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How France Underdeveloped Africa

A  FEW centuries ago, France was the leading continental power in Europe. After the 1789 French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte became master of Europe. A man of great ambition, he aimed to bring all of Europe under French hegemony. He almost succeeded until his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Bonaparte had invaded Egypt in 1798 with a legion of soldiers and scientists. It was in fact one of his scientists, Jean-François Champollion, who deciphered the hitherto closed world of Egyptian hieroglyphics, thereby opening up a new vista for the discipline that we know as Egyptology today. His soldiers, we are told, often used the face of Egyptian mummies for their shooting practice. They aimed to destroy their noses, the better to prove that the ancient Egyptians were not Africans.

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A London café conversation

I AM writing this piece from cold, wet London. Last night it rained cats and dogs. Yesterday late afternoon a friend invited me to a café in the old Borough of Richmond where I once lived and lectured in the nearby American University. As we sat to reminisce on the good old days over tea and scones, some two African guys next to our table picked interest in our conversation. Smiling, the younger of the two, turning in my direction, asked me point blank if I came from South Africa. Smiling, I answered No.

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The persecution of Justice and the end of democracy

THE news came as a shock to some of us that  the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, His Lordship Justice Walter Onnoghen, is to appear in a court on charges of non-declaration of assets. He is also accused of allegedly operating some dozen bank accounts containing varying amounts of local and international currencies. He is expected to hand over the reins of office to the second most senior colleague as he goes on trial. There has been no precedent for a serving justice being compelled to appear in a lower court to answer charges for a misdemeanour, real or imagined.

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A plea for economic planning

DURING the economic recession of the 1980s the doyen of Nigerian economics, Pius Nwabufo Okigbo, delivered a lecture at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, with the title, “Sorcerers, Astrologers and Nigerian Economic Recovery.” Yours sincerely was among the audience during that steamy 1986 summer afternoon in Kuru. It was a brilliant performance. The late economist gave that dramatic title to his erudite lecture to drive home the point about how bereft we are in terms of serious critical thinking about the economy.

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The meaning of political leadership in an age of pessimism

OURS is a confused and  illiberal age. Our people have become so pessimistic about the future it’s alarming. My experience with politics so far has even deepened my sense of pessimism. A few days ago I found myself in a room with some of the greatest movers and shakers in the political arena. There was not a single discussion of how we could take Nigeria forward. I felt as if I was in the midst of gangsters.

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Emmanuel Macron and the new France

THE outcomes of the French presidential elections were announced on Sunday, May 7, with Emmanuel Macron, the centrist political leader, having 62 per cent of the votes as against ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen’s 38 percent. It had been a bitterly contested election. So much was at stake – no less than the future of France and of Europe itself. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right Front National, campaigned under the banner of xenophobic nationalism. She promised to act tough on immigration; to pull France out of the EU, revoke the citizenship of naturalised citizens with known terrorist sympathies. For her, it would be “les français d’abord” – the French first!

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Planning for Growth and Structural Transformation

THE Nigerian growth story has been a rather topsy-turvy one. During the early years of independence, growth was moderately positive, averaging over five percent annually. The lowest rates were during the crisis years 1966-70 when growth went as low as -17 percent. The country emerged after the civil war with impressive growth results, reaching a peak of almost 30 percent in 1970.  From the 1980s to the 1990s – the dark years of military tyranny – growth was a moderate annual average of 3.5 percent, undulating between negative and positive figures during that decade.

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Let no-one deceive you

MY gentle readers, let no-one deceive you. The stakes we face today are of a destiny-changing order.  The coming elections will decide whether our country will survive  or will be thrown to the dogs. Sunday November  18, was announced by INEC as the date for the official commencement of the national electioneering campaigns. We are back to the colourful and exciting era of the soapbox and the hustings.  It is a race that will not be for the fainthearted.

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