Anyone watching the methodology of policing in Nigeria even in this twenty-first century, especially if the observer stays in one of the advanced modern democracies, one thing that will automatically flash through the sub- conscious of such an unbiased observer is the level of primitive policing culture in display even in the popular media of mass communication.
This is because, substantial percentage of the crime news shown on major televisions and carried by mainstream print and online media, are about certain suspects or suspect caught reportedly in one crime or another being paraded and interviewed.
I must say that this idea or practice of reporting the parade by especially the Nigeria police of suspects and then expecting journalists to direct a variety of incriminating questions at such a publicly disgraced crime suspect, forced me out of the police or crime beat in my active journalism days.
As a trained journalist who is also a human rights practitioner even as an active reporter with a major mainstream national daily, I had to contend with my conscience about the rightness of joining the mob of reporters to harass poorly treated crime suspects by pouring out so many crafty questions, all in an effort to persuade them to agree to the alleged criminal conducts so I could file my hot sellable stories for my media house.
And for commissioners and the inspector general of police, parading suspects and scoring media mileage is regarded as some of the finest achievements of their careers. A certain assistant commissioner of police from Borno State has become like a folk hero for deeply practising media trials of crime suspects to such an absurd level that he is portrayed as a police hero. Short and simple, that style of carrying out extra-legal trials of suspects and even celebrating extrajudicial executions of crime suspects associated with this serving assistant commissioner of police is so primitive that I doubt if he can go so far as he has done in our lawless nation if he was to join the Metropolitan police of London in the United Kingdom.
In the UK, some crime suspects’ identities are lawfully shielded from members of the public just so that justice is done and seems to have been done. Not so in Nigeria. Few weeks back this same assistant commissioner of police was seen showcasing fresh corpses of accused persons his squad reportedly slaughtered in Owerri. He was hailed by the federal authority as an achiever for committing extra-legal killings of crime suspects. Then where is the difference between the crowds of unruly persons who lynch crime suspects to death publicly immediately they are accused of theft? Suspects In Nigeria go through psychological, emotional, physical tortures and trauma at the hands of the police to make them own up to the crimes ascribed to them. The other day it was one Chidinma in Lagos accused of killing her married male lover.
She was paraded in the media and she was made to say how the man was gruesomely murdered. This is not how normal society works. Besides, section 36(5) of the Nigerian Constitution is on the presumption of innocence of crime suspects. This norm that ought to be solemn in our grundnorm is bastardised by the law enforcement officials who frequently parade persons accused of all manner of crimes even before the police concludes the investigation.
This weltanschauung if you like, is exactly what makes the society we are in to appear like we live in the primitive era or to borrow from one of the fathers of philosophy-Plato, the practice of parading suspects who have yet to be pronounced guilty by the court of law, before the media, makes Nigeria look like a group of people living right inside a cave.
The elementary excursus or exposition of the Platonic man in the cave, is about someone who is cut off from reality and who lives in an island thereby rendering the person both primitive and unintelligent because in a cave nothing informative and knowledge takes place because of the fact of the absolute darkness that envelopes it.
Why then is government tolerant of a policing methodology that directly offends the principles of rule of law? Is government in existence to promote lynch mob justice?
Why are the media houses not setting positive and constructive agenda and refusing to play the dirty game with the police who are abusing constitutional norms?
Can we say that the commercial interests made from putting sensational confessions made out of duress by crime suspects in Nigeria are the underlying reason for the persistent connivance of the media with the police?
Be that as it may, the action of the Lagos State house of Assembly in defending constitutional rights by outlawing media public parade of suspects is a welcome idea. It is hoped that other houses of assembly will follow the example already set by the Lagos legislature so we restore the dignity of the Nigerian.
Before we delve into the legal citations on the idiocy of the public parade of crime suspects, let us consider for instance, the global image fiasco that the constant media trials by law enforcement authorities attracts to Nigeria.
Take the case of advanced fee fraud and the methodology and crude operational mode of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in terms of the frequent media parade of hundreds of young Nigerians allegedly caught in conflict with the law. Can we ask the EFCC why it thinks it is a good way of showing that it is effective by displaying young Nigerians over allegations of advanced fee frauds whereas the United States of America whereby the highest drugs- associated crimes occur, you don’t get to see their policing institutions show to the world that American youths are into drugs- induced violent crimes?
In Chicago, the rate of youths’ involvement in different crimes of violence is about the highest globally.
But how many times do we see these crimes shown on Cable News Network or any of their popular media of mass communications?
