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Richard Joseph On Governance In Africa



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon



Conversation With Professor Richard Joseph (3)

 Richard Joseph On Governance In Africa

Richard Joseph


Toyin Falola

Africa is not moving forward fast enough, at least in terms of the progress we can associate with other continents. Technological breakthrough is becoming very difficult to achieve as the continent continues some entrenched practices. Meanwhile, the revolution in technology is pivotal for economic transformation, where wealth distribution plays an important role in people’s lives. Africa’s failure to advance in these new technologies or aspects of global development has undermined the continent’s transformative capabilities and attracted more woes to the people than can logically be imagined. Technological limitations have made Africa a primary victim of all manner of dangers that are either naturally enhanced or artificially orchestrated. From economy to health, education to politics, the suffocating miasma of technological weakness contributes to the deterioration.

To understand the gravity of the importance of technology to human advancement in recent history, we need to identify areas of human engagement and consider how the lack of technological transformation is perennially causing the agony of underdevelopment for the African people. In politics, where decisions that influence people’s quality of life are made, Africa’s refusal to embrace contemporary technological revolution or provoke a suitable one has continued to cause the system to hibernate, with a scary potential to crash when preventive measures are not immediately taken. For example, the decision to choose a leader who will truly represent the people’s interests is usually marred by the fact that some people do not even understand how the Internet works.

READ ALSO: Richard A. Joseph: One Of A Kind And The Rarest Breed Of Political Scientists

Richard Joseph speaks to the need for leadership. Elections are conducted with absolute disregard for the opinions of the majority. Good governance, which visionary individuals would have spearheaded, is sabotaged by the inability or reluctance to decide on the best candidate. Development at the level of governance is impeded, apparently because some groups are eternally committed to their selfish ambitions and want to use the state to pursue their egotistical agenda.

But we need a development-oriented mindset. We cannot ignore agriculture and the rural areas. Farming is an old business with relevance because it remains a common thing on which people depend. However, farming, as conceived in the past centuries, is quite different from how it is today. During the years of yore, biological capability determined human productivity in farming. In other words, the number of individuals concentrated on farming determined the quantity of production and the economic outcome of the engagement. But such a system is not suited to contemporary times. Technology is needed to be a successful and impactful farmer. Technological instruments are used to embark on massive land cultivation, eventually determining the size of outcomes. This means that the investment in technology is limited, caused by bad leadership and governance system that do not care much about the progress of their nations.

It is disheartening that a country like Nigeria cannot build good public hospitals for its citizens. Medical tourism to foreign countries depletes the foreign reserves of many African countries. Sadly, there is hardly any country in Africa whose most-exalted political figures do not take their rounds in patronizing medical institutions in other continents. The conscious investment in healthcare that these foreign nations make by embracing technology is not something African countries are doing. Governance in Africa has become a conduit for personal aggrandizement; thus, many African countries do not invest heavily in health care.

The above exposition is necessary to understand that the stagnation of governance in Africa is deepened by the refusal to produce ideas or make use of the better ones. Still, Richard Joseph sees greatness in Africa. Why or how did the past Africans achieve what they did? If there is any contention about their achievements, let us immediately measure the human development strategy. Many African leaders of the past understood what it meant to be virtuous, and the moral obligation to extend that virtue to others was collectively embraced. Leadership was seen as an opportunity to serve, and in situations where the results were not forthcoming, the society believed that something was not right with the governance system. History documents some African kings who committed suicide because their leadership did not bring the desired outcomes to their people.

Governance in Africa is corrosive because the continent seems to lack value-adding people in government who can envision an idea and then resolve to achieve it. There is the looting of the public resources without any iota of shame, and massive disruptions of political systems for personal reasons without any modicum of decency. Even when the resources for technological discoveries were almost found on the continent, the recent generation of Africans has not been able to do many tangibles with it, reinforcing that, in the current trajectory of events, something is wrong with those who govern us.

Meanwhile, with the right set of people in governance, Africa will leap forward. Humanitarian philosophy, which allows people to build strong moral characters, has been in existence for thousands of years, and we cannot in good conscience ascribe that to recent African leaders. Leadership is needed, argued Richard Joseph: leaders who can translate visions to results.

