Happy Children’s Day, Peers!

You were in university in the 80’s and the 90’s. You knew the governmtents of Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Sani Abacha. They were your heads of state, perhaps not your models as you were still antagonising the soldiers for interrupting “democracy” even where the ousted thieves in agbada and kaftan were not any better. The Generals and Lieutenant Colonels visited your schools and lightened up your world with countless you-are-the-leaders-of-tomorrow speeches. You studied harder. A decade later, you were out of school, in a country in need of change, in need of soul, in need of sanity. The soldiers were still there looting unstoppably and, because executive powers were reserved for those in khaki, you stayed put in the ranks of progressive civilians screaming in safari suits, agitating for democracy. Finally, your dream transpired, and just when you thought it was your time to change the world with your studied ideas, you find yourself in a race for relevance with those father-figures of yesterdays who now remind you that you are still children at 40 and 50! So, Happy Children’s Day to you!

If our fathers were children in this democracy of the old and the privileged, what is our value in the mathematics of leadership? We are the children of the 80’s—and behind are angrier colleagues of the early 90’s—who had acted out dramas on sand dunes imagining ourselves as leaders of a future assured. We imagined ourselves as governors and parliamentarians or just a powerful somebody giving out orders. We thought it would be an easy journey, we thought all it would take was growing up or earning certain certificates to become that powerful somebody. A decade after what I would call the expiration of our childhood we find ourselves dragging for the choice piece of meat in our mother’s pots with our younger siblings, squatting with our tired parents and still troubling those retirees for transportation fees to go for this or that job interview!

May 27 is a day that brings back memories of those early years of innocence, of naiveté, of ignorance, and of deceptions by these grand-fatherly leaders who had still not allowed even our fathers to pass through the gates to power and social relevance. May 27 is a reminder of our hopelessness in a country where political youthfulness begins at 40, and life expectancy is just about 10 years more than that. May 27 is a day to ponder how the People’s Democratic Party caricatures our condition further by imposing a 60-year-old as National Youth Leader. May 27 is a moment to reflect, very soberly, on the lies we were told at Parade Grounds a decade and a half back, and on the absence of jobs and the consequent presence of poverty across the country today… Every year, thousands of students leave tertiary institutions and other thousands embark on higher academic adventures all with their eyes on a labour market where there is no longer space, not even a space to squat, because certain gerontocrats have chosen to overstay their social tenure!

The first prank I played on this year’s day of the children was a call to a 31-year-old friend. “Happy Children’s Day!” I sang, and this I expected to rouse a bout of laughter. But there was none, in fact the silence that ensued asked me to either introduce a new issue or just own up to my mistake and apologise. “Happy Children’s Day to Us!” I sang, hoping this self-inclusive spite would douse the tension. He was a childhood friend, and I felt that apology over pranks was a wrong idea in a friendship as time weathered as ours. But thankfully, he laughed, and then he cursed and then said, ‘Well, I’m not yet 40!” That is it; a surrender to the new order of Nigeria’s cultural gerontocracy. My friend left university at 24 with, like everybody in his state, a sigh of relief, a conquering spirit of having met up with the expectations of the society in which certificates are (mis)taken for meal tickets. But seven years later, he is still at home with his retiree parents and expecting a miracle to save him from the embarrassment. As a friend, I consider myself his psychotherapist because I do not require any training in psychology to understand what is killing my beloved friend—the earlier job interviews he attended just after he left school required certain years of experience as though experiences could be gotten without a job. In this cycle of rejections, my friend is still shocked to discover that the hunt having gone on for seven years, all the interviews at which he tries his luck now have a new requirement: Graduates Below 27 Only!

The social realities of Nigeria have turned many of us into social crusaders or, to borrow the words of poet and lawyer Abdul Mahmud, offensive as that is, “Boys Scout activists”. The rage of the many 30-year-children, 40-year-old adolescents and 50-year old young men struggling to break through the rank of these octogenarian leaders is a disaster waiting to burst out. And I hope that we understand the need to end this at polling centres come 2015.

One more thing though; old age is not a decline in wisdom, just as youthfulness does not robe one in any political peculiarities. We have seen youthful leaders like Dimeji Bankole climbing up the ladders of financial misappropriations. It is just evil to waste the ideas and knowledge of the younger people awaiting a chance to serve, it’s just evil to remain silent in a country where young job-seekers rush to courts to obtain new “certificates of births” to qualify for certain job requirements. Today, almost all my friends, many actually in their thirties, have a court affidavit that says they are in their twenties. If this is funny, I would have only whispered “God is watching you” and returned to my day job. But, no, we need our gestated ideas employed in building this country. Calling a 30-year-old “kid” in a country where we are expected to die at 52 is a culture asking for revolution. And this should come soon, in our lifetime, I mean very soon. May God save us from us!

