for that reason. We migrate, take whatever opportunities we find, work long hours with few holidays, send money home occasionally, return home infrequently.
This has been the case since many great-grandfathers and great-uncles of mine, on both sides of my family, migrated by foot to South Africa back in the 1930s and 1940s to work in the mines; only now it is no longer mines but construction and transportation, and no one travels there on foot any more, now that there are direct buses between Blantyre and Johannesburg.
As a Malawian observing the violence from afar, I did not understand it.
South Africa’s problem is not foreign Black people – it is that nearly three decades after apartheid’s dissolution as government policy, the foundations apartheid built are still very much an economic reality.
Unemployment is staggeringly high; students graduate from university into an economy with vastly fewer jobs than willing workers; and white South Africans still hold the bulk of South African land and wealth. Foreign Black people are not the reason for this state of affairs, any more than migrant workers from Latin America are the reason for the US’s continually expanding wealth gap between the rich and the poor.
Being a victim is no excuse to then turn around and make a victim of someone else. As much as I understood the rioters’ anger and frustration, I could not justify the violence directed against my people. Every non-South African Black person deciding to depart South Africa today will not change South Africa’s root issues – that the economic sins of apartheid are not being repaired quickly or aggressively enough.
The political will exists in words only. The majority of the population continues to stagnate a few slippery steps above poverty with little hope of financial security or advancement, while a select few continue to speed further into the future with bigger houses and fancier cars, casting barely a backward glance at those being left behind.
Racism and xenophobia against ourselves – fellow Black people caught in our own varying webs of post-colonial, neo-colonial, post-authoritarian regime recoveries – are distractions from the truth of the real fight that still needs to be conquered. Burning me, the Malawian in South Africa, to death does not do a thing to change that – it serves only to illuminate the wrong darkness.
A global web of anti-Blackness Anti-Blackness is a global phenomenon, and when I walked into that store I merely walked into one of its many iterations.
Certainly, this was one of colonialism’s chief exports and enduring legacies. The lie that we, the native Black people in Africa, were fundamentally inferior to the white man is what propelled colonialism’s arrival and then fuelled its multigenerational tenure on our lands; the drive to align with that lie to achieve the approval of ruling white people is a poisonous inheritance of the politics of survival that continues to be handed down.
The store associates, then, were only somewhat acting out of their own volition; but in a larger sense, they were simply caught up in a global web of anti-Blackness for which they had no choice but to act out their required roles – in that particular instance, to remind me that my expressed positionality in that moment, a Black shopper with a British Airways boarding pass, was a threat to the established order of whiteness vis a vis Blackness.
I was not supposed to have the ability and papers to travel effortlessly between my third-world home of origin and my first-world home of choice; I was not supposed to have the kind of casual buying power that meant I could walk into a store without a plan or a budget and make a purchase without caring for the impact on my bottom line.
I was supposed to be flying the cheapest airline, not merely the airline I prefer independent of cost; and I certainly was not supposed to be travelling with a family member, my sister, who reinforced all of those realities in double.
I was not occupying my expected place in the social order of whiteness, in other words, and thus like a pathogen I had to be reminded that I was distinctly unwelcome, and eliminated. Anti-Blackness is not solely a feeling inside an individual, then – it is a systemic, entirely global, programming.
Racist legacies In my chosen home of the US, anti-Blackness is baked into its very institutional frameworks, the immovable reality born of the twin legacies of slavery and the Jim Crow era.
It has determined the shape and spread of cities; it predestines what jobs people can get, what homes they can buy, what schools they can send their children to, and whether or not those children matriculate to college or prison.
It is at the root of over-policing in Black communities and the disproportionately high number of Black Americans killed by police each year.
But because I am aware of this reality, I can expect it and even predict it in a way that means I will never again be caught as off guard as I was that afternoon in Johannesburg.
When I walk into American stores, I instinctively watch out of the corner of my eye to see if the store associate who has suddenly appeared is really organising that dress rack or is trailing me; I pay attention to the quality of service I receive in restaurants compared to other, paler customers. I endeavour to conduct as much of my non-work business as I can either over the internet or by phone; this way the person at the other end of the interaction cannot see what I look like and make determinations on how to deal with me based on their internalised assumptions about Black people, and thus the Black woman in front of them.
I plan for anti-Blackness in my American life, then, in ways that I do not once my overnight flight from London to Johannesburg has crossed the Mediterranean Sea and entered African airspace. As problematic as that is, it is a necessary pragmatism that makes my American life easier. My hypervigilance to the possibility of racism never leaves me completely; after almost 18 years in the US, 36 in the world, I know better than to believe that any pocket of the world is immune to that violence.