The United States of America is governed by law and not by brute force and so the rights of their citizens are safeguarded. Similarly, in much of the developed societies, the law is supreme and nobody is made a criminal even before the competent courts of law say so. That method is only applicable in societies that recognise adversarial forms of law enforcement whereby suspects are deemed guilty until they are deemed innocent by the courts of law. Such cave societies like Iran or Saudi Arabia practice this. But with the Nigerian Constitution specifying the rights of citizens, every accused person is deemed innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty by the court of law and not courts of public opinion. Police ought to be more circumspect and professionally diligent in gathering evidence that will convince the courts to return a determination that is commensurate with such a body of evidence.
We will now read what Al Jazeera wrote about rising crimes in U.S.A and then we will wonder how on earth we have a bunch of people we are paying as policeman whose only interest is to defecate on the constitution by embarking on mob justice.
A story anchored by Crede Newton reports that fears of a bloody summer have become a focal point of New York City’s mayoral race as residents go to the polls in primaries to choose Democratic and Republican candidates amid rising violent crime across the US.
Homicides and other violent crimes that shot up in 2020 are continuing their national rise, and President Joe Biden will speak on Wednesday about what he “is going to do to help address” rising crime, especially gun violence, “as we’ve seen around the country it is a concern of many Americans”, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.
Gun crime has seen a sharp rise in major metropolitan areas, and especially in the nation’s largest city, New York. Shooting incidents rose 73 percent in May 2021 over the previous year, as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and New York begins to reopen, according to New York Police Department numbers cited by CNN.
This is weighing on voters minds, according to an NY1/Ipsos poll released June 7 (PDF). The poll found that 46 percent of voters view crime as their primary concern, outpacing affordable housing at 45 percent and COVID-19 at 32 percent.
Democrat Eric Adams, a former New York Police Department captain and president of the Brooklyn borough, has argued he is best-suited to address rising crime rates, and voters appear to be listening.
An Ipsos poll released June 21 found surveyed likely voters viewed Adams as the best candidate to handle the crime increases.
The poll also suggested Adams was leading the pack of 11 Democratic candidates with 28 percent support.
Though far short of the 50 percent threshold needed to win outright, Adams is still well-positioned under New York City’s new ranked voting system, which allows New Yorkers to choose candidates based on preferences, then knocks out the lowest-ranking candidates in several rounds until a winner is selected.
Adams has argued against calls to “defund the police” that gained traction after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, saying it was a slogan adopted by affluent white people.
Those who support defunding have called for those funds to be diverted to other social service programmes that focus on crime prevention through bettering people’s living conditions. Black communities do not agree with the approach. Adams, who is Black, has claimed, saying more police are needed.
When popular progressive New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Maya Wiley, who has called to slash the NYPD’s budget by $1bn, Adams released a statement criticising the two for their calls to defund police.
“They are putting slogans and politics in front of public safety and would endanger the lives of New Yorkers”, he said.
But Ernesto Lopez, a research specialist for the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ), told Al Jazeera that while “decreased budgets could diminish police capacity to proactively reduce crime” and “some research suggests that the ‘defunding’ aspect can reduce police officer motivation, thereby limiting more proactive policing”, he is “less confident in that this is driving the increase [in violence]”.
The National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has agreed with Adams’ sentiment and said cities “turned the keys over to the ‘Defund the Police‘ mob”, in an apparent reference to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that arose across the US after Floyd’s death.
FOP tweeted an image on May 25 showing “skyrocketing murder rates” in many major cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon which saw a staggering 800 percent increase in murder rates as of May 2021, FOP claimed.
Minneapolis and Portland were at the forefront of police defunding, but their police budgets were cut by 5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Portland’s homicide rate increase is staggering, but the total number of homicides was 10 in May 2021, increasing from two in May 2020, according to city data.This is about a 500 percent jump, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Los Angeles and Chicago cut their budgets to a similar degree, by about 5 percent in LA and 3 percent in Chicago. These numbers came far short of what activists wanted.
Chicago has seen increases in violent crime. Its deadliest day of 2021 was June 15, with eight killed in shootings, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
But crime rates are rising across the US, regardless of whether police budgets decreased, remain steady or increased. There is little evidence to suggest that defunding police departments has increased crime.
Houston and Nashville, two cities run by Democratic mayors, increased their funding for police during the past year. Houston has seen homicides rise by 35 percent and Nashville’s homicides in January and February double over the same period in 2020, according to local media.
Criminologists and other experts warned that increases in crime are caused by myriad factors. Some are structural and have been a part of society for generations. The effects of COVID-19 cannot be ignored, either.
CJC research specialist Lopez said it “is also worth noting that homicides were approximately 20 percent higher the first quarter of 2020, before the death of George Floyd.”
