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NYSC And Suicidal Proposition



Savannah State As A Priority


Emmanuel Onwubiko

To desire and strive to be of some service to the world, to aim at doing something which shall really increase the happiness and welfare and virtue of mankind—this is a choice which is possible for all of us and surely it is good heaven to sail for”.
Henry Van Dyke

Ian Stewart, a professor of mathematics at the University of Warmck, England, is the author of concept of modern mathematics;
Does God play Dice, flatterland, from here to infinity and Nature’s numbers.

He once wrote on number symbolism, cultural association, including religious, philosophic and aesthetic with various numbers.
Professor Stewart wrote: Humanity has had a love-hate relationship with numbers from the earliest times. Bones dating from perhaps 30,000 years ago show scratch marks that possibly represent the phases of the Moon.

The ancient Babylonians observed the movements of the planets, recorded them as numbers, and used them to predict eclipses and other astronomical phenomena. The priesthood of ancient Egypt used numbers to predict the flooding of the Nile.

Pythagoreanism, a cult of ancient Greece, believed that numbers were the basis of the entire universe, which ran on numerical harmony.

The Pythagoreans’ ideas were a mixture of prescience (the numerical features of musical sounds) and mysticism (3 is male, 4 is female, and 10 is the most perfect number). Numbers were associated with names for magical purposes: the biblical “number of the beast.”

Speaking about numbers and their symbolism brings us to the reality that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) came into being on 22nd May 1973, thus making it 48 years since it was established. As it is generally said that ‘a fool at 40 is a fool forever,” the NYSC however is one institution that has never suffered foolery but rather is like that  typical old wine whose taste is the sweetest.

An irony, however, is that in Nigeria with a lot of dysfunctional institutions messed up by those put in charge of them over time, the NYSC has gone through a lot of attacks from a variety of adversaries for different reasons. One of such attacks exploded exactly on the day that the NYSC turned 48 when it was leaked by the media that someone in the Federal House of Representatives had hatched a plot to destroy NYSC and bring its existence to an unceremonious end.

Immediately this sad piece of information became notorious, a wide variety of Nigerians from all walks of life, kicked against any contemplation to destroy NYSC by any means.

One of such groups that immediately rejected the proposal and described it as a national suicidal proposition is the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria(HURIWA).

In its reaction, it stated that: “President Muhammadu Buhari should jealously guide against any attempt from whatever quarters to tinker negatively with the National Youths Service Corp Scheme (NYSC). As far as most civil rights practitioners in Abuja are concerned, this government has made remarkable milestones in the youth sector. The consistent strides made by President Buhari to sustain the only legacy that reminds us of our national unity which is the NYSC, have become a beacon of hope for generations yet unborn. On no account should any negative force be permitted to succeed in scuttling the NYSC. What we expect is for all hands to be on deck to consolidate on the gains made by NYSC and to strengthen its operational capacity.”

With the above, HURIWA and its continental arm – Association of African Writers on Human and Peoples Rights (AFRIRIGHTS) has appealed to speaker Femi Gbajabiamila and Senate President Ahmed Lawan to throw away the reported proposal though a Constitutional alteration bill to abolish the NYSC scheme as moved by a member of parliament.

The House of Representatives is said to be considering the discontinuation of the National Youth Service Corps scheme.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Alteration Bill, 2020, which is seeking to repeal the NYSC Act, is billed for the second reading. The sponsor, Mr Awaji-Inombek Abiante, in the explanatory memorandum of the proposal, listed the various reasons why the NYSC should be scrapped.

It read in part, “This bill seeks to repeal Section 315(5)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended) on the following grounds:

“Incessant killing of innocent corps members in some parts of the country due to banditry, religious extremism, ethnic violence; and incessant kidnapping of innocent corps members across the country; public and private agencies/departments are no longer recruiting able and qualified Nigerian youths, thus relying heavily on the availability of corps members who are not being well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year without any hope of being gainfully employed; due to insecurity across the country, the National Youth Service Corps management now gives considerations to posting corps members to their geopolitical zone, thus defeating one of the objectives of setting up the service corps, i.e. developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.”

