By Toyin Falola
Gabon demonstrates everything that is wrong with Africa, a tiny country with enormous resources stolen by a few kleptocrats. One family in over fifty years converted Gabon into a private estate—even the coup brings to power the cousin of the deposed president to prevent opposition from taking over power. Gabon is a curse, country that manufactures sadness.
Anyone familiar with political developments in Africa from the second half of the twentieth century would naturally surmise that history is repeating itself on the continent. Since 2020, there have been eight military coups in Africa, with two occurring in 2023 alone. Unfortunately, these military interventions in “democratically” elected governments are not an unusual development on the continent. Until the 1990s, when many African countries were returned to civilian rule—prompting the celebration of a new era of democracy and regular elections—the continent was an active theatre of coups. Between 1950 and 1991, Africa recorded 84 successful coups spread around 45 countries. And even after 1991, coups remained a celebrated august visitor, dotting the African political landscape every now and again. Now, with recent developments, we are compelled to ask ourselves, ‘‘Has Africa really made tangible political gains since independence?’’
As some might assume, the reappearance of a succession of coups on the African political scene is neither the work of providence nor the dying out of an old era of sit-tight regimes. It is a clear testament that the conditions—of greed and selfishness—in Africa’s corridors of power, which had made the continent a fertile ground for military takeovers, have persisted. In other words, the majority of Africa’s leaders have either maintained or attempted to adopt the old political manual designed to perpetuate “leaders” in power who steal and stash away the wealth of their countries in foreign lands while condemning the majority of their people to a life of poverty and disregard. The process remains with the same method, where individuals elected into political office, upon assumption of power, abandon the manifesto on which they campaigned and were elected and instead turn around to use state resources to sponsor their quest to become life-long rulers. To achieve this crooked feat, they deploy a myriad of techniques based on particular situational requirements, including constitutional manipulations to extend tenurial limits, intimidation of opposition, election fraud, annexation of the judiciary, weaponization of poverty, exploitation of diversity and the award of destructive economic concessions to erstwhile colonial overlords. The system of corruption and intimidation thus endures until elements from within the inner government caucus, including top-ranking military officials, become dissatisfied with their share of the loot and, under the guise of ending the suffering of the masses, support radical elements to topple the system. After all, what honour is there amongst thieves?
The ecstatic and widespread celebrations that greeted the announcement of the ousting of the Gabonese government by the coup plotter on the 30th of August, 2023, signals that the overthrow of the Bongo dynasty was a welcomed development, even at the backdrop of condemnations which have poured in from the UN (United Nations) and other intergovernmental bodies, as well as from many leaders within Africa and without (led by France).
The people of Gabon—which has been under the yoke of the Bongo family for 56 years—have suffered tremendously under the boots of one of Africa’s longest-serving dictatorships. An oil-rich nation of about 2.3 million people, Gabon boasts a per capita income more than the average of most sub-Saharan African nations, with a figure approaching more than four times. However, operating an undeveloped extractive industry, Gabon’s wealth has had little impact on the 40 per cent of its population living under the poverty threshold, especially with most of the country’s extractive activities being carried out by companies domiciled in France—its erstwhile colonial overlord.
The founding champion of Gabon’s kleptocracy, the now deceased patriarch of the corrupt Bongo family, Omar Bongo, ruled Gabon like his personal fiefdom for forty-two years and in the full glare of all the institutions and countries that today claim the status of ‘‘champions of democracy.’’ Knowing that he had to present the guise of credible elections, Omar Bongo deployed every trick in the book to circumvent the system and perpetuate himself in power. Elected to office in March 1967 as the vice-presidential candidate to president Leon M’Ba, Omar Bongo became president after his principal’s demise later in the same year. Benefiting from a constitutional amendment that allowed vice presidents to succeed the president in the case of the former’s demise—an amendment which incidentally was carried out a few months before his principal’s demise—Omar Bongo declared Gabon a one-party state to consolidate his power. After that, the country had to wait thirty years to experience another multi-party election. Having spent thirty years in power as a dictator, Omar Bongo, now an even greater force to reckon with, allowed for multi-party elections in 1991, 1998, and 2005. In all of these elections, he and his party, the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG), won the majority, even against the backdrop of allegations of electoral fraud from his opponents. To crown his life-long efforts as president of Gabon, Omar Bongo died in a Spanish hospital in 2009. But not before ensuring his son, Ali Bongo, whose political career had enjoyed a meteoric rise under his father’s despotic guidance, was poised to succeed him.
