Thursday, April 21, 2011

Questions for Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs on Libya

Questions for the Dutch Foreign Minister on the Dutch involvement on the attack on Libya.

Dear Mr. Meijer,


I am writing a story on the NATO attack on Libya and would like to get some information on the Dutch policy vis-à-vis Libya. I will appreciate an early reply.
Specifically, I have the following questions:

1. What is the official Dutch government position on the situation in Libya?

2. One of the prerogatives of states is that they hold monopoly on the instruments of violence within their territory. No country will permit an armed-uprising; is a new precedent not being set by the Western Powers in supporting an armed group in Libya? What is the Dutch government’s position on supporting armed rebellion in other countries?

3. Although UNSC Resolution 1973, specifically, did not authorised action to violate the sovereignty of Libya in the name of human rights, nor action in support of the anti-government rebels nor “regime-change” in Libya, today some Western governments (UK, France and the USA) openly called for “regime change,” and have announced plans to send ‘military advisors’ to aid the Libyan “pro-democracy forces.” What is the position of the Dutch government on regime change in Libya?

4. There appears to be a stalemate in Libya, what exactly is the outcome envisioned by the Dutch government in Libya?

5. How feasible is the desire of the West to impose democracy and Human Rights by military violence and where should we draw the line?

6. What is the response of the Dutch government to the charges by some African commentators that the attacked smacked of double-standards - given the fact that numerous resolutions of the United Nations remain unenforced by the Western Powers? You can see a long list here:

7. Given the fact that Libya is, at least, geographically in Africa, why did the Western powers decided to ignore the publicly-stated position of the African Union (AU) condemning any military solution to the crises in Libya?

8. Why is the West ever so eager to employ military force in non-western people\nations, rather than use its considerable powers to compel antagonists to the Conference Table, like providing them with non-lethal (good offices) means to resolve their differences?

9. And what would be the response of the Dutch government to accusations that Africa is being re-colonised. This being derived from the fact that the Western powers continue to hold meetings in European capitals (London, Paris, Berlin) to decide the future of an African country, Libya, which brings back to memory the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-5?

10. How would the Dutch government react to accusations that the West is trying to counter China’s incursions to Africa. Cited as example is one of the leaks from the Wikileaks’ memos, where we read the following: “1.(C/NF) Summary: Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) renegotiated the terms of its production sharing agreements with France's Total and its partners in Libya (Germany's Wintershall and Norway's StatoilHydro), adjusting the existing stand-alone contracts to bring them into compliance with the Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) rubric. The renegotiation of Total's contract is of a piece with the NOC's effort to renegotiate existing contracts to increase the Libya's share of crude oil production... the renegotiated agreements could adversely impact his revenue stream. End Summary.” See:

11. What would be the response of the Dutch government to another concern of Africans, especially those who live in Europe, why countries like France and the Netherlands which continue to treat them with impunity, would want to assume high moral grounds on Human Rights and Democracy in Africa? You can see an example of the treatment of African women and children in France here:

12. It was a Dutch man Hugo Grotius who, in his seminal work, titled De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres (Of the Laws of War and Peace) published in 1623, wrote: “Throughout the Christian world, I observed a lack of restraint in relation to war, such as even barbarous races should be ashamed of; I observed that men rush to arms for slight causes, or no cause at all, and that when arms have once been taken up there is no longer any respect for law, divine or human; it is as if, in accordance with a general decree, frenzy had openly been let loose for the committing of all crimes. Confronted with such utter ruthlessness many men, who are the very furthest from being bad men, have come to the point of forbidding all use of arms to the Christian, whose rule of conduct above everything else comprises the duty of loving all men.”

Today, we look at Iraq, Afghanistan, La Cote d’ivoire and Libya, and see that not much has changed since 1623. Can we look forward to a time that the west will, in the words of the Christian Bible, turn its sword into plowshare and attain to resolve conflicts through peaceful means rather than on wholesale military violence?

All best,

Femi Akomolafe

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nigeria: Another Do-or-Die Election in the offing?

As they prepare to vote in the 9 April 2011 elections, the prayer on the lips of most Nigerians is that the political earthquakes that toppled the governments in Tunisia and Egypt and is threatening the 42-year old regime of Beloved Brother Leader Qaddafi in Libya, should extend to their much mis-governed land and sweep the otiose elite into a giant seismic dustbin.

We should try to understand their prayer. Few nations in history have been so badly led astray by their leaders like Nigeria. It is equally difficult to imagine another country that has regressed so badly as this West African nation of some one hundred and fifty million souls. And one will have to search far and wide to come across a more insensitive, totally uncaring and corrupt politicians like the shameless lot that continues to grace the Nigerian political scene.

Many (some will say most) Nigerian politicians are not only thieves, but they have absolutely no shame at all. They have elevated corruption to such level that Nigerians are no longer awed or shocked by news of corrupt practices in high and low places. Corruption has become the norm; almost a culture.

