APC’s Litmus Tests
Salihu Moh. Lukman
Given that the term progressive is used loosely in Nigerian politics, it is important that APC leaders and members are able to functionally decide what the party represents beyond just the name. Progressive politics is about dynamism, action and improvement, which is goal-oriented with a clear vision. Political challenges in the country especially in the context of how they are manifesting, makes it important that APC leaders are supported, in every way possible, to transform the party to emerge as a truly progressive party, which should be both representative and responsive to the yearnings of Nigerians. The challenge of adopting a shared understanding of what it will take to build a progressive party requires introspection and tolerance. Leaders have to be able to debate, critique and compete freely without being discourteous or criminalising each other. This entails a change of attitude such that leaders don’t interpret criticisms as opposition to their ambition. It also necessitates that leaders are able to use internal debates to strengthen their perspectives and positions on how to resolve problems facing the party. This should be the source of APC’s electoral advantage.
Part of the expectation is that the 13-member Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention Working Committee appointed by the emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of June 25, 2020, led by His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, will take steps to begin to resolve challenges facing the APC, which was difficult to achieve under the dissolved NWC. With the initial tenure of six months, which was extended by another emergency NEC of December 8, 2020 to June 2021, the work of the Caretaker Committee is expected to end with a National Convention where another leadership should emerge to manage the affairs of the party for another four years.A
All party members and leaders should prioritise ensuring that the Caretaker Committee is able to complete the task of organising a National Convention where new leaders of the party will be elected. The first test therefore is whether the challenges leading to the dissolution of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC are being resolved by the Caretaker Committee. To what extent, are the resolution of challenges facing the party conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals?
Conforming to democratic principles requires that initiatives being implemented by the Caretaker Committee are based on decisions taken by competent organs as provided in the constitution of the party. Progressive ideals would require painstaking approaches to guarantee wider participation of leaders and members in the process of decision making. Both democratic principles and progressive ideals are not mutually exclusive and could be achieved through guaranteeing that meetings of organs are taking place as provided in the constitution of the party. Absence of meetings of organs partly contributed to most of the disaffections in the party during the tenure of the Comrade Oshiomhole-led NWC.
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To what extent has the APC Caretaker Committee distinguished itself from the old characteristics of managing the affairs of the party without meetings of organs as provided in the party’s constitution? This is the fundamental operational question, which, however considered, would have implication in terms of whether APC leaders are taking the necessary steps to rebuild the party based on any considered vision of progressive politics. Somehow, the reality is that in terms of convening the meetings of the organs of the party, for more than nine months, the Caretaker Committee has not convened any meeting of any organ of the APC apart from the emergency NEC meeting of December 8, 2020. Sadly, even the 13-member Caretaker Committee is hardly meeting.
Part of the indication is that most decisions taken by the Caretaker Committee were done by the Chairman, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni and the Secretary, Sen. Akpan Udoedehe. The good thing is that the major challenge of ensuring that the party is able to have a verifiable membership register is being resolved. But without the organs meeting as provided in the constitution of the party, where progress reports are given, what is the guarantee that the old problem of having inaccessible membership register will not be replicated? Already, given that the party’s membership registration/revalidation was done based on the old analogue method without applying modern virtual technology, what is the guarantee that the process of leadership reformation in the party, from ward congresses up to National Convention, will be done based on the new register? Will all members of the party be able to participate in the process of electing leaders of the party at all levels?
The test of whether the process of candidates’ selection for election will accommodate a broader participation of members of the party is the extent to which all members of the party participate in the election of leaders. Once election of leaders of the party is handled by few delegates, it is almost logical that it will be few delegates that will elect standard bearers of the party for elections.
Given all the developments in APC, especially against the background that most of the expectations around the Caretaker Committee are yet to be met, it will be important to review challenges facing the party and perhaps appeal to APC leaders to get the Caretaker Committee to urgently conclude the membership registration/verification. The needless extension of the exercise only serves to strengthen suspicions that the Caretaker Committee is reluctant to organise a National Convention where new leadership of the party will be elected. Based on what has been done so far, the minimum requirement should be that records of members of the party are displayed in all wards and copies made available to Local Governments, States and National Secretariat.
With membership records displayed, timetable for Congresses and National Convention should be set. Under no circumstances should there be any contemplation of extending the tenure of the Caretaker Committee. In order to ensure that no extension is being considered, Committees for Congresses and National Convention should be established without any further delay. Similarly, the dates for Congresses and National Convention should be decided.