READ ALSO: Nigeria And The Multiplication Of Chaos

Misgovernance has continued, and the bad results are everywhere to see. Where systems exist, they are heavily manipulated by the same people, thus promoting mediocrity above vision. Misgovernance causes those elected to protect the people to spend the monies allocated for that purpose on material things and for their own families and cronies. Therefore, they cover their leadership or democratic emptiness with cosmetic programs and projects to mislead their unassuming followers. The present African leaders are mortgaging the continent’s future, and they do not even attract the people’s wrath for it. According to Professor Richard Joseph, while governance is fundamental to enhancing generational success for the people, they also have instructive roles to play. Over the years, African leaders have repeatedly demonstrated that they are staunch enemies of due process and purposeful leadership, and challenging them would involve catching them in the act and imposing the maximum punishment.

The key to accessing transformative development in every sphere of human endeavor is now in the hands of the generation whose quality of life has been infested with problems. They face the ugly situations caused by the carelessness, visionlessness, and laziness of the preceding generations who failed to plant seeds when the ecological conditions were fertile. They, however, do not need to succumb to fate; otherwise, the problem would be more compounded for the coming generations, and that would be imaginatively disastrous. They wield power, and they have the energy. They are expected to ask questions because without good governance in place, they cannot have the opportunity to challenge their contemporaries in other parts of the world. After all, they have seen the wide difference between having visionary individuals in governance and coping with the bad ones. They can see this because they have a wide network of friends across different parts of the world from whom they gather information about the places where they are, and this means that they must begin to ask important questions and hold many of their politicians accountable. They need to ask them what the plan is so that they can rescue a future for their children and children’s children.

This is important because all concerned individuals require participation that does not discriminate against race, gender, ethnicity, or religious views, as well as geographical and philosophical boundaries. People should make a deliberate demand so that all these would be sequentially done. The youths must fight, not by destructing monuments or resorting to physical violence, but by democratically engaging those in positions of power so that they can be recruited to the wagon and therefore make significant contributions that will salvage their future from their precarious situation. Also, women must rise up because their involvement in governance is crucial to stability and development. When they are not included, a critical aspect of the social resources is not engaged, which might be potentially dangerous for the country. There is a need to invest in education for those who will eventually be tasked to translate their knowledge into concrete results.

Additionally, more women need to be involved in politics and positions of authority. The exclusion is glaring, with negative outcomes. There is an increasing conversation on women’s roles, provided they are allowed to be represented in politics. Women constitute a larger proportion of the population. According to Professor Joseph, power is something you wrestle for and win, even when the odds are stacked against you. It would be inappropriate to believe that the people who have benefited from a dysfunctional system would suddenly let go of their influence.

While we have emphasized the purpose of inclusion and reiterated why youths must rise and demand fundamental changes, it would be unfair to say they have not made efforts. In reality, they attempt various measures to seek changes since they understand the strong connections between their future and the governance system. Youths in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Senegal, Nigeria, and other countries have organized and protested, advocating for fundamental changes and agitating for inclusion. Cases of suppression are equally many.

Now it gets cockier, especially with the resulting development from this ugly condition. The youths are made of different resolves, and only a few of them have the thick skin to withstand all manner of maltreatment and misgovernance. Although at the same time, not all of them have the resources to make the moves that would transform their lives. However, it cannot be denied that they are dissatisfied, and their annoyance and anger are being forced into a jar that can potentially explode at any time. When the government clamps down on them, many of them seek opportunities in other countries, resulting in out-migration to other continents, especially to Europe and the United States. While cross-border movements and migration are as old as humanity, there is no contention that sporadic movements of people over a particular period away from their homes to areas where they potentially would face backlogs of racial and political extradition is an ominous signal. More than it can be explained, it signals that people are perhaps escaping from a particular condition.

