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There are some crooks in Nigeria, like in every other nation, but, for goodness sake, this is NOT

a nation inhabited by only fraudsters! Decent people like me also exist here, okay! And it is

somebody’s job to ensure that this point is clearly underlined to every ear that can hear.

 

 

Nigeria: This House Is Not For Sale!

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

 

Why do I ever think of things falling apart? Were they ever whole.—Arthur Miller, Late American playwright and essayist

I am forced by some very discomforting thoughts to remember today Bessie Head, the late South African writer and her 1989 collection of short stories entitled, Tales of Tenderness and Power. I remember particularly one of the stories in that collection captioned, “Village People,” especially, its opening lines which reads:

Poverty has a home in Africa—like a quiet second skin. It may be the only place on earth where it is worn with an unconscious dignity.

Now, this is one assertion that immediately compels one to start visualizing images of scenes and objects that readily constitute benumbing evidences of “dignified poverty” spread all over Africa, where people try to give some form of shine and panache to a very horrible situation they have somehow convinced themselves would always be with them. In those two brief lines, Ms. Head states a truth about Africa which we may find very demoralizing and objectionable, but which would remain extremely difficult to contradict.

But is poverty the only thing we appear to have accepted as inevitable component of life in this part of the world? What about crime? How come crime appears to have gradually become too natural with us in Nigeria here, that we even go ahead to put up notices to moderate its operation? We appear to relish more the very unpleasant job of merely alerting people to it than doing anything to stamp it out.

Now, if I may ask: what usually occurs to your mind each time you enter a hotel room in Nigeria and on the wash-basin, dressing mirror, bed-sheet or towel you see the following inscription: “Hotel Property, Do Not Remove!”  

If you ask me, this warning simply takes it for granted that guests would naturally wish to remove those items, and so to forestall that, care is taken to advise them not to remove those particular items as the hotel is still in need of them. In other words, the absence of such a warning on any other item should be construed as an automatic authorization any guest requires to move those things together with his personal effects, if he so wishes, at the expiration of his stay.  That’s just the implication.  Or have we not also thought about that? What are we then, by this practice, telling numerous foreign visitors that use those hotel rooms daily about ourselves? 

Yet similar warnings abound everywhere, but I doubt that it in any way bothers anyone, even those public officers spending billions of naira on their so-called efforts to manage the nation’s image.

Indeed, it no longer shocks us to see daily on virtually every building, even rickety, dilapidated ones, this inscription, usually written in very bold letters, even at the risk of seriously defacing the structures: “This House Is Not For Sale!!” And in most cases, they usually add, for maximum effect: “Beware of 419! Beware of Fraudsters!”

 For goodness sake, is Nigeria the only country that fraudsters can be found? Is this the only country with records of incidents of people selling properties that do not belong to them? Are there no better, more decent, less socially destructive ways of protecting people from fraudsters than screaming on virtually every house out there: “This House Is Not For Sale, Beware of 419!!”

Are these houses not properly registered at the appropriate offices where prospective buyers can go and verify their real owners?

 Today, almost every undeveloped, refuse-ridden land on every street hosts at a prominent spot an imposing signpost informing people the land is not for sale, plus the usual warning screaming to prospective buyers to beware of fraudsters and 419. The impression the continued proliferation of these warning signs can only convey is that most Nigerians do nothing else than wander all day looking for each other’s properties to sell to unsuspecting buyers; that our society is filled with so many rich, dumb buyers without the slightest awareness that checks ought to be run on properties before paying for them; that the system here is so chaotic and unreliable that people prefer to rely only on this very crude, people-diminishing method of discouraging potential property buyers with mostly badly written notices.   

Out there, Nigeria’s Information Minister, Dr. Dora Akunyili, is shouting herself hoarse in a determined effort to convince us that she is re-branding Nigeria or its image; she claims that she is striving to give Nigeria a positive image, but I doubt if it has ever occurred to her that this unwholesome phenomenon alone can easily destroy the best cultivated image. What for instance would a foreign visitor think of us, after observing this inscription on virtually every building he saw on a particular street he visited?

There are some crooks in Nigeria, like in every other nation, but, for goodness sake, this is NOT a nation inhabited by only fraudsters! Decent people like me also exist here, okay! And it is somebody’s job to ensure that this point is clearly underlined to every ear that can hear.

And because we appear to demonstrate through our indifference to the whole thing that these vulgar displays are in order, foreigners living among us have gone ahead to add some really ruinous sophistication to the ugly phenomenon. In front of even some hardly known, struggling foreign companies today, you must find notices screaming: “No Waiting; No Loitering.”

The next time you visit an embassy, try and look at the kind of notices placed in front of the buildings.  Indeed, United States Embassy in Lagos here appears to be the most enthusiastic offender in this regard.

Only recently, while visiting the US Embassy, I was suddenly moved to look at the number of large, gleaming notices in front of the compound warning people against patronizing touts, submission of fake information and documents etc. I can’t really recall now how many notices I saw in front of the same embassy gate saying the same thing in the same words, and standing gallantly near each other, in silent competition. I have not tried to investigate whether this is what obtains at the US embassies in other countries, but I am willing to guess that this proliferation of demeaning notices may not be the case in other lands.

Inside the US embassy building itself, the rooms are generously splashed with well illustrated notices warning people that fake visas or passports or false information or documents can open many doors and but close one permanently. Even warning notices meant for the blind and deaf could not have been so generously pasted!

Indeed, the thing is so gratuitously done that I am forced to wonder if the aim is really to discourage fraudsters or to advertise a well-cultivated opinion about Nigeria to visiting Americans and other foreign nationals who also visit the embassy as often as Nigerians.  I am tempted to suspect that the latter is the prime motivation, and as I look at Ms. Robin Sanders, (who was the US Ambassador to Nigeria when these observations were made), and observe the skin-colour and facial features she shares with me, I am forced to wonder how she is able to allow this clearly unhealthy profiling and stereotyping to continue flourishing during her tenure against the land of her ancestors.   

