It is time forget that Nigeria has a president.
I can’t remember his name already.
The guy I’ve forgotten has been in a Saudi hospital since November to address serious heart and kidney problems.
What’s his name hasn’t been seen in public since November.
He’s already only the second best-known Nigerian. The best known is the underwear bomber, another guy who’s name no one can remember.
Now my wife is Nigerian and a very proud one. Not a discussion about her country passes her ears without her exclaiming one thing or another about her “beloved super eagles.” Nigeria is, in the minds of many Nigerians, “the giant of Africa.”
But as long as what’s his name is president, Nigeria is the midget of Africa, no giant at all.
Let Nigerians bray that they deserve to be the world’s political joke. But with one in every black Africans a Nigerian, what’s his name should ashamed himself — and Nigerians from all corners should insist that this forgettable man formally resign his office, or at the very least, allow another Nigerian to pretend to be president until a fair and free national election can be held.
Elite Kenyans are fond of lecturing me — an American — on how they ought to be trusted to manage foreign assistance as they see fit. They often go ballistic over what they see as the unfair intrusions of foreigners in the internal affairs of their beloved country. Well, they are going mega-ballistic this week, following a public blast by the U.S. ambassador about large-scale government corruption in Kenya.
Usually complaints about corruption nicely co-exist with the continued flow of American aid. Not this time. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger has suspended $7 million in support for free primary schools in Kenya, putting action behind his angry words.
A Bush appointee, Ranneberger was thought by many to be quickly replaced by the new president, Obama, who famously has family ties in Kenya. Rather than putting a close ally in Nairobi, Obama has stuck with Ranneberger who has supervised an increasingly tense relationship between the U.S. and the Kenyan government. American officials want Kenya to put through new election procedures that will guarantee a fairer election outcome — and reduce the chances of a replay of the violence three years ago that marred the re-election victory of Kibaki, Kenya’s aged and autocratic leader. Kibaki, while presiding over the liberalization of Kenya’s economy, has also encouraged massive corruption at the highest levels of government.
Ranneberger demanded an independent audit of the free-schools programme. “Those culpable for the fraud should not only be sacked – they need to be prosecuted and put behind bars,” he said, adding: “The US shares the deep concern of Kenya’s development partners and the Kenyan people regarding the continuous revelations of large-scale corruption.”
Ireland is not the cradle of energy pioneers. The country is, after all, an island. No oil. No gas. No nuclear power. Yet Ireland has wind and the country is spawing a community of wind-energy enthusiasts.
One of these enthusiasts is talking about investing more than $1 billion in wind energy plants for South Africa, a middle-income country with huge energy deficits — and the money to pay for new energy sources.
Bono, the Irish singer who is a troubedour of charity for Africans, can learn something from a much less known Irish figure, one Eddie O’Connor, the chief executive of Mainstream Renewable Energy. O’Connor envisions a mighty wind powering African prosperity.
Let the winds blow!
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Media in Africa are finally awakening to the importance of reporting on agricultural — and especially the many positive developments in rural Africa that co-exist (and co-evolve) with persistent predictions of doom for farming and farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. One new convert to the drama and pagentry of the rural Africa story isthe significant allafrica.com website, which is a clearing house for many newspaper articles published in papers around the continent. Worth reading closely is allafrica’s new special report on farming. Hats off to an interesting and important set of stories on the crucial subjects of farmer well-being, food security and the political economy of agriculture in Africa. In my view, media coverage of rural Africa — and farmers especially — cannot be increased too much, given the long history of neglect by journalists in Africa — and by elites and global policymakers too.
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Interesting thought experiment: What if Barack Obama had grown up in Kenya instead of the U.S.? How would Obama have turned out if rooted in the African fatherland of Kenya? Hints of an answer come from the memoir of his half-brother George, just released in the U.S. I spent some time ruminating about the other Obama’s life in a review published yesterday in The San Francisco Chronicle. Kenyans of course are fond of insisting they would prosper mightly if only granted the chance to live in the U.S. George Obama’s story, “Homeland,” suggests that not everyone seeks to find fame and fortune outside of Africa. For this reason alone, George Obama’s story, while clearly an attempt to take advantage of President Obama’s popularity, has a bedrock of integrity.
I’m mid-way through the new collection of essays by Chinua Achebe, “The Education of a British-Protected Child.” His lucid crystaline writing produces page after page of pithy brilliance, even though he shies away from spelling out his political positions on many urgent matters. The great Nigerian novelist and storyteller. also prattles on too long about how wonderful his fellow Igbo are. I am married to one and he may well be right, but he seems tone deaf to the way his ethnic pride plays can be misunderstood. Through the prism of Igbo-ness, Achebe can sometimes barely make sense out of the Nigeria he both loves and hates. While the book consists nearly entirely of speeches and essays from the 1990s, Achebe’s insights remain fresh and biting. Rooted in culture and history, he harks back to a glorious African past and a future, perhaps far in the future, of African self-reliance. In a time when troubedours of humanitarian relief and saviors from the philanthropic world dominate discussions of African problems, Achebe’s folksy cheerfuliness about the destiny of both Africa and Africans inspires admiration — and highlights the egregious mistake made by the saviors of Africa who fail to recognize the richness of African society, the beauty and courage of its people and the wisdom that springs forth even on its tarnished benighted soils. While Achebe knows nothing about “economic development,” his emphasis on the spirit and psyche of his fellow African ultimately tells more about the future prospects for wealth-creation in African than any plans by any eminent political economist. Let the Nobel committee, who has denied Achebe its literature prize for so long, awaken to this great truth-tellers value in the struggle by Africans for Africans in Africa.