Once that is done, negotiation and campaigns for the emergence of party leadership at all levels can commence. Negotiation and campaigns for leadership of the party have already started on a low scale. Many caucuses have emerged and some of the issues that will dictate the emergence of new party leaders would include the conventional approaches of zoning and relationship with power blocs in the party. Old affiliations such as membership of the merged parties that form the APC will come up. The negotiation will not be easy and if not carefully managed, especially against the background that the Caretaker Committee has not done much to broaden the process of membership participation in decision making within the party, there is a very high possibility that the party will be weakened in terms of conforming with basic democratic principles and progressive ideals.
Perhaps, what APC leaders need to do to be able to develop some enabling environment for the emergence of leaders of the party, especially at national level, leaders that can put the party on a good footing to begin to resolve challenges, is to identify people with good relationship across all the power blocs. APC must avoid situations where political touts are elected to the party’s leadership. APC should elect leaders that can inspire strong belief in members, and by extension Nigerians, that the party is working to resolve its challenges. Once political touts are the new leaders of the party, it simply means weak capacity to resolve challenges facing the party. Instead, the challenges may become worse.
In particular, the National Chairman and National Secretary should be people with excellent relationship across all the power blocs. These power blocs are known and permutations for 2023 elections are already crystalising around them. Under no circumstance, should anyone who has declared opposition to any of the power blocs be considered as either a National Chairman or National Secretary. Similarly, no one with any form of subsidiary ambition to contest for any elective post be considered for any of the national offices. In addition, the National Secretary should have both political and administrative skills to manage the process of negotiating the re-organisation of the National Secretariat of the party.
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Moving forward, the party should be able to have a well organised bureaucracy with established conditions and competent personnel to guide the process of decision making and implementation. With the difficult task of maintaining and managing verifiable membership register, which should form the pillar of membership participation in the election of leaders and candidates, ensuring the effectiveness of the party’s National Secretariat is not a matter that should be handled with carefree disposition.
Related to the issue of electing leaders who have good relationship with all power blocs within the party, as well as developing a competent National Secretariat is the issue of strengthening the provisions of the party’s constitution to ensure there are stronger checks on the leadership especially in the area of convening meetings as provided in the party’s constitution. The fact that leaders of the party don’t convene meetings as required by the constitution of the APC means that there is the need to review relevant provisions of the party’s constitution to make meetings of organs more compelling. There is no reason why the party cannot have a calendar of meetings, which must be respected by all leaders, especially the NWC.
A test of whether APC will be able to commence a new beginning based on respect for democratic principles and in line with progressive ideals depends a lot on combinations of factors leading to the emergence of the next leadership of the party. Every committed APC leader and member should recognise that as much as 2023 election is important, whether APC will be able to enjoy the confidence of Nigerians and therefore win the election is really about how broadly democratic the party is and the extent to which the vision of the party aggregates the expectations of Nigerians.
Part of the limitation of politics in Nigeria is that everything revolves around who will emerge as a candidate for election, especially the presidential candidate. The conventional approach is that for anyone to emerge as candidate, such a person must control structures of the party. The extent to which APC is able to manage the process of electing leaders of the party will determine whether the party is working to change Nigerian politics or not. Once the leaders of the party are product of supremacy battle, conferring victory on any of the power blocs, it will simply mean that the priority of the new leadership is to confirm one of the leaders as the presidential candidate of the party for 2023 election. Once that happens, the business of winning election will hardly be about winning the support of Nigerians.
Being a progressive party, APC must take every step to win the support of Nigerians. This is also not going to be an easy task at all. APC leaders must be reminded that the existential challenges facing the nation require sober reflections. These are not the kind of challenges that will just blow away. Any business-as-usual approach will demoralise the confidence of Nigerians and will weaken the support base of the party. From security challenge, to problems of unemployment, poverty and inequality, the challenge is basically about negotiating new frameworks of managing the country.
With all the initiatives of the APC Federal Government to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, it is important that Nigerians are able to recognise and endorse the plans being implemented by the President Buhari’s government. Beyond endorsement, Nigerians should be able to accept the details of the APC’s anti-poverty agenda. The Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) led by Prof. Doyin Salami has provided the necessary orientation for the Federal Government to achieve the plan based on the principles that ‘Poverty is not only the lack of cash. It is defined by lack of access to shelter, health, education and jobs which must all be addressed.’ How lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty creates jobs and reduces the problems of unemployment in the country should be unambiguously expounded.
