A Conversation With Prof. Carlson Anyangwe On “The War In The Cameroons”
REFLECTIONS ON SOME OF THE TOPICS THAT CAME UP DURING THE INTERVIEW
(This is the first report on the Prof. Toyin Falola Interviews on “The War in the Cameroons” on July 18, 2021. With the number of views over 30,000 on 7 platforms, it is clear that this is issue is of great interest. For its entire recording, see https://fb.watch/v/1Xu7uYhue/ or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzK81pf3F0A)
By Denis Atemnkeng
During our interview, many questions were asked. A number of them caught my attention: the question of whether Ambazonia may not go the way of South Sudan; the question on the Black identity; and the question concerning harmonious existence of conflicting societies such as Rwanda, Nigeria and Cameroon, whose case is that of two countries with one annexing the other. There was also a question on Pan-Africanism.
I want to take the opportunity to share my ideas with you on these issues.
1. On Whether Ambazonia May Not Go The South Sudan Way
I have observed a curious phenomenon with national football teams: they retain their fundamental pattern of play despite the fact that all players have been changed and the coaches have also changed! If you observe, you would confirm this! A people too tend to be like that. The people of Ambazonia, after leaving the Eastern House of Assembly in Enugu in 1954, ruled themselves excellently until 1961 when their country was annexed. They conducted free and fair elections in 1959 in which power changed hands without any fighting. This is a feat that hardly any other African country has been able to emulate. Thus even though that was a completely different generation from the Ambazonians of today, the phenomenon just mentioned applies: they have remained democratic and will continue to be tolerant and democratic as their Founding Fathers. The South Sudan scenario can be predicted not to happen.
Secondly, what Ambazonia is suffering is annexation and colonization. The solution to annexation is not to continue the annexation for fear that the people annexed will not be able to rule themselves. We are talking here of a people who ruled themselves successfully before their annexation; of a people who set governing standards that the annexing country has not been able to emulate; of a people who attained self-government before the annexing country. If annexation were a system of preparing the people to take over their own affairs, like the Trusteeship system, one could remotely say that more time is needed to prepare the people for self-rule. But annexation is a system of violence, oppression and foreign imposition on the annexed people. It does not prepare the people for self-rule; it seeks to enslave and subjugate the people. I was taught that we learn to do by doing, which means that a people does not learn to govern themselves until they begin to govern themselves. No colonized people learns to govern itself by remaining under colonial rule.
READ ALSO: The Ambazonia Independence Movement In Cameroon: Agitations And Lessons
Annexation has no intention of letting go of the annexed people at any time in the future. It is pure and simple armed robbery! It wants to suppress the people forever! The acquisition of skills that takes place even when the colonial master does not want it, cannot be considered as preparation for self-rule. No doubt, despite the centuries of colonial rule of Africans, once the colonial rule ended, everything descended to the level of the people before a new beginning could be found.
Thirdly, what is new about the South Sudan Civil war? Much older countries including America, the Soviet Union, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Spain, Yugoslavia, Libya, the two Congos, Liberia, Uganda, Mozambique, etc., have all had even worse civil wars. Why do we look upon that of South Sudan as the end of the world? Is it not a temporary breakdown of the state, just like in all these other cases? Did anyone suggest that these other countries that had civil wars should never have existed? No one can justly say that South Sudan has failed as if we are at the end of time. Stoking these fears blinds simple understand of the facts that I am advancing here.
Fourth, it is not in the nature of any human being or any people to want to suffer in the hands of foreigners. Such suffering, real or perceived will be opposed. When human beings aspire to rule themselves, they are not saying that all will be a bed of roses. No. They are only aligning with their nature, which is to be self-determining! Whatever happens under one’s own will is more palatable than what happens under alien and foreign domination. Have you noticed that crimes committed by foreigners attract more anger than the same crimes committed by locals? Why? Because we always prefer to eat our own shit!
Even if a colonized people are set free and they fail, that is their own failure; that is their own act. They have a wonderful chance of learning from it. Would you rather eat your own shit or someone else’s shit?
2. Black identity question
The colour of our skin is not a system of governance; it is not also a set of values. People disagree because they don’t have the same values or don’t agree on the system of governance. There is no way to build any state in Africa or elsewhere based on colour.