While some have criticised the “defund the police” model of investing in community-based violence prevention programmes, the Safe Streets programme in Baltimore shows promise.
The Safe Streets programme describes itself as an “evidence-based, public health program to reduce gun violence among youth”. The programme in McElderry Park and Belair-Edison, two historically dangerous neighbourhoods of East Baltimore, is overseen by Living Classrooms.
“Safe Streets employs Outreach Workers to go into the community and mediate disputes before they escalate to violence while simultaneously recruiting troubled or adjudicated youth to be a part of the program,” their website stated.
The programme conducted 661 mediations in 2020 and only four of the 335 homicides in Baltimore that year occurred in the two neighbourhoods, according to its website.
Calls for community responses to crime came as public trust in law enforcement plummeted. Last June, 45 percent of people wanted to “preserve law and order” versus 44 percent who favoured the “right to protest”, an Ipsos poll found.
However, this sentiment has shifted, according to an Ipsos poll from March, where 31 percent of respondents favoured the right to protest and 45 percent wanted to preserve law and order.
Police have long faced criticism in the US. Tensions between police and activists have been consistently tense since 2014, when Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
The public outcry and protests help launch the BLM movement. Killings have continued, and so have the protests. Trust in law enforcement plummeted in the middle of last year, when the US saw consistent protests against racism and police brutality.
Rather than viewing BLM as a factor in crime increases, it should perhaps be seen as “a reflection of current social conditions”, Lopez said.
“There is a solid body of research that supports as police legitimacy, and even general government legitimacy, goes down, crime can go up”, he continued.
“As legitimacy decreases people simply just comply less with the law”, and “there tends to be less cooperation with police. This impedes the ability of police to investigate crime and apprehend suspects.”
Aside the aforementioned detailed reports of high crime rates in USA, a number of international body if human rights laws speak to the issue of the presumption of innocence of crime suspects.
In a number of international and regional human rights treaties, it is expressed in Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights, Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 11 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Equality before the law relates to the equal treatment of persons in the application and enforcement of the law. It applies to all public officials, including judges, prosecutors, and policing officials, and requires that they treat all persons equally.
Equality of treatment, however, does not mean identical treatment for all persons. Instead, it means that persons in a like position should be treated in the same way. The right to equality before the law is also related to the right to freedom from discrimination under Article 55.
The document on some of these Human rights also told us that a related but different concept to equality before the law is the right to equal protection of the law, a right which is also contained in Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 24 of the American Convention on Human Rights.
Equal protection of the law relates to lawmaking and requires that all persons be treated equally in domestic laws.
These law scholars say the presumption of innocence is contained in international and regional instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 11), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 14), the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (Article XXVI), the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 8), the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Article 7[b]), and the Arab Charter on Human Rights (Article 16).
It is also found in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Rule 84) says that guilt cannot be presumed before the prosecution proves a charge beyond reasonable doubt, and this principle applies until the judgment is made final as defined in Article 266 of the MCCP.
They wrote also that there are a number of ways in which the presumption of innocence can be protected. First, according to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the presumption is breached where public officials prejudge the outcome of a trial Public officials include judges, prosecutors, the police, and government officials, all of whom must avoid making public statements of the guilt of an individual prior to a conviction or after an acquittal. It is permissible, however, for the authorities to inform the public of the name of a suspect and that the person has been arrested or has made a confession, as long as the person is not publicly declared guilty (see the European Court of Human Rights case of Worm v. Austria, application no. 83/1996/702/894 [August 29, 1997], paragraph 52).
Reading through the above researched material prepared by international law scholars, you then wonder why in Nigeria that even the Federal Attorney General and minister of Justice Abubakar Malami is seen on television passing guilty verdict on Nnamdi Kanu of the Indigenous People of Biafra even before the Court has finished the hearing instituted by his office? Thankfully, some civilised people are still in government somewhere in Lagos State.
The Lagos State House of Assembly, recently passed an amended version of the Criminal Justice Law of the state barring the police from parading crime suspects before the media.
According to a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Eromosele Ebhomele, the bill was passed at a sitting presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Wasiu Eshilokun-Sanni, on behalf of the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa.
Section 9(A) of the newly passed bill states, “As from the commencement of this law, the police shall refrain from parading any suspect before the media.”
The bill further stated that the conditions under which a policeman could arrest without a warrant was when a person was reasonably and unlawfully in possession of firearms or other weapons.
A subsection of the bill also barred the police or any other agency from arresting a person “in lieu of any other person in a criminal matter.”
According to the bill, a person who is arrested “shall be given reasonable facilities for obtaining legal advice, bail or making arrangements for defence or release.”