Combined issues of citizens’ participation in implementing government initiatives and development of political institutions in the country will be determined by the capacity of elected representatives to consider initiatives to strengthen the nation’s federalism. Considering initiatives to strengthen federalism is a necessary requirement to ensure that Nigeria’s democracy is both representative and responsive to the needs of Nigerians. Recommendations of the APC Committee on True Federalism contain some important proposals in this respect. APC leaders need to take all the necessary steps to strengthen Nigerian democracy by facilitating national engagement based on the recommendations of the APC Committee on True Federalism.
Part of what is holding the country back is the inability of political leaders to allow negotiation to take place. As a result, APC leaders are indifferent to all the recommendations contained in the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism. There is the need to appeal to APC leaders to move the country forward to a position of active negotiation based on the recommendations in the report of APC Committee on True Federalism.
Other factors also blocking political negotiation in the country include combinations of undemocratic mindset of citizens and political bullying. These are also contributory factors to why democratic engagement in the country is weak. Actions by organised groups such as protests and strikes against debates in the National Assembly on proposals for reform in the country are adversative to democratic culture. Why should any organisation with claimed commitment to democratic values seek to arm-twist elected representatives? On the other hand, politicians and many Nigerians also use measures of blackmail and arm-twisting to subdue perceived opponents. Political leaders, both elected and appointed, impose their positions on citizens. Where possible, citizens also bully political leaders. Bullying has reduced the nation’s democracy to a pretentious vocation, which is not more than that of imposing preferences of leaders.
The test of whether APC will be able to provide the needed political leadership to discourage the use of bullying to win the support of Nigerians depends a lot on the tolerance levels of leaders of the party in terms of winning the support of party members. Once leaders of the party also apply blackmail, arm-twisting or bullying to force their choices on the party, it will only be logical that the same approaches will dictate conducts of elected and appointed representatives produced by the party.
Another test, which will determine electoral viability of the APC considerably include issues of leadership succession. Being a progressive party, APC leaders need to begin to move to a situation whereby leadership succession arrangement at all levels are planned and criteria for leadership recruitment are set. Currently, leadership succession is based on individual decisions of current office occupants and is prone to a lot of challenges. There is the need to appeal to APC leaders to be more broadminded, unobjectionable and accommodating. In 2013/2014 leaders of APC were very much united with all the divergent preferences around leadership choices, both for the party and the country. The unity in the party was informed by the respect leaders have for one another.
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Operationalising APC’s brand of progressive politics is a dynamic issue and needs to be approached with open mind to be able to contribute in a way that endears the party to Nigerians and gives confidence to every member to promote the party as the embodiment of the political future of the country. This is a big challenge, which unfortunately many party members try to reduce to cheap propaganda of simple expression of support for positions of party leaders and government. Often times, to succeed requires a very honest engagement and being able to convince leaders about the limitations of their actions or inactions.
Being successful also depends a lot on the disposition of party leaders to consider issues and recommendations made by party members and supporters. The framework for engagement between APC leaders, on the one hand, and party members and supporters, on the other hand, will be a determining factor in terms of how wide or narrow will be the support base of the party. Related to how wide or narrow the support base of the party will be, is the question of whether APC will contract relationship with organised groups. Being a progressive party will require that APC is able to develop relationship with organised groups based on which members of the organised groups commit their votes to candidates of the party.
The issue of mobilising young Nigerians, for instance, can be more effectively and efficiently achieved with strong relationship between APC and youth groups in the country. This is also the case with reference to mobilising women to support the party. If the party is to emerge as a truly progressive party, the support of the women and youth is paramount. In this age of information highway, the APC must be both representative and responsive to the aspirations of women and youths with good application of modern virtual infrastructure. This is where there must be a complete change in the APC National Secretariat. A situation where a governing party with claimed progressive credentials is not having an official website and official social media handles is simply unacceptable. All the websites and social media handles bearing APC are controlled by individuals, who may not even be members of the party. The party has no direct access to these websites and social media handles. To say the least, this is very scandalous. Why should the only business of the party’s publicity department be reduced to issuing press statements?
Once the party is unable to develop virtual infrastructure and deploy it for effective engagement with Nigerians, it will be weak to engage groups in the country. Besides the issue of virtual infrastructure, is the question of whether the APC will handle the mobilisation of Nigerians based on the conventional endorsement of divisive politics? Or will the party and its leadership adopt painstaking strategy of mobilisation through developing the productive capacity of Nigerians? Beyond developing the productive capacity of Nigerians, ensuring access to education, jobs, healthcare delivery, shelter, etc. are fundamental preconditions for the effective mobilisation of Nigerians.