One could hardly read a newspaper in Nigeria without coming across mind-boggling cases of corruption here and there. One top politician was recently in the news for organizing a Thanksgiving service in a church after he was released from jail on corrupt practice. Among the societal bigwigs that joined in the celebration was former president Olusegun Obasanjo who reportedly danced himself silly at the church. The public outcry caused Obasanjo to issue a mind-bending statement that he was ‘tricked’ into attending the service. Obasanjo is an elderly Yoruba – a people that once put great premium on honesty and good-conduct.

Ironically, Obasanjo was the president who, during his tenure, made a big song and dance about fighting corruption. He was also the leader that set up the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). So baffled was the head of the EFCC, Madam Waziri Farida, by the audacity of Nigerian politicians and civil servants to loot the commonwealth that she suggested psychiatric treatment for them.

So, Nigerians appear to be waiting (and praying) for the spark that will ignite a Tunisian-like revolution in their land. The April poll might provide the incendiary device.

Compared to Nigeria, the North African countries where people took to the streets in millions to protest were pure paradise on earth.

Infrastructure-wise both Tunisia and Egypt are light years ahead of the country that, until few years ago, used to boast of being the’ Giant of Africa.’

Life is both short and brutish in today’s Nigeria. Armed robbery is on the increase and although it has somewhat reduced, kidnapping remains a fertile occupation for restless youth who see no other prospect in life. And to compound the security woes, bomb blasts are going off in several parts of the country with the corrupt-ridden and inefficient security agencies reduced to scratching their heads and issuing empty bombast.

As that were not enough, religious dimensions have been added to the pot-pourri of problems besetting the country.

After looting their state’s treasury, almost all the governors of the Northern states tried to appease their people by throwing religion into their faces. Contrary to the spirit and letter of the Nigerian constitution, these governors went ahead and introduced Islamic Sharia laws in their domain. Today, emboldened Islamic fundamentalists are clamoring that Sharia be extended all over the constitutionally-secular federation.

Moslem fundamentalists have wrought mayhem in several Northern states as they strive to impose their fire-brand version of Islam. They have been joined by fellow religionists from neighboring countries to wreaked havoc across Northern Nigeria. Today life in the once-peaceful and serene city of Jos has been ruined by religious and inter-ethnic strife.

For many Igbos, it is déjà vu all over again as, once again, they are made to receive and bury dead relations whose only crime was to sojourn in other parts of what is supposed to be their fatherland. The Pan-Yoruba militant organization, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), was also sufficiently miffed by the killings of Yorubas in the North that it issued statements re-instating its call for a break-away Odua Republic.

On the economic front, Nigerians are also bemoaning their fate as their standards of living continue to plummet. The national infrastructures are also collapsing with road arteries becoming huge national embarrassments, despite colossal amount been voted for their maintenance and rehabilitation. And despite huge sums being voted, at least on paper, the nation’s electricity generation and distribution system remain epileptic.

In today’s Nigeria, about the only lucrative business in town apart from criminal activities seem to be politics. So debased is the societal value that today many Nigerians join politics not to try and make a difference but rather to partake in the free-for-all looting of public funds.

It is difficult to blame them though when politics pay far more than any other profession. For example, the Chairman of a local government council (the equivalent of the District Chief Executive in Ghana) earns more than a university professor, and he has a fleet of cars at his disposal. His wife also receives a salary and a car. Nigerian lawmakers are believe to be the highest pay in the world with the President of the Nigerian Senate earning as much as four times the salary of the President of the United States of America.

No one talk of ideology anymore in Nigerian politics. The result is that the nation’s twenty one registered parties are distinguishable only by the personalities rather than any ideological differentiation. Politicians cross carpet with abandon dragging their foot-soldiers along with them. Politics has been reduced to mere noise generation. It has become a farcical game whereby politicians mouth nonsense which no one expects them to keep.

The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which claims to be Africa’s largest political organization is a motley collection of very strange bed-fellows. Given the rancorous manner it ruthlessly prosecute its congress, no one can accuse the party of been an epitome of democracy and Nigerians will scoff at the very idea that the PDP has any feeling for the hoi-poloi.

On its website, the PDP boasts that it will:
• make fundamental break with past mistakes in order to realize the optimum potentials of the Country;
• build a qualitatively better society based on the principles of democracy, human rights and social justice under the rule of law;
• be committed to;
• restructuring Nigeria in the spirit of true federalism and responsible tiers of government, so as to achieve a just and equitable society;
• Resolving such fundamental issues as proper devolution of powers between the three tiers of government;

Close to twelve years at the helm, Nigerians rightly wondered what the PDP has done to fundamentally break with past mistakes; what it has done to restructure the country to devolve power between the three tiers of government. In fact, only a die-hard PDP supporter will be able to mention a single thing the party has achieved.

If Nigerians expected the twelve years of PDP mal-administration to galvanise the opposition to coalesce and provide a united front, they were to be sorely disappointed. But they need not be as the political class has, over the years provided ample proof that they are mere political jobbers looking for where their bread will receive the most butter.

Nigerians even have a name for their special brand of politicians – they call them ‘chop-I-chop.’ Little wonder that the nation remains bogged down in cesspit of corruption.