The military regime of General Yakubu Gowon had established the NYSC on May 22, 1973, under Decree No. 24 of 1973 as a way of reconciling and reintegrating Nigerians after the civil war between July 6, 1967 and January 15, 1970.
However, HURIWA has threatened mass action should this negative piece of legislation be carried beyond its current status.

“We are very hopeful that both speaker of parliament and the Senate President are proud products of the Noble NYSC scheme and should ensure that no stone is left unturned to stop forth with the retrogressive March to infamy which is what the proposal to end the NYSC Scheme represents.The tepid excuse of insecurity as reason for contemplating such a national suicidal move, does not hold water.”

READ ALSO: Move To Scrap NYSC Unpatriotic – HURIWA

The rights group described the NYSC scheme as the most viable bridge to national unity even as the group said these trying times of divisions called for the separation of the country by mostly younger citizens is even the best time to consolidate on the gains made by NYSC.

It is tragic for any rational being to even contemplate scrapping the only institution that unify the youths of all ethnicities.

“Can we once more remind the National Assembly that NYSC is meeting the legal obligations for which it was set up? Indeed NYSC is one institution that it helping to douse tension and check insecurity because it is such a watershed platform that keeps thousands of youths busy all year round.

The objectives of the National Youth Service Corps scheme are clearly spelt out in Decree No.51 of 16th June 1993 as follows:

“To inculcate discipline in Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work, and of patriotic and loyal service to Nigeria in any situation they may find themselves;

To raise the moral tone of the Nigerian youths by giving them the opportunity to learn about higher ideals of national achievement, social and cultural improvement;

To develop in the Nigerian youths the attitudes of mind, acquired through shared experience and suitable training, which will make them more amenable to mobilisation in the national interest;

To enable Nigerian youths to acquire the spirit of self reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self employment;

To contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy;

To develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration;

To remove prejudices, eliminate ignorance and confirm at first hand the many similarities among Nigerians of all ethnic groups;

To develop a sense of corporate existence and common destiny of the people of Nigeria;

The equitable distribution of members of the service corps and the effective utilisation of their skills in area of national needs ; That as far as possible, youths are assigned to jobs in states other than their states of origin;

That such group of youths assigned to work together is as representative of Nigeria as far as possible;

That the Nigerian youths are exposed to the modes of living of the people in different parts of Nigeria;

That the Nigerian youths are encouraged to eschew religious intolerance by accommodating religious differences;

That members of the service corps are encouraged to seek at the end of their one-year national service, career employment all over Nigeria, thus promoting the free movement of labour;

That employers are induced partly through their experience with members of the service corps to employ more readily and on a permanent basis, qualified Nigerians, irrespective of their states of origin.”

Luckily, the appointment of Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim, PhD, as the 18th Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in May 2019, couldn’t have come at a better time. He mounted the saddle when the scheme had become despondent with existential threats. His timely arrival has rejuvenated and repositioned the scheme and rekindled public interest in its relevance as originally conceived.

Until recently, there have been calls for the scrapping of the NYSC scheme. The arguments of the proponents centre on the position that the scheme has outlived its usefulness. The call for the scrapping of the NYSC reached a crescendo at a point, forcing the  Nigerian government to publicly announce, through the then Minister of Youth Development and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalong, that it would not be swayed by agitations from some quarters to scrap the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.

The NYSC was established in 1973 by the General Yakubu Gowon regime as a response to the disunity faced by the country following the Nigeria-Biafra Civil war. The purpose of the scheme is primarily to inculcate in Nigerian youths the spirit of selfless service to the community, and to emphasize the spirit of oneness and brotherhood of all Nigerians, irrespective of cultural or social background. Necessarily therefore the benefits  and objectives are to enable Nigerian youths to acquire the spirit of self-reliance by encouraging them to develop skills for self-employment; to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy and to develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration. All these noble values were well eroded by the time Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim took over.