What is the APC’s vision for Nigerians? The APC manifesto outlined in clear terms its commitments on a number of challenges facing the country. Part of what APC leaders need to do is to be able to develop the framework for engaging organised groups of Nigerians based on provisions of the APC manifesto. The relationship between APC and organised groups in the country should be expanded to the realm of policy engagement in the country. The big task is whether APC leaders can develop the needed confidence to engage groups and win their support in terms of contracting agreements around policy initiatives of governments controlled by the party.
As a progressive party, APC needs to be proactive to be able to facilitate engagement on policy demands in the country. Actually, negotiating policy demands is the NEXT LEVEL politics APC should be creating. With active policy negotiations, the challenge of building the nation’s health and education sectors can be addressed. Issues of strikes by unions can be preempted and brought under control based on corresponding national agreements of mobilising resources, both human and financial to achieve a national vision. If there is any lesson Covid-19 pandemic has brought, is that developing the nation’s health sector must be a priority. Developing the nation’s health sector necessarily also requires good investment in the educational sector so that the required health personnel to manage the nation’s health sector can be produced. As a party envisioned to be a social democratic party implies that education and health will be the priority sector. Is APC going to be able to actualise its vision of being a social democratic party?
Progressive politics based on the characteristics of both participatory and responsiveness to citizens’ expectation will always be popular. For it to enjoy the trust of Nigerians requires a high measure of honesty on the part of political leaders. APC leaders and members must take adequate steps to understand the needs of Nigerians and respond with a positive disposition. Whether APC can pass all these tests and protect its electoral viability depend more on whether the Caretaker Committee of the party can demonstrate capacity to finish its work in June 2021 by organising a National Convention where new leaders of the party will emerge. Failure to organise a National Convention in June 2021 will simply mean that the Caretaker Committee is not interested in protecting the electoral viability of the party. There should be no debate about whether the National Convention of APC should hold in June or not. What is debatable is the issues that will emerge in the National Convention, which should include the election of leaders and amendment to provisions of the constitution to make it more compelling for meetings of organs of the party to hold as required.
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Whether APC will be able to pass all its litmus tests will depend a lot on whether the Caretaker Committee is committed to finishing its assignment by June 2021. Even if it is able to complete the assignment, processes of internal negotiation to produce leaders of the party, the character and capacity of the new leadership, as well as the scope of membership participation during Congresses and National Convention, will be determining factors of whether the party is conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals. Commitment to democratic principles and progressive ideals are strong requirements for both representation and responsiveness. APC must emerge as a dynamic party, action- oriented, based on which it is able to engender improvements in the lives of Nigerians.
APC is the only party where contestation is taking place and leaders recognise the challenges facing the party. If democracy is about contestation, with all its problems, APC represents the hope for a democratic Nigeria. For that to become reality, APC must pass all its litmus tests. A strong pillar, which is the catalysing element for the party to be able to pass all its litmus tests is the liberal leadership of President Buhari, based on which he doesn’t interfere in the management of the party. The Caretaker Committee must not abuse the President’s confidence by delaying the National Convention of the party. No party in Nigeria has the liberal atmosphere provided in APC.
Dr. Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum Abuja.His position here does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.
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Nigeria’s Forthcoming Presidential Drama
By Tony Afejuku
Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s political strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s democratic strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s law and legal strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s capitalist development strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s economic strategists? Who are President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s media strategists? These questions consisting of verbal repetition which emphasizes what President Tinubu and the masses of our people are up against are ones that cannot be swept under the carpet and must not be swept under the carpet.
Our new president is barely less than a few days in office yet he and his strategists have conspicuously made conspicuously avoidable mistakes – which indicate to me that sooner than later the president and his strategists will distrust themselves.