 By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspaper (31/05/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

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Going Berserk in Governor Kwankwaso’s Kano!

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I was unhappy in Kano. I was unhappy with Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso. I was unhappy with the way he exposes non-performing governors in the north. I was unhappy because he has loudly pandered to my expectations. Governor Kwankwaso is a welfarist. You need a “Father Christmas” administration as his to revive economically and psychologically knocked-down places and people. You may have issues with Kwankwaso’s overdone publicity stunts, but who would leave his legacies unmarked? At least “Kwankwasiyya”, his popular political ideology, is engraved on finished structures, not on aging billboards, not in rhetoric.

 What sustains this man’s welfarism? My friends, who have counterpointed my call for welfarist governments, believe that welfarism is a political favouritism that sidelines the rich. False! As I have written elsewhere, Nigeria, like any other Third World country destroyed by years of mis-governance, can only be redeemed by a government that recognises our inherited poverty and self-destructions. There is no investment bigger than that in human capital! But, how does Kwankwaso achieve this? I have been friends with his very hardworking Special Assistant on Media, the columnist Jaafar Jaafar. On my visit to Kano this week with our mutual friend, the journalist Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, we hung out at a quiet park in the heart of this ancient city – a chance for our usual discourses of Nigerian politics.

 “We didn’t receive any security votes from the federal government,” he put off my suspicion of how Kwankwaso has been able to combine his welfarist policies with the counter-terrorism measures in place in Kano. “The state government is even responsible for feeding the soldiers and policemen on patrol.” Did Kwankwaso pluck money from trees? No, it’s merely his financial wisdom. In my home state, where recurrent expenditures are said to be eating up our budgets, we found the same governor creating useless agencies and ministries to cover up his declarations. I think it’s unfair to cry out that our salaries and emoluments eat up your funds and yet go on to create channels in which taxpayers’ monies are misused. Kwankwaso, on the other side, cut down his overhead budgets to secure his capital expenditures, and from the “rescued” funds he’s now constructing a flyover, to complement the one being funded by the federal government, in Kano. I think we need to welcome pro-people governments, I think there is a need for us to be politically active.

 I envy Jaafar, I must confess. He does not shy away from political appointments as some of us do, muttering a self-mocking remark that such venture destroys our integrity. How do you expect change if you’re not part of the system? We need a country where there is no single activist, impossible as that may sound. We need a country where critics of government implement their rhetoric when given opportunities to serve. Nigeria is still in mess because the people who have the brains and, more importantly, the heart, to lead have abandoned it to self-enriching politicians. I think we have lost moral rights to condemn a system we could actually rescue.                  

 What Nigeria needs is not oil, but leadership! Exploring the hinterland of Kano state – which is just like every other countryside in Nigeria, north and south – I ask myself: how on earth does Nigeria’s cursed Oil add a value to the lives of our people? Why would they be ridiculed for the crimes of the thieving Cabal in the list of Fuel Subsidy scam? Similarly, what happened to the report of the Petroleum Revenue Special Taskforce headed by Mallam Nuhu Ribadu? Should Dantala, a farmer, be charged for the theft of, say, his Fulani tribesman Bamanga Tukur’s son in the list? Should Adewale, a vulcaniser, be charged for the thefts of his Yoruba tribesman Arisekola Alao’s son? Should Emeka, an automobile spare parts dealer, be charged for the theft of his Igbo tribesman Ifeanyi Ubah? These are questions for the stereotype artists. Such people can only be in jail when we have the Nuhu Ribadus calling the shot from Aso Rock

There are peasants and hopeless citizens suffering in every part of the country so it comes to me as irony when some of us identify the north as the only region challenged. Militancy in the core north and in the south-south is a failure of the entire country. Has the oil redeemed the lives of the numberless poor people and kidnappers in Niger-Delta? And if the south-south is any wiser, are the northerners the electorates that voted in James Ibori?

 If the Asari Dokubos are truly concerned about the fate of Niger-Delta, their promise of bullets should be fulfilled on the many Diepreye Alamieyeseighas among them. If Niger-Delta gives us an opposite of Goodluck Jonathan, wallahi my vote for him is assured. Until then, I pitch my tent with the morally advantaged people whose politics or public service records I endorse.

 Leadership is an issue in Nigeria because followership is flawed, because we allow some mentally deficient people to be our advocates, because the people who ought to lead are dismissed on crimes of their ethnicity or religion or region, because we are confused. . . And 2015 is just two calendars away. May God save us from us!