Today, the so-called opposition (largely made up of disgruntled PDPers and other carpet-baggers) offer the long-suffering people of Nigeria no clear alternative to the reprobate PDP.

Sadly for Nigerians, rather for the opposition to present a united front to confront the PDP, they have allowed their selfish interests to becloud their sense of good judgment. No fewer than eighteen (yes, 18) candidates have been approved by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest the April poll.

Nigerians believe that most of the candidates are mere reckless opportunists jostling for relevance so that their perfidious acts could be rewarded with a ministerial, ambassadorial or other juicy posts which is passport to good living in a country where politics is the only gainful game in town.

It has been known to happen. The calculation is simple: it’d be difficult for any of the candidates to win outright in the clouded first round which leaves the ‘also-rans’ to declare for the candidate with the best chance with their ‘teeming’ supporters.

That is after they must have made the customary noises about rigging and threatening fire and brimstone, plus all the necessary shakara that’s necessary to increase their nuisance value and boost their chances of getting a post.

Nigerians certainly deserved a lot better than the current sorry motley collection of politicians. Part of the problem was the political system the country chose to operate. Post-independence Nigeria started life with a parliamentary system of government. However, its fragility was believed partly responsible for the collapse of the First Republic when the Army struck on January 15, 1966.

Naturally, the military ran a highly centralised government and this must informed their decision to opt for American-styled Executive Presidency when they took their leave.

It was the inimitable Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah who defined Western-styled democracy as competition between oligarchies. Whatever its advantages, Executive Presidency is a political system that is inherently expensive to run and manage.

Only few Nigerians have the bag loads of raw cash necessary to prosecute and win elections even at the local government level. Anyone thinking of pursuing elective post at any level needs vast war chest. This has created the chance for those with serious money to start the very lucrative business of sponsoring candidates to high office. So-called God-fathers have stepped in. In order to protect their investment, these money-bags also have army of foot-soldiers (mostly unemployed youth) they can deploy to snatch ballot boxes, beat up or killed opponents and do everything to ensure that sponsored candidates ’win’ elections.’ That explain why in Nigeria some politicians can tell electorates that ‘whether you vote for me or not, I’ll win the election.’

In return the god-fathers want to have some of their men appointed to choice ministries and other parastatals in addition to being awarded juicy government contracts.

God-fatherism has now become part of the country’s political establishment. Many state governors have been made and marred by these entrepreneurs who expected good returns on their ‘investments.’ The result is government that is held hostage and paralysed by its beholden not to electors but to a cabal of very ruthless, faceless individuals who control all levers of government. This has transformed the very art of governance into a do-or-die affair and make it possible for the Nigerian landscape to resemble a gigantic recycling plant with the same, tired, old and ugly faces putting up appearances all the time.

The hijacking and subsequent bastardisation of the body politics make the task of organizing credible elections quite onerous, if not impossible. It is difficult to imagine how the nation hopes to organize credible elections without a radical reformation of the rotten electoral system.

Until there is a fundamental re-jiggering of the extant system, Nigerians should not hope to see any change anytime soon.

Given the abysmal performance of the ruling PDP, nothing would have made better sense than for the opposition politicians to rally behind a single candidate to confront the PDP behemoth. No one expect the PDP not to attempt to rig the forthcoming elections, but even the party of the Apostles of do-or-die politics would have a hard time convincing Nigerians that they cleanly defeat a united front. After twelve years in power, the PDP have a lot on convincing to do to make Nigeria believe that the party has anything new to offer.

Unlike in the 1999 and 2003 elections when the Opposition presented a united front, today incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan goes into battle against a clearly divided opposition. Self-seeking and opportunistic opposition leaders bicker among themselves rather than confront the PDP.

As political scientist and commentator, Prof. Dickson Usoren, opines “an easy passage has been inadvertently packaged for the PDP and its candidate by the caliber of presidential candidates of other parties.”

It’d have been palatable were the opposition to be divided on ideological lines, but no, the motley collections that got registered as political party are oriented towards their leaders who, invariably are also the chief sponsors.

And since ideology has no discernible relevance in the nation’s polity, Nigerians are not convinced that the opposition parties offer them anything new or that they are better than the PDP they are fighting to replace. To many Nigerians, the so-called opposition parties are just the other side of a bad coin.

Although overcrowded, serious money put the April presidential contest as a straight fight between incumbent and PDP candidate Goodluck Jonathan, and the All Nigeria’s Peopels Party (ANPP) candidate, former military strongman, General Mohammadu Buhari. Very interestingly, it pities the country geographic South against the North; and, in a country where religion is a matter of life and death, Christianity against Islam.

PDP - Goodluck Jonathan
Much has been written about President Goodluck Jonathan fairy tale foray into Nigeria’s politics and the April polls offer him the opportunity to prove his mettle. It will the president’s first attempt to win any election on his own merit. Until now, he was always someone’s deputy before providence intervened to catapult him to the number one position. He was a deputy governor in his oil-rich Bayelsa State when his boss DSP Alameseigha was impeached for corrupt practice. Goodluck stepped into the governorship seat automatically.