Europeans are not all in one state. Africans can never be one state. Before the Whiteman came, Africa was not one state; it has never been one state. Each tribe was a sovereign state and so there were thousands of states in Africa. Some have continued to mislead by saying that the Whiteman partitioned and balkanized Africa. No. The Whiteman reduced the number of tribal states in Africa, which were in their thousands, to the few states we have today. Each of these states has been indelibly imprinted with the mentality and system of governance of the colonial power. Those governed by the Spanish do not think like those governed by the French or the English.
READ ALSO: The War In The Cameroons
Each colonial power effectively created its own children in Africa! The children of Britain think along British lines; the children of France think along French lines and so on. Tribes which were divided between different colonial powers can no more live in the same house: the Gambian and Senegalese cannot share the same state; the South African Zulu and the Mozambican Zulu cannot share the same state; Ambazonia and Cameroon Republic cannot share the same state: their thinking on state affairs is too different. Not only that, our tribal values play almost no role in the modern state system.
Thus when it is nothing to do with the state, the Gambian and Senegalese can speak their language, eat their food, dance their traditional dances together and so on; but cannot agree on how to run the state. Within some of these modern states formerly ruled by one colonial master, there are still conflicts, as for example in Nigeria. Such conflicts are not disagreements on the system of governance and state values, as for example between the Gambia and Senegal, but concern mainly power or feeling of being marginalized or economic inequality. A feeling of being perpetually excluded from power is enough to generate conflict.
The Black identity cannot therefore resolve the conflicts that divide Africa. We feel that identity not when we are among other Africans but when we are among other races. Our Black identity can help us to pull ourselves together and try to catch up with other races; it can challenge us to do better so as not to be ridiculed, but it cannot help us to solve disagreement among ourselves. Thus when two Black people or Black countries disagree, their colour cannot offer a solution, unless it helps them to see that they are making a fool of their race before other races.
There are some who object to the Ambazonian quest for independence by saying that they are Pan-Africanists and do not want to see the breakup of Africa. This objection raises some fundamental questions: What are the values of Pan-Africanism? For Pan-Africanists, should states that are illegally occupying territories confiscate those territories for fear that ending the illegal occupation would break up Africa? Do the Pan-Africanists have a remedy for those whose territory is being illegally occupied? Are the values of Pan-Africanism the same as those of the African Union? Does Pan-Africanism support annexation and colonialism? Can a united Africa be built on annexation, colonialism and foreign domination and subjugation of other Africans? What do Africanists understand by “breaking up” Africa? Do Pan-Africanists buy the theory of the respect of boundaries acquired at independence? If not, what alternative theory do they advance? According to Pan-Africanists, what is the model of governance that can peacefully merge African states into one, if that is their dream? For Pan-Africanists, are there any rules governing claims to territory or even the process of lawful acquisition of territory in Africa?
If we think of Africa as one big state that would never tolerate the existence of any other state in Africa, then we are doomed. Currently, there is no way to make children of different colonial masters agree on state matters; and their traditional systems play little or no role in state affairs. In big states where some groups feel marginalized or excluded, it is only a matter of time before they gain enough influence to question their fate. Once the questions start, conflict begins.
There is unity only in freedom! That freedom includes the right of self-determination for those who feel sufficiently alienated to want to form their own state. It can therefore be predicted with accuracy that the rule that the number of states in the world has always increased and will only increase will not fail. All our opposition to self-determination only ends of creating more and more conflict in the world. Let the world decide whether it wants peace in the world or whether it wants to prevent more states from coming into existence at the cost of more conflicts. What is so holy about a state that conflict should be sustained for its sake rather than peace? States are not eternal and no one should try to make them so! The Ottoman Empire, Roman Empire, British Empire, and so on have collapsed. But they are not the only ones to suffer this fate, because states that succeeded them also harbor the seeds that brought the end of these empires.
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We must therefore agree that it is in the interest of the world for more states to come into being, because these states are smaller, more homogeneous and less prone to conflicts. It is in the interest of the world to give freedom, because that is the source of unity and togetherness. Without a meeting of the minds, there is no union and no unity!
The principles of the African Union, a Pan-Africanist organization, are clear. African integration is based on those principles. They condemn colonization; they uphold the respect of boundaries acquired at independence; they uphold the right to self-determination and so on. Let Pan-Africanism answer the questions we have posed above so that its colours may become clearer.
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Interview With Beautiful Nubia
Please join us for a conversation with the renowned Nigerian Songwriter, Music Composer, and Band Leader, Olusegun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia).