 By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (24/05/2013)

@gimbakakanda (on Twitter)

Rapper Napoleon, Islam and the African-American Identities

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“The fact that blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles simply because they look alike. If God has wanted us to be equal to the blacks, he would have created us all of a uniform colour and intellect.” P. W. Botha, 15 August 1985. 

“I think racism is overrated,” my friend, then a nineteen-year-old just out of secondary school, concluded in dismissing what he considered our exaggerations of the evils against the Blackman overseas—in America, Europe, even Asia and the Middle East. The year was 2003 and the occasion was our insistence that he must stand up against any arrogant white man’s slur as he set out for undergraduate studies in the United States of America. Our friend had never travelled out of the country, had only “known” the Whites on television and, like any other non-travelling countryman, racism was only understood as an injustice that had been defeated by the Civil Rights activists somewhere far away. He returned from that search of America in America with an angry “Fuck!” as the punctuation of his experience of that psychosis.

The African-American is a perplexing identity. He is a representative of a people who have lost a line of their ancestry; he is neither an African nor a proper American. He is seen as an inferior and, in his reaction, he becomes the good, the bad and the ugly. This society of a racially irked and socially destroyed people is the burden of the rights activists, rappers, drug barons, prostitutes, and thieves of which Mutah Beale, who took up drug-peddling and rap music to fit into a designed destruction, was a member.

Mutah Beale was Napoleon, a member of the once notorious rap group “Outlawz” which was formed by the legendary Tupac Amaru Shakur. In their years of terror, the “Outlawz” popularised the idea of Thug Life—a musical ideology that glorified an extreme and reckless hedonism. Thug Life was their revolt against a society that didn’t like them, thus they named themselves after the enemies of the West: Tupac as Makaveli—after the Italian political realist Niccolo Machiavelli who must have inspired the unusual and shockingly realist interpretations of histories and events in their songs; Napoleon was named after France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, Hussein Fatal after Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, E.D.I. Mean after Uganda’s Idi Amin, Kaddafi after Libya’s Muamar Kaddafi, Kastro after Cuba’s Fidel Castro. . . Outlawz and similar groups in the 90’s, expectedly, could not defeat the politics of racial subjugation and integration and exclusions as they soon fought one another, black against black, gang against gang, guns for guns, blood for blood, uprooting the legacies of their parents who were members of documented black redemption movements. In the end, the mortality rates escalated, drugs became snacks, hedonism lost its allure and the tough who still thought had to rush out to seek new identities

As I listened to rapper Napoleon recount the horrors of those years in Abuja, Nigeria, last Saturday, I felt like shedding tears in my solidarity with our African-American “cousins”, especially pained by losses stimulated by their disconnection from their ancestral homes, and identities. I was hurt afresh by the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in Civil Rights, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. in intra-racial feuds, and the nameless, numberless cousins who passed on by way of drugs, gang fights, robberies gone wrong. . . As I listened to Napoleon, I wept for my Africa that could not justify Marcus Garvey’s “Back to Africa” dream. The reverse actually is the case; our brilliant minds have fled to the slave-master’s land in search of sanity. We, and our fathers and the fathers of our fathers have failed to build a Black Africa that every member of our dark-skinned race can point to and smile. As I listened to Napoleon, I was ashamed that we have only built an Africa of ethnic and religious anarchy, which has killed more people from bigotries of many styles than cocaine and the guns have done in Black communities in America. 

But Napoleon is no longer Napoleon; he is now Brother Mutah, having taken up Islam to repair his humanity through a spiritual relationship with a deity, with God. Away from the superficialities of atheism, we must understand that honest subservience to a supreme being checks our excesses. Brother Mutah is an example; he didn’t “inherit” religion as many of us who kill one another in the name of God did, he went to God. He wasn’t religious by reputation as many Africans are, he practises his faith and has given a lot to charities, and his forthcoming documentary “Napoleon: Life of an Outlaw” which was screened during his visit to Abuja—on his growing up in a crisis-ridden black community where being black was a crime and his exploits as a hedonistic rapper—is already an inspiration to those who listen! 

But has Bother Mutah found his identity? I say, Yes. What then is black identity? There is no such thing as “Black Identity”. The identity of the Blackman is simply earned though his self-struggle to overcome or resist the labels that debase his humanity. The identity is to invalidate the efforts and arts of skewed portrayals and stereotypes. But I still pity Brother Mutah, who not only has to fight racism today, but islamophobia as well. The colour of Justice remains white, and so long as car tyres remain black, the Blackman is literally challenged to explain the science of black tyres and asphalt to the psychotic definers of racial supremacy. May God save from us! 