Before his current ordeal, Gabon’s one-time funk singer and the embattled president had proven himself a good student of his father’s political manoeuvres. Since winning the August 2009 presidential elections, Ali Bongo managed to secure a controversial victory in 2016 and survived a coup attempt in January 2019. In an interview with Prof Wale Adebanwi, held at the University of Oxford Business School in 2018, which provides a rare view into Ali Bongo’s rationalization of his family’s tyrannical leadership, the now embattled president of Gabon, in responding to a question on regime change as a core tenet of the institution of democracy, decried the limits imposed on presidential terms. According to him, two five-year tenures are simply insufficient for any president to effectively deliver his/her programs. However, he failed to explain how many years it would ideally take to determine whether or not a president is committed or even competent enough to deliver on the development needs of his country’s people. But, if we follow his family’s example, the Gabonese people might just have to wait for an entire century, especially since his father (Bongo senior) could not do it in forty-two years, and neither has he in fourteen.
What the Bongos and their cohorts have been able to achieve in their ‘limited” time in government, however, is a luxurious and flamboyant lifestyle, both for themselves and members of their extended family. Over the years, both members of Omar Bongo’s immediate family and other key figures in his government have come under investigation in the United States (US) and France for misappropriating the country’s wealth. According to a report by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the late Omar Bongo attempted to purchase a condo in New York City worth $2.2million through his daughter Yamilee Bongo-Astier, an unemployed graduate, who was found in possession of $1 million in cash, stashed away in a safety deposit box. Several other allegations of corruption involving the Bongos and their inner circle—including court judges and top military figures—have described the illicit purchase of luxury cars as bribes, as well as the ownership of numerous foreign bank accounts and pricey real estate in the choicest areas in France and the US.
Even if the celebrations that followed the news of the removal of the Bongo political dynasty are as organic as other long-suffering people share in Africa, it would be ignorant to believe that the problems of that small oil-producing country have ended. At the risk of sounding like a prophet of gloom, the announcement of Brice Nguema as ‘‘president of the transition’’ buttresses an earlier point made on the origins and organization of coups in Africa. Not only is Brice Nguema alleged to be the cousin of the ousted president, but he has also been an integral part of the “Bongo System,” serving in different capacities, including as aide de camp to the late Omar Bongo and as Leader of the Gabonese Republican guard. His name has also not been left out of the list of names of influential government officials—published by the OCCRP—who have enriched themselves at the expense of the Gabonese people, particularly the allegations of the ownership of real estate properties worth millions of dollars in the US. If, from all indications, what transpired in Gabon was a family tussle for power, then the people of Gabon must brace up for another round of agitation for their rights to representative government. A counter-coup may be needed to jump-start a fraudulent system.
Whatever happens next in Gabon, the latest coup in that small central African county has sent shock-waves reverberating through many of Africa’s halls of power. In Rwanda and Cameroon, the presidents have embarked on major reshuffling and retirements in the military, even as others appear content in using ECOWAS to discourage other would-be coup plotters. While the approach of ECOWAS has, thus far, been the subject of controversy, it is yet to be seen if the direction of both Rwanda and Cameroon would be enough to successfully stem the rise in the tide of coups. What is, however, indisputable is that as long as the will of the people of Africa remains suppressed, in whatever guise or form, there will always be opportunities for potential coup plotters to exploit. Hence, the possibility for a stable and prosperous political future for Africa must involve the pursuit of the interests of its people.
Moral Values In A Changing World
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
JUSTICE: This world has degenerated into abysmal filth, immoral ungodly concupiscence, infantile greed, atavistic, primitive acquisition of property, and satanic hopelessness! The judiciary, the political class, the church, our royal fathers, and most other socio-cultural institutions have fallen into the cesspit of indiscipline and lack of respect for ethics! The Labour movement that used to be in the forefront of discipline cannot be trusted anymore!
MARIAM: Hehehehehehe! Okpoyibo! Big grammar is talking. I must invite Hon Patrick Obahiagbon to compete with you on explosive vocabulary.
PROFESSOR: That’s an old song. Our parents said the same thing some forty odd years ago.
UMUKORO: You are right; it is the way of the old to berate the world and say the past was better!
JUSTICE: Kindly don’t reduce the profundity of my introspective submission to the jejune level of the banal as has been the hallmark of pseudo-intellectuals in the polity!
MARIAM: I am going to get a new and bigger dictionary. I can’t find Michael West anymore!
JUSTICE: If you still restrict yourself to the archaic confines of Michael West, then you are a victim of historical detention, arrested development, and exploration of the brave new world!
MARIAM: I give up!