Though the Federal Government had stated that it would not scrap the scheme then, without addressing the reasons that prompted and even justified the calls, the agitations against the scheme would have continued. Part of the measures taken by the Federal Government to revamp the scheme and restore public confidence was appointing Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim to head it and carry out comprehensive reforms. Within two years, the NYSC scheme has reemerged well rebranded after the rediscovery with the far-reaching reforms introduced by the intellectual soldier, administrator and reformer.

Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim is a typical  modern-day chief executive. They know how to keep abreast with changing times and often engage in what behavioural psychologists call organizational redesign, which was what the NYSC urgently needed before his assumption of office. Organizational redesign involves the integration of structure, processes, and people to support the implementation of strategy and therefore goes beyond the traditional tinkering with “lines and boxes.”

Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim knows that, today, when organizational redesign of a place matches its strategic intentions, everyone will be primed to execute and deliver them. He therefore focused on the workability of the NYSC’s structure, processes, and securing the buy-in of the workers and corps members in order to make his deep reforms possible.

READ ALSO: Reps Consider Scrapping NYSC Over Killing Of Corps’ Members, Others

As stated earlier, the National Youth Service Corps was founded to heal the wound that the Nigerian Civil War which lasted between 1967–1970 inflicted on the nation’s psyche. It was initiated to foster unity among Nigerians and to promote service to the nation. The conception and founding of the corps was essentially for unity.

In his inaugural address as the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy spoke his famous words, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This use of chiasmus can be seen even as a call to action for the citizens to do what is right for the greater good of America and Americans. The Gowon regime smarting from a debilitating civil war was determined to rouse Nigerian youths to the urgent task of nation building and national unity.

Despite its nobility,  after existing for more than forty years, some stakeholders began to call for the scrapping of the scheme due to its dwindling performance. Brig-Gen Shuaibu however has been able to prove that the nation cannot dismiss the gains of the NYSC scheme in integrating Nigerians and stands firmly, through his landmark star achievements, for the sustenance of the scheme to continue in its capacity-building of Nigeria citizens and as an indispensable aspect of integrating the nation’s over 250 ethnic groups and cultures.

To achieve the total turnaround of the scheme in such record time, this ‘philosopher king’ and soldier promptly came up with a five-point policy thrusts, namely:
·        Sustain effective utilisation of the potential of corps members for optimal benefit;
·        Strengthen existing collaborations with critical stakeholders;
·        Improve on the welfare and security of corps members and staff;
·        Pursue a technologically driven organisation to deepen effective service delivery;
·        Reinvigorate the NYSC Ventures and SAED in line with the NYSC Act for greater impact.

In his dogged pursuit of effective utilisation of the potential of corps members for optimal benefit; and strengthen existing collaborations with critical stakeholders  corps members are fully deployed to help the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for credible elections. The members of the scheme are reoriented to remain impartial, intellectually equipped to consolidate and extend the Nigerian democratic frontiers, which they have done credibly well since 2011.

Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim has ensured that corps members remain purveyor belt for development, behavioral change and nation – building and found in the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria where they are serving the nation in all the sectors of the economy.

They drive the economy through their unquantifiable contributions to the small and medium scale enterprises.

Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim has also ensured that corps members remain the major force in manpower supply in the education sector.

Apart from election duties, the corps members help in the administration of the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Exam, where they see to the successful conduct of examinations. They have also augmented the dwindling number of teachers nationwide where the profession is seen as not lucrative. This is aside from the health sector, where the consultants are being harvested by foreign countries where they are paid heavily. Corps members are standing in the gap.

In a sense the scheme has ensured a reduction in unemployment. While in service, the government pays corps members a sum of N33,000 monthly as stipend. This is aside from the money being paid to some by the organization they work for. Though, this money is small in comparison to the service they are expected to render as graduates, it goes a long way to keep youths from societal vices by keeping them busy hence, the government spends less on security unlike when such doesn’t exist, the government will have to spend three times the money they are spending now on NYSC to combat crime.

