Contentions have always emerged whenever the concept of feminism pops up in intellectual or political discussions in Nigerian circles. These contentions, when observed, are products of an assortment of reasons. Most notable is the amorphous nature of the concept, which allows it to slip into different realizations and manifestations whenever political conversations arise. More critical is the ignorance that it imposes on people, raising questions around its legitimacy when viewed as a Western concept. The former reason is legitimately understandable, precisely because feminism, a sociopolitical movement that some claimed originated from the Western world, can obscure historical representations and realities at its fiercely high level. The movement gains substantial support from women primarily, and some men too. In many African countries, contemporary history deliberately or purposefully undercuts the roles of the pre-colonial African women in building the African society. This is again possible because the African colonial and postcolonial relationship erected by political patriarchy has shortchanged women.
In some spaces, it is stuck in this quagmire since the Western agencies and government support it. However, in some circles, feminism remains very controversial in an African sociocultural space; predominantly, the concept is often associated with Westernization, somewhat in a misleading manner, by which agenda-seeking people consider it as another attempt at recolonization. Often, feminism is erroneously equated with misandry or man-hating, and Africans also reject this. Advocating for gay rights through feminism is another luxury that some Africans cannot especially embrace, further explaining their suspicion around the concept.
For example, how does one convince a man who continuously fraternizes with the thinking that women’s involvement in social development and nation-building is unnecessary regardless of their educational attainment or social awareness, basically because they have genital and other biological characteristics different from him? How does a healthy society spring up with the collective orientation that women are meant to be confined to the kitchen regardless of the possibility of transformative contributions they could make to society? These are questions that people like the Ekiti First Lady, Erelu Adeleye-Fayemi, ask, making them situate their struggles around feminism.
In the recent Toyin Falola Interview Series held with the First Lady, which featured a cornucopia of questions from seasoned academics and well-read journalists, Adeleye-Fayemi was unambiguous with her focus and definition of feminism. She stated in plain words that feminism is a global struggle against all patriarchal establishments contrary to the generally held misconceptions. One would most likely look at this and immediately assume that in the spirit of defending the sociopolitical movement, the feminists have come with a uniquely appealing narrative to explain their positions and foreground their participation in the cause. But then, it reveals more. In the definition, to be carefully unpacked are the ideas of struggles, globality, and then institutional manoeuvring that favour the patriarchal system. One would naturally think about why women have to struggle, in the ordinary sense of the word, to preach their significance in national or international development, especially when it is a fact that almost everything would be impossible to accomplish in every human society without the presence and contributions of women. They determine electoral results either by political mobilization or the motivations of the electorate. They nurture the children and build good homes. The marginalized sociopolitical role of women is a global issue and can be addressed by harnessing women’s combined global power.
Her deep-diving insights strengthen Adeleye-Fayemi’s position that institutional legitimacy underscores the age-long women’s silence against blatant marginalization and suppression that patriarchy has cast on gender imbalance and not necessarily on the understanding that women wanted to be silent. For example, in a situation where the woman is chastised about everything, including the untamed moral delinquency of men like actions of male-perpetrated rape or domestic violence, how does the woman feel free to narrate her side of the experience? To whom would she tell her ordeals, especially when the society would say that she deserves rape because of her choice of clothes, her parents would accuse her of keeping late nights, and the authorities already believe that she has no right to challenge what men do? According to the First Lady, feminists have considered it carefully and concluded that they would continue to be exposed to danger if they do not rise to the societal challenges confronting them. Women have continuously been targeted as prey as all beneficiaries of patriarchy consider them as the underclass. It, therefore, begs the question of how a gender who is already seen from this lens could vie for positions of governance, of directors in corporations, of economic roles, or social roles.
Given this, scholars who are aware of the immeasurable gender disadvantages against which the female gender is placed, social icons who are aware of the inherent damage both emotional and psychological that would always confront the marginalized gender, public opinion shapers who are educated about the potential dangers in ordinarifying women, have risen to the challenge of calling out the beneficiaries of the patriarchal system who are already blinded by the scores of advantages unduly allocated to them, believing that it is a normal thing to flex their muscles against women. This means that the challenge goes beyond the men themselves. The challenge is to make concerted efforts to give people adequate reorientation about how society should be structured. If people have been raised to believe a woman or any gender, for that matter, deserves back-bench roles for no particular reason other than their differences in biological features, then changing such sociocultural orientation is a necessary precondition for achieving a gender-balanced society.