Let me close with a staggering single sentence that captures the full range of Achebe’s powers to perceive, as he says, “the middle ground” between two polarities. While often circumspect about the personal details of his life, he writes at the start of one essay: “All my life I have had to take account of the million differences — some little, others quite big — between the Nigerian culture into which I was born, and the domineering Western style that infilitrated and then invaded it.” Achebe’s capacity for navigating between these two polarities created a difficult life — and great art.
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These are hard times for Nigerians in America. Embarassed by a failed suicide bomber from their homeland, Nigerians here are fretting about the heightened searches they will face whenever they pass through U.S. airports. Yet however poignant the melancholy Nigerians feel over the plight of their country, they remain staunchly optimistic about their collective future — if only a few bad apples would get of the way. Intense patriotism — and scant sense of responsibility for the state of their own country — is the sole currency of discourse among successful Nigerians who somehow endure the predations of a corrupt elite.
I am reminded of the classic expression of the Nigerian blame-and-shame game written in a column last year by Dele Momodu. He wrote without irony that:
“The problem is I love Nigeria too much despite our unending miseries. No nation in Africa should be greater than ours: I began to daydream, as usual. We are blessed with the largest population of black people on earth. We are beautiful and brilliant. We are confident, agile and hardworking. We are smart and intelligent. We are bold and ambitious. We are daring and adventurous. We are fashionable and trendy. We are religious and supposed to be God-fearing. We have been entrusted with everything – gold, iron, bauxite, coal, cocoa, oil, gas, bitumen, cotton, wildlife, groundnuts, most fertile land, awesome coastlines, vegetables and fruits, arts and crafts, brains and wisdom that should make everyone of us prosperous.
But our prodigiously wasteful and insatiably greedy rulers have chosen to throw us down, from the pinnacle of the temple to the bottomless pit of hell.”
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One of the leading broadcasters in East Africa, NTV, today aired a balanced, accurate and informative report on the struggle for homosexuals in Africa to gain equal treatment in their societies.
Homosexuality remains illegal in most African countries. While South Africa legalized gay marriage in 2006, in recent years some African countries have tried to tighten restrictions on homosexuality, prodded by evangelical Christians who increasingly influence political debates in such bellwether countries as Uganda and Ghana.
NTV television reported on the increasingly willingness of Africans to “come out of the closet,” despite the “taboo” of homosexuality in most places. While the broadcast quoted people defending the rights of gays, the reporter concluded, that homosexuality is “a long way from becoming part of popular African culture.”
Thomas Kean, chair of the 9-11 Commission, told CNN today: “This guy probably did us a favor.”
This guy is now the world’s most famous Nigerian: the man who tried to bomb the Detroit flight on Christmas day.
Kean went on to say: “Perhaps due to this incident we’ll get to where we should be” on on airplane security.
So there you have it. There will be no backlash against Nigerians in America — or back home. Even more, the possibility now exists that “this guy,” this Nigerian wanna-be airplane bomber, might not be the incompetent, error-prone, mishap-riddled young man. But rather “this guy,” this young Nigerian, may have sacrificed himself in order to make America better. Thank the Lord for Nigerians, and not just my wife.
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Jeffrey Gettleman, the East Africa correspondent for The New York Times, has provided rare documentation for an instance of hyping a crisis in Africa, in this case the past few years when pundits and activists predicted great bloodshed in Darfur that, so far, hasn’t happened. “People were crying wolf,” Mr. Augstburger said. “The crisis within the crisis never happened.”
Gettleman, who has done so much wolf-crying of his own, doesn’t give any activists the chance to rebut his allegations. Eric Reeves, the one Darfur activist who does speak in the article, is introduced to provide agreement with the author. Reeves chastises himself and other activists, albeit gently,for being “slow to recognize how significant this reduction [in violence] has been.”
To be sure, hyping crises in Africa is a banal truth about the business of humanitarian aid. The atrocities in Darfur have been a rallying cry for those seeking to raise their own moral status — and funds — for some time. Perceptive President Obama, having been pressured early in his administration to “intervene” in Darfur, now stands vindicated. In Darfur, Africans are sorting out their own problems, albeit imperfectly.
The lesson is worth embracing. Activists rationalize their Africa exaggerations, believing more assistance and concern is better than less no matter how this global outpouring is achieved. The manufacture of fake headlines, of fake news about Africa is a chief task of the international aid community. Yet real damage is done by crying wolf — to Africa and to international security. More examples of wolf-crying should be documented. While Gettleman himself was slow to produce this article
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