It was from there that he was plucked to partner with the late President Musa Yar’Adua in the 2007 elections. A sickly Yar’Adua died in May 2010 and Goodluck Jonathan became Nigeria’s substantive president, again without any effort on his part.

His almost one year in office has been most unremarkable. No one has any clue what the president stands for. Although he claims to be hip and maintains a Facebook presence, he has failed to articulate properly what vision he has for the country outside of his party’s dry mantra. A leaked memo published by Wikileaks tells of a man of grave self-doubt, unsure of himself and one who honestly confessed his inexperience.

The president has also been severely criticized for his management of the economy and the deteriorating security situation in the country.

While there is no doubt that he will win handily in his South-South geographic area, the president will have a herculean task to sell himself in the other parts of Nigeria. His bruising battle in the primaries of his PDP party leaves a lot of bitter rancor which are still festering. Although he won the primary handily, few weeks to the poll, his main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, is still in the courts pursuing a case against his loss.

Also, the influential Northern political elite, which believes that the president cheated by even putting himself up, contrary to their party’s zonal agreement, are still visibly angry and have not come out to endorse him.

Despite his handlers touting him as Nigeria’s first Ph.D holding president, he recently revealed that he still has yet to master the fundamentals of politicking. He committed a major faux pas when, in his campaign tour of the Yoruba West, he called on his party faithful to wrest power from whom he described as ‘rascals.’

This un-presidential outburst naturally did not go down well with the Yoruba governors, two of who recently have their mandates restored to them by the courts after protracted legal battles. They translated the president saying as insult on their parents. Insulting someone’s parent is not a small crime in Yorubaland.

The Igbos are placed in the unenviable position of making a difficult, almost impossible choice. Culturally they are closest to Jonathan’s Ijaw people, but theirs remain a choice that requires Solomonic wisdom.

Since they fought and lost the Biafran war, they have suffered gross marginalization and no Igbo has had a shot at the presidency. Their calculation is that one of them should become president after the 2015 elections. Its actualization is every Igbo over-riding concern and it is proving not to be an easy one.

By the zoning arrangement of the PDP, a Southerner cannot succeed Goodluck Jonathan. This effectively rules out the Igbos contesting the 2015 elections under the aegis of the PDP.

Thus, the dilemma facing the Igbos remains: If they support Goodluck Jonathan and he wins, they can kiss their 2015 presidential ambition goodbye. And if they choose not to support their kinsman, they risk being accused of perfidy, which will come to haunt them in years to come as people will perceive them as treacherous and unreliable.
CPC - Mohammadu Buhari
Since he overthrew the government of President Shehu Shagari in the December 1983 coup, General Mohammadu Buhari has being a recurrent feature of the Nigerian political scene. A retired General who refused to get tired, General Buhari has become an almost serial Presidential candidate. He contested and lost the 2003 and 2007 elections. Undaunted he doggedly litigated his loss also to no avail.

Although his 20 month reign was characterized by massive human right abuses, few will write the stern disciplinarian off lightly.

On the plus side, Buhari has one or two things going for him: First, he comes from the North, a fact that still counts for a lot in Nigeria’s political equation. Also, as of the time of writing, the PDP has not successfully healed the internal rift occasioned by the party’s primary, and the grapevine is rife with rumours of the Northern political elite rallying behind the Daura-born General, in order to scuttle Goodluck Jonathan’s ambition, and ensure that the presidency comes back to the North.

No one can accuse the Northern Establishment of not knowing how to prosecute its political agenda, and this must be giving the president’s handlers some headache. Were the North to present a united front in the person of General Buhari, it’ll dramatically alter all permutations, despite the boast by Vice-President Sambo’s boast that Buhari is a spent force.

Many Nigerians believe that Buhari is the only politicians that can help sanitise the nation’s body polity. He’s generally seen as an incorruptible and highly disciplined person. He has also shrewdly selected a Yoruba running mate, and has pledged to support an Igbo candidate in 2015.

On the flip side, many Nigerians still remember life under Buhari which was characterized mainly by high-handedness and application of laws retroactively. Many, especially in the South, consider him a tribal as well as a religious bigot. His rule saw many Northern politicians escaping his dragnets whilst many Southerners were carted into jails. Many Yorubas will not easily forgive him for the humiliation he visited on many prominent Yorubas especially the late Papa Ajasin.

Many Nigerians still bear huge grudges against the former military ruler. Among them is Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, who felt so affronted by Buhari’s candidature that he wrote a trenchant 10-point reasons why Nigerians should not vote for Buhari.

Soyinka railed: “The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive. History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future. Of course, we know that human beings change. What the claims of personality change or transformation impose on us is a rigorous inspection of the evidence, not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances. Public offence, crimes against a polity, must be answered in the public space, not in caucuses of bargaining. In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evident suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order. Buhari – need one remind anyone - was one of the generals who treated a Commission of Enquiry, the Oputa Panel, with unconcealed disdain. Like Babangida and Abdusalami, he refused to put in appearance even though complaints that were tabled against him involved a career of gross abuses of power and blatant assault on the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian citizenry.”