The bill stipulates that a suspect should be “accorded humane treatment, with the right to dignity of person; not be subjected to any form of torture, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment; be brought before the court as prescribed by this law or any other written law; or be released conditionally or unconditionally.”
After a voice vote, Eshilokun-Sanni directed the acting Clerk of the House, Mr Olalekan Onafeko, to transmit the bill to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for assent.
Already, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has commended the members of the Lagos State House of Assembly for making a law that prevents the police from parading criminal suspects before journalists.
This commendation followed the amendment of the Criminal Justice Law of Lagos which also states that policemen are only allowed to arrest a suspect without warrant when such has been said to be unlawfully in possession of dangerous weapons.
Falana praised the Lagos lawmakers in a statement he signed as the Interim Chair of Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), dated 6th July, 2021.
In the statement titled, ‘Kudos to Lagos State House of Assembly for outlawing Parade of Criminal Suspects’, the senior lawyer said, “The practice of parading suspects is illegal as it constitutes a gross violation of the fundamental right of criminal suspects to presumption of innocence guaranteed by section 36 of the Constitution and article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
The statement from the erudite Lawyer reads: “The members of the Lagos State House of Assembly have unanimously passed an amended version of the Criminal Justice Law of the state barring the police from henceforth parading suspects before the media.
“Section 9(A) of the newly passed bill states: ‘As from the commencement of this law, the police shall refrain from parading any suspect before the media.
“The bill also stipulates conditions under which a policeman can arrest without warrant, one of which is that a person must be reasonably suspected to unlawfully be in possession of firearms or other such dangerous instruments.
Can the Nigerian media please stop aiding and abetting injustice and mob justice of the Police, the EFCC, ICPC, NDLEA, NAPTIP, and can the Bar disciplinary Committee sanction Abubakar Malami and other high profile lawyers that indulge in media persecution of political prisoners and opponents of their boss?
Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.
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Use Your Penis: Hopes, Expectations And Realities Of African Migrants In Europe
By Leo Igwe
The issue of migration to Europe has been in the news. There has been intense discussion on how to tackle the flow of migrants to, not from, Europe. There have been reports of boats carrying migrants capsizing or missing on the Mediterranean Sea. Many Africans have died trying to enter Europe via the Sahara desert. North African and European countries have taken measures to curb illegal migration and human trafficking. Still, the migration flow out of Africa continues and shows no signs of abating. Why has the migration of Africans or migration from Africa become such a huge problem? What are the hopes, experiences and realities of these migrants?
In August I was invited to speak at a seminar on migration. The focus was on the migration of Africans to Europe. The event took place in Bergen, Norway. As a doctoral student, I lived in Germany for six years. I was invited to speak at programs on migration. Governmental and nongovernmental agencies in Denmark and Germany organized the events. I did not find these events interesting because the focus was on human trafficking and the role of African juju and witchcraft. Do not get me wrong. Human trafficking is a huge problem and needs to be addressed. But we have to tackle the problem from the root. These events were by my estimate a complete waste of time and money because organizers and participants were not ready to tell themselves the truth, face the facts and address the real issue. They want to make themselves feel good and privileged while talking about these helpless Africans streaming to their shores. Organizers were more interested in marginal voodoo, and oath-taking issues. They made it seem as if there was something unusual about African migration. But there was not. Migration is as old as human beings. Humans from all races and regions have been migrating from one region to another, from one country or continent to another. Before this recent wave of migration out of Africa, people from Europe, America, and Asia have been migrating to Africa. They are still migrating for business, social, economic, religious, and political reasons.
Contemporary African migration is mainly economic. It is driven by poverty, miserable living conditions, and the devastation of African economies by European, Asian, and American companies. To tackle the problem of migration, African economies must be fixed. The continent must realize an economic leap. Now instead of focusing on the economic roots of the problem and how to address them, many Europeans and Americans expend energy discussing trivialities, such as the role of voodoo and so-called powerful witch doctors in Nigeria. Well, at these events, I told the organizers the bitter truth. I told them to forget this juju or voodoo talk and face the reality: the destruction and revival of African economies. I told the organizers what they did not want to hear. And they never invited me back.