This questions the political philosophy in use in Africa, and this is where it is closely linked to governance, as earlier identified. There are also arguments and opinions that Africa’s democratic inheritance does not work well, and this has made different stakeholders, including academics, begin to call for a new system of thinking that can immediately produce the results Africa needs. While many of the discussions have always resulted in the outright rejection of military alternatives, owing to their totalitarian and high-handed possibilities, there is also the campaign for something more suitable that would help the continent in the enforcement of laws and order so that normalcy would return to the continent. This is important in order to attract developers and development to the continent. Investors run away when there is no security or safety for them.

Drastic measures are urgently needed in Africa, no matter how one looks at things. The ones brimming with ideas and energies are frustrated by the strategy of migration, and those who cannot leave are bludgeoned to silence. According to Professor Richard Joseph, one of the solutions to the problems is to provide education of the sort that promotes passion, vision and critical thinking. It appears that, while those at the helm of affairs are educated, it is not enough to reflect on the future that would not include them. They are educated only to the level that they regurgitate ideas, regardless of how irreconcilable they are when they are in the position of leadership. This would not be an accurate definition of education that our guest had in mind. Military personnel also need a form of education. Leaders should receive impactful education and provide security to the state, including the protection of all human lives within the boundaries of their countries. They must understand the complexities of human relationships and the expectations of the people they govern.

This is the second report on the interview with Professor Richard Joseph on March 27, 2022. His views have traveled wide, reported in several newspapers. For the transcript, see YouTube; Facebook

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Toyin Falola Interviews To Hold Panel Discussion On Languages And Archives In Knowledge Reproduction About Africa



The Toyin Falola Interviews has scheduled a discussion with distinguished panelists, Professors Ngom Fallou, Ghirmai Negash, Abiodun Salawu, and John Mugane, who will be sharing their expertise on “Languages and Archives in Knowledge Production About Africa”.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

5 PM Nigeria

10 AM Austin

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Pentecostalism In Africa (1) 



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

By Toyin Falola

Of all the things that have happened to the African continent in the past decades, the growth and expansion of Christianity and Islam have been one of the most impressive. This deep commitment to faith is not totally removed from the natural gravitation toward hope and positivity. Against the background of declining opportunities, many Africans have found solace in religion and the promise of a better life. If things don’t work well on Earth, the afterlife offers more than a promise.

Within the enormous growth of Christianity in Africa has been the steady rise in the popularity and expansion of Pentecostalism. The socio-economic, religious, and political nuances of the rise of Pentecostalism will be one of the subjects of the Interview with a preeminent figure, Apostle Professor Opoku Onyinah, on February 4, 2024.   

Pentecostalism on the African continent dates to the early 20th century, with the earliest movements such as the Apostolic Faith Mission, Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal Zionist Movement (all in South Africa), l’Église Harriste (in Côte d’Ivoire), Christ Apostolic Church, morphing from Precious Stone Society, and the Apostolic Church (all in Nigeria). Some would argue that I may be confusing some of these churches with latter-day Pentecostal ones.

Pentecostalism took off during the colonial era, heavily influenced by the American Pentecostals, including but not limited to William Seymour (who wrote the Apostolic Faith newspaper that sparked the influx of Pentecostalism into the continent), Lucy Farrow, Paul Marty, and Julia Hutchins. Like all successful expansions in history, the Pentecostalist movement came to Africa at a time when the environment was fertile for its growth. Some would also argue that Pentecostalism was homegrown.

The African people were subjected to colonialism, and in seeking a way out, they found hope in the core ideals of the new movement — grace, salvation, an afterlife, spiritual empowerment through the Holy Ghost, healing, and wonders — promises that held liberation for the people and freedom from the shackles of the second-class citizenship that colonialism offered them on their soil.

The case has often been made in favour of classifying religion as a social concept. This classification does not seek to discredit the divinity that any of the religions claim. However, it is a way to argue that religions belong in the human society, by humans; as much as cultures and civilizations belong to the human society. A point of note in the argument for the classification of religion as a social concept is religious syncretism. Just like any other human social phenomenon capable of influencing and being influenced by other phenomena, religions and religious denominations and factions influence and get influenced by other religions and religious denominations, and Pentecostalism is not an exception.