Notably, the eventual relationship between females and males is usually shaped by their domestic experiences and social environment while growing up.
For individuals like Adeleye-Fayemi, identifying with the feminist movement is what they do with their full attention. They believe women have reasonable leverage of numbers, intellect, political might, and religious rights to push the freedom agenda of women to the society that has historically and currently remained unyielding to the demand of logic. As a result of such belief, the employment of their position, be it political or economic, is very integral to the cause of freedom. In any case, women who already are equipped with the proper knowledge that their emancipation as a gender depends mainly on the commitment shown to the feminist struggles must, as a matter of necessity, give the movement a voice through what they do and represent. In other words, being undecided is not an option because the problems that women face in a patriarchal system are not individualistic; it has always been collective. In essence, they must rise to meet this challenge as needed to attract all the necessary motivations and support required from the public. It is by no coincidence that activist women in the political circle occupy the forefront of the struggle. Those who have made commendable feats in literary endeavours worldwide give their moral and ideological backing to the struggles. At the same time, those at the economic front do not refuse to offer the necessary monetary assistance to the cause of women’s freedom.
People like the First Lady tend to be associated with one form of controversy or the other given their political connection. In most cases, they avoid the feminist tag, mainly because even fighting for women’s rights has been mis-labelled to please the patriarchal establishment. Name-calling is not unexpected in such a struggle that seeks to validate women’s rights and position in society, owing to the understanding that those who have benefited from the existing structure would always find means of keeping the status quo. For this reason, they would constantly collide with individuals who have demonstrated hostility to their commitment to feminist struggles. In essence, being considered radical is necessary and should be considered a disguised encomium, especially because she appears to have been doing something right or threatens the sustainability of a status quo that represses women. Of course, she has the political platform at her disposal to use. This challenges many individuals who already feel that institutions would continue to favour egoistic males against their female counterparts who have been extensively oppressed. However challenging the jungle is, a pride of lions would not submit to defeat by a family of antelopes.
When I asked the First Lady directly about whether feminism could be converted to politics, her responses indicate that the movement is well-established and adequately planned. Above other things, Adeleye-Fayemi, in response to the consolidating question put forward by Prof. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, who asked about the strategies employed by the First Lady to build a formidable structure that empowers and provides shelter for women, conceded that the affirmation of their own identity as a gender begins by the understanding that certain cultural and political traditions are circumscribed in the patriarchal system, which means that they further marginalize women in most cases and eclipse their significance in the social development index. While as African women, they have every moral right to defend their historical achievements as a people; however, they would not be emotionally bludgeoned to accept cultural traditions and ideas that treat them not as viable icons and symbols of the society but as marginal figures in the annals of political and cultural development. They believe that cultures evolve, and the responsibility to make them follow a helpful direction rests on them, and this can only be achieved by their ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these cultural economies inherited so that they would provide the appropriate means of interacting with them, and making sense of their image.
It became crystal clear that women emancipation, even when its primary motivation is drawn from the collaborative efforts to challenge cultural traditions that are gender-stratified, is achievable through a designed roadmap from themselves and society. But this must be preceded by a wave of sociological actions of uniformity and ideas. The highly celebrated intellectual work of Adeleye-Fayemi, titled “Where is your Wrapper,” gathered beautiful reactions for the way she metaphorizes the wrapper as a social and cultural phenomenon.
This is what encouraged one of the questioners to ask the Ekiti First Lady pointedly what it means to throw your wrapper around women. This metaphor gives a different dimension which appears to be indigenous and laced with cultural understanding to the concept of feminism. An outsider who does not understand the symbolic importance of a wrapper to the Yoruba woman may fail to grasp the cultural peculiarities that were metaphorized by the wrapper as a Yoruba cultural index. Being well-versed in the African cultural traditions of the Yoruba identity, it is undebatable that an African woman alludes to situations and experiences using the cultural framework for the designation of their locally developed ideas and philosophies. African women who have refused the label of Western feminism on account of its radical posture have allowed their knowledge about the pre-colonial African society to determine their position. They accept the fact that the colonial imperialists trigger the recalibration of African society. The deficit of the latter intellectual interpretations of many of these African cultures misled them to misunderstand and then wrongly misjudged the epistemic logicality in the structuration of these societies.