But this time around it was different. The organizers were not Europeans or Americans. A Nigerian student at the University of Bergen staged the event. He contacted me some months ago, drawing my attention to the plight of African migrants in Norway. He explained how many who travel to Norway and other European countries had their hopes and expectations dashed. Many who migrate to this country or other European countries end up entrapped. They are compelled to go into things they did not plan to do. Many migrants end up in a new form of slavery, in a marriage to a European citizen. Left with the option of going back to Africa at the end of their study or marrying to get the documents to stay, many end up contracting a marriage, in many cases a paper or document marriage. These marriages entrap them, they turn these migrants into errand boys and girls. Many of them are mistreated. They suffer silently. If they misbehaved, their partners would threaten to report them to the authorities and get them deported. I was told that many in the African migrant communities were not helping matters. Someone told me that he approached some migrants seeking and wanting to know how he could navigate migration issues. But the person told him: “Use your penis”. I guess for a female it would have been a case of: Use your vagina. While studying in Germany, some African migrants told me how they were sexually exploited, and dehumanized before they could get legal documents to stay in the country. One woman told me that everyman who wanted to help her wanted to sleep with her.
So, the program was cathartic. It provided a space to let out these pains, sufferings, disappointments, and frustrations.
The event brought together ‘free-will’ migrants and Norwegians. The panelists were from Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Belarus. I was the only international guest on the panel. Other panelists discussed the hurdles that they have faced, and the challenges that they confronted trying to live and integrate in Norway. As one panelist noted, many who come to study were unable to find a job at the end of their program. In many cases, they graduated and found out that there was no job for them, or they were unable to speak the local language, which was a requirement for many jobs. Another panelist from Ghana, married to a Norwegian, discussed her challenges as a migrant parent in Norway. She recounted how her child had suffered racism in the school. She narrated an experience where the child did a group assignment with four other white Norwegian children. And the teacher gave her child four marks for the assignment and other group members five marks.
There was some discussion on illegal migration and the risks involved. Some Norwegians in the audience noted that many African migrants knew about the risks they could face migrating to Europe. And still, they decided to embark on the risky journey. There was a lot of focus on migrants and their experiences traveling from Africa. However, little or no attention was paid to the European connection with the problem, the fact that western foreign economic policies have devastating effects on African economies. Africa is a market for Western goods including Norwegian stockfish. Apparently Europe needs African markets not African migrants. Western multinationals are relentlessly plowing and plundering the resources of Africa in ways that have displaced the local populations. African professionals are leaving in droves. They are migrating to work in the West and the Middle East. So, Western economies profit from the migration flow and the cheap labor it provides. Western countries benefit from the economic status quo that has turned Africans into migrants and refugees in Europe and America. To contain the flow of migrants to Europe, the situation in Africa must change. African economies must begin to grow and improve. Western governments must end the economic exploitation of Africa.
Dr. Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.
Reading Professor Olu Obafemi’s Melodies Of Inclement Climes
By Tony Afejuku
“Happiness is a crime in Nigeria.” This is a line – a line of distinction – I am lifting from a message sent to me as a response to my last Friday’s column on ‘“Professor Mabel Evwierhoma on Rubiales and “Wetin women want.”’ The owner of the lifted line is a positively dangerous poet, radical scholar and critic Professor Owojecho Omoha of the University of Abuja. I will at a later date revisit the full message of this literary scholar who is one of the distinguished boosters of this column.
Why is his quoted line meaningful or relevant to me today? For good reason, I have been trying to reinvigorate the idea or thought of happiness in Nigeria – your country my country our country – despite our common concerns concerning our dissatisfaction with our ungrateful leaders who significantly are our demonic consumers consuming this land, our land centuries and more than centuries ago. On my way to Warri last Friday I was thinking deeply about this when I was caught in the Benin-Ologbo obstacle on that cruel stretch of the Benin-Sapele-Warri Road of urbanized or almost urbanized jungle. I was clutching Professor Olu Obafemi’s very new book of poems, his fresh new volume of poetry which he quite properly entitles Melodies of Inclement Climes. I was looking at the moving poems in my desire to erase temporarily from my mind the vicious, tedious, muddy, degraded watery road which is evidently and steadily now the road of the unhappy people of the Niger Delta, and it was at this moment that Owojecho Omoha’s line found me. But I was already engrossed in the first offering, the first poem, in which the Niger Delta malaise stares at me – even though Professor Olu Obafemi is not from the Niger Delta, your Niger Delta my Niger Delta our Niger Delta. Ologbo where conservatively above three thousand trucks (trailers) and other uncountable vehicles – commercial and private – were practically at a stand-still, moving without moving because of the motorable-less motor-way, is one of the unfortunate or tragic by-products of urbanization that is no urbanization in the Niger Delta. Ologbo is a border town, a border community that links Edo State and Delta State. It is the most significant place that links Itsekiri, Urhobo and Edo (Benin) communities. It is the place where the work of cooperation and mutual help among the communities and travellers through the communities can find significantly honest expression that should capture our cultural and patriotic ethos that should give us good health and happiness. This is what Olu Obafemi seems to tell us, among other things, in “Those who gaze beyond today:”
While others like us
Bleed our land to death
Greedily erecting mansions
In other people’s lands,
Laundering filthy coins
Stolen from the sweaty brows
Of the poor and the deprived
In our own un-honed beaches and sandy shores!