As the Nigerian population is growing geometrically, the NYSC smothers the harm that usually befalls a population that’s not planned for by giving the Nigerian youths a respite and nurse them to discover themselves on time before they could think of going criminal.

Brig Gen Ibrahim has ensured that corps members continue to receive the  exposure as envisaged by the scheme. He ensures that corps members are posted to the states of the federation other than their own states of origin and exposed to the diversities and cultural differences that abound in the country in the promotion of unity and respect for other ethnic groups and cultures.

Other achievements of this exceptional leader as the Director General of the NYSC are: the production of an NYSC movie titled “A Call to Service” currently in its post-production. Apart from its entertainment value, the movie is being packaged as an enabler of a better understanding and healthy perception of the scheme by the general public.

The Director General has also established the NYSC National Cultural Troupe to provide an avenue  for corps members to hone their talents in drama and cultural dance, with the potential of shoring up the revenue base of the scheme through its activities when commercialized. This will add to the over two hundred and eighty million naira ( N280, 000,000.00) which the scheme has unprecedentedly paid into the national coffers under him as internally generated revenue for the first time in the annals of its history.

Corruption, which has been ravaging the nation’s public service, has also engaged the attention of the NYSC director general. His concern for a corruption-free Nigeria prompted him to organise a National Anti-Corruption Walk as the NYSC’s contributions to the fight against corruption. The programme involved thousands of corps members in the nationwide rally/road walk , which the scheme organised in collaboration with  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and carried out on 14th February, 2020. The director-general personally joined the corps members and officials in Kano State Secretariat for the rally, which was tagged “Nigerian Youths March Against Corruption.”

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a global socio-economic crisis, which could have more adversely affected the activities of the NYSC were it not for the creativity and ingenuity of the director general. He prompted corps members to rise patriotically to the challenge and they produced  non-pharmaceutical intervention materials such as face-mask, liquid soap, alcohol – based hand sanitisers and distributed them to the less privileged Nigerians round the country, gratis. This included  foot-operated water, liquid soap and hand sanitiser dispensers, which were fabricated by individual corps members in several states  aside from the scheme’s vigorous public enlightenment campaign against the deadly virus.

READ ALSO: Buhari Appoints New Chief Of Army Staff

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the NYSC under Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim pioneered the interfacing and abridging of the disruptive gaps caused by the COVID-19 imposed protocols by relying on ICT-mediated methods. Thus the NYSC director general was able to hold  virtual meetings with serving corps members, as well as NYSC state coordinators across the country, a practice that has continued and has helped the NYSC to improve on its service delivery and keep abreast with current realities and global best practices.

Over the years, the NYSC has been enmeshed in all manner of practices that are less than noble, which included age falsification. The chief executive introduced the inscription of date of birth on the Certificate of National Service and Exclusion Letter, beginning with the 2019 Batch “A” Corps Members and 2019 Batch “C” respectively in  an effective way of  checking the manipulation of date of birth by ineligible persons seeking mobilisation for the national service. Apart from helping in sanitizing the scheme, this measure also bears out in checkmating the falsification of records for employment, visa, and political appointments, among others.

Worthy of mention also is the Five-Year Strategic Development Plan for the scheme, review of the NYSC Composite  Policy Document and documentation of the activities of the scheme  that have all repositioned the scheme. Furthermore, the regained impetus of the scheme under Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim has led to the inclusion of the NYSC into the Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme and the Mambilla Hydro Power Project by the Federal Government. These inclusions are testimonials to the fresh impetus and recognition the scheme has gained its exceptional leader.

Welfare of corps members and staff is uppermost on the director general’s mind. The director general secured the approval of the review of the corps members monthly allowance from nineteen thousand, eight hundred naira ( N19800.00) to thirty-three thousand naira (N33,000.00), which made the elated director general and the honourable minister of youth and sports development and some representatives of corps members to pay a “Thank-you” visit to His Excellency, the President and Commander-in-Chief, Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR on 6th February, 2020 at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The director general has also paid condolence and reassuring visits to the families of deceased and missing corps members in Plateau, Kaduna and Edo States as a mark of solidarity. Such gestures have increased the confidence of corps members and their families in the scheme, and have also engendered more zeal for patriotic service by the members of the corps.

Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim is an intellectual, an academic and an administrator who has risen to the status of an associate professor. Born 54 years ago, Ibrahim hails from Nasarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. He attended the s University of Jos where he bagged  Bachelor’s and  Master’s Degrees in History (1989 and 1992 respectively). He later obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim capped his quest for higher certificates with a Ph.D. in History from the University of Abuja in 2007.

His appointments and postings in the army have also reflected his great academic attainments: The Institute of Army Education (Research Officer), where he researched and produced Nigerian Army Journals and Briefs for the Nigerian Army in particular, and the Military in general; NYSC (Military Assistant to the Director General) 1997-1999; Nigerian Defence Academy (2000-2004; National Defence College (Staff Officer I Military History 2004-2009; Headquarters Nigerian Army School of Education (Senior Instructor) 2009-2011; Commandant Command Secondary School, Suleja 2012-2014; Nigerian Defence Academy (Head of Department, History and War Studies), 2015-2018; and Registrar, Nigerian Army University, Biu, Borno State(2018-2019) and currently, the Director General, National Youth Service Corps .

Like the great philosopher Plato argued,  philosopher kings should be leaders, so that  their leadership may depend on knowledge, as Brig Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim has unsurprisingly proved as the Director General of the NYSC.

 Onwubiko is the head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a federal commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.


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Reading Professor Olu Obafemi’s Melodies Of Inclement Climes



Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

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.


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The West And The Hypocrisy Of Democracy



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Toyin Falola

Western deception has been with Africa forever:

1493: Pope Alexander VI issued a papal bull, “Inter Caetera,” proclaiming the right of Spain and Portugal to enslave Africans and own the land. They were subjects. They stole your people and your land.

1885: Africa was a Dark Continent. It required colonization to become civilized. Europe would bring change and civilize them. They stole your raw materials and truncated your self-development.

1940: When over a million Africans fought in Europe, North Africa and the Far East during the Second World War, the West convinced them they were dying for freedom and democracy. But where in Africa do they receive freedom and democracy? Indeed, Apartheid was inaugurated in 1948 in South Africa.

When will this deception come to an end? So, Gabon and Niger were democracies before the 2023 coups? You must be using the wrong dictionary to define democracy. Cameroon under the invalid Paul Biya is a democracy? You must be confusing the Mali Empire with the modern country of Cameroon. And the presidents who rule for as long as they want practising democracy?

You need a little education.

Recent developments in Africa’s political space, particularly the growing number of military takeovers, have informed fresh queries around the expressions of neo-colonialism in Africa and the commitment to liberal democracy as the ideal political model for the region. The point of reference for these queries is the ceremonial reactions from the acclaimed “champions of democracy” in the West, who waste no time issuing condemnations at every instance of “democratic failure” on the continent without any actual commitment to ensuring that power indeed lies with the people. Not only have these champions of African interests—the United States (US), Britain and France—touted democracy as the best system of political organization to achieve political stability and economic prosperity in Africa, but they have also prosecuted wars, allegedly in its defence, which cost millions of lives and destabilized entire regions. However, it is not enough to accuse our benevolent friends in the West of hypocrisy without providing compelling proof of double-dealing in delivering their duties as democratic crusaders. After all, in a democratic setting, all are innocent until proven guilty. 

As a philosophy of government, democracy has existed since the Greco-Roman times. However, its foray into Africa can be traced to the eve of independence when Britain and France introduced forms of local representation as concessions to indigenous demands for independence. Thus, from 1959, parliamentary elections and other democratic institutions started to become commonplace on the continent. But, as it would turn out, this democratic experiment, which formed part of the third (global) wave of democracy, was to be short-lived—derailed as it was by fluctuating Western interests on the continent. 

