Paper Presented to One Africa Initiative (OAI), Friday April 24, 2020
by Ike Neliaku, Ph.D, fnipr, fapra, ficmc, fimc, Executive Secretary Nigerian Prize for Leadership.
“I greet you here on the bank of the James River in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and twelve (1712). First, I shall thank you, the gentlemen of the Colony of Virginia, for bringing me here. I am here to help you solve some of your problems with slaves. Your invitation reached me on my modest plantation in the West Indies, where I have experimented with some of the newest and still the oldest methods for control of slaves. …In my bag here, I have a foolproof method for controlling your black slaves. I guarantee every one of you that if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least 300 years . My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it.
2. “I have outlined” “a number of differences among the slaves and make the differences bigger. I use fear, distrust and envy for control. I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy stronger than adulation, respect or admiration. The Black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self refueling and self generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands. Don’t forget you must pitch the old black Male vs. the young black Male, and the young black Male against the old black male. You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves. You must use the female vs. the male. And the male vs. the female. You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks. It is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us. They must love, respect and trust only us. Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. If used intensely for one year, the slaves themselves will remain perpetually distrustful of each other. Thank you gentlemen.” (https://a.co/2Qx35fp)
3. The above speech delivered by Willie Lynch in 1712, a British slave owner, to teach other slave owners on how to control and manage blacks as slaves, becomes the prologue of this presentation. Interestingly, the term ‘lynching’ was derived from his last name.
4. I had contemplated greatly, what should form the content of this paper, the length, format, style, etc. I asked myself what will be the most effective way to communicate my thoughts? I concluded that my best approach will be to write straight, be practical and functional, using little or no theories and quotes, not unduly lengthy. My conclusion is based on the fact that majority of those on this platform are ‘book’ people. They are widely read, very enlightened, and may not require any academic tutorials; they are very busy people whose time to read, no matter how beautiful a piece, must not be abused; a lot has already been said on the platform, with most containing correct assertions and possible solutions; it is a family congregation and we know ourselves fairly enough; and most importantly, the citizens of Africa on whose behalf the platform is convened are in a hurry for solutions. Unlike the proverbial tortoise who became very hysterical and restless after a decision has already been taken to get him out of a shit hole he has been in for several years, ours has indeed peaked, become an emergency, and a matter of life and death. If Africa does not seize the moment, the moment shall seize Africa. Arising from the above, I shall not attempt regurgitating the problems, we already know it; I will simply state the issue as I see it, and go straight to address the solutions.
5. Distinguished Africans, having served in Nigerian government at very vantage levels for over 2 decades and in the private sector for over a decade; a keen observer of governance and power dynamics across Africa, I have come to only one conclusion on the matter of Africa. It is no longer the people, it is not our geography, it is not even our education, it is not science and technology, it is not necessarily our culture.
6. It is LEADERSHIP!
7. Both our father, Chinua Achebe and ‘their’ father John Maxwell, reached a conclusive consensus years back on the value leadership carries and its distress when not deployed. While John Maxwell asserts that “EVERYTHING RISES AND FALLS ON LEADERSHIP”, CHINUA ACHEBE contended that, “THE TROUBLE WITH NIGERIA (AFRICA) IS SIMPLY AND SQUARELY A FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP”. I am persuaded to add that leadership is a function of the head, both in terms of nature (faculties) and substance (products). Though comparatively small in size, the head still carries immeasurable qualities that leads the belly and every part of the body. Sadly, it is when the belly takes over and begins to lead the head that the society runs into big problems. There are several dimensions to leadership in Africa, but for the factor of time and space, we shall examine a few core issues of leadership, proffer suggestions, and draw conclusions.
African Union (AU) and Matters of Integration
8. One of the key setbacks of leadership in Africa is the challenge of integration, internally and externally. While a few African leaders understood the virtue of national integration and embraced it as a strategic option for driving nation building, growth and development, others allowed it as blind spots, and wittingly and unwittingly, subjected themselves to a deliberate cultivation of the villain of disintegration. Interestingly, in all its founding instruments, African Union, the umbrella body of African nations, states its vision as,“An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.”Its Mission is to become “An efficient and value-adding institution driving the African integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens”. The Union goes further to assert that it has “shifted focus from supporting liberation movements in the erstwhile African territories under colonialism and apartheid, as envisaged by the OAU since 1963… to an organization spear-heading Africa’s development and integration. Finally, article 1 and 3 of its 14-point objective states, 1.To achieve greater unity, cohesion and solidarity between the African countries and African nations; and 3. To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent.
In other words, it is a settled matter for the founders of African Union that integration is the benchmark, the critical and fundamental factor to development. Where there is no integration, anarchy reigns and where anarchy reigns development takes flight.