Lay to ruin and waste and wreck
The black Gold!
As I read Professor Olu Obafemi’s Melodies at the shores of Ologbo two things emerged to me and rose to my dense imagination in a more than realistic way and manner. The first is that Olu Obafemi is a patriot and a national poet. His imagination extends beyond his Kiri-land (North Eastern Yoruba-land in Northern Nigeria) streams to dwell on national problems that depict our respective inclement climes – or, to put it differently, in his “Streams of Kiriland” (I am not alluding specifically to his poem that bears this title) we have a glimpse of our respective communal malaise that shows us our respective inclement land in our untamed beaches in Ologbo of the Niger Delta and elsewhere outside Ologbo or Kiriland. As beautiful and as nostalgic Kiriland is or may be it is strange that urbanization and civilization have not befriended it. It is this perspective that throws up to me the second vital aspect of Melodies of Inclement Climes. Olu Obafemi conservers what is best from his (and our) past in order for the merciless problems and inclementness of today can be properly addressed. So I am not reading Professor Olu Obafemi as an entire nostalgic poet after all! Our lives’ test is not and cannot be the past or the future. It is now. It is today. It is the present. It is the here and now. Are we happy today in our country – economically, commercially, politically, educationally, medically, technologically, hygiene-wise and otherwise? Without endorsing the present that is before us we cannot honestly face tomorrow. We live in an economy and in a political clime ruled and propelled by ingratitude, disaffection and dissatisfaction and exploitation and oppression. Let me quote our poet of melodies dwelling on our inglorious climes: “Let our earth be replenished again/As scavengers and scoundrels are rid of our land.” (39).This must be so if we must eliminate “Death [that] clings to our throats/As mortal Anopheles, King of Death –/Husband of malaria, swarm/And corpses hold parades on our shores” (44). What our country needs now is a renewed vision, a full insight into our shortcomings, limits and possibilities informed by our awareness and knowledge of our place in the comity of nations. This is an absolute necessity if we must live an adequately and properly human life.
Professor Olu Obafemi is a super ambidextrous writer and scholar of more than numerous parts. He is best known as a play-wright, dramatist and theatre personage, theorist and critic of a profoundly profound mind. But he is without question a poet of distinction as well – which the present volume superbly makes evident. Melodies of Inclement Climes appeals to me exceedingly from the perspectives of the rhetoric of poetic drama, phenomenology, biography, memory, wrap of childhood, autobiography, history, activism, politics, geography, social exploration, revolutionary revolution, psychology, public health, progressive variation in language and feeling. I am on purpose not dwelling on all these perspectives in this briefly appealing enterprise to engender every reader’s interest in Melodies. (I am thinking of something adventurous and enchantingly enchanting outside here). With respect to the last named subject, let me titillate my readers thus: I wish you to join me to think of Professor Olu Obafemi as a magnificent poet who concentrates everything feelingly into a sentence –“Melodies of Inclement Climes;” “And hardened villains of misrule;” “And love shall visit these shores again;” “This is the story of our nation now; Debtor-elephant.”
The beauty of Professor Olu Obafemi’s new volume of poetry is the trick of its language. The emotions or feelings the poet generates are significant enough to ensure full daylight in our inclement climes. It is thus not for nothing that Professor Olu Obafemi has been a recipient of the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) and wearer of other laurels. His rhetoric is not any adornment or inflation of words done for the reader’s unquestionable insight or for a particular effect but for a general creative power that has an intensity and concision of indubitably great poetry.
Melodies of Inclement Climes will leap in my arms, hands, and mind for a pretty long time of creative reading and critical happiness. This is not an ostentatious praise, but the true judgment of a reader and critic – this reader and critic – of esthetic and moral sensibility. I duly bow and salute the poet for this fresh volume. Join me in my bow and salutation.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
The West And The Hypocrisy Of Democracy
By Toyin Falola
Western deception has been with Africa forever:
1493: Pope Alexander VI issued a papal bull, “Inter Caetera,” proclaiming the right of Spain and Portugal to enslave Africans and own the land. They were subjects. They stole your people and your land.
1885: Africa was a Dark Continent. It required colonization to become civilized. Europe would bring change and civilize them. They stole your raw materials and truncated your self-development.