Yes, we can say that after all we asked for it by failing to contain the vile activities of some Nigerians that clearly portray here as a country of crooks. Indeed, there are fraudsters in this nation, as in any other country, but this is by no means, a nation peopled by ONLY fraudsters. It ought to be clear that fraudsters constitute only a negligible minority in this country, but their evil deeds seem to speak louder than the good works of the decent, hardworking majority.

And although the fellows ruling us are mostly very low characters who care very little about reputation and self esteem, and whose understanding of being in public office is to loot the treasury pale, I refuse to accept that any nation’s politicians should form the basis for judging the people’s character. Else, why do Americans still speak contemptuously about the “Washington crowd,” and yet hallow their country at any given opportunity?

Yes, we have a tiny bunch of very corrupt politicians and their accomplices who only know how to rubbish the country and give it a monstrous image before the rest of humanity, but for goodness case, this does not automatically consign all of us to the refuse dump reserved for low, dishonourable characters?

The time to do a rethink and act accordingly is now. Enough of this debilitating profiling, please.

Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is on the Editorial Board of Independent Newspapers (www.independentngonline.com ) Lagos, Nigeria. He writes a weekly column (SCRUPLES) every Wednesday on the backpage of the paper. scruples2006@yahoo.com / www.ugowrite.blogspot.com

posted 22 December 2010

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Afro- Pessimism

By Frank B. Wilderson, III

“Afro-Pessimists are framed as such . . . because they theorize an antagonism, rather than a conflict—i.e., they perform a kind of ‘work of understanding’ rather than that of liberation, refusing to posit seemingly untenable solutions to the problems they raise.”

“[The Afro-Pessimists argue] that violence toward the black person happens gratuitously, hence without former transgression, and the even if the means of repression change (plantation was replaced by prison, etc.), that doesn’t change the structure of the repression itself. Finally (and this is important in terms of the self-definition of the white person), a lot of repression happens on the level of representation, which then infiltrates the unconscious of both the black and the white person . . . Since these structures are ontological, they cannot be resolved (there is no way of changing this unless the world as we know it comes an end. . . .); this is why the [Afro-Pessimist relational-schema] would be seen as the only true antagonism (while other repressive relations like class and gender would take place on the level of conflict—they can be resolved, hence they are not ontological).”

“[The Afro-Pessimists] work toward delineating a relation rather than focus on a cultural object.”

“Something that all the Afro-Pessimists seem to agree upon regarding social death are notions of kinship (or lack there of), the absence of time and space to describe blackness. . . . There is no grammar of suffering to describe their loss because the loss cannot be named.”

“[The Afro-Pessimists] theorize the workings of civil society as contiguous with slavery, and discuss the following as bearing witness to this contiguity: the inability of the slave (or the being-for-the-captor) to translate space into place and time into event; the fact that the slave remains subject to gratuitous violence (rather than violence contingent on transgression); the natal alienation and social death of the slave.”

“[T]he Afro-Pessimists all seek to . . . stage a metacritique of the current discourse identified as “critical theory” by excavating an antagonism that exceeds it; to recognize this antagonism forces a mode of death that expels subjecthood and forces objecthood [upon Blacks].”

“For Fanon, the solution to the black presence in the white world is not to retrieve and celebrate our African heritage, as was one of the goals of the Negritude project. For Fanon, a revolution that would destroy civil society, as we know it would be a more adequate response. I think the Afro-Pessimist such as Hartman, Spillers, and Marriott would argue there is no place for the black, only prosthetics, techniques which give the  illusion of a relationality in the world.”

Like the work of Jared Sexton, Saidiya Hartman, David Marriott, Hortense Spillers, Frantz Fanon, Lewis Gordon, Joy James, and others, Wilderson’s poetry, creative prose, scholarly work, and film production are predicated on the notion that slavery did not end in 1865; the United States simply made adjustments to the force of Black resistance without diminishing the centrality of Black captivity to the stability and coherence of civil society.Incognegro

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African Farmers Displaced as Investors Move In—By Neil MacFarquhar— December 21, 2010—Soumouni, Mali—The half-dozen strangers who descended on this remote West African village brought its hand-to-mouth farmers alarming news: their humble fields, tilled from one generation to the next, were now controlled by Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and the farmers would all have to leave. “They told us this would be the last rainy season for us to cultivate our fields; after that, they will level all the houses and take the land,” said Mama Keita, 73, the leader of this village veiled behind dense, thorny scrubland.

“We were told that Qaddafi owns this land.”  Across Africa and the developing world, a new global land rush is gobbling up large expanses of arable land. Despite their ageless traditions, stunned villagers are discovering that African governments typically own their land and have been leasing it, often at bargain prices, to private investors and foreign governments for decades to come.

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.Publishers Weekly

 

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Dreams of Africa in Alabama

The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America 

By Sylviane Anna Diouf

Sylviane Anna Diouf specializes in the social history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and slavery, as well as contemporary African migrations. Her latest book, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (Oxford University Press) won the 2007 Wesley-Logan Prize of the American Historical Association, the 2009 James F. Sulzby Award for best book on Alabama history from the Alabama Historical Association and was a finalist for the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for non fiction. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (NYU Press) was named Outstanding Academic Book in 1999. Sylviane has lived in France, Senegal, Gabon, and Italy and now resides in New York City. Organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank say the practice, if done equitably, could help feed the growing global population by introducing large-scale commercial farming to places without it. But others condemn the deals as neocolonial.—NYTimes

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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