I have experienced it even in my majority-Black home country of Malawi; if I have experienced it there, no place is completely safe. But safer, yes, and that is what threw me into a spin in that store. Because it was in majority-Black South Africa, and it was in an airport – a place to transit through, not a place with norms to learn and realities to understand. Just a place to arrive at and a place to leave, in between the two places where I live.
The table is ours I, an archetype of a Malawian in South Africa, can either be a thief of objects or a thief of opportunities but I cannot be both, and I outright refuse the limitations of those categorisations. They are over-simple classifications for wildly complex problems, and turning the rotting eye of apartheid onto ourselves solves none of those issues, but instead allows off the hook a system that very much must remain under interrogation for the ills it continues to visit upon people who look like me – like us.
It is easy to turn on ourselves and fight for whatever haphazard scraps may fall from that very tall table; it is a lot harder to demand an equal seat at that table, indeed, our fair portion of the whole meal. But this we must.
I must be able to shop in a South African airport and have my presence go unquestioned; I must be able to check in at a first-class airline counter and receive the right cabin assignment, without having to correct a desk agent’s reflexive assignment of an economy class seat.
The mantle of apartheid says that we, as Black people anywhere, are not equal to seats at the big table; that on the one hand, we deserve greater privilege and yet will be immediately suspect when we acquire it. But we must refuse this simplicity, in the spaces we choose to occupy, in the ways we walk through the world, in our actions towards other Black people.
The table is ours, as well as the right to exist – as complex and human as we want – while seated there.
We must do this in a way that brings all of us to the table, skinfolk and kinfolk, and make South Africa’s rainbow nation not merely an aspirational slogan, but a sustainable and permanent reality.
In the piece, Coronavirus: The Nigerian Dream Cure, I wrote that the COVID-19, which “compelled people to stay within their nations and localities, illuminates the genius of the ageless adage: charity begins at home.” The lessons from the virus also strike a chord with the famous quotation: the “fierce urgency of now”, where Martin Luther King demanded action in the face of a looming catastrophe.
Nowhere are these maxims more expedient than Igboland. Despite the dearth of development in Eastern Nigeria, which has continued to pose existential threats, the Eastern leaders have made no serious attempt to harness current resources for the greater good. Instead, the Igbo politics has been overly consumed with mundane excuses, heightened with utopian ideas that focus solely on the future, most of which are envisaged to satiate the thirsty sentiments of the gullible masses, forgetting that the people must first survive before they can prevail.
An alarming reminder is the deplorable state of healthcare delivery in Igboland. For instance, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no hospital with a laboratory capable of testing for such deadly disease in the entire Eastern Nigeria. The plague also exposed the fact that the East, more than any other region, would have been in grave danger, if the COVI9-19 national lock-down had prolonged.
The common excuse for the lack of development in Igboland in the recent times is the structure of the country. Interestingly, the loudest echo chambers for the current campaign from the East are some of the very politicians who held sway during the 16-year rule under the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) but did practically nothing about restructuring. I mean, the very same cabal who are still clad in the same corrupt toga used in colluding with contractors to loot development facilities in the region, especially during the economic boom under Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, “an Igbo adopted son.”
Ironically, some of such looted projects, for example, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Port Harcourt International Airport, 2nd River Niger Bridge, Zik Mausoleum, and the major Eastern highways and seaports are currently undergoing real work under President Muhammadu Buhari, the perceived grinch. The malfeasance under the PDP becomes more manifest when considered that the East is witnessing measurable infrastructural development under the current regime, despite meagre resources—and, of course, amid Buhari’s misguided vendetta against the region for not voting him.
Highlighting these missed opportunities must not be misconstrued as an opposition to restructuring. Far from that! Nigeria, as currently structured, is a time-bomb. True federalism has the potential to reposition the country and unleash her abundant resources to greatness, but the process to the change must not hinder progress. It is also true that the ageless marginalization of the Igbo by federal authorities combined to stifle development opportunities in the East. But any innocent analysis equally begs the questions:
To what extent can we blame others for the lack of unity of purpose in Igboland? To what extent can we blame others for the failure to articulate game-changing policies to confront the tap root of the problem, by provoking the Igbo people to invest in their native land that is not even up to 30% developed? Worse still, who (or what structure) is to blame for running aground strategic ventures once jointly owned by the Igbo states, for example, the Presidential Hotel Enugu, Nigercem, Golden Guinea Brewery, Premier Brewery, Cooperative Bank, African Continental Bank, Orient Bank, Progressive Bank, and the Daily Star, to name just a few?
The simple answer is that mere change is not a sole panacea to progress. After all, it was not long ago that different groups within Nigeria, including those in Igbo land, were in wild jubilation for being granted their own states or local government areas. Despite the fact that all federal statutory allocations and constituency projects due to the states and local governments, as well as their internally generated revenues, have been under the control of the native politicians themselves, there are no tangible projects to show for the trillions.