Vintage Soyinka, come April 11 2011, Nigerians will have the chance to prove Soyinka right or wrong.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not Yet Uhuru

"Neo-colonialism, after all, is not centred in a vacuum. It is built on the previous colonial history of the country in which it operates, from foundation that the colonial regime lays before its ostensible departure. The object of neo-colonialism is to ensure that power is handed to men who are moderate and easily controlled, political stooges. Everything is done to ensure that the accredited heirs of colonial interests capture power."" (Oginga Odinga, 'Not Yet Uhuru', Hill and Wang, New York. p.256)

"The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land. Whatever of good may have come in these years of change, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people, - a disappointment all the more bitter because the unattained ideal was unbounded save by the simple ignorance of a lowly people." (W.E.B. Du Bois, 'The Souls of Black Folk,' Bantam Books, p.5).

The Europeans have started to pay homage. In the month of June 1994, French President Mitterand became the first Head of State to visit Azania (South Africa). His plane has hardly taxied out of the runway before another jumbo landed with a British minister, leading a delegation of over forty company directors.

Like the true vultures they are, Europeans have smelled blood, and they are going for the kill. These men who worship nothing but gold, have found a new source, and they are doing their best to ingrate themselves to the new rulers of Azania.

As Usual, Africa is going to lose out. As usual, African leaders are charmed by the smiles and the blarney of the European flatterers. They are going to sell their country and their people short. Once more, Africa will became a victim of European strategies. Are we ever going to learn?

We hope that the new rulers of Azania will bear one simple fact in mind: Without the efforts of their African brothers, they will still be under the white minority rule today.

The majority of Europeans were contented to squirm in their liberal agonies, and make platitudes. No European nation broke off diplomatic relations with SA, and there were regular flights from most European countries to the apartheid enclave. The leaders of the 'Free World,' wasted precious years engaging in a (as it turned out to be) useless 'Constructive Engagement,' with the apartheid regime.

Several European and American multi-nationals openly breached the United Nations sanctions against the apartheid enclave. Royal Dutch Shell argued, with the usual Dutch hypocrisy, that it was helping the blacks by fueling the white regime's military and industrial machines. Shell was taking oil from Nigeria and sending it to South Africa! Europeans firms helped the apartheid government in building its military-industrial-complexes. And while the Western nations were sanctioning other countries for attempting to build atomic and nuclear weapons, they looked the other way, while South Africa built and tested its own weapons! European youths were regularly going to South Africa to shoot a few blacks under the guise of tourism. Many of those who participated, in the most atrocious crimes of the white regime, were allowed to retain their European citizenship.

I believe that the first question President Mandela should have asked his European visitors, who were promising economic aid, was: "What have all the economic aid you've been giving to my African brothers done to alleviate their economic woes?" He should have asked what all the French aid to Zaire has achieved except creating a super-rich monster like Mobutu.

The best investment a country can have are its educated citizens; the second is the material resources available. SA, like many African nations, have the latter in abundance, but they have not been successful in developing the human resources. They have been relying on Western 'expertise.' The sad truth is that Africa is today poor because FOREIGNERS are managing our resources! European, Asian or Arab 'expertisement' are never going to develop our continent. This is a fact our leaders are yet to grasp.

Western scholars like to say that the failure of Africa is Africans fault. We have been independent for over thirty years, they keep telling us. I find this sort of argument intellectually dishonest. It was premised on the assumption that a time there was when the Europeans packed their bags and left us alone. This was not the case. True, Europeans were replaced by Africans. What happened was that within three to five years, radicals African leaders who have original ideas about how to solve their problems, have been removed from power. Nkrumah was removed because of his anti-imperialist stance. The coup that removed him was organized by the CIA Accra office. Patrice Lumumba was killed at the instigation of the CIA director, Allen Dulles, in a cablegram sent on August 20, 1960. He was replaced by his CIA-supported Chief of Staff, Joseph Mobutu. Until a few years ago, Mobutu was the darling of the west - the best stooge they have in Africa. It was the west that encouraged him to loot his country's treasury. It was western multinationals that paid him the bribes. It was in western banks that he kept his looted money, after investing in real estates in Switzerland, France and Belgium. It was French and Belgian troops, with American logistic support, that protected him when there were uprisings against him. He was a welcome guest in Euro-American power centers. He met with George Bush more than half a dozen times!

There are still military bases scattered all over Africa, the purpose of which was to ensure the status quo, and repel any attack on European vital interests. France has DIRECTLY interfere in the INTERNAL AFFAIRS of its 'FORMER' colonies than a dozen times.

Africa has too much strategic minerals, crucial to Western economies to be left alone. What should be a blessing has turned into our greatest misfortune. We have too much resources which the vampires from Europe wanted, but are unwilling to pay fair prices. That is the only reason they continue to support dictators, who are prepared, for a fee, to suppress their own people in the interests of Euro-America.