9. The question for the AU at this point is why has Africa not integrated? The answers may not be far to fetch. The AU has about 6 official languages, namely English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili. Out of the 6 only one could be said to be real African indigenous language, the rest are products of colonialism which indicates the source of influence, control, and to a large extent the culture and character of the people, and by extension the Union. I would at this point add a potential 7th language which is now racing to the front – Chinese. This explains the difficulty the Union is facing in building integration. The instruments of colonialism and release of the colonial nations are not of the same mindset, culture and content. For instance, while the subtle English people adopt remote control engagement method with her ‘satellite’ nations, the French prefer direct control. That is a sample of what happens at the Union.
10. Freedom therefore, means different things to the nations in these categories. The implication is that Africa is not one, and very unlikely to be in recent years unless some drastic actions are taken, very fast too. This is why it is difficult to reach consensus and even to go ahead and implement the consensus except where there is a common threat or enemy amongst the colonial interests. I have a feeling that the reason African nations rose quickly in unison to engage China following its degrading handling of some African nationals earlier this month, is because China is currently a common enemy to most Western countries that have interest and influence in Africa. As a senior aide in the then newly created, Nigerian Ministry of Cooperation and Integration in Africa (MCIA), I have watched some African countries come to meeting halls to oppose matters of African interest hitherto settled, because their ‘lords’ counselled to the contrary.
11. To avoid breeding disunity on the platform I will avoid mentioning specific countries but I am sure many of us have some ideas. Many members of the Union are distorted, carrying African heads on foreign bodies; failure to maintain this monstrous image which will be at their peril. They consult with their sponsors from outside Africa and take briefs on agenda of meetings before attending Summits. Sometimes they are even told not to attend because the outcome will not be beneficial to the sponsors. Is it news that Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, then African Union (AU) Ambassador to the United States (US) was sacked for daring to stand up against a European interest in Africa.
Instinct for Self-Survival and Personal Protection
12. A sense of personal protection occurs when the mindset of a leader is captured by self survival and protection of overriding personal interest, above national and continental. I was opportune to serve as a pioneer senior aide when the Ministry of Cooperation and Integration in Africa (MCIA) was created in 1999 by then President of Nigeria. The ministry was novel, lacked character, content, manpower, funding, as well as guiding and operational principles. In fact, it was described by cabinet ministers and other highly placed government officials as a desert. Given the vibrancy and intellectual capacity of the pioneer minister, we were able to define, structure and develop operational focus for the ministry. From having no cylinder the ministry began to run on 4, comprising African Integration, Regional Cooperation (ECOWAS) Manpower Development, and Capacity Mobilisation, etc. To give it feet, world class programmes were designed and agencies created to touch the subregion in particular and continent in general. One of these programmes was the Directorate for Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA), an agency meant to upscale African indigenous technical capacity, manpower utilization for African integration, and harness development of critical projects across Africa. We provided for the DTCA to be funded by another innovation – a Nigeria Technical Cooperation Fund (NTCF) carved out of some Nigerian fund lying fallow then in the coffers of African Development Bank (AfDB). The fund was to be co-managed by the DTCA and AfDB. The Fund became operational on April 5, 2004 and considered as the single largest bilateral co-operation fund established by an African Country at the AfDB. As at 2017, all 54 African Countries have benefited directly or indirectly from NTCF interventions (www.afdb.org).
13. The second was an ECOWAS Food Security programme designed to turn the subregion into a major food basket capable of feeding the entire continent and beyond. The third was an understanding with the then Government of Ghana, and personal endorsement of president Jerry J. Rawlins, to establish the ECOWAS Railways initiative, designed to start along the Lagos-Accra corridor and later extended to other regional cities. The two programmes were to start about the third quarter of 2001, with four others to follow. We had settled in and comfortably cruising in our ‘desert’ when ‘tragedy’ struck in the first quarter of 2001. The then Nigerian president was said to be having problems of public perception, stakeholder engagement, with the consequential backlash arising from poor handling of his media. This led to a cross-posting with the then Minister of Cooperation and Integration in Africa uprooted and redeployed to Ministry of Information and his counterpart in Information sent to replace him at Ministry of Integration. The sore point of this decision was that at the time of the cross-posting many African countries had embraced the renewed vigour in continental integration and gone ahead to establish their Ministries of Corporation and Integration (under different nomenclature) while others were at different levels of doing same. Unfortunately, that singular decision by President of Nigeria began the downward cascade of MCIA until it became history, with programmes casualties that went with it.
14. The MCIA died because the president’s image was jeopardized and without weighing the implication on the continent, changed its leadership, which failed and became irretrievable until the ministry became defunct. Because I played a key role in all the activities in both ministries, each time I remember the fate of MCIA and its implication on Africa today it reminds me that indeed, the trouble with us is leadership on which everything rises and falls. This brings me to the next issue of leadership selection.