Leadership is action, not excuses. The Igbo politicians should, therefore, not wait till after the restructure of Nigeria before embarking on an economic a dry-run in the remote semblance of the preferred structure—at least to stem the existential threat of mass unemployment and the consequential rising tide of crimes in the region. Governors Jim Ifeanyichukwu Nwobodo and Sam Onunaka Mbakwe did not hide behind quotidian excuses of the current structure before performing wonders within just 4 years in the Second Republic. Moreover, the Nnewi model has since rubbished the common excuse that the Igbo must have a functional seaport before it can thrive. This goes without saying that many thriving Igbo destinations, for example, Abuja, Kaduna, and Kano do not have seaports.
The apparent leadership problem within Igboland is neither lack of people with original visions nor hard work. In fact, there is an abundance of private sector-driven templates, featuring endearing ideas, the latest being the South East Regional Economic Development Company (SEREDEC), led by Barth Nnaji; and the South East Stabilization Fund, championed by the Ohaneze Ndigbo. Sadly, such visions are always derailed by an insecure Igbo political cabal.
That is where and why the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) made the title of this thesis. For sure, the IPOB deserves profound praise for finally recognizing that the real enemies are within. But the group should equally recognize that the real battle belongs at the polling booths. Therefore, instead of banal threats of election boycotts, which only serve to disfranchise the ordinary people, the IPOB should key into a growing democratic revolution to uproot the status quo across Nigeria—to ensure, at base, that good people are elected to positions of power. These political positions, of course, include the 2023 presidency which, by equitable consensus, is the turn of the South-East zone.
Further, development has never been the sole province of elected officials. Thus, instead of fraternizing with the fanatical property acquisitions outside the Biafra land by the Igbo, paraded under the façade of quasi-republican capitalism, the IPOB might as well capitalize on its overflowing influence to mitigate the suffering of its masses, by leading an investment revolution at home—and NOW.
The gist is woven in an Igbo adage which holds that a child who would grow to greatness typically shows some sense of acumen at an early stage. Therefore, before restructure, and beyond Biafra; even as it is vitally important to admit that the Nigerian leadership crisis is not devoid of ethnic schisms, where each group and generation potently share blame, a paradigm shift in perception and approach has become very imperative. The Igbo must recognize the crying need to persevere and rekindle the competitive spirit, ingenuity, and the mental fortitude needed to unleash immediate investment at home, so that the Igbo masses can even survive before the promised land.
Nigerian singer, Di’ja has taken to social media to urge parents to allow girls grow up before they get married.
Taking to her Twitter page, Hadiza Blell, better known by her stage name Di’Ja, wrote that if people really mean well for the young girl, they should allow her to at least clock 18 years of age before engaging her in grown woman things.
The mother of three also drew awareness to Obstetric fistula, an abnormal connection between the rectum and the vagina, which is very high in young girls who married early.
See what she wrote below;
“Our young girls need to be allowed to grow up before doing grown man and women things like marriage and anything to do with s3xu.al reproduction. If you really mean well you will at least give her until 18 years old, while honestly guiding her spirit. Not everyone means well.
DO YOU KNOW ABOUT OBSTETRIC FISTULA? Very high in young girls early marriages whose reproductive systems have not fully developed. Ya Allah we ask you for guidance. Our children cannot keep going through pain because of lack of understanding.”
Our young girls need to be allowed to grow up before doing grown man and women things like marriage and anything to do with sexual reproduction. If you really mean well you will at least give her until 18 years old, while honestly guiding her spirit. Not everyone means well.
Community/District: Mowo, Badagry Lagos State, Nigeria.
Interviewer: Noble Reporters
As the troubles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic persist, NobleReporters correspondence, Olamide Noble and Adii Noble went for community interviews (opinion poll) whereby seek people’s opinions on COVID-19 and possible solutions.
Mummy, do you know what causes COVID-19?
I don’t know what could have cause COVID-19.
So, ma you just know there is COVID-19?
(Chuckles), we only heard that there is COVID-19, we don’t know what could have be its cause.
How do you see this Lockdown? What can you say of it?
Sighs! It’s for our safety.
And you support it, do you think it is a good idea?
Hah!.. what can we do, what can we say since it’s an order from above, all we pray for is God’s grace to overcome this pandemic.
Ok, Talking of Lockdown, was it a good move to have shut worship centres? (Churches and Mosques).
No! I disagree, it wasn’t a nice move, since we all needed prayers so this disaster can vanish. Not going to worship centres is now turning us to pagans.
Ma, according to you, can you tell us if there is truly COVID-19 or not?
I don’t know if there is coronavirus or not – I will not be infected, only God knows the truth.
Can we say COVID-19 is the reason for inadequate power supply in the community?
I don’t know, maybe the PHCN are also affected by the pandemic.