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (17/05/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

The Missing Soul of Pop Culture

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I love popular culture. I love the assimilation of foreign inventions and ideas to stir up the spirit of one’s society. I am an advocate of a free world, a world where dogs and baboons ally to discuss their territorial rights and privileges; a world where Christians hold their orderly “Miracle Nights” while living in a community of Muslims and where Muslims air their Tafsirs of the glorious Qur’an unchallenged, one where atheists are allowed to live with their opposed theories of a new age nature. The chaos of disagreeing minds, and of proposing ideas, is the civilisation that occurs when believers and disbelievers debate the ways they must live.

I loved LP records, from my childhood when they used to play the sagely words of Bob Marley for my late father. Yet I celebrated their replacements with portable disks—CD, DVD, Blu-ray discs. And yes, I prefer the secular miracles of my digital gadgets, software, hard drives and apps which have decongested lives and rooms from Abuja to Beijing, Canberra, Dublin and La Paz to Madrid and New York. I am a renaissance man who learnt the accents of anchors on MTV or Channel O, who dressed like admired celebrities, who studied martial stunts from Chinese films, who loved women in the fashion of the paper-thin characters in Bollywood films, and who almost disobeyed my parents like the kids in Hollywood films. Here I am now, at the terminus of the internet revolution!

But pop culture destroys insidiously when it possesses us unchecked. Because it is the playground of a delightful hedonism, and because its introduction of new things in our lives is seemingly spontaneous, the world and we in it are thus subtly enslaved. The zeitgeist of this modern world is uncontrollable, and we are lost in its mad illogic in the same way one is unaware of how sugar invades and kills our kidneys. Our generation is lost in the frenzy of mass media and is consequently attracted to easily consumed sound-bite type ideas and inventions that push us against the very soul of our civilised existence—our ability to think things through. We are lost in the fakeries of a soulless pseudo-culture dictated in truth by business executives in far away conference rooms armed with demographic studies and psychological assessments. A pseudo-culture in which we ride on the entertainment and education of video games, televisions, films and, the father of them, sports. Do not mention the internet—that’s a case for another day. In Africa, football is religion to millions and this deification of football is a leap away from our social soul. Eager to know this, innit? Forgive my slang. The soul of the civilisation is the Book!

Books, once the premier entertainer of the society, being a medium in which thoughts are stimulated, ideas inspired, and knowledge acquired, have become bound reams of paper collated in these true museums known euphemistically as libraries. Like it, hate it, the moment books become tools of mere decorations or intellectual posturing in our households, our society is finished. The absence of books, even the electronic versions, in the ideological prisms of our media, is the reason the average man in his multitude repels intellectual and academic exercises. The society, now that books are endangered, is largely a group of shallow-thinking, video games-playing, football-obsessed, internet-based people who “like” and “lol” at attempts to have them reading, and thinking. One of them, a nameless co-passenger in a random bus, once asked “Are you preparing for examinations?” having watched me flipping through a book with fitting attention. He is a product of the culture that defines books as the mediums we consult to either pass our school examinations or some such activity!

The society can only think when they see mirrors of themselves. In books! In the regenerative engagement with rigorous academic and literary traditions! The superficial portrayal of our world in films and music only breeds one-dimensional thinkers. Today you have graduates who would say “I dey craze?” on being asked to go for a second degree except if that is to be done for a career prospect, for money and filthy lucre!

But hope is not lost. Just when I’m worried that the world is being increasingly populated with androids that only know the fixtures of European premier league matches, to thereafter discuss the results over bottles of Star and Gulder, a wonder came from Africa’s gods of modernity: footballers. The news is that a group of 20 England-based footballers have embarked on a project tagged “Premier League Reading Stars” to inspire reading among their “stray” fans. This is good news, considering the psychological import of the realisation that these gods themselves do read books. Since the West and its media dictate the way we live, and with the power of globalisation, I hope our own distracted brothers and sisters would sway to this new literary “swag” of pop culture!

While the European governments keep the fire of literature burning, our president and his men, occupied with the arithmetic of their loots, could not sustain a dubious “Bring Back the Book” project. Don’t mind them, soon as you reconnect with your soul, and you’re able to understand what budget is, and why their “recurrent expenditures” is bigger than “capital expenditures”, your anger will be justified. You will also understand why a governor who claims that “recurrent expenditure” eats up his budgets has a hundred Directors-General and Permanent Secretaries without portfolios. The newest big thing in the Nigerian publishing bloc is that Parrésia Publishers Ltd, started by the magical duo of Richard Ali and Azafi Omoluabi, having understood the essence of our missing social soul has introduced a new intervention—the Parrésia Foundation for Arts and Literature. We need more interventions like this and we need to support this new NGO.

