Well done, Governor Kwankwaso!

20131227-092230.jpg

Whoever dismisses Kano State’s Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso’s politics as a gimmick is merely being a Nigerian, that person to whom a politician is an ordinary scam artist whose corporate frauds and tricks, as testified to by the history of misappropriations of public funds and the impunity always earned here, are just to be left for God to punish. On the day of judgment, of course. It’s the climax of the people’s despair, which is why we must encourage and celebrate any deviant politician. Kwankwaso’s deviancy is a social revolution impossible to ignore. And he has been trying to convince us that he’s not a joke, that his second coming is to show us a face of politics we have learned not to expect.

In all the time I praised his policies as a follower and reviewer of his administration, his later actions never gave me a reason to cringe at the superlatives employed to qualify his unusual style of leadership. This is because he understands the psyche of perceptive masses, and the needs of the Third World: our foundations, carelessly dug or stopped halfway, are the reasons we are yet to overcome social challenges that have erupted in recent years, seeking to destroy us, seeking to end all of the privileges we took for granted.

Governor Kwankwaso’s declaration of free education for all indigenes of Kano State may be a tough task for a State that size, but it’s the only way to redeem our devastated human capital. When Imo State’s Governor Rochas Okorocha launched his free education policy, I warned his northern counterparts in my column, thus: “Free education and allowances for students of Imo descent. As a northern Governor, I should despise this. You don’t know what this policy means, do you? Soon there will be an explosion of educated Igbos in and outside our civil service which the federal character principles cannot forestall. While Imo breeds educated and intellectual indigenes, the north breeds street beggars (and the States that propose to end the Almajiri child-begging have no feasible alternative in place!)”

That was in early January, and it never occurred to me that a governor here in the north will meet my expectation. But it had to be Governor Kwankwaso. If any other Governor in the north promises to implement such policy, I don’t think I will waste a word reviewing theirs. Kwankwaso’s overwhelming antecedent as a perceptive welfarist is an assurance; he has demystified the lie that “northern governments don’t have money… we can’t afford this and that!” – things we have been told by politicians whose misuse of our budgets we refused to question.

Welfarism, in the north especially, is not an option; it is a necessity! I’m happy that we have realised that we can’t develop anything unless we’ve developed our people. We have lived for so long under the illusion that a group of friends and families or factions of a clique can actually build a functional country and still run it by themselves. It is under this same illusion that elitism thrives, and forms a financially segregated society in which schooling is seen as a privilege of the haves or, to the cynics among the have-nots who concentrated on religious education, Western education becomes a way of the morally stray!

But it’s not too late to attempt to demolish this ignorance that makes the north almost uninhabitable. We have built a northern Nigeria of dangerous illiteracy; a region of disillusioned beggars, destitute citizens, miseducated extremists, and now insecure elite where leadership has always been a system for the same people, the same families, the same friends and the same cliques to ally in sharing the resources of the State or Federation while the masses suffer. We have never had it really good ever since the early years of regional governments. And for all the people and dreams destroyed by our history of aborted welfarism, supporting Kwankwaso’s intervention in a time a militant group has risen to condemn the Western education is a new revolution!

This may be an expensive project, but a good manager of resources, which is what Kwankwaso has proven he is, is up to the task. With prudent management, the funding of education and welfare of the teachers are certain; with prudent management, this is sustainable! What our governments need is a culture of discipline, a lack of which inspired the cynicism being shown by some critics of the free education policy. These critics obviously underestimate the level of poverty in this part of Nigeria, where the people are more concerned about what to eat in the next hour than in proposing to go to school. We have been so dazzled in our air-conditioned offices and houses in the federal and state capitals that it’s easy to dismiss welfarism as a waste of taxpayers’ money. There is no policy as gainful as investing in the human capital.

I have found many reasons to disagree with friends who challenge the use of public funds to alleviate the sufferings of the masses. It’s exactly the same reason I find Lagos State’s Governor Babatunde Fashola as a man cruelly ahead of the time, pretentiously insensitive to our harsh realities, the same way I find elitisations of Abuja cruel and misplaced. Fashola’s disconnection from the poverty around the Owambe-craving elite is just as wide as that of the ‘iPhone freaks’ tweeting no-nos at the declaration of free education. This perhaps gave Fashola the confidence to deport fellow Nigerians. This gave our leaders the immoral right to criminalise the existence of the poor. If we want a functional country, let’s de-elitise our policies. You cannot build a castle without proper foundation. And for the endless troubles of these Third World people, welfarism is that foundation.