Guiding Western interest in Africa from the 1950s was the ideological war between the West (mainly the USA) and the Soviet Union. The “Cold War,” as it came to be known, was the first incident to unmask the real intentions of the West for post-colonial Africa. In their quest to emerge as the world’s sole superpower, the US and the Soviet Union, who actively strove to undermine each other’s influence by, among other things, advancing their political ideologies around the world, turned to Africa as another important frontier of conquest. While the Soviet Union armed African revolutionary movements against their Western colonial overlords and provided support to openly communist governments, Washington concluded that, to effectively check the spread of Soviet influence on the continent, it was more expedient to enthrone biddable leaders in African states than it was to woo them with any ideological arguments or economic incentives.

Anxious to ensure power was handed over to reliable politicians, Britain and France became eager participants in the US policy in Africa. Together, the US and its allies targeted venal local strongmen, preferably with military backgrounds and authoritarian tendencies, who, in collaboration with its intelligence agencies, ousted legitimate/democratic governments. Notable victims and beneficiaries of this plot included (in the former category) Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba of Congo DRC, Sylvio Olympio of Togo and (in the latter category) Idi Amin of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo DRC and Gnassingbé Eyadema of Togo, to mention a few. Consequently, thirty-three African countries that achieved independence between 1956-1970 became authoritarian immediately or not long after. 

Another demonstration of the complete disregard that the West has for democracy, peace/stability and human rights in Africa is its willingness to engulf the entire region in conflict so that it can achieve its “strategic interests.”  Once again, we begin from the Cold War era where, having recently come out of a highly destructive war in Europe (in 1945) and being cautious of engaging in another, the West and the Eastern Bloc turned Africa into the site of their proxy wars. In southern Africa, where the US considered both Angola and Mozambique as areas of “strategic interests,” Washington armed the 200,000 Portuguese conscripts, who went on to fight a protracted war against local nationalist revolutionaries, with imported weapons, which included defoliants and napalm. In Angola, the US, in cooperation with Apartheid South Africa, backed the National Union for Total Independence (UNITA) against the country’s (Soviet-backed) leading national liberation front, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). There were also similar cases in northern Africa where Sudan was funded and armed by the US against Egypt and Ethiopia, who had also pitched their tents with Moscow. These conflicts and the resultant proliferation of arms saw the loss of millions of African lives from war and famine and a general destabilization of the region. 

While the West cannot be said to have been directly involved in all the occasions of transition from democratic to authoritarian rule, in more than a few instances, the leaders of newly independent democratic/multi-party African states seized the opportunity of Western patronage to quickly switch to one-party/despotic rule. In other cases, it was the corruption, resource mismanagement, “tribalism,” patrimonialism, clientelism and imperialism perpetrated by a Western-backed ruling political class which formed the basis of military takeovers (coups). Nevertheless, in this atmosphere of quasi-democratic rule, full-fledged despotism, military rule and Apartheid—where national resources were siphoned by kleptocratic regimes and millions of Africans either became refugees or died as a result of civil wars, hunger, and human rights abuses—our western “friends” were content to look the other way if the government in place proved itself an ally of Washington.      

Perhaps the most glaring example of the West’s democratic hypocrisy in Africa was its age-long support for the highly racist and politically repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa. Like the French, who were able to cajole Washington into believing that they were fighting communist-backed insurgents in Algeria, the South African Apartheid regime, for forty years, posed as the last bastion against communists in Africa—an attitude that was able to secure a steady flow of western arms. This, alongside the West’s tacit approval, allowed for one of Africa’s most despicable shows of human debasement, carried out in the name of imperialism and racial superiority. After all, as President Ronald Regan remarked in 1981, South Africa was “essential to the free world in its production of minerals we all must have.”  

The end of the Cold War changed Western attitudes towards Africa. Without the Soviet threat, the West leaned more towards development diplomacy and foreign aid regimes as the main thrust of its foreign policy in Africa. Foreign aid to Africa, however, turned out to be a Trojan horse. Already saddled with the task of building vibrant economies whilst also harmonizing the aspirations of the different ethnic nationalities which characterized them, African countries, especially in Francophone Africa, also had to grapple with the undermining economic and political agreements they had been coerced into signing with their erstwhile colonial overlord as a condition for independence and continued patronage. To make matters worse, some African countries were, at the end of the Cold War, either fighting or had just come out of civil war. This, combined with the widespread corruption and mismanagement of national resources which characterized Africa’s tyrannical governments, put many Af5rican countries at the mercy of international monetary agencies (the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank) and their financiers whose aid they were now heavily dependent on. 