I note the strange paradox that my own fanfare-craving governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, PhD, CON, Talban Minna, who could not give us ordinary water as his sixth anniversary chimes this month, is the only Nigerian leader whose “philanthropy” includes immense and committed support for the revival of book reading and literary development. I hail him for that singular achievement, this one important thing that hasn’t been accomplished only on the face of billboards. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (10/05/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Mother… Why Was I Born Black?

Epiphany

Epiphany

Calm down, patriot, those aren’t my words. Kindly transfer your anger to the grave of the Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek who in his prose poetry book “Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol” lets loose an Africa-bashing black man who is an exact portrait of the subject in Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Mask”. Today I’m possessed by the rage that intoxicates Ocol [husband of Lawino, that proud daughter of Africa]—Ocol who asks us to set fire on “all the anthologies/ Of African literature/ And close down/ All the schools of African studies.” To Ocol, Africa is merely an “Idle giant/Basking in the sun,/ Sleeping, snoring,/ Twitching in dreams;.” Ocol is angry, and he is so for a reason, which is why, while asking us to arrest, disregard and dishonour the persons and memories of our intellectuals, poets, freedom fighters, monarchs and all advocates of pan-African ideologies and traditions, he challenges: “Can you explain/ The African philosophy/ On which we are reconstructing/ Our new societies?”  This question was asked by Ocol, a British-educated African, about the time of independence of many African countries. Half a century later, where is our longitude and latitude in the world geography of Development?

Unlike Ocol, my anger has not lost its bearing, and it has not somersaulted into the lake of self-hate. But it’s close to that state, which is why I sound almost like a disowned son of Aime Cesaire. It is a valid excuse to blame the European explorers who disrupted the “darkness” of Black Africa in the era of their industrial revolution and led us through torturous years of slavery and then colonialism. The Europeans planted their greed on many strange lands, and their ideas in many people and thus left behind an explosion of identity crises which our ancestors couldn’t really manage. Here we are, still chained and imprisoned by petty antagonisms along the lines of governments, religions and ethnicity—Muslims against Christians, the Hutu against the Tutsi, democracy against the military, government against the people.

Africa has been the testing ground for all forms of evils, in governments, in religions, and in socio-economic structures. Today while the world is inventing new ideas and going on for grander scientific and technological prospects, Africa is still discussing “tribes” and related antiquities. The world has embarked on researches to understand human genetics and pathology, Africa is still fighting over whose religion is superior. The races whose people organised these religions have since moved on to higher rungs. The Arabs, of whom Prophet Muhammad was a member, now have the Burj Khalifas of modern tourism. And the Jews, of whom Jesus was a member, have the Albert Einsteins whose scientific “atheism” changed the way we see the world. . . Africa’s intellectuals and scientists are wasted in activisms of religious and ethnic advocacies; a battalion of them is lost in brain drains to the same West. The least we can offer to honour the struggles of our ancestors whose activisms were veritably for the redemptions of our identities is building an Africa of many possibilities; and Blackman who must not rush to Germany or India to treat his catarrh, who must not seek refuge or asylum in Europe and America on grounds of war, famine, education and social welfare.

The trouble with man in Black Africa is largely his inability to solve the puzzles of his creation; man on the earth of Black Africa fails to look beyond two or so centuries ago, long before the coming of the Christian missionaries and Arab traders, to see a reason why we must never let these religions and politics of the foreigners push us towards anarchy. This man is still possessed by inferiority complexes, having been tactfully trained to see his history, personality and civilisation as nothing but wreckage salvaged by a people whose languages and cultures he has taken up.

The world is not waiting for us, and the cry that the Europeans exploited us to build their civilisations is already clichéd. The task ahead of us now is matching the feats of our sisters, old colonies, who have beaten the colonisers in certain phases of developments. Singapore, a small island with no natural resources, has been awarded the best city in a world where Paris and New York have reigned since the wake of modern civilisation; India is performing magic, astonishing the West, in areas of information technology; Malaysia has beaten countries that once nursed it in not only building a country worthy of the name, but also it has become, for Africans, the leading headquarters of educational capitalism. The question to ask ourselves now is: is the Whiteman still in charge of our State Houses from Abuja to Addis Abba, Khartoum to Kigali? And in skirting the many excuses of conspiracy theories and neo-imperialism twaddle, I realise that Africa is actually suffering from a complicated case of low self-esteem at a time when we should be confident, in the chaotic universes of western imperialism, Christian materialism and Arab expansionism. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (03/05/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)