Pentecostalism has witnessed several cultural adaptations and syncretism. Religious worship among Christians is subjected to personal perceptions and subjective interpretations of the divine. A Christian can only offer worship in the best way he can conceive in his mind who his Creator is. He can imagine the wonders of the Creator. Therefore, as the Pentecostalism movement grew in popularity across and spread across the African continent, it was influenced by several indigenous African belief systems and practices. 

The result has been a dynamic interplay of Pentecostal Christianity with traditional African spirituality, giving rise to unique, Afrocentric expressions of faith. One of these unique, Afrocentric expressions of faith is the upbeat mode of religious worship among Pentecostal churches. This upbeat mode reflects vibrant and lively music, energetic dancing, loud prayer sessions, and an insurmountable belief in the intervention of divine forces in terrestrial affairs.

Furthermore, the communal nature of African societies, influencing the people’s strong belief in and connection to their ancestral heritage, has made the belief in and war against ancestral curses, “village people”, and witchcraft popular elements in the Pentecostalism practised in the African continent. From the earliest years, prayers of war against witches, wizards, and enemies formed an integral part of churches such as the Christ Apostolic Church and even served as one of the biggest factors in the swift growth and expansion of African Pentecostal churches.

I stated above that Pentecostalism has been one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the African continent. However, it is vital to note that Pentecostalism’s growth has not only been about the founding of several churches and the expansion of such churches across Africa and other continents. Beyond its spiritual dimensions, Pentecostalism has highly influenced the social landscape in Africa. The swift growth and expansion of Pentecostal churches, the construction of mega-church buildings, and the management of several church-owned operations have also meant that these churches have become large employers of labour, with thousands of members earning their living through church operations. Some of these large Pentecostal churches own printing presses, primary schools, secondary schools, and universities — some of which have gone on to be ranked among the best institutions on the continent. 

These large-scale operations have afforded people access to education and employment, two of the most critical elements in any society. Furthermore, donation and support outreaches are an integral part of the existence of many of these churches. There is no denying the level of influence Pentecostal churches wield in society, from the grassroots to the elite strata, especially as their large sizes mean they can always boast of members in every industry and at every level. The brotherhood approach of these Pentecostal churches means members are quick to identify and help each other. This, often called “being favoured”, is a case where members of mega Pentecostal churches belonging to the elite strata of society find placement for their fellow church members at government parastatals and institutions, multi-national companies, and other companies. 

The founding of mega Pentecostal churches and the construction of grand worship centres have also been instrumental in the construction of healthcare centres, road networks, and housing structures. Furthermore, several African Pentecostal churches have been involved in the organization of large-scale empowerment programs, especially for women and youth, and community development initiatives, including serving as pressure groups to influence government policies. 

In saying that Pentecostalism in Africa has experienced immense growth, I am also saying that while globalization has become increasingly realistic with the increased connectivity of people across the globe, Pentecostal churches in Africa have tapped into the advantages of technology to bring their operations to a global audience. Several Pentecostal African churches — such as The Redeemed Christian Church of God, the Christ Apostolic Church, The Apostolic Church, United Family International, Church Doxa Deo, CRC Church, the Living Faith Church, Deeper Life Bible Church, and the Church of Pentecost — have established a global presence spanning hundreds of countries, influencing the diaspora community, and contributing to the global Pentecostal movement. 

The introduction of satellite television networks played a crucial role in the expansion of African Pentecostal churches into the diaspora. As members of these African churches relocated to other countries, they sought the need to continue in fellowship with their churches and founded branches in their new locations, getting an easy connection to the headquarters through the internet, satellite television, and transnational networks. African Pentecostal churches in the diaspora do not only impact global Christianity, but they also play an unmistakable role in the shaping of the religious experiences of the African diaspora, serving as a haven and a new family for new immigrants and positioning as centres of cultural preservation, spiritual solace, and community building.

Although there has been immense growth and expansion within the Pentecostal movement in Africa — with an undeniable socio-economic impact — there are deeds and developments among Pentecostal churches on the continent that leave room for criticism and questions. 