By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspaper (27/12/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Advertisements

The Future Awards and its Misrepresentation of the Nigerian Youth

20131220-113358.jpg

I have absolute confidence in the strength and ability of the Nigerian youth. All over the world, the Nigerian youth is a newsmaker, known for exhibiting talent, using his brain either to redeem or to reduce whichever system he is in. The Nigerian youth, despite having bad role models, has defied setbacks and limitations to climb up the ladder of excellence. This is why I am among the many upset by the misrepresentation of their achievements by the sham called “The Future Awards” – an award which was designed to highlight these achievements, but has been reduced to rewarding the ‘efforts’ of the organisers and their friends and friends of their friends!

Whoever is in charge of TFA – a comedian who has recently published a list of 100 most outstanding young Nigerians embarrassingly dubbed “The 100 Guardians of the Future” – has not only misrepresented the achievements of young Nigerians home and abroad, but is delusional for actually believing that cyberspace is a dependable database of successful Nigerians. Going through the list was depressing; I kept muttering, “Are these people really exceptional?” “What here is beyond ordinary?” “How about X?” “What about Y? Z?” The list just validated the obvious, that TFA is really just a haughty celebration of mediocrity. A body with no fund for research in the age of Google has no business scoring the success of Nigerians and if it must, let it not embarrass the nation with a ridiculous list of self-adulatory make-up artists, actors, musicians, bloggers, and small-time entrepreneurs – tired and irrelevant – as the best of us!

This is why I dismiss the average Nigerian online for pandering to delusions that only escalate our woes: the posturing that we are the best, or represent the best mainly because we can afford the luxury of maximising the use of our gadgets. The Nigerians on Twitter especially, ever elitist in their thinking and method of approaching the nation’s political evolution and social realities, allied to nominate friends or Facebooking-and-tweeting citizens who do what a thousand others outside the social media do even better. The honourees are a cheap list of young Nigerians whose peculiarities are praised because the really peculiar do not tweet or are less known.

A click or two into Google search bar would’ve been motivating. There are Nigerians who graduated top of Ivy League colleges at 19 or a little older, became sought-after scientists and are now among the world’s finest scientists. If we must honour academic excellence, there are many of them. We have hundreds of them! Still in their 20s! Despite all the country has passed through this year, we find in the “Advocacy and Activism” category of TFA a list without a people who are risking their lives fighting Boko Haram, exhibiting a measure of appreciable humanity in the land of terror. No, I don’t mean the JTF soldiers. I mean the young and patriotic men audaciously referred to as “Civilian JTF”. Is there any advocacy or activism as dangerous this year? And there are also young Nigerians risking their lives in the peace building efforts across crises-ridden regions – like the organisers of “Peace Football” in Jos, attempting to blur the ethno-religious lines on the map of that awfully segregated city – yet their struggles are not mentioned in our tweets. Those are influential Nigerians, those are Nigerians who have touched lives intellectually, culturally, economically, politically, name it!

The tragedy is, nominating this people is a waste of time. They are virtually nonexistent: no Twitter account, no Facebook account, no friend and no follower. Nobody to promote their cause. Our obsession with the virtual world has affected our understanding of our realities, and that is why I won’t be surprised if Goodluck Jonathan ends up as our President in 2015. We’re embarrassingly disconnected from our realities. And if this list is a representation of our best, then we’re unfit to succeed these extraordinary Vagabonds in Power!

We appreciate only what we know, that I understand. But that is not the essence of an award. I minded my business when TFA used to be awards shared among friends and friends of friends and friend of friends’ friends, but the moment they gathered at Mr. President’s shadow and declared that those indeed are representatives of our best, the fraud became too obvious, impossible to ignore. Some journalists, for instance, risked their lives, and their families’, exposing the evils of, say, Boko Haram. Some were killed. Some were arrested. Some fled. None was considered for recognition. A few journalists sit in Abuja pinging and tweeting and sensationalising what actual journalists have exposed. Yet only the tweeting group is found worthy of an award for excellence in journalism. And nobody finds anything wrong here. Some journalists have been praised for merely contributing articles to foreign media. And there is another now in exile, with his family, suffering – for stirring Boko Haram’s nest in his newsgathering adventures. He remains unsung!

The Future Awards (TFA) misrepresents our achievements, simple. It’s a popularity contest that not only insults the intelligence and sensibilities of hardworking Nigerians, but hauntingly fraudulent. Its mission is bold, misleading and disturbing. How do we actually gauge an awardee’s influence? In cyberspace: by his ‘followers,’ and by his ‘friends’, no doubt. If we must reward our own, let’s do it right. Let’s stop asking for “your” and “another’s” list. Yes, there are people in the list whose recognitions are deserved, but their inclusion shouldn’t be an excuse to shut up. Nonetheless, I congratulate my friends in the TFA list – the best 100 of us! Also congrats to the Lagos blogosphere, the online version of Lagos-Ibadan Press, for its dictatorial representations of our (under)achievements.