Sunday, March 19, 2023
5:00 PM Nigeria // 4:00 PM GMT // 11:00 AM Austin CST
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Toyin Falola Interviews Holds Conversation With Kunle Afolayan
Touching Base With Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi’s Perspectives On Nigeria’s 2023 Elections
By Toyin Falola
Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi is a well-versed law professor, international relations activist, and commentator. It was delightful to have her join us, alongside Miriam Oke, Chido Onumah, and Jibrin Hussaini, at the last edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews, where we discussed Nigeria’s 2023 elections.
If anything, the primaries being organised in the nation’s two most influential parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress, are pointers to what should be expected of the 2023 Nigerian elections. As is customary, the primaries have been rife with electoral malpractices, vote-buying, and unscrupulous voting figures, and there is a shocking video posted on Twitter by Bashir Ahmad, former Personal Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on New Media, who lost his bid to secure the ticket of the APC to contest for a seat in the House of Representatives primaries in his home state of Kano. The video shows how supposed delegates are handed pre-ticked ballot boxes and are asked to put them in the ballot box without even batting an eyelid at the malpractice.
The ball is being set in motion. Atiku Abubakar is the People’s Democratic Party flag bearer for the presidential seat. The All Progressives Congress has recently screened its presidential hopefuls and will soon appoint its flagbearer. Peter Obi, who defected from the People’s Democratic Party to the Labour Party and has since been elected as the party’s flagbearer for the presidential seat, is a seeming third wheel in the routine two-dominant-party multi-party system practised in the country. The stage is set. Or is it?
This piece is not much of a sequel to the one on Chido Onumah’s perspectives on the 2023 elections because Dr Akiyode-Afolabi had her unique views on the questions asked. Nonetheless, it will follow a similar pattern, where we will examine points touched on by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi during the interview.
Electoral Violence and Nigeria’s 2023 Elections
Sad as it may seem, electoral violence is an immemorial issue rocking the Nigerian state. Throughout all its republics, Nigeria has witnessed killings and maiming during election periods — whether at the polling booths on election day or among political rivals setting targets on each other’s backs. Nigeria’s electoral process is peculiar, involving the recruitment of violent electoral mercenaries, often branded as party thugs. These thugs sign off their loyalty to a political party and wreak havoc on the party’s behalf — from ballot snatching to intimidating voters to bow to their party’s will.
In the Nigerian political scene, these party thugs sit with political kings. They are deemed crucial to the electoral process and candidates’ success. The recruitment and payment of these party thugs consume huge financial resources. However, political leaders and public officeholders fail to consider the expected uselessness of the party thugs within the governance period of three to four years that separate pre-election and election years. Having tasted ill-gotten wealth that far surpasses what they could have earned honestly, and without any honest and paying job, these party thugs resort to all sorts of vice to pay their bills and keep themselves in shape. Thus, it is not uncommon to find that party thugs become robbers, kidnappers, bandits, and street-terrorising thugs who incessantly cut holes through the state’s peace, security, and quiet.
In most cases, we would rather relate the incessant kidnappings and unrest to unknown gunmen or herdsmen-bandits rather than the true perpetrators of the evil — anarchical party thugs with weapons they were equipped with during the election period. Thus, the rivalry for power and politicians’ insatiable desire for control, regardless of the extent they go to get it, could be strongly linked to the violent crises that have rocked the country for a while now.
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For Dr Akiyode-Afolabi, violent political mercenaries in Nigeria and the political aspirants and parties who are their enablers act out of an abundant enjoyment of sheer impunity — the knowledge that they can do and undo, wreak whatever havoc they want to, without bearing the consequences. Although several of the perpetrators of this electoral violence are known, nothing is done to bring them to justice, further reinforcing the need to carry out their vice during the next election. Over the years, electoral violence has become a norm in Nigeria, and nothing is being done to curb the menace, especially in punishing the perpetrators. Thus, the electorate have joined the camp of political aspirants and political thugs who see electoral violence as part of the electioneering process in Nigeria. For members of the electorate who have difficulty processing electoral violence as a part of the electioneering process, the option of apathy kicks to the surface — especially among women and the youth who earnestly believe politics in Nigeria is a dirty game, and electoral violence is inevitable. Thus, it is not surprising that Nigeria has had a low voter turnout over the years.