To properly explore Pentecostalism in Africa, it is vital to examine some of the critiques that have been levelled against Pentecostal churches on the continent. The first and perhaps biggest concern that has been brought up in the wake of the growth of Pentecostalism has been the commercialization of spirituality, a phenomenon that has manifested itself through several dimensions. There have been cases of churches categorizing spiritual problems and assigning financial costs to each category for members seeking deliverance. 

There has also been an emphasis on tithes, offerings, and giving back to the church, sometimes overly emphasized at the detriment of the giver, who may not be financially buoyant but must succumb to the pressure and belief in the promises of manifold blessings and the multiple returns on every token given for every token given. 

Several Pentecostal churches in Africa promote the prosperity gospel, which has seen their leaders rank among some of the wealthiest spiritual leaders in the world. The theological concepts of the prosperity gospel emphasize material wealth as a sign of God’s favour, sometimes elevated as the core of a church’s message, thereby ignoring the possibility of members seeking wealth, including through financial misappropriation, fraud, embezzlement, and other crimes. 

Over the years, doctrinal controversies have also rocked the Pentecostal movement in Africa, sometimes threatening to disrupt the movement and tear it asunder. Although Pentecostal churches on the continent share some common beliefs revolving around salvation through grace, healing, and some other concepts, there are stark differences in some of their doctrines, with some churches accusing others of peddling heresy. The doctrinal divergence in the African Pentecostal movement has sparked theological debates, including spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, the role of women in the church, and what constitutes holiness.

Pentecostalism in Africa has come a long way, and by all indications, it shows the potential to grow in leaps and bounds. It is, therefore, with utmost pleasure that I invite you to join us on the next edition of The Toyin Falola Interviews, where we will host Apostle Professor Onyinah — a scholar of excellence and a leading theologian in the field of African Pentecostalism.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM Ghana

10:00 AM Austin CST

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Panel Discussion On Decolonization/ Decoloniality (2)



By Toyin Falola


Is decoloniality different from decolonization? I cannot wait to ask the distinguished panelists this important question. Coloniality, as I present it here, refers to the set of values, ideas, and attitudes imposed on other groups/societies as part of the attempt to create a universal system. Decoloniality, therefore, refers to the reversal of this imposition and mindset to integrate the ideas of groups/societies that have been pushed to the margins.

Vivid from this analogy is the understanding that the domination of the world by Europeans has ingrained an orientation that European values and standards are universal ethos to be embraced everywhere and by everyone. No one advertised this Eurocentric sentiment, and neither was there an open forum for its adoption. Rather, the comparative advantage of domination enjoyed during colonialism provided a platform to introduce and institutionalize these values.

The concept of decoloniality suggests the process of delinking from established Eurocentric knowledge hierarchies and models. Some even regard it as a “social movement” as well as an academic weapon launched to enhance the repudiation of universalist ideas that operate with the intention to fumigate other ideas from existence. Frontline ideologues of decoloniality are convinced that the problems associated with coloniality were set in motion during colonialism, and for that reason, they seek to thwart such agenda by interrogating the institutions and values that were introduced during colonialism. It is believed that the initiation of coloniality was expressed in institutions introduced by Europeans, even if they were not suited to Africa’s needs.

Therefore, it is believed that the interference of coloniality has activated the repositioning of the colonized ideas and thinking in such a way that their understanding of progress and development has been affected. Since many ex-colonized countries have experienced European attitudes and values, they have also internalized the associated values, and for that reason, they are conditioned to think only in colonial ways. In essence, when they want to talk about development, they use only the Western countries as their yardstick. Such orientation poses a greater danger to the emancipation of the ex-colonized people, who can be described as an extension of Euro-North American-centric modernity. For instance, from a socio-ideological standpoint, arguments, postulations, policies, and values have recently tilted towards capitalist models, and this was facilitated by the awareness that the Western world operates under that formula.

Decoloniality, therefore, seeks to challenge and exterminate the foundation of such a mindset as it opines that such thinking would never allow the true emancipation of the people. The awareness and protest about capitalism and its attendant values antagonizing the progress of the ex-colonized people is that which is manifested as decoloniality. This concept is informed by the understanding that the adoption of such values will create a different human bonding as experienced in the European environment where the system is practiced. Thus, decoloniality is interested in creating a system that works and is free from the shackles of ideological suppression, which coloniality indicates.