As for my fellow northerners, I hope you see the backlash of our un-progressive attitude. This is how a pack of clowns and opportunists, to whom we’re just “almajirai with laptops”, organise cliquey shams to reward their own. It is not too late to overcome petty antagonisms over religious differences and ethnic supremacy to redeem ourselves. I cannot believe that a Nigerian has been listed as one of our best 100 for merely converting our Constitution into downloadable apps when my brother Nasir Yammama develops apps half-asleep, when a friend in FUT Minna has designed a rocket launcher. These are just my friends. A simple research would show there are Nigerian youth more promising, more successful, more influential, more important than my friends! Who knows, say, Uti Nwachukwu beyond Lagos Blogs? He’s not known for any nationally relevant thing aside from winning BBA, which a few other Nigerians have done, and now wearing good clothes and partying; yet he is deemed a representative of our achievements.

The important question is: how do we gauge influence and exceptionality? Who tells the achievements of the North? Ali Nuhu, even though he is not the best in Kannywood, wouldn’t have been recognised had he not crossed over to the South. How, I ask again, do we gauge influence and exceptionality? Answering this question should be the first task of panels set up to select our best. Everything else comes later. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Mandela: Remembering the Prophet of One Humanity

20131213-122121.jpg

The day started with reports of a tragedy, though not unusual, but a terrible tragedy nonetheless, of challenges of being a Blackman especially overseas, among a people to whom black is an inverse of decency, to whom Africa is a civilisation built upside down. It was the news making the rounds that banners bearing “We want peace in Goa. Say no to Nigerian (sic). Say no to drugs” have been put up across India’s Goa State and that the state legislators too, outraged by the criminal conducts of some Nigerians in the coastal State, referred to them as “wild animals” whose presence is perceived as “cancer” in the functionalities of that most richest of India’s States. Perhaps I was rattled because of my romantic attraction to India and because I could have been one of the visiting Nigerians branded as, or mistaken for, “drug peddlers” by the authorities if I had moved to India as planned last June.

While Indians are almost spiritual in their categorisations of dark-skinned people as socially subaltern, Nigerians, typically loud and mindlessly haughty, have given the racist lot grounds to justify their illusory superiority. In his initial reaction to this, my cerebral cousin, Richard Ali, wrote: “While we are busy being righteously outraged, let us not kid ourselves that 5 out of every 10 Nigerians in India are there illegally or are doing illegal things including drugs. The Indians didn’t just wake up and skip Colombians and Italians and then land on Nigerians. It’s a difficult situation. If Nigeria is serious we have to appoint someone to deal with our image in India, to push out in the public mind the other 5 out of 10 Nigerians who are good expatriates in that country.”

Unfortunately, the crimes of some Nigerians in India have become the crimes of not just the entire Nigerians but of dark-skinned people all over the world, simply because of the history of their race and nationalities and if, for instance, a green passport-carrying Nigerian or any dark-skinned African who has never ever seen hard drugs in his life, appears in Goa in the heat of such trouble, the same illogic will be applied in lynching him as the Indians do to the “Nigerian”. This is what I find detestable; we must let every criminal be dealt with as an individual, not as a representative of a country or race. If Nigerians had had the brains of the the Indian mobs attacking them, the indians would have also been massacred in Nigeria for proliferating the Nigerian market with counterfeit drugs, damaging unsuspecting citizens, until NAFDAC was established to check the menace, banning and blacklisting the Indian pharmaceutical channels responsible.

The same Goa, a tourist hub that the Indians claim have been made unsafe by Nigerians, has long been dubbed the “rape capital of India” for the notoriety of its rapists, all Indians, recklessly after and assaulting foreign tourists, possessed by libidos that couldn’t spare even an eight year-old Russian girl. Aside from the Goa statistics, India’s rape rates remain regular features of the international media; yet nobody finds the gut to indict this generation of Indians unfairly as rapists knowing the gravity and backlash of such careless stereotyping. And this hypocrisy challenges us to ponder: why is it so easy to denigrate a black person, an African, a Nigerian? It’s the world’s sensitivity to the history of our persecutions and awareness of the failures of our governments and people which seem to have inspired a consensus that nothing good may ever come from us. We are all in the news for the wrong reasons: killing one another over religions introduced by foreigners, over trivial ethnic and political differences, thus exposing the skeletons of the continent to the people already doubting the authenticity of our humanity. We give the media-dependent world impressions of an Africa of perpetual famine and malnourished children, of needless wars and skirmishes and brainless warlords, of dysfunctional governments and shamelessly corrupt elite, and of the many ethnic, religious and political zealots and uncivilised belligerents. So it’s understandable when we find signposts bearing “Save Africa” planted in coffee bars and airports in New York and London, convincing the almsgivers that Africa is no doubt the playground of the Devil!