At first, these Bretton Woods institutions were content to grant loans/aid, at debilitating interest rates no less, to authoritarian leaders who used them to perpetuate themselves in power and, in return, provided the former with mineral and other economic concessions. However, without the Cold War pressures, more emphasis was placed on the liberalization and capitalist/free-market aspects of US foreign policy to guarantee return on investments. Soon enough, Structural Adjustments Programmes (SAPs) were introduced as a precondition for further loans/aid. Said adjustments, which demanded limited government intervention in the public sector, i.e., removing government subsidies in energy (fuel/gas), education and health care, brought untold hardships to already suffering populations. And as research has shown, poverty and non-tax revenue make for the ideal democratic environment. In other words, “when the government is not beholden to citizens for its funding, there is less accountability and less reason to democratize” (Tilly 1990). Instead, leaders simply use the “free” funding from natural resources (oil) and foreign loans/aid to buy enough support to remain in power. 

Judging from the various expressions of Western interests in Africa over decades, it goes without saying that the West simply pays lip service to ideologies when convenient. Although many Africans might not object to the cynical pragmatism that has always guided Western foreign policy in Africa, I dare say they will not stand for the continued lies and hypocrisy that have characterized Western reactions to African developments. Even if the above-described instances of Western hypocrisy in Africa were to be argued to be in the past, it is a living past for Africa.  

Africa, today, still has authoritarian governments in place whose political repression and human rights abuses go on unchecked by our democracy and rule of law-loving friends in the West. After being siphoned by kleptocratic governments, our commonwealth still finds its way to Western banks, where it sits and improves the local economy. Western interests continue to impoverish Africans and destabilize their regions. So, Africans are today saying to the West, its diplomats, presidents, and the other agents of its propaganda: “Your gambit in Africa is up. Our people are awakened!”   

The West has sold you a fake product called democracy. Africans, your vote is not a sign of democracy. It is no more than a deception. There is no democracy without accountability. You are just voting thieves to power. There is no democracy without transparency. You are just using your votes in support of crooks and thugs. There is no democracy without good governance. Your vote is facilitating theft. Maybe you are waiting for your turn to steal. There is no democracy without development. Your vote is moving you back to the Stone Age. Even early humans knew when to replace stones with iron during the Stone Age. Africa, you don’t have a democracy. Anyone you have not appointed cannot disappoint you! Citizens are being deceived, and they are deceiving themselves. Organize yourselves at various levels and think of alternatives to democracy or, at the minimum, how accountability and transparency will form the core of your democratic practices. Your lifetime president is not a Democrat. He is an authoritarian kleptocrat far worse than the combination of Doris Payne, Stephane Breitwieser, Simon Leviev, Veerappan, Derek Smalls, Vincenzo Peruggia, Bonnie and Clyde, Natwarlal, Carl Gugasian, Frank Abagnale, Anna Sorokin, Albert Spaggiari, Jesse James, Anthony Strangis, and Bill Mason. Do you know these names?



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Informaction: Theory Of Change And Witch Persecution In Africa



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr. Leo Igwe

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.

In addition, the AfAW facilitates actions and interventions by state and nonstate agencies. The post colonial African state is weak so state agencies have limited powers and presence. So the AfAW encourages institutional synergy to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. The AfAW petitions the police, the courts, and state human rights institutions. It  pressures them to act, to collaborate and take appropriate measures to penalize witch-hunting activities in the region. With an informactional approach, witch hunting in Africa would slowly decrease and diminish. Witch persecution would be a thing of the past within a decade.
Dr.Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches which aims to end witch hunting in Africa by 2030.

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