We hope the new leaders of Azania will learn from these mistakes. Africa has nothing new to learn from Europe. We can look towards Asia and find out how the Chinese and the Malaysians and the Indonesians are managing their affairs. We can learn a good deal from them their experiences. For over five hundred years, Europe has been instructing us, giving us lectures. We are today worse off that when they first came to our shores. We have nothing to learn from proven failures like Europeans. Ecologically and environmentally, Europe is a disaster. Socially, it is dis-integrating: People need pharmaceutical assistance to survive the daily rigors of life. Parents are routinely abusing children and children are, in turn, turning increasingly to drug abuse. Politically, European institutions are failing and people are becoming apathetic. Less than a third of the electorate in both England and the U.S.A. bother to vote. Economically, Europe is in a doldrums. Millions are out of work with no prospect of job anytime soon. What lessons can we learn from such a people? What aid can we expect from such heartless creatures? Why should we expect succor from a loveless place like Europe?

Our situation is comparable to that of the Asians. The Chinese and the Malaysians decided to go their own way. They STOPPED listening to the sanctimonious hypocrites from Europe. They borrowed whatever they could use from Europe, among other places, and start to build their societies in their own way. Today, they are making impressive progress.

We too can do it. But only if we shed the handicaps we inherited from the Europeans. We should start to listen to ourselves. Western aid cannot develop Africa: it has never developed anywhere. Africa must and should be developed by Africans. It is sad when our leaders continue to live in the past - learning nothing from history.

"I have had to separate myself from my dear wife and children, from my mother and sisters, to live as an outlaw in my own land. I have had to close my business, to abandon my profession, and live in poverty in misery, as many of my people are doing. I shall fight the Government side by side with you, inch by inch, and mile by mile, until victory is won. I will not leave South Africa, nor will I surrender. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days."

"In my youth in the Transkei, I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngatha and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekukhuni, were praised as the pride and glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case."

"A government which uses force to maintain its rule teaches the oppressed to use force to oppose it."

"I have always regard myself, in the first place, as an African patriot."

"During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. But my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." - Nelson Mandela, Fatima Meer, 'Higher Than Hope,' Penguin Books.

We hope that President Nelson Mandela shall hold dear these words that inspired millions of Africans to suffer.

"We must leave our dreams and abandon our old beliefs and friendships from the time before life began. Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. Leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe. For centuries, they have stifled almost all the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience. Look at them today swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration...

"Europe undertook the leadership of the world with ardor, cynicism, and violence. Look at how the shadow of her palaces stretches out ever further! Every one of her movements has burst the bounds of space and thought. Europe has declined all humility and all modesty; but she has also set her face against all solicitude and all tenderness. She has only shown herself parsimonious and niggardly where men are concerned; it is only men that she has killed and devoured.

So, my brothers, how is it that we do not understand that we have better things to do than to follow that same Europe? That same Europe where they were never done talking of Man, and where they never stopped proclaiming that they were only anxious for the welfare of Man: today we know with what sufferings humanity has paid for every one of their triumphs of the mind.

Come, then, comrades, the European game has finally ended; we must find something different. We today can do everything, so long as we do not imitate Europe, so long as we are not obsessed by the desire to catch up with Europe. Europe now lives as such a mad, reckless pace that she has shaken off all guidance and all reason, and she is running headlong into the abyss; we would do well to avoid it with all possible speed.

Yet it is very true that we need a model, and that we want blueprints and examples. For many among us the European model is the most inspiring. We have therefore seen in the preceding pages to what mortifying setbacks such an imitation has led us. European achievements, European techniques, and the European style ought no longer to tempt us and to throw us off our balance.

When I search for the Man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man, and the avalanche of murders.

The human condition, plans for mankind, and collaboration between men in those tasks which increase the sum total of humanity are new problems, which demand true inventions.

Let us not decide to imitate Europe, let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth. Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness, and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.

So, comrades, let us not pay tribute to Europe by creating states, institutions, and societies which draw their inspiration from her. Humanity is waiting for something from us other than such an imitation, which would be almost an obscene caricature. If we want to turn Africa into a new Europe, and America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destiny of our countries to Europeans. They will know how to do it better than the most gifted among us. But if we want humanity to advance a step further, if we want to bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has shown, then we must invent and we must make discoveries.
" - Frantz Fanon, 'The Wretched of the Earth', Grover press, pp.311-315.

African Chief declare war on the USA!

This is an old post

The tiny West African State of Kosangba stunned the world yesterday when its Chief Minister; Nana Bambeu Kugboji, declared that his hard-to-find-on-the-map, postage stamp-sized landlocked republic has declared war on the US, the world's only superpower. Addressing a well- attended World Press Conference yesterday at his squalid, dilapidated woebegone capital of Petuje (pop. 567), the bearded Chieftain declared the US a threat to world peace and vowed to mobilize is republic's puny fighting force (exactly 1234 border police force equipped with WWI Rifles, no air force, no marine, no standing army and, obviously, no navy) to attack the USA which he declared to be a 'menace to mankind,' and a 'threat to mother earth as we know it.'