UMUKORO: Who still uses a dictionary in the 21st century? Ask Google my dear, ask Google!
JUSTICE: Your infantile and rudimentary knowledge of homonyms limits your capacity to process thoughts of the new century. Away with you, thou physically beautiful body without an intellectual soul. I take exception to people denigrating my exceptionally brilliant exegesis on the state of Homo sapiens!
PASTOR: ‘And in the last days, iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold’, so said the Master. The time is here!
PROFESSOR: A broken record! A broken record waxed hundreds of years ago!
PASTOR: But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved!
PROFESSOR: Saved from what? Another holocaust? Another atomic bomb dumped on humanity?
PASTOR: Do you spurn sacred and biblical prophecies?
PROFESSOR: General prophecies mean nothing to me. Look here Mr Pastor. For all the false prophecies which members of your infernal gang of profiteering pastors gave before the last general elections, you should be behind the bars of God!
JUSTICE: It is not late, not too late at all. The hounds of heaven are waiting for all the false pastors, especially those who have commercialized the Lord’s work! A wonderful and abominable thing is happening in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the people love it so!
PROFESSOR: One preacher I knew used to say that one false prophet was more dangerous than 100 armed robbers. Now I understand why!
UMUKORO: Armed robbery is no longer fashionable. Pen robbery fetches millions of naira with one stroke. Just add two zeros to the figure or transfer public funds to a private account.
PROFESSOR: I spoke metaphorically!
PASTOR: When it is becoming fashionable for persons of the same gender to marry and be recognized by the state, then the world is coming to an end.
UMUKORO: Sodom and Gomorrah incurred God’s wrath with that abomination!
MARIAM: When Supreme Court judges dispense political justice, then the end of the state as we knew it, has come.
UMUKORO: Even in America! Democratic judges give judgment guided by the so-called liberal values of the democrats while republican judges give conservative verdicts like abolishing the right to having an abortion!
JUSTICE: What then is justice?
MARIAM: Self solution! Your name is justice!
PROFESSOR: Aren’t we mixing oranges and apples in the same basket?
PASTOR: Let the tares and the wheat grow. At the harvest the Lord shall do the separation of sheep from goats!
JUSTICE: Eschatological metaphors can be used to rationalize and explain currents and undercurrents of contemporary events. It is very convenient to do so!
PROFESSOR: I am disappointed that our Nobel laureate could make such a one-sided pronouncement on the 2023 general elections. Unlike him, he didn’t speak like a man who comprehends the totality of our traumatic experience in February 2023!
MARIAM: But he spoke his mind. The Constitution guarantees freedom of expression!
JUSTICE: He spoke with the finality of a judge. I respect him for that. But he should also like an elder have acknowledged the level of rigging and violence which marred the exercise. The general thinking is that he is silent on that aspect because a friend of his now occupies Aso Rock!
MARIAM: That is a most uncharitable thing to say about a man of such intellectual distinction and moral probity!
JUSTICE: Excuse me! Has he occupied any public office in the country to enable you to arrive at that conclusion? Has he been tested?
MARIAM: His name is a shield. His name travels before him.
JUSTICE: Why did he wait for the PEPT to make a pronouncement before proclaiming his tigritude?
PROFESSOR: Let’s leave that old man alone jor! I’m more interested in the shuffling feet at the CBN. What exactly is going on? Was there no due diligence before Shonubi was asked to act as Governor of the Central bank of Nigeria? Didn’t they know, couldn’t they have suspected that he was part of the rot that ran that institution aground in the dying days of the former president?
PASTOR: Alas, it has given the president the opportunity to appoint his own man as governor. The new man by all account is competent and exposed in the financial world!
PROFESSOR: My only worry is whether he will have the gumption to say no if he receives obnoxious directives from his boss.
JUSTICE: How many appointees in our country have the liver to say no to the indiscretion of their bosses? It is not in our DNA!
MARIAM: In Lagos state, the Speaker of House said no to the governor on the appointment of some commissioners! The heavens did not fall.
PROFESSOR: The heavens almost fell. But that speaker is arrogant. No big man can trust him. Or was he dancing to music being played in higher quarters to spite the governor?
MARIAM: Who knows! It is possible. The ways of politicians are not straightforward. How could he say that he and the governor are colleagues! He has no respect for the office!
UMUKORO: I felt sorry for the governor! This attempt to humiliate him all in the name of politics.
JUSTICE: I hear it is all about 2024. If he is thinking of becoming governor, that statement will return to haunt him in future!
PASTOR: Now! Now! Now! Is the Dubai visa ban still hanging over us or Mr. President got the desert kings to lift the embargo?