As an extension of the prognosis of coloniality, it is the case that the knowledge that ex-colonized ones believed they have is a byproduct of the European system, which, at the surface, invalidates all indigenous knowledge systems and, at the deeper level, repositions their epistemic traditions to the margin. It has been argued that the universal idea of knowledge is that it can only happen in the context of modern Europe, and by this configuration, all other knowledge systems are minimized. Meanwhile, there was not a time in human history when knowledge and ideas were stopped from being consumed. This, therefore, raises the question that if people are being fed with some ideas, who determines the contents?

Any response that downplays the place of Europeans in determining what knowledge is about does not give an accurate account of reality. This is underscored by the awareness that the institutions put in place by colonizing forces have ensured that the colonization of alternative perspectives is effective and ongoing. Can Western science be considered the only educational process where the truth about occurrences in the world can be accessed? To that extent, the decoloniality of knowledge is necessary to emancipate the subaltern groups from being perpetually trapped in the colonial configurations. Even some of the ex-colonized intellectuals do not always recognize alternative knowledge production as valid and would negate sources of information that do not embrace Western methodologies. The decoloniality of knowledge would, therefore, bring about the validation of universalist perspectives such that information that is produced elsewhere would be validated and adopted.

Decoloniality also becomes necessary in the economic domain, as it was apparent in post-independence, such that regardless of the efforts of the ex-colonized people, their opportunities for economic buoyancy were impeded by the available systems already put in place by the colonizers. The capitalist illusion that labor work would produce a financially free citizenry has increased the agitation of the people who now believe that it is impossible to attain their expected financial freedom with the presence of colonial institutions everywhere.

Economic growth is important to the advancement of every group across the world, but that growth cannot be possible under a system where repressive ideologies have been installed for a long period. The fact that a few ex-colonized countries still battle with stunted economic growth is occasioned by the form of economic systems that they have embraced. Decoloniality scholars, therefore, challenge the thinking that the Westphalian economic models can ultimately bring people out of their economic problems. They believe that by rejecting the economic models introduced by colonial society, ex-colonized groups would use their indigenous economic knowledge to revitalize their economy and bring emancipation, especially financially. From this angle, one notices that decoloniality seeks to disallow the continued enervation of people’s systems enhanced by the operation of systems that the colonizers have imposed in different countries. Decoloniality at this point is undergirded by the principles of freedom that would ultimately bring about the emancipation of others away from the traps of universalist agenda.

The proposal of decoloniality is the removal, reversal, and rejection of colonial ideas to be achieved through the unlearning and re-learning of ideas the people have been conditioned to see as a basic or universal system of engagement. The systems and structures, institutions and practices of ex-colonized people that have been abandoned are meant to be reconsidered in a decolonial environment. In essence, it is the process by which formerly colonized people bring to the center the alternative perspective that they offer across different areas of engagement.

It should be stated that decoloniality does not seek to reject the approaches and alternatives offered by Western institutions but to comprehend their validity and limitations while also agreeing that they can be flanked by other sources of knowledge as recognized by different peoples of the world. In essence, decoloniality argues for the flexibility of knowledge and the fluidity of approaches. By doing this, decoloniality helps reveal the dark side of modernity by identifying areas and ways by which it has compromised different people and their knowledge systems. Once this is done successfully, it is believed that the Eurocentric notion of universalism will be deconstructed and stripped of its dominant culture. It would enable the ex-colonized people to see how ordinary and unnatural the approaches and systems of Western making have been considered for long. Decoloniality differs from decolonization as in the latter, it is assumed that colonizing forces did not stop in their track of domination and oppression but have only used the global influence they have to recondition the mindset of people to accept only universalist ideas. This is what the decolonial thinkers challenged aggressively in the first place.

To discuss decolonization, please join us for a panel discussion with our distinguished panelists, Professors Julia Suárez Krabbe, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Walter Mignolo, Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Oyeronke Oyewumi, and Shose Kessi.

Sunday, January 28, 2024
5 PM Nigeria
10 AM Austin
5 PM Berlin

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