Leadership Selection or Recruitment Process
15. My observation is that many heads of government are not familiar with more than 50% of those recruited to work with them. This is influenced by mainly three reasons – i. the concept of democracy places representational obligation in which the leader is expected to accept nominations from various stakeholders who helped in his/her elections; ii. The leader is very limited in knowledge of competent personnel; iii. The aides have a clever way of showing up with candidates and technically conspiring to arm-twist the leader in obliging their requests. On an occasion an African president has been heard complaining that he didn’t know most members of his cabinet nor could he question their capabilities, since they were products of interests. When leaders are not prepared, but just put their to ‘hold forth’ for some interest the disastrous outcome can be foretold, as his/her loyalty is neither the country, the Union, nor the citizens.
16. The way leaders emerge in the continent is also responsible for the quality of such leadership. Many times leaders in the continent are surrogates, manipulated into office to punish erstwhile leaders for ‘offences’ or stubbornness. I am sure that by now many of are no longer under any illusions that a combined force of the Obama administration and David Cameron took president Goodluck Jonathan out of office due to his refusal to endorse the LGBT movement and other sundry interests. The same conspiracy funded Boko Haram and used the Chibok girls as a bargaining chip to incite the nation against him. President Jonathan obviously had his issues like many leaders do, such issues may have been ignored and treated as commonplace leadership errors if president Jonathan accepted to be the good boy of the globalist conspirators. Ambassador James Entwistle, was deployed in the last quarter of 2013 for that assignment and left in 2016 after his mission was completed. His experience on Africa and ‘trouble’ nations recommends him for the assignment he classically accomplished. Other nations he had served and the years he served there would inform his specialization in the United States diplomatic service. It is in this context that Africans should see the challenge and heavy hands of external centrifugal forces in destablising the continent, with the support base of their internal colluding factors within the continent.
17. The Chinese-American Conundrum
In his article last week, titled “Spying on China, The Incoming Class Captain”, Tim Akano had drawn attention to the raging battle between China and the United States of America, and wondered the place of Africa on the matter. I have also read other comments and opinions on the matter. If it were possible, I would have said that Africa should be non-aligned and use the opportunity to put its house in order. Unfortunately, international relations and politics are deeper than that. If nations in Africa prefer to keep aloof, they would have been drawn into the field before realising it. For those advocating for China, it would have been up to it, given the need for balance of power and the navigator in between. Unfortunately, for China its activities and commencement of new wave of cultural, economic and potential political imperialism so far on the continent, puts a big question mark on genuineness of its intention. America you can predict, but China you cannot. In my opinion, I would go with a Donald Trump for Africa than a Bullish China under the present dispensation. Beyond concerns, based on my understanding of international power dynamics, the skill still rests with America under Trump. When push comes to shove, it is not an America under Trump that will blink first.
Can Africa Still Cast the Die?
18.The essence of raising this platform is to recommend what needs to be done for Africa to shine out of this situation. First, I am not expecting any magic. Fortunately, magic is never a requirement in diplomacy and international politics. As we are today, Africa is not any ready to take on any contest, physically, psychologically, technically. Spiritually? May be. However, I am optimistic that today is still early, if we chose to start. However, the tentacles are long and intestines too stringed that we must put together a deliberate long term strategic plan of action; a hundred metres solution dash will not work!
The essential of such plan of action should include:
i. Communicating our Opposition
I have spent sometime in the past to monitor and assess the communication, body language and soundbite coming out of Africa. I must admit that many times I find some of our leaders communicating in very unsure and lousy manner both in content and disposition. Yet, communication is key in any engagement beginning with our tone, message, body language, etc. African leaders and persons of influence should henceforth change their communication. We must not continue to give our opponents the impression that we are saddled with resolving issues of hunger. Having the right communication mindset is key in engaging. The West understands very well, hence the messages they send about Africa, the pictures they show the movies they produce, are all part of the narratives deployed to deepen the psychology of a failed people on us and our people. We should design and embrace a new model of communication at all levels. It is the time for a new communication paradigm for Africans. I was thoroughly embarrassed when the movie ‘Wakanda’ was produced. Some smart businessperson came up with a concept of a whole black movie primarily framed and made to capture a substantial African market as a business venture; Africans swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker almost celebrating it with dance troops while the makers were smiling to the bank.