Nana Kugboji is apparently not kidding as he has written to the newly-formed African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) a letter copied to the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) asking for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council (SC) in which he declared that unless the SC condemn the US and authorized a UN Inspection team to enquire into US weapons of 'mass murder' and US violations of International laws and norms and the persecutions of minorities in territorial USA he will lead a "coalition of the willing to disarm the USA and change the brutal Bush's regime."

In a voice booming with the resonance of a mighty African thunder, Chief Nana asked, "Which country in the world has violated more International Treaties than the US of A? The Kyoto Agreement to protect the environment and the international court on war crimes are just the latest in the long list of International Treaties than has fallen under the jackboot of this wicked, rapacious and bloodthirsty nation of war-mongering savages. No, we can no longer sit back and watch this nation of vile mongrels continue to hold the rest of the world hostile, pardon me, hostage. My people and I have decided that enough is enough. We are going to help the American people defend theirselves (sic)."

The African chieftain shook with primordial emotions as he shouted, "In the name of peace, democracy and human rights this avaricious, predatory imperialistic sore on the conscience of mankind have bombed: China (1945-46, 1950-53), Korea (1950-53), Guatemala (1954, 1967-69), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-60), Belgian Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1964-73), Vietnam (1961-73), Cambodia (1969-70), Grenada (1983), Libya (1986), El Salvador (1980s), Nicaragua (1980s), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991- present), Bosnia (1995), Sudan and Afghanistan (1998), Yugoslavia (1999). How long more would the world wait before calling this power-drunk, gluttonous land of injustice to order?"

When asked if he was aware that the US is the world's sole superpower, Chief Nana was disdainful: "The US is nothing but a super-addyourownsevenletterword. (Hint: ends with something into which you can crawl)"

When Richie Salty of the CNN asked if the Chief has the military might to back up his military threat, the chief said that he has mobilize all his elephant hunters for a war to end all wars. "The fact is that you white people have always mis-underestimated (sic) us. My forebears gave imperial Britain a good trashing at the battle of Petuje when those thieving rednecks were foolish enough to wander into our land."

Being told that the USA has the support of the British Prime Minister drew a laugh of derision from the African tribal chief, "What is one to expect from the leader of that Isle of Iniquities?"

The Chief was not impressed with the argument that the US invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. The African head of clan attired in his ceremonial battle attire made of Lion and Leopard skin trembled as he cried: "The US, this imperialist monster, is the only country in the world to have loyally supported lovers of freedom such like Marcos in the Philippines, Diem in Vietnam, Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia, Zia (and now Musharraf) in Pakistan, Franco in Spain, Mobutu in Zaire, Duvalier in Haiti, Ozal in Turkey, the Shah in Iran, Salazar in Portugal, Somoza in Nicaragua, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Stroessner in Paraguay, Papadopoulos in Greece, Batista in Cuba, Saddam Hussein (until they fell out) in Iraq, Idi Amin in Uganda plus all the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabia oildoms."

"And this silly notion that the US is fighting to preserve democracy is laughable considering that the moron sitting the White House was selected by the Supreme Court and not elected by the popular vote of the people of the United States of America. Is it democratic to lose the popular votes but win the elections? Give me a break!"

Nana Kugboji was visibly irked when the TIME magazine reporter asked if the Iraqi leader's maltreatment of his own people were not sufficient ground for the US to intervene. "Do you Western Press Guys and Gals read anything more serious than the make-me-happy nonsense they teach you at the ideological-orientation camps you call universities? What country in the whole wide world has brutalized more of her citizens than the US of A? Beginning with the Native Indians whom you exterminated with biological weapons through to the Blacks whom your police continue to use for target practice unto this day, the US is certainly way ahead of any nation when it comes into brutalizing her minorities. No nation even comes close second. You cannot claim to be unaware of the COINTELPRO programmes of the FBI to disorganize black groups and the murder of black leaders, or the CIA introduction of drugs into black ghettoes or the way Blacks were used in Syphilis experiments by agents of the US governments. Go and read your history before you come before me to make stupid, sanctimonious remarks about Saddam's mistreatment of his people. Your own government is a serious threat to its own black citizens and also to the rest of the world.

When the elderly reporter from CBS, Shirley Pearbone, asked if the African chief does not believe that the USA was right to go after terrorists after September 11 2001, the Chief snorted: "You people keep prating about September 11. We in this part of the world have had nothing but September 11 all our lives, thanks largely to your government's policies. What do you call Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Sudan, Libya and the rest of the countries in Africa where your government agencies have negatively impacted on the lives of the people? And, please Ma, do not insult my intelligence by giving me any lecture on terrorists. Which organization is more terroristic than you very own CIA which has, for several years, set itself the agenda of toppling governments, organizing and financing insurgencies and proxy wars just to ensure that the non- white people of the world will keep living wretched lives and continue to be hewer of woods and drawers of water for you white people? And where were you wonderful seekers of truth when your agents of destructions were boasting that they were in our countries to make sure that people keep living wretched lives? 'The objective of the war is not to make UNITA win a war, but to devastate Angola and make the people lead wretched lives,' was how one of them put it in TIME magazine. Go and check page 3 of the August 10, 1989 issue of that mouthpiece of white supremacy. And don't tell me that you are too na‹ve not to know that Osama bin Laden was not manufactured in Africa. And for your information Saddam Hussein did not sire him either. He is a product of your own CIA. His family and the family of your brain-challenged president have business relationship and owned shares in the Carlyle Group. Go figure!