The case of electoral violence and the state’s reaction to it is like several other policies in Nigeria. While the Electoral Act was proactively drafted to cover electoral violence and how to punish offenders and culprits, there has not been any action to make that part of the Act functional. It is akin to the numerous nation-improving policies whose existence has never gone beyond the paper. If we were to dig to the roots of why the aspect of the Nigerian Electoral Act that punishes electoral violence has not been enforced, we would be quick to find out that the average Nigerian politician is either directly or indirectly complicit. Thus, those at the helm and those willing to take over from them are all involved, making them reluctant to enforce the punishment for electoral violence, that is, if they consider punishing the crime at all.
Nigeria’s Three-faced Need and the Importance of a Long-term Agenda
The need for a long-term agenda should not be misconstrued as supporting the cabalistic unending Northern presidency agenda or any other agenda that does not mean well for Nigeria as a nation. Rather, it represents Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s thoughts on what is truly needed to get Nigeria out of its current quagmire. The international relations activist considers the 2023 elections in Nigeria a big issue for the country, particularly because there are more people interested in the presidential position than we have had in quite a while. Nonetheless, most of these aspirants are people who have either held a political position or currently hold one. They are people we know so well. Given their deeds while in office, it will be difficult to convince any right-thinking Nigerian that there is hope for the country if any of the candidates being paraded were elected as president.
The double tragedy that is Buhari’s eight years in office has seen the country go from bad to worse. The country’s debts keep piling up, with no way of repaying them year after year. The people are impoverished, and the currency continually suffers a blow of worthlessness and devaluation, inflation, and the unemployment rate keeps rising. To make matters worse are the rife killings, banditry, and the near state of anarchy that the country has been thrown into. Has any of the numerous candidates aspiring for the presidential seat shown they are the visionary yet pragmatic leaders that can help Nigeria realise a remarkable positive change?
Careful consideration of the likeliest players at the 2023 polls, vis-à-vis the criterion above, would show that Nigeria is not prepared for an election. Dr Akiyode-Afolabi proposed a three-aspect strategy to help us discover a new Nigeria. These are aspects that cannot be fully realised within a four-year term. Thus, there is the need for Nigerian politicians, regardless of their differences—although there are no marked differences in Nigerian politics—to consider government as a continuum and treat it as such. This will help ensure that even if power falls to the opposition camp, the remarkable and change-focused plans that have been kicked into action by the previous government will continue to be nurtured by the new government. This is the only way we can fully realise the three-dimensional solution proposed by Dr Akiyode-Afolabi.
Dr Akiyode-Afolabi’s first proposed dimension is the need for an empowered political class. The Nigerian political field is riddled with whimsical people who are of the anything-goes breed as long as they get elected to office. That is why serial defection is nothing to them, and they can shamelessly befriend a foe today and betray a friend tomorrow. They are overly selfish lot who constantly put personal needs and gains before national needs and expected gains. The Nigerian political class needs to be empowered enough to engage the electorate in an ideological and issue-based manner. A look at the pre-campaign clamouring in the camps of the presidential aspirants will show that they think so little of Nigerians that they believe not much is needed in the way of plans and strategies to convince the people. It is also why Nyensom Wike, who lost his party’s presidential ticket, deemed it fit to incessantly chant, “give me power… power!” To him, that was enough to get him the ticket to become Nigeria’s next president.
The coming months will show us lamentable political campaigns with no depth, so shallow that every reasonable Nigerian would be too ashamed to identify with a country where such gimmicks pass as enough campaign to convince the people to vote for someone. There is a need to empower citizens and help kick structures in place to organise Nigerians and help them truly understand what they want. Nigeria has so much suffered from poor governance that asking the average electorate what they expect from the aspirants — what they look forward to hearing that could convince them to vote for an aspirant — would most likely render them stammering.
In Nigeria, constitutional reformation is of great necessity. The Nigerian Constitution has outlived its essence. What use is a constitution if it does not amply meet the state’s needs nor adequately answer its citizens’ burning questions? The systems of the constitution no longer effectively serve us as a nation, which is why there have been agitations and clamouring for secession, restructuring, regionalisation, and central policing, among other issues raised. In the end, until Nigeria intentionally kicks these three dimensions into action, and until there are successive tenures that consider the government as a continuum and reach a knowing agreement to nurture and not impede the realisation of the three-dimensional issue, a new and positive Nigeria will be anything but reality.
- *** This is the third and final report on the interview held on May 22, 2022, on the 2023 elections in Nigeria. The views of our distinguished panelists have traveled wide and have been reported in several newspapers.
For the transcript, see:
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