Let us take the president’s “subsidy is gone” issue – which I referred to last week. Hell! His first outing has caused us a disastrous disaster. He and his strategists are behaving as our conquerors right from the day the first of their presidency which is our new presidency. They want us to sink it in our consciousness that their concrete actions any time and at all times will and must achieve particular outcomes which will and must prosper them. The people don’t matter. Or the people will only matter if and when they want them to matter. What this means is that our new helmspersons have no eye to history. The people and the masses are forever to be cheated and treated unjustly. Their thinking is absurd but there is no absurdity in their consciousness. This explains why the president, encouraged by his strategists in every department, could terminate fuel subsidy in one wicked and malicious phrase and simultaneously could similarly allow a litre of petrol to be sold for above five hundred naira. As many people have rightly said, no thought of the masses of Nigerians came out of the hearts of President Tinubu and his cohorts of flatterers. If the president and his cohorts were comrades we would have discovered and discerned order and discipline and justice in their first undertaking which has foreshadowed what is to come from this regime. They behaved as if the people and the Nigerian Labour Congress did not exist.
Now when the Nigerian Labour Congress and its affiliate leadership bodies and organisations were ready for a strike and un-strategically gave sufficient notice to that effect, what did President Tinubu on the advice or prodding of his strategically conscious lieutenants do? Rather than admit his strategic error and apologise to the people and the NLC for taking the clearly wrong action, President Tinubu put on a bold face to tell us that he is another ugboju (strong eye/strong face) president of your country my country our country. We expected a drama that never came as expected. But the drama will still come. Next time NLC and the people will no notice give this regime as President Tinubu did not give them any notice before he did to us what he did to us.
As the last horrible regime did to ASUU, this new regime hopped to an Industrial Court in Abuja to halt the NLC’s well but strategically advertised strike, as I have said above. The new regime’s strategists wanted all of us to know that they are like the strategists of the former regime who were in total control of our courts and judges and justices. The judiciary’s fear of the executive is still very much alive. And the judiciary has no soldier it seems again to stand up for the judiciary. There is no judge or justice in the land who justly can stand up for the rule of law, it seems. The masses and people and labour unions will always be worsted by the executive in our courts of law regardless of what the law is or says. The image of the law yesterday is still the image of the law today before our very eyes. Is it not absurd that the rule of law only favours the executive in all sensitive cases? Must every sensitive case be in favour of the federal government and its mighty might that readily is no might that is might at the end of the day? But every court in the land is more or less a riddle which only our presidential strategists and democrats who in fact are not democrats have numerous keys to. But the whole thing is a joke. Our sanctuary or temple of justice is a stage for the theatre of the absurd. Here I remember the words of William L. Howarth, a more than worthy international literary scholar and critic – “when absurdity meets absurdity, the result is perfect sense.” Phew!
So far I have learnt nothing from the case the PDP and LP presidential candidates and their parties have taken to the presidential election tribunal. I know nothing of the happenings there so far. But the drama there will soon hit us. And those who have been following events there closely and reporting them in our newspapers will soon inform us of a visual riddle and its peculiar image being observed there. The lines of the presidential lawyers and those of the opposing lawyers will sooner or later be openly on display on our screens via home video. All notions will be dramatized even though the masses of our people have been barred through the presidential election tribunal preliminary ruling from enjoying live television broadcasts, transmissions and reports of the exciting expository that would and will be revealed at the tribunal. The authority of the court that has prevented our people from exercising their rightful large and tranquil eyes is the undemocratic authority against the doctrine and principle of protecting the weak against the strong – who more often than not are always in the wrong. For how long will the doctrinal barriers placed between our common people and their right to equity and justice continue? Let the people keep on experiencing the hardship they are experiencing. Let the people keep on being oppressed. Let the people keep on being graceful and melancholic in their pains and travails. And let, too, the president and his strategists and cohorts continue to go to our televisions stations and tell lies and lies. Let the president and his strategists and cohorts through their power of dogmatic religions and of their practicing or public oratory, keep on doing in so short a time what their predecessors did – everything will turn out to be what they never saw in their havens and ovens of rituals. And the drama in the court will be the drama of dramas. All of us reading this will in the end be exciting exciters. The judges and justices will realize, before they know it, that the courts have their limits no matter the conditions of tyranny and despotism they work under. Let us all expect the expected and the unexpected at the same time.
The strategy of the people is the strategy of the people. We wait for the drama through the manipulative power of the people that no witch-doctor can cow. Unless President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is on the side of the people and he becomes their president rather than that of the enemies of their progress, there is nothing his strategists can do in the end to bail him out of the drama that is to come. All the master rhetoricians thoroughly versed in the arts and magic of persuasion or argument and capable of logical manoeuvres that serve his and their purposes, will inevitably become non-persons in their own drama of greatness. Let us expect the expected and the unexpected. This columnist who loves this country your country his country our country more than you do has spoken. Ignore him at your peril. Thunder! Yes. But it is not yet. But its time is its time.