The Chief burned with anger when asked if Iraq with weapon of Mass Destruction is not a threat to world peace. "Weapon of Mass Destruction, indeed. Manufactured from what, tissue papers? You guys will never stop amazing me with your utter stupidity. You guys are sometimes so stupid you make my retrievers look like Rocket Scientists. About the only thing you shameless bunch do is to parrot the rotting lies the liars leading your countries are telling. So, Saddam Hussein has got weapons of mass destruction, and for that Iraq must be destroyed and thousands of her people killed and millions more made to live wretched lives. Have you stopped to ask yourself if Saddam had the delivery systems, you stupid .? And did you really believe that Saddam Hussein is such a senseless madman that he will threaten the USA with whatever puny arsenal he has in order to invite the virtual obliteration of his own country? Use your brains, ladies and gentlemen, if you have got any, that is. Iraq was no threat to anyone except to Western leader's figment of imaginations. You thieving bastards want Iraqi's oil and, as usual, your leaders are masking their naked thievery with humanitarian halo."

When asked why he is such a passionate anti-America, the African Chief brimmed, "Because you Americans are so stupendously arrogant and ignorant. You never learn anything from history despite all your universities and think tanks. There you are badgering around the world like demented Zombies, making exactly the same stupid mistakes all over. You are so consumed with your short-term interests that you cannot see beyond your long noses and learn the lessons of history. You are the only branch of the human race that believes in humiliating your foes. There was Iraq, beaten and humiliated yet you are not satisfied. You want more to piss and trampled upon it. Why do you Americans have that unique tendency of not looking upon your defeated enemy with compassion and favor? There you are - going gung-ho trampling upon Iraq Hussein. After you have defeated him, what? You defeated Germany in your WWI but your attempts to humiliate the Germans got you only WWII. You overthrew Mossadegh in Iran and what did you get in return. Ayatollah Khomeini, that is what you got! Go figure! Saddam Hussein is gone, but verily and verily I say unto you, what you will get in return will be far worse. Mark my word."

Rounding up, the African chief took a savage swipe at the assembled press "You bunch of mindless hypocrites." He cried, his hand swinging the pungent African air. "Your governments are leading the world into perfidy and about the only thing you are doing is merrily and cheerfully cheering them on. What do you care? So long as your fat paychecks keep coming in, what do you care, indeed? You guys are so mindless that about the only thing you are doing is parroting the nauseating lies that the USA and its sidekick, Britain, is interested in giving freedom to the Iraqis? Where in their entire history have the USA and Britain fought for other people's freedom? I ask you where? Search your consciences, if you have any. Goodbye."

At which point the African chief pulled a watch from his breast pocket, consulted it closely and declared: "I have wasted enough time on you minions."

Give the slum a try!

Alhaji Abdullahi Walatakiki has a presence. Tall, urbane, elegant and dressed in an English upper-class suit, he cut the image of a top banker or a diplomat at the highest echelon of his profession. Alhaji is the Assistant Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Finance. I ran into him at a newspaper's office recently where he was busy defending his government's policies. At the end I managed to swindle a few minutes of Alhaji's expensive time.

"Could it be true that the government wanted to borrow US$5 million to study poverty?" I wanted to know.

Alhaji cleared his throat the way only the upper class knew how. "The whole thing has been blown out of all proportions. There's nothing wrong in borrowing, per se. Every businessperson knows that. Every government in the world has had to borrow money to finance one project or the other. There's nothing wrong in government borrowing."

"But is studying poverty a viable project for which to take a loan. Is that not akin to a business taking up a loan to study why it is making a loss?"

The Minister gave me a condescending look. "What's wrong in that? What's wrong with a failing business hiring a business consultant to come and help it fix its problems?"

"With borrowed money?" I asked skeptically.

The Minister was obviously in a combative mood. Giving me a withering look, the one you gave an errant servant, he mused, "I guess you missed your Economics 101."

"No sir, I didn't miss my classes. It is just that I fail to see the logic in your argument. Why does an already highly-indebted, poverty-ridden and a virtually bankrupt third world country need a loan to find out why it is poor?"

"The reasons should be self-evident except to those for whom thinking is an encumbrance." The Minister countered with sniggering contempt. "Do you know the number one problem we have in this country?"

"That's not my department, sir."

"I will tell you our biggest problem in this country. It is that there are too many experts. We have too many lazybones masquerading as experts. The biggest wahala in Ghana is the profusