By Tabia Princewill
THE leader of the South African opposition, Julius Malema, says President Zuma and the South African state promoted a culture of violence and xenophobia which led to Black South Africans attacking migrants and foreigners whom they blame for their own economic misfortune.
In many cases in Africa, violence is often state sponsored, an idea that prompted many arguments between myself and my colleagues at the London School of Economics and political science (LSE).
From the Sorbonne, which if I am to be honest, cared little about the Black experience, to the LSE where both students and professors often held either antiquated views about Africa, or beliefs which infantilised Africans by blaming only the West for its misfortunes, I would often argue, much to my colleagues’ stupor that there is nothing wrong with Africa or Africans beyond the lack of political will to do right by the majority of citizens, due to the self-interest and greed of the same elitist cabal which has been in power in most countries for decades.
Most Westerners cannot begin to fathom that any government or person of power and means would be so selfish (or crazy) as to engage in factitious activities meant to divide and instigate violence for personal gain.
Not only because such crimes are punishable but because the ethics and code of conduct which public officials are forced to abide by in other climes, are too strict to allow such actions: the public in Europe or America wouldn’t stand for it, talk less of seeking to pardon those who we all acknowledge have wronged us, as it is done here in our very own country, Nigeria.
Forced leaders on the people
Julius Malema reportedly said about President Zuma’s call to end xenophobic attacks: “his body language did not suggest a leader”. He continued: “Your own son continues to say these people must be killed…Your son is such a typical example of a family member you cannot whip in line.”
One would have thought Malema was referring to our own President and his wife whose xenophobic utterances and miscreant demeanor have embarrassed Nigerians, degraded the polity and ultimately cost her spouse his re-election.
One encounters similar situations all over Africa: those called to lead, those forced upon the people, are hardly ever the best.
Rather, they are the result of the sort of alliances and political calculations one would not even need to bother with if politicians simply did the work they were elected to do and developed their constituencies rather than promote ethnic bias and fool citizens into believing only a member of their ethnic group can have their best interest at heart. Africa has long since stopped developing statesmen.
We are no longer even breeding politicians. What we have today are con artists who defect to other parties based on whims and lack the courage and determination to develop their countries.
The irony is that PDP dares to accuse the APC of promoting a one party state, forgetting, because it is now in opposition, that the PDP is in fact, the originator of the one party, winner takes all mentality. PDP should perhaps hire historians and strategists to find out how the then ACN survived in a country where the centre is the big-man one must reckon with.
Our politicians support thugs (or become thugs and touts themselves), promote violence or in the case of the infamous Ayo Fayose, turn the state into a hideously divisive (and derisive) freak show.
What other way can one rule (the word itself is a problem, politicians are not kings, they must govern) if one has no inkling about policy? I shudder every time Jonathan is called a statesman. Emotion and selective amnesia cannot make anyone claim his actions have ever put him in the league of the Jomo Kenyatta’s, Nkrumah’s, Awolowo’s, Azikiwe’s and Tafawa Balewa’s (or even the Buhari’s and Obasanjo’s) of this world.
Times of strife and trouble
In Kenya, shortly after reports of the Garissa University attack, President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed citizens on television.In times of trouble and strife, our own President has been either absent or timid and indecisive, imagining every critic to be an enemy, rather than possessing the humility of a true statesman, that is, the capacity to look at situations objectively and to try to understand the point of view of others.
Blaming everyone except oneself for mistakes is also not in the makings of a statesman. Now, suddenly, our “statesman” decides he wants a refund: after trillions of naira spent, his loss, clearly, is something he still cannot stomach. Indeed, ministers, aides, state officials who absconded with party funds, should refund said monies in a transparent process; otherwise, it will only be looted again.
However, what is interesting is that Jonathan, yet again, (perhaps intentionally) misses the point. His actions helped cement a system where individuals can make away with state and party funds.
Nowhere else in the developed world, do ministers personally receive funds to “mobilize” support and there should be adequate checks and balances within parties to stop any member, no matter how highly placed, from using party funds for personal profit.
The APC recently sacked party heads it found guilty of such misdeeds. Is the PDP still too big to do the right thing? Moreover, PDP is not the Nigerian state or the Nigerian government, so where are the trillions from?
The ministry of petroleum? What sort of gangster’s den or opaque mafia government are we operating? Africa is not doomed to continuously repeat the same mistakes but as a people, we must shun the culture of mediocrity that awards honour where it is not deserved.
In our usual self-deluded manner, a failure presiding as close to a failed-state as one can get without full-scale war, is called a hero for doing nothing more than what many others before him have done. Sarkozy conceded victory to Hollande who is now the President of France.
Gordon Brown conceded victory to David Cameron, neither of these men was called a hero for doing what is expected of them. History might not even remember them and that also, is accepted as part of life.
Not everyone can be exceptional or larger than life, although living in Nigeria tells you the opposite as even a gateman can develop a God complex, believing he is the best at opening doors.
So, our Presidents are often fooled into believing they are their people’s messiahs although none of their loot serves to develop anyone beyond themselves. One could say, “they are all the same” and that I am wrong to place such faith in the APC and in General Buhari.
But as Oscar Wilde said, “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. Rather than be big fish in a small pond of mass poverty, some of us would rather be big fish in an open society, where real competition and opportunities separate the men from the boys. Of what use is being the best if one is never challenged, if one never has to prove that one is the best?
I SOMETIMES wonder if some people come from the same planet as the rest of us law-abiding citizens.
The logic here would be: he is not the only corrupt politician, some others (Alamieyeseigha) were pardoned so why not him?
Jonathan has so subverted our judicial process and morals that such ideas can even be entertained. So, if only one criminal is caught rather than a hundred does that excuse the crime? May 29th can’t come fast enough.
INTERNATIONAL media calls him “the man indicted for allegedly smuggling heroin into the US and who became an elected senator”.
Only in Nigeria! Of course, the Senator-elect claims it was his dead brother. Nigerian politics is a telenovela, a cheap series of painfully embarrassing events where our dignity is mercilessly trampled by desperate individuals.
Jonathan’s perceived protection of Kashamu (as the Nigerian government did not extradite him) and other characters that are equally perceived as dubious, contributed to his loss.