JUSTICE: Is there any ‘gbajue’ going on?
PROFESSOR: Hahahahahaha! The more you look, the less you see. Proverbs to bones and silence!
UMUKORO: I don’t think it is ‘gbajue! It is possible that there was an agreement in principle which would require Nigeria to finetune certain details before going public. A federal government cannot tell lies about such public matters!
PASTOR: When the saviour comes, let him that be on the rooftop not come down to be saved. You will run to the mountain and the mountain will be melting!
MARIAM: And the sea will be boiling!
PROFESSOR: Who will save us? Who can take the nation back to factory reset? Shall we invite Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, and Ahmadu Bello to rescue us?
PASTOR: Perish such thoughts please! Those men have not been able to save themselves. How can they save anybody? Jesus Christ is the answer!
A Response To Toyin Falola’s Obasanjo, Obadide And Obajoko
By Yinka Agbetuyi
Toyin Falola’s “Obasanjo, Obadide and Obajoko” is a timely article that captures the complexities and contradictions of a Yoruba (even Nigerian) in transition. It reframes the questions: ‘transition to where?’ How will this transition be better managed? Until these two questions are adequately resolved Yorubaland (and Nigeria) will always be in constant crises.
It is very important that the essay brings out the fact of extant kingships alongside modern polities in Europe like the UK and Belgium, (there are still twelve extant monarchies in Europe) where the monarchs are not subordinated to modern politicians and humiliated thereby. So which West are the Yoruba (and Nigerians) copying? Newfound lands, mainly the US – as well as Australia and Canada- stolen from the aborigines.
Yoruba people and fellow Nigerians must constantly be reminded that the success of the anticolonial struggles was about stopping such occurrence in Africa. Perhaps Yoruba Nation advocacy was geared toward the same goal, but lacked effective strategies. At the last stop before Tinubu’s unexpected victory, the groundswell was for Yoruba Nation advocates to go into partnership with other Nigerian ethnic nationalities and evolve a workable blueprint that takes into consideration each group’s preference and the rate of and speed of integration into the totality – the North’s preference at independence, and Awo’s true federalism- supplanted unfortunately by the adoption of an American presidential federalist model, hook line and sinker! My reaction over the decades is that Nigeria is not necessarily vying with others for the position of the 51st state of the US.
In my own summation in diverse forums, as it exists now in Europe, the royal houses should be clearly delimited and given definite CONSTITUTIONAL roles and worthy remuneration. First Class traditional rulers should earn the same salaries as sitting governors (Nigeria can afford this option many times over from a mere fraction of its stolen wealth if recovered). Monarchs will in turn underwrite the integrity of the polity by being constitutionally tasked with the appointment of auditors who will scrutinise State spending (states and federal) and projects in their domains and report directly back to such MONARCHS for onward transmission to state chief executives and the presidency.
Traditional rulers should be elected and appointed only by traditional councils and their appointment signed into law (but not subject to nor subordinated to) the state governors. After all the days of crass illiterate caricature of traditional rulers is long gone. Traditional rulers should therefore be structured as parallel instruments of and facilitators of governance in a check and balance structuration of governance, in a carefully integrated whole to achieve total governance – the transient and the permanent. Lesser traditional rulers should be administered by the First-Class rulers (in council) who will recommend their emoluments, (and functions) subject to rankings to state governments.
Only First-Class rulers (in council) should be able to recommend the creation and elevation of lower ranked rulers to the states according to the existing norms of such communities, (they did this well enough in the precolonial days) and the state government should only administratively approve or reject such recommendations based on financial contingencies. This formulation should neutralise party politicking in the creation and maintenance of traditional rulership.
Yes, traditional rulers must be constitutionally barred from seeking and accepting contracts from their states of origin and from the federal government, the same way a governor is not notionally entitled to be awarded a contract by their own government. In the British system, this is called declaration of interests by parliamentarians (whether in government or not) in the register of interest book. This is to prevent conflict of interests of the person in government (and their associates) and their official duties. This provision demonstrates that greed is a universal phenomenon unless and until checked by relevant laws (witness the UK Parliament’s expenses claim scandal in 2010.)
Now that the Tinubu struggle has been fought and won, the Yoruba Nation advocates, must in continuation of their activities not rest their oars on the ship of State, but intensify such by taking the lead in the quest for this new reality, by reaching out to like minded nationalities across the country to achieve the constitutional change for a better, stable and prosperous tomorrow for Nigerians.
Prince Agbetuyi is a Professor of Comparative Arts & World History at the Edutronix Institute, London.
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.
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