ii. Ready for a Fight
In Africa, nobody tells a wise person to get out of the sun. If someone remains in the sun, then what is holding him is bigger than him. Africa must quit going about crying and understand that the default character and disposition of the strong is to step on the neck of the weak. Therefore, we must come to the point of making up our minds to engage in this fight. I don’t see more than 5 (may be even 3) of the current African leaders being in a position to fight. In fact, the rest, if they have their way, will ask to let sleeping dogs lie. My elders say that when we always allow sleeping dogs lie, how will you know the ones with rabies, with belly ache, etc. it is time to wake up all the dogs so we can know the ones that can bark, the ones that can fight, those that can provide security and those that can eat the bone hung on their necks. We must come to the conclusion today, that the only option left for us is to fight our way through, to get our backs off the wall. The only way the tortoise ever defeated the elephant was by running under him, deploying his skill, and engaging in his tricks and noise making all at the same time, until the elephant was worn out and surrendered to tortoise. Many of our leaders are already compromised, with hands tied to their back they are not in a position to fight for the Union. It is safer to avoid them for now and treat them as part of enemy action. We should concentrate on the younger generation who understand the issues at stake. Fortunately, many of them are sufficiently angry and ready to engage. This will have upscale and downscale dimensions.
iii. Reorientation at Three Levels
Intellectual capacity, and mindset of the depraved, would constitute part of the essential tools for Africa to engage. I am thrilled that Africans are not in short supply of appropriate manpower required to engage, if they find genuineness of purpose. To this end, we will have to design our own content and reject some of the existing educational curricular aimed at making us indolent. We need to re-jig, re-inspire, and re-engage those with fresh firepower and firewall. We need a new mindset for our people and One Africa Initiative (OAI) is in a position to commit and lead this action. I will advocate for a one-nation-ready approach. Everybody does not wake up at the same time. Accordingly, the orientation, when designed should be at three levels – Youths and young adults; Civil Society; and African Union. Part of the approach will be to start with nations ready to engage at any of the levels. The message will have to be developed appropriately to fit the intended target. We should begin our own pro-Africa messaging, with content that defines who we are, what we stand for, what we can no longer tolerate and accept. We should create, design and send out our messages as a way of checkmating and calling our governments to order, bringing down the activities of internal colliding structures of the imperialists, and warning our exploiters that their game is nearing a terminal point. The same way Willy Lynch programmed the slaves, we should reprogram ourselves and de-program our programmers.
iv. The Diaspora Frontier
Africa has a strong and untapped diaspora presence all over the world. We need a collaborative partnership between forces at home and in the diaspora. How do we deploy our children who have studied abroad to make sure their trainings are not lost to their host countries? A carefully designed strategic action is key in pursuing this in a way that will engender trust and confidence.
V.Education for Character, Strength and Development
So far, the education policy we inherited from colonial era developed us to have knowledge to pass exams but not information to seek development and ask questions.
We will require a new educational policy that is pro-Africa, and designed specifically to address our needs. There has been a remarkable improvement in course contents and curriculum in private schools but public schools require to be reinvented given that more citizens are there.
vi. Debt Burden and Aid Mentality
The Word of God says that a debtor is a servant to the lender. Therefore, so long as we run to foreign nations, especially China to borrow money under spurious terms and circumstances, our standing and national assets will remain threatened. Sometimes, these loans are obtained under clandestine arrangements, with information hidden from the public, such that in most cases terms and conditions are not subjected to rigorous evaluation and assessment. Although an acceptable economic policy, borrowing may not be that terrible but the purpose, deployment and obligation could be a major impediment on the integrity, future and national security of the affected nation.
vii. Refining Africa’s Reputational Identity
It is a given that reputation, like integrity, is a core asset and should never be allowed to be in red. We have to find a way, to deliberately start doing things differently on a sustainable system. This should be at home level and in the diaspora. For now, Africa is perceived as the weak and dark continent, yet we produce the wealth that make others strong. It is our resources that develop the West. Moving forward, every action we take on the points above, and from other sources, should be geared towards refining and redefining the reputation of Africa. Reputation brings honour and confers respect.
19. Fellow compatriots and friends, may we go back to where we started this paper. Willie Lynch speech of 1712, defines for us the extent slavery and slavery mentality were designed to destroy the psyche, disrupt the personality, and obliterate the dignity of a people, for many generations. Even Lynch envisaged that whatever has a beginning must also of a necessity have an end. If his diabolism was programmed for 300 years from 1712 it means we are already late to freedom by 8 years. It is therefore out of place to keep saying that the end is by the corner for Africa. We should now do what we have to do, in partnership with other individuals and organisations that share our objectives. We have to change the narrative, posture, and stature of Africa. The reality is that a lot is required to do the work; even getting it off the ground is a herculean task. But we have to do it, and do it excellently, anyhow. If it is an idea whose time has come, then there shall certainly be a will and a way that no man can stop. With God ALL things are possible.
20. Africans, Africa needs us. Let’s get to work!