For clarification, a wrapper is traditional African clothing used to cover women’s nudity and announce their beautiful outlook. While the first attributed character of the wrapper serves different cultural purposes, the latter fulfils an aesthetic essence. Therefore, to throw a wrapper around a woman by another woman is suggestive of solidarity, affection, and sisterhood. The Yoruba believe that a woman who does this has demonstrated her capacity to identify with her counterpart’s existential challenges and has shown that her development, freedom, respect, and social strength can only be achieved when others are not threatened. In essence, the ultimate signal of oneness and solidarity is to showcase that the welfare of each woman remains a collective assignment of the woman folk so that they would jointly enjoy a collective treatment of respect, equity, and justice within the socio-economic terrain of their culture. Such a situation implies that the society would not be built in a culturally lopsided manner where the interest of one gender would be sacrificed for the ego of the other.
For Adeleye-Fayemi, feminism has become a necessary tactic of engagement to enhance a balanced society where values and virtues are deployed for making political statements that are not necessarily demonstrated through verbal means. She accepted that attaining the political and economic relevance that the feminist activists want begins with their exhibition of a receptive and warm relationship with other women irrespective of their economic condition. Women must identify with other women’s struggles to send a strong and honest message to society that they cannot be individually molested because activities of disrespect and dishonour bring shame to the female folks. When such is condoned, the possibility of seeking cultural, economic, and political relevance or expansion by the women will be entirely difficult. Thus, to throw a wrapper around another woman is to clothe them in the garment of honour and respect. It signals the unalloyed support they could get from their counterparts in the course of their general emancipation.
All these demonstrate the power women have as an identity and as a social group with a difference. The message is unambiguously clear that if women could support one another in matters where they experience disrespect, society would be forced to modify the system that oppresses and suppresses them. But then, the pursuance of a liberatory mission comes with a level of responsibility that sometimes could impede the dispirited movement members. This is usually because the energy to pursue an interest is usually more intensive than the one required to verbally air them, explaining why some ideas and motivations are dead on arrival. Individuals who believe they are workable and achievable do not necessarily make themselves available to offer the energy needed to crystallize their agenda into workable philosophy and measurable results. However, you would notice the inextinguishable flame of the Ekiti First Lady when you see how determined she is, not only to promote feminist aspirations and dreams through renditions alone but also in following her words with corresponding actions that would help to transform the system and bring observable results to the people.
This would thus shatter the age-long myth in the political and cultural circles that the womenfolk are inherently weak and incapable of contributing to the advancement of collaborative development. Showing the battle-ready mindset gives a great impression about their conviction around the sustenance of a culture that factors women into its development trajectory. Different and ideally diverse engagements of the concept have been thrown to this iron lady, but she took them in her stride despite their aggressive nature.
Part of the responsibilities surrounding the advocacy for such rapid reorientation of the people about the need for a gender-balanced system is accepting extraneous duties for necessary actions to be taken. A feminist activist who continuously dodges responsibility would have no measure of respect in themselves and would lose the potential respect that the community of observers could give them. However, the sterner stuff with which the First Lady is made comes to bear when she was asked about the possibility of offering her intellectual services for the crystallization of the feminist agenda into the academic sphere where students would be provided with intellectual materials authored by her that would equip them with the appropriate skillset with which they can tactically and methodically approach female emancipation issues. Adeleye- Fayemi agreed to undertake the responsibility for different reasons.
The people at the forefront of a movement need to give beyond words and make themselves available when issues that concern their freedom arise. Until one gets to know how busy and influential the people in her political circle could be, it may not be easy to understand the difference that her participation in such a community development project would make. Being the wife of the governor of a state in Nigeria automatically exposes her to a backlog of responsibility, especially with relation to the affairs of women within the political terrain of the state. Accepting the offer to render intellectual services to enhance a gender-balanced society means additional responsibility, and this is a telltale sign of the First Lady’s firm commitment.
Anyone familiar with the trend of feminist activists in the African media industry and the Nigerian media network particularly could not notice yet the emergence of another generation of feminists among the millennials in Nigerian space. Still clearly undefined in public conversation, “millennial feminists” are presented as ideologically different from their immediate past generations on the grounds of greater radicalism. Time changes: the radical of today may be described tomorrow as a conservative! Perhaps, this was what Bamidele Ademola-Olateju noted that informed her question about a correlation between the millennial feminists and the older generations, especially with their mandate of emancipation for the women folks. Responding to this, Adeleye-Fayemi carefully and analytically educated the audience, especially on the reason for the preference of a radical approach against the gentle one used by the previous generations. And this is where we get more of her intelligence and sagacity.