1940: When over a million Africans fought in Europe, North Africa and the Far East during the Second World War, the West convinced them they were dying for freedom and democracy. But where in Africa do they receive freedom and democracy? Indeed, Apartheid was inaugurated in 1948 in South Africa.
When will this deception come to an end? So, Gabon and Niger were democracies before the 2023 coups? You must be using the wrong dictionary to define democracy. Cameroon under the invalid Paul Biya is a democracy? You must be confusing the Mali Empire with the modern country of Cameroon. And the presidents who rule for as long as they want practising democracy?
You need a little education.
Recent developments in Africa’s political space, particularly the growing number of military takeovers, have informed fresh queries around the expressions of neo-colonialism in Africa and the commitment to liberal democracy as the ideal political model for the region. The point of reference for these queries is the ceremonial reactions from the acclaimed “champions of democracy” in the West, who waste no time issuing condemnations at every instance of “democratic failure” on the continent without any actual commitment to ensuring that power indeed lies with the people. Not only have these champions of African interests—the United States (US), Britain and France—touted democracy as the best system of political organization to achieve political stability and economic prosperity in Africa, but they have also prosecuted wars, allegedly in its defence, which cost millions of lives and destabilized entire regions. However, it is not enough to accuse our benevolent friends in the West of hypocrisy without providing compelling proof of double-dealing in delivering their duties as democratic crusaders. After all, in a democratic setting, all are innocent until proven guilty.
As a philosophy of government, democracy has existed since the Greco-Roman times. However, its foray into Africa can be traced to the eve of independence when Britain and France introduced forms of local representation as concessions to indigenous demands for independence. Thus, from 1959, parliamentary elections and other democratic institutions started to become commonplace on the continent. But, as it would turn out, this democratic experiment, which formed part of the third (global) wave of democracy, was to be short-lived—derailed as it was by fluctuating Western interests on the continent.
Guiding Western interest in Africa from the 1950s was the ideological war between the West (mainly the USA) and the Soviet Union. The “Cold War,” as it came to be known, was the first incident to unmask the real intentions of the West for post-colonial Africa. In their quest to emerge as the world’s sole superpower, the US and the Soviet Union, who actively strove to undermine each other’s influence by, among other things, advancing their political ideologies around the world, turned to Africa as another important frontier of conquest. While the Soviet Union armed African revolutionary movements against their Western colonial overlords and provided support to openly communist governments, Washington concluded that, to effectively check the spread of Soviet influence on the continent, it was more expedient to enthrone biddable leaders in African states than it was to woo them with any ideological arguments or economic incentives.
Anxious to ensure power was handed over to reliable politicians, Britain and France became eager participants in the US policy in Africa. Together, the US and its allies targeted venal local strongmen, preferably with military backgrounds and authoritarian tendencies, who, in collaboration with its intelligence agencies, ousted legitimate/democratic governments. Notable victims and beneficiaries of this plot included (in the former category) Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba of Congo DRC, Sylvio Olympio of Togo and (in the latter category) Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo DRC and Gnassingbé Eyadema of Togo, to mention a few. Consequently, thirty-three African countries that achieved independence between 1956-1970 became authoritarian immediately or not long after.
Another demonstration of the complete disregard that the West has for democracy, peace/stability and human rights in Africa is its willingness to engulf the entire region in conflict so that it can achieve its “strategic interests.” Once again, we begin from the Cold War era where, having recently come out of a highly destructive war in Europe (in 1945) and being cautious of engaging in another, the West and the Eastern Bloc turned Africa into the site of their proxy wars. In southern Africa, where the US considered both Angola and Mozambique as areas of “strategic interests,” Washington armed the 200,000 Portuguese conscripts, who went on to fight a protracted war against local nationalist revolutionaries, with imported weapons, which included defoliants and napalm. In Angola, the US, in cooperation with Apartheid South Africa, backed the National Union for Total Independence (UNITA) against the country’s (Soviet-backed) leading national liberation front, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). There were also similar cases in northern Africa where Sudan was funded and armed by the US against Egypt and Ethiopia, who had also pitched their tents with Moscow. These conflicts and the resultant proliferation of arms saw the loss of millions of African lives from war and famine and a general destabilization of the region.
While the West cannot be said to have been directly involved in all the occasions of transition from democratic to authoritarian rule, in more than a few instances, the leaders of newly independent democratic/multi-party African states seized the opportunity of Western patronage to quickly switch to one-party/despotic rule. In other cases, it was the corruption, resource mismanagement, “tribalism,” patrimonialism, clientelism and imperialism perpetrated by a Western-backed ruling political class which formed the basis of military takeovers (coups). Nevertheless, in this atmosphere of quasi-democratic rule, full-fledged despotism, military rule and Apartheid—where national resources were siphoned by kleptocratic regimes and millions of Africans either became refugees or died as a result of civil wars, hunger, and human rights abuses—our western “friends” were content to look the other way if the government in place proved itself an ally of Washington.