Afejuku can be reached via +2348055213059.
African Marginal Identities And The Tyranny Of The Majority
By Toyin Falola
Nothing is far worse than the tyranny of the majority, and if one hides under the primacy of the majority, it will not always be a representation of the truth, reality, and the right perception. The majority can always be wrong. Many of the greatest atrocities in human history are committed by the general subscriptions of the majority and justification thereof. The domination of one group over the others creates a margin in society, casting some into the quest of finding their strength and re-understanding their identities. Africa has more than 1.4 billion people, but with a high rate of diversities, understanding, culture, and conviction. Also, the propensity of general similarities of societal attitudes has exerted similar problems across the continent.
The fate of marginal identities has much to question and a lot to discuss, despite the easy exits Africans take from advancing such discussions and ignoring the obvious. Those with marginal identities are evidence of realities and their discriminations, oppression, and subjugation are disguised issues the continent enjoys suffocating luxuries from and care less about giving the marginals breathing space, which will be discussed in this part. Diversity ought to foster unity and strengthen the development of the continent because of the availability of creative variety, making it a model to all. Unfortunately, ethnic hegemony, fundamentalism, gender domination and subjections, extreme cultural conservativeness, and prejudicial convictions have created more gaps among the people. While these are unsurprising, the deafening silence, oblivion, and discussion-apathy that those who matter in the continent have shown towards the subject put one in fear of what is yet to come.
Millions of Africans die year in and year out from the hegemony of the majority, which drives many into psychological and physical damage. One then tends to ask what the fate of minorities would be in years to come. The LGBTQI+ persons are victims of entire citizenries and systems, including rural dwellers who make up about 52.13 percent of Africans and are destructively cut off from the mainstream supply lines; refugees, displaced and stateless individuals subjected to inhuman treatments, constant persecution, and wasting away at borders and camps despite the supposed celebrated African unity mentality; slaves and pawns that society have drawn out their wills to the hands of some wicked individuals; disabled people with lesser societal attentions, with the few given to them objectized; marginalized ethnic groups; politically disadvantaged women and youth; secluded women; and people living with albinism. Many of these are common marginal identities with daily unfavorable encounters with others.
The level of diversity in Africa has necessitated the rise in marginal identities and their marginalization rate. While it is desirable to keep the tenets of culture intact at all times, one fundamental characteristic of culture is its susceptibility to change and its ability to accommodate those changes, expand, and adapt them with contemporariness subjected to the details of the people. Societies change, and Africa has seen several developments in ethical values in recent times as many of our convictions are questioned and their continuous viabilities are in doubt. The influx of globalization and modern cultural advancements that have diffused into Africa has allowed people to gain and regain consciousness about their identity and re-construe the perspective understanding of who they are.
Society is ideologically expanding on all fronts and there is nothing anyone can do about it, no matter how long parts of society hold back. Do not get me wrong; I do not state that African cultural values should change or that the novel perspectives about values should displace the traditional preconceptions that would be a step towards attracting identity loss and defeating all the aims of Pan-Africanism and Africanism endeavors made in the past and striving in the presence. The position is that the culture must adjust to accommodate people who are inhumanly subjected to identical massacre, personality conflict and oppression. It is to say that the culture should shell off dangerously prejudicial values. For instance, the killing of twins was part of the etymological conviction of the Efik people in Nigeria, who believed the children were a bad omen. Such trials by ordeal and other similar cultures have given way because of their negative impacts on society, despite the resistance of some people. This is the same spirit of logic I draw this disposition from and it compounds the need for cultural adjustment.
Issues around LGBTQI+ persons in Africa are one of the most controversial subjects of discussion to raise in Africa, even among scholars. This stems from Africans’ understanding of the subject as there is a general disposition about it because of its strong contradiction of several African cultural values and ethics. Gender and sexuality are core to African institutions, defining all activities and behavioral spaces in which people operate. As a result, one will understand the disposition of the continent to non-conformist sexualities and societal reactions to them. In several quarters, they are perceived to be an abomination to society, which may attract spiritual repercussions because of their capacity to degrade social contracts and fibers. Therefore, one cannot claim that the boasts of Africa in the spirit and existence of diversity spread to tolerance towards the LGBTQI+ community. This explains the disposition of the African governments and the jamborees of anti-gay or anti-sodomy legislations and policies that limit the constitutional rights of people with different sexualities.