One of the most common reasons why the contemporary Nigerian women took to the use of the radical approach is the symbolic silence of the beneficiaries of patriarchy, which, in one way or the other, encourages the unscrupulous males in the society to usually violate the fundamental rights of the female folks under the impression that it would die and pass. There are two critical issues here to note. First is the collaboration of the institutions of patriarchy, which helps in the enabling of the gender-based violence and hostilities that compound the woes of the women.
The second is the implied message that the females get when the necessary platforms and institutions that should have stood up for their rights are criminally silent, passing across the message that it is men’s world. The woman is raped, but rather than prosecute the rapist, society builds a narrative to blame the victim for indecent dressing. Another woman is violently attacked by her husband, suffering domestic abuse. Instead of social institutions to confront the abuser and inflict maximum punitive measures on him, they create an impression that the woman must have enraged the uncultured man. An innocent girl is denied the opportunity to receive education by her parents and even the system because they believe that females’ education has minimal positive effects on the family or society. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, all these social attitudes to women have been so ingrained in the system that many women have now accepted them as a natural incident. It is argued in private domains that some women have been so accustomed to abuse and disrespect that they view fair treatment with suspicion. It is expressed that the women who are the victims of a patriarchal structure usually think that an act of generosity towards them is aimed at an end. That is to say, when they get the proper treatment from their male counterparts, they immediately assume that it is done for some ulterior reasons. Erelu Adeleye-Fayemi stresses that the reaction responds to the age-long imbalance and unfairness of the system against the women. Not being used to the proper treatment mentally disorients them and reflects their day-to-day relationships with both the male and female gender. When you see a woman defending domestic abuse perpetrated by a man against another woman, for example, it is because she has been convinced that they are subordinate to the male folks and had to accept whatever treatment they get from them. Whereas this remains the common experience among the past generations of feminists, millennial feminists appear to be tired of using that method. They are determined to get radical, and if need be, rascal, so that they would draw the necessary attention and make the appropriate marks.
In the words of Adeleye-Fayemi, we get to understand that there is a world of difference between a feminist and a misandrist. The two are not comparable and identical precisely because they have a different focus. Within the mandate of a feminist, patriarchal institutions are destroyed or transformed into something beneficial that will recognize the equal rights of men and women and would not be silent about the importance of women. This means that the feminist is out for a complete social and political redefinition. The people would have access to equal opportunities that would be useful in changing their personal life for societal good. If the male is made to realize that the female is not just complementary but a complete human in her own right and not a subordinate figure whom he must muscle down, such will configure him to put up friendly attitudes and behaviour towards the female in such a way that their social and economic relationship would yield positive outcomes for the people and then the society. Feminists therefore are willing to work with friendly male allies to achieve their objectives. But a misandrist, from its basic dictionary meaning, means a man-hater. Here, we see the personal urge to concentrate one’s annoyance or anger on the males, perhaps because of the personal experiences that the females have had or purely from a hateful mindset. This does not make a feminist a misandrist.
Changing the topic of conversation, Adeleye-Fayemi was asked about what she means by being comfortable with grey areas, as in one of her essays, especially in relation to Nigerian politics. This question was given to consolidating the argument that emphasizes the possibility of harnessing the political spectrum to power the agitations of women, knowing that women constitute a significant fraction of political membership in Nigeria. Responding to this, the First Lady reiterated that logical mathematical calculations are one of the most unproductive methods of getting solutions in the political system. This is mainly because, in politics, you deal with humans, whereas in mathematics, you deal with figures. Knowing that man is complex by nature, even otherwise assured responses from political animals can change at the most sensitive hour. All these make it challenging to have a straightforward deal in the political domain. Irrespective of this condition, however, women in Nigerian politics can always influence the system to promote their feminist agenda. They can wield the necessary power and use it to their advantage. After all, there are results of women’s extraordinary performance during their management of political offices all across the world. This means that the African woman will not be different when tested. Therefore, the women can get themselves in the process and find a way to use their power to transform the country socioculturally and socioeconomically.
Finally, the fact that the African women are awake to the understanding that they wield significant power in shaping and making society, and they use it accordingly, points to the understanding that they have arrived at a renaissance of intellectual and pragmatic brilliance. They have realized, among other things, that unless they rise to the challenges of marginalization, there will continue to be challenges of unimaginable proportion confronting them. They have come a very long way, maturing and evolving into something greater regardless of the challenges they have faced collectively. They have representation in different departments and political levels where they continue to push for better treatment for themselves and society. Bearing in mind that they have these opportunities better than they have ever recorded, especially from the beginning of colonial history to its aftermath, has inspired them to use their voices and positions to promote their collective goals and aspirations. The culture continues with brilliant minds like Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi. She has continued to showcase the collective interest of women at that forum and to change the narratives as to how women can be useful in the formulation of a great society.