I was struggling to outfight the shame stirred up by unfair treatments of my kinds in Goa when the heart of the world literally stopped at once in honour of the passing of a man who, in conventional intellection of his skin colour and ancestry, ought to have been just another “nigger” dead. But he was Nelson Mandela, known first as a human being, a philosophy he successful engraved in our conscience, before any other thing. He came, saw and refused to mind his business as many before him, becoming an activist and then a politician and then a thinker whose mission offered to solder the mortally broken bond between the black and the white, showing us that though the colour of our skin differs, our language too may differ, we’re held together by a much stronger identity: our humanity. Mandela confidently highlighted my proposition that we are all humans first before we are ever any other thing, before we are ever identified as a member of a race, a country, a province, an ethnicity and a religion and until that is properly understood, that a caucasian, an Arab, a Black, an Indian and Chinese who were delivered of a child respectively in the same hospital at the same time only procreated what is first a human being, an undeniably permanent identity: it’s the only identity, of all the acquired and imposed labels, we can never renounce!

Mandela was a product of a turbulent history. He was not a myth or a creation of the western media as presented by dissenters attempting to portray him as a sellout who betrayed the revolution of his people. He began as an angry young revolutionary who had no alternative but to resort to an armed struggle meant to “target only government offices and symbols of apartheid, not people”, in the process of which he was arrested, charged and sent to jail. 27 years later, leaving the prison, he laced up his shoes for a walk that would later dominate the literatures of Freedom and redefine the politics of race beyond the borders of his home country – the first black President of the Republic of South Africa. The dissenters expected him to jail the white beneficiaries of apartheid system, confiscate their assets and let the new majority rule be dedicated to the causes of the blacks. Instead, Mandela chose to heal the wounds of the nation through reconciliations, declaring: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.” Mandela’s resolve to not avenge the evils of apartheid, against the highlighted violent dispositions of his young years that had him branded as a terrorist, was a wisdom perfectly applied. Time had already changed, invalidated the necessity of violence in new South Africa and, more so, we are witnesses to the backlash of reckless revenge in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. And while the mess of the apartheid regimes may not be cleaned up overnight, the fortunes of both South Africa and Zimbabwe are now in the hands of Black politicians, and their failure to redeem their people is no longer the Whiteman’s palaver!

Mandela’s existence was a sort of secular prophethood: he showed us all we must adopt in overcoming racial differences and tensions, and the ways to knot the loose bonds of race relations inherited from histories that must also be flung into the bin of our memories. If African leaders heed the words of Mandela, the least they owe their people is crushing the (in)decisions that keep the people fleeing their home country. They must erect structures in which the talents and brains we sell or abuse overseas can be properly tapped, instead of turning into advocates of dangerous and polarising ideas or beliefs. Mandela was not hypocritical in teaching us his aversions to supremacy of one race to another, of one religion to another and of his commitments to serving humanity, but so long as the customers gathered in coffee bars in New York and London continue to see the “Save Africa” signposts as a result of our people’s disregards for the wisdom of Mandela, and aware that Africa is still far behind Asia in its race to the modern civilisation, their sense of superiority remains unshaken. Mandela’s life has already become a book, every year a chapter, every action a verse, for those who think.

That Mandela, a Blackman, demolished restrictive labels and became a universally acknowledged symbol of Compassion, Peace and One Humanity in a world known for vengeful politicians, even among the people to whom the Blackman is still a divine error or biological dysfunction, challenges us to search within and understand how to “mass-produce” more of such species – of morally courageous black people possessed by a passion to stand out. Despite India’s famed racial prejudice, the flaws in considering even its darker citizens socially inferior, it lowered its flag to half-mast for five-day state mourning of Mandela – and its private citizens too joined in their individual respect to a human loved. And the respect shown Mandela all over the world by the blacks and whites and browns and whatnots is itself an unspoken communication, the last verse of his book of commonsense, telling us that though the structure of the world is complex, by being good and honest and loyal to the doctrine of one humanity we will conquer the expectations of those to whom we are mere lynch-able criminals and inferiors. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)