Harsh societal reactions, vulnerability, and marginalization towards the LGBTQI+ community is a global phenomenon, as has been asserted by the Human Right Watch report in 2015, but Africa takes a strong position in antagonistic dispositions. Aside from cultural disposition, a strong angle to understanding the people’s reactions towards the community is the level of understanding an average African has about members of the community. Africa sees the identity as an emerging and novel culture inherited from Eurocentric domination and American influence rather than biological or instinctive orientations. Furthermore, Africans discuss it in lieu of spiritual conditioning that points against the emotional states of the African minds. Hence, they are subject to public criticism, embarrassed on the streets, sometimes stripped naked to “shame the devil,” and killed in the most inhuman manners on very bad days. But LGBTQI+ persons are human first, and many of them get their sexual orientations beyond their will and control. Would “what is” be considered non-existent? No matter how biased society might be, it is important to protect the people who identify as such, first as a human, before considering sexuality.
Another identity worth contemplating is women who continuously fall victim to societal bias against the role of women and the understanding of women. Africa has a special hierarchical approach to social structure, and after the advent of colonialism, the response to the status of women has worsened from the level and rate of patriarchal prejudice that existed before. However, one must state that the continent has been moving positively towards gender inclusion and reconstructing the role of women. Politics, social roles, sexualities, and identification are problems women face in African society. There is large political marginalization in terms of contesting or participating in roles and elections. Although the political spaces in Africa have been opening up to women, the continent has seen female presidents and leaders like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Slyvie Kiningi, Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, Rose Francine Rogombe, Joyce Hilda Banda, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Sahle-Work Zewde, Samia Suluhu Hassan, and other influential female African leaders. In the Nigerian 2023 general elections, there was a considerable increase in the number of female voters–52.5% were male voters, and a close 47.5% were female. However, females still face social discrimination in the continent as several believe that the only place they can function is the home.
In addition, millions of African women still live in seclusions in one form or the other, including Purdah systems, widowhood, and different religio-cultural conditionings. Some of them are cut off from the rest of society, incapacitating them and reducing their role in the developmental process of the continent. This results from beliefs, as several of the secluded women are not victims but have done so intentionally. Hence, addressing marginalization in this context must be done within the confines of culture and tradition. Women’s sexuality is taken very seriously in an average African society. It is the reason for many conservative cultures and opinions about women and a driving factor behind the evils of female genital mutilation and rigid sexual rules around women. The sacred African angles to women’s sexuality have brought about spiritual constructions that have attracted nebulous assaults and ritualism towards women because of the conception that they are especially spiritually different.
Also, ethnic differences and conflicts result from marginalization, creating compulsory but strong marginal identities. The diverse characteristics of the continent have brought about the existence of small minority groups shocked by the hegemonies of the majority. Crisis in Ethiopia, rivalries in Zimbabwe, agitations in Nigeria, unrests in Rwanda and Burundi, Kenyan wars, and other unrest in Mali and others are largely traceable to ethnic marginalization and domination. This has claimed millions of lives on the continent and has rendered many helpless. Ethnicity is the test of African unity and the continent is failing woefully in this regard.
In 2021, it was stated that Africa has about 52.13% of its population dwelling in rural areas. This shows that sometimes majority and minority factors are not often based on the number in comparison but influence in comparison. Burundi alone has about 85.94% of its population living in rural areas. According to the World Bank, there are no less than 687,081,738 Africans in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. Individuals are the majority but have minority voices and influence, except in certain situations. Interestingly, the food-producing populations are rural dwellers, yet development often passes over them. This continuous marginalization of these people is as dangerous to the continent as taking slow and gradual poisons. On a larger scale, this goes to the root of refugees, stateless, and displaced persons who are not considered key to societal constructions.
People living with disabilities are another identity that society has not been able to open its arms towards, and when such sympathy is done, it is often done in the most embarrassing forms. Africans have generally stereotyped people with disability with some level of condemnation. It does not matter what one does; as far as one is living with a disability, you are considered poor and discriminated against because society does not expect any level of mental or physical ability from people with disabilities. It is more pitiful that a spiritual status is attached to these persons, making them vulnerable to abuse, violence, ritual killing, and objectification. More particularly, people with albinism, hunchbacks, twins, and others with special forms of birth are subjected to consistent violations, abuse, and ritualism. Countries like Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria, and others have reported cases of grievous assaults and killings of people with albinos. They are often seen as ritual objects and materials for power.
Notably, the first step towards achieving reasonable solutions is to allow society to become more tolerant through awareness and collaborative approaches. There is a need for orientation change across Africa and the development of enforceability measures. Without a doubt, solutions to several of these discriminatory social convictions are not in aggressive movements, as many international and non-profit organizations have taken gradual steps that incorporate cultural and traditional peculiarities.
(Prt 1 of the Extract of the 2023 Audrey Richards Distinguished Public Lecture, University of Cambridge, June 7, 2023).
Think Aloud: Beyond Literacy and Numeracy In Schools
By Leo Igwe
Think Aloud is an initiative by the Critical Thinking Social Empowerment Foundation to foster critical thinking culture in schools, and in the society at large. The goal is to realize a sociocultural change and substitute a culture of suppression of questions with a habit of expression of doubts and critical viewpoints. The poor state of education and schooling is often rooted in limited focus and appreciation of these mental skills. Educational authorities put much emphasis on literacy, that is, the ability to read, write and effectively communicate. And numeracy, the ability to understand and work with numbers. No doubt, these skills are foundational to education and learning. But they are not enough. For instance, in an attempt to improve the quality of education, the government launched a program, Read Aloud. This initiative encourages children to read out loud, to improve their proficiency in reading, comprehension and communication. This program aims to create and stimulate interests of children in reading books and other forms of literature. It is a part of the effort to improve the reading culture in schools and society at large. To this end, the Lagos state government has been promoting “Read Aloud Lagos”. It urges parents and families to read aloud every day for 20 minutes so that children can develop and become lifetime readers. According to the Read Aloud Lagos web site, the program “builds many important foundational skills, introduces vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about”.
Indeed, reading is the bedrock of learning and comprehension. It helps in nourishing the mind. Without a robust reading culture, children cannot effectively communicate or express themselves. Their ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding is impaired. While it is important to teach children to read, and get them to improve their use and knowledge of words, it is equally pertinent to get them to think about what they read, and communicate. Children are by nature curious and inquisitive. It is necessary to encourage them to fully exercise their curiosity and inquisitiveness, to question and interrogate the texts that they read. In many cases what children read or are made to read are not true or are partially so. Many texts contain gaps in reasoning and construction, incorrect ideas and mistaken opinions. They misrepresent issues, and portray one-sided views and representations.
So, while it is important to encourage children to read aloud, it is imperative to equip them with questioning skills and complement their reading program with an initiative that emphasizes critical thinking, reflection and interrogation. It is necessary to give children and families the tools and facilities that can enable them to ponder and contemplate, think aloud, yes critically reason aloud.
As a part of this program, participants, in this case, children, are made to generate questions without inhibitions. They are nudged to give free rein to their curious and inquisitive minds. They are encouraged to ask any questions that occur to them; questions that go through their minds while performing particular tasks, and while carrying out everyday duties and assignments. The program is predicated on the notion that humans have and habor questions from childhood to adulthood, from the cradle to the grave. Human beings are questioning beings, Homo interrogans. They entertain doubts and objections in all areas of human endeavour. Interrogation of issues is a part of the human makeup, mental operations and intellectual chemistry. Questions occur or pop up in the minds of people while performing various tasks. Many people refrain from asking questions due to the heavy price and penalty on interrogation of issues and authorities. Questions are part and parcel of everyday experiences. Questions draw attention, and enlighten. Questions try to foreground sides, aspects and forms too often ignored or overlooked. Questions accentuate human sense of taste, and appetite for knowledge, the hunger for wisdom and the quest for truth and understanding. Questions form a key part of the human learning process. They drive human curiosity, exploration, investigation and sense of inquiry. Incidentally, many questions largely go unexpressed or suppressed due to a lack of space, program or opportunity to openly and publicly ask them. Many questions do not see the light of the day due to dogmatic and authoritarian vested interests, due to a culture that rewards and makes a virtue out of blind faith and unquestionability, rote learning, memorization and regurgitation of whatever has been taught or preached. The program, Think aloud, is an effort and initiative to change this culture of learning and foster curiosity and inquisitiveness in children. It aims to transform the educational sector by encouraging free interrogation of ideas, texts, issues and experiences in schools.
Education authorities should embrace this initiative, and seize the opportunity to improve the quality of learning in schools. Children should be taught to read and numerate. But more importantly, children should be taught to question what they read and numerate.
Dr. Igwe directs Critical Thinking Social Empowerment Foundation
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