(This is the first of three reports on the interview conducted with Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi on June 27, 2021) For its entire recording, see https://fb.watch/6oxK6nvXx7/)
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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?
Informaction: Theory Of Change And Witch Persecution In Africa
By Leo Igwe
A theory of change explains how activities, measures, and steps undertaken to address a problem could facilitate or help realize certain changes or outcomes. It articulates how an impact would be achieved and some progress made. In this case, the expected outcome is an end to witch-hunting in Africa. Unlike in Western countries, the persecution of supposed witches persists in the region. Witch bloodletting takes place in many parts of Africa. The persecution of people accused of witchcraft leads to horrific abuses and death. Alleged witches are attacked, tortured, lynched, imprisoned, or banished. They are subjected to jungle justice, trial by ordeal, forced disappearance, and internal displacement. Simply put, those who are accused of perpetrating occult harm are treated without mercy or compassion. Incidentally, the impression is that nothing could be done to combat or neutralize this dark and destructive phenomenon, that witch hunting is cultural to Africans. The impression is that seeking to eradicate witch-hunting in African societies is a futile effort. This notion is gravely mistaken and needs to be corrected. The Advocacy for Alleged Witches was launched in 2020 to correct these misconceptions and facilitate effective actions. It works to fill the missing link in the activism against witch persecution in the region. The AfAW is a protest initiative, and exists to challenge and dispel allegations of witchcraft.
The main goal is to end witch-hunting in Africa by 2030. This objective sounds like an ambitious goal or some pipe dream, but it can be achieved. And AfAW aims to end witch hunting based on an informactional theory of change. This theory rests on two pillars: information and action because witch hunting persists in the region due to lack of information, or misinformation, and due to lack of action, inaction, or infraction. The Advocacy for Alleged Witches uses this two-pronged approach to combat witch-hunting in Africa.
At the global level, there is a lack of information about witch-hunting in Africa. Although a lot has been written and published on witchcraft in African societies, many people in Europe and America claim do not know about raging witch hunts in the region. Part of the problem is that these publications are filled with misinformation and misinterpretation of witchcraft accusations and witch persecution in the region. Scholars have presented witchcraft accusations as benign and useful to African societies. Meanwhile these accusations are not in any way gentle or pleasant. Studies have portrayed witchcraft allegations as stabilizing and harmonizing mechanisms. They have overlooked the critical and skeptical perspective of witchcraft beliefs. Scholars have largely ignored the accused side of the story, the harmful and destructive consequences of witchcraft imputations. At the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, we work to correct the misrepresentation of witchcraft accusations in Africa. We campaign to draw attention to this imbalance in the perception of the phenomenon. But correct information is not enough. Balanced interpretation does not suffice. To combat witch persecution, information needs to be turned into action, into effective policies and interventions.
On the action side, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches takes measures to address the problem because lack of adequate information has occasioned inaction or infractions. Wrong information has resulted in apathy and indifference towards witch hunting in Africa. Many international agencies are reluctant to act; they have refused to take action or to treat the issue with the urgency it deserves. With adequate and balanced information, international organizations would take appropriate actions.
At the local level, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches works to fill the information and action gaps. Many people accuse and engage in witch hunts due to a lack of information or misinformation. Accusers act based on a lack of information about the cause of illnesses, deaths, and other misfortune. Many people persecute witches because they have incorrect information about who or what is responsible for their problems, because they are not informed about what to do and where to go, who or what to blame for their misfortunes. Many people do not know what constitutes sufficient reason and causal explanations for their problems. As part of the efforts to end witch-hunting, the AfAW highlights misinformation and disinformation about causes of misfortune, illness, death, accidents, poverty, and infertility, including the misinformation that charlatans and con artists, god men and women such as traditional priests, pastors, mallam and marabouts use to exploit poor ignorant folks. The AfAW provides evidence-based knowledge, explanation, and interpretation of misfortunes. It informs the public about the law and other existing mechanisms to address allegations of witchcraft. The AfAW sensitizes the public and public institutions, including schools, colleges, and universities. It sponsors media programs, issues press releases, makes social media posts, and publishes articles and blogs on witch-hunting in the region.