Perhaps the most glaring example of the West’s democratic hypocrisy in Africa was its age-long support for the highly racist and politically repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa. Like the French, who were able to cajole Washington into believing that they were fighting communist-backed insurgents in Algeria, the South African Apartheid regime, for forty years, posed as the last bastion against communists in Africa—an attitude that was able to secure a steady flow of western arms. This, alongside the West’s tacit approval, allowed for one of Africa’s most despicable shows of human debasement, carried out in the name of imperialism and racial superiority. After all, as President Ronald Regan remarked in 1981, South Africa was “essential to the free world in its production of minerals we all must have.”
The end of the Cold War changed Western attitudes towards Africa. Without the Soviet threat, the West leaned more towards development diplomacy and foreign aid regimes as the main thrust of its foreign policy in Africa. Foreign aid to Africa, however, turned out to be a Trojan horse. Already saddled with the task of building vibrant economies whilst also harmonizing the aspirations of the different ethnic nationalities which characterized them, African countries, especially in Francophone Africa, also had to grapple with the undermining economic and political agreements they had been coerced into signing with their erstwhile colonial overlord as a condition for independence and continued patronage. To make matters worse, some African countries were, at the end of the Cold War, either fighting or had just come out of civil war. This, combined with the widespread corruption and mismanagement of national resources which characterized Africa’s tyrannical governments, put many Af5rican countries at the mercy of international monetary agencies (the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank) and their financiers whose aid they were now heavily dependent on.
At first, these Bretton Woods institutions were content to grant loans/aid, at debilitating interest rates no less, to authoritarian leaders who used them to perpetuate themselves in power and, in return, provided the former with mineral and other economic concessions. However, without the Cold War pressures, more emphasis was placed on the liberalization and capitalist/free-market aspects of US foreign policy to guarantee return on investments. Soon enough, Structural Adjustments Programmes (SAPs) were introduced as a precondition for further loans/aid. Said adjustments, which demanded limited government intervention in the public sector, i.e., removing government subsidies in energy (fuel/gas), education and health care, brought untold hardships to already suffering populations. And as research has shown, poverty and non-tax revenue make for the ideal democratic environment. In other words, “when the government is not beholden to citizens for its funding, there is less accountability and less reason to democratize” (Tilly 1990). Instead, leaders simply use the “free” funding from natural resources (oil) and foreign loans/aid to buy enough support to remain in power.
Judging from the various expressions of Western interests in Africa over decades, it goes without saying that the West simply pays lip service to ideologies when convenient. Although many Africans might not object to the cynical pragmatism that has always guided Western foreign policy in Africa, I dare say they will not stand for the continued lies and hypocrisy that have characterized Western reactions to African developments. Even if the above-described instances of Western hypocrisy in Africa were to be argued to be in the past, it is a living past for Africa.
Africa, today, still has authoritarian governments in place whose political repression and human rights abuses go on unchecked by our democracy and rule of law-loving friends in the West. After being siphoned by kleptocratic governments, our commonwealth still finds its way to Western banks, where it sits and improves the local economy. Western interests continue to impoverish Africans and destabilize their regions. So, Africans are today saying to the West, its diplomats, presidents, and the other agents of its propaganda: “Your gambit in Africa is up. Our people are awakened!”
The West has sold you a fake product called democracy. Africans, your vote is not a sign of democracy. It is no more than a deception. There is no democracy without accountability. You are just voting thieves to power. There is no democracy without transparency. You are just using your votes in support of crooks and thugs. There is no democracy without good governance. Your vote is facilitating theft. Maybe you are waiting for your turn to steal. There is no democracy without development. Your vote is moving you back to the Stone Age. Even early humans knew when to replace stones with iron during the Stone Age. Africa, you don’t have a democracy. Anyone you have not appointed cannot disappoint you! Citizens are being deceived, and they are deceiving themselves. Organize yourselves at various levels and think of alternatives to democracy or, at the minimum, how accountability and transparency will form the core of your democratic practices. Your lifetime president is not a Democrat. He is an authoritarian kleptocrat far worse than the combination of Doris Payne, Stephane Breitwieser, Simon Leviev, Veerappan, Derek Smalls, Vincenzo Peruggia, Bonnie and Clyde, Natwarlal, Carl Gugasian, Frank Abagnale, Anna Sorokin, Albert Spaggiari, Jesse James, Anthony Strangis, and Bill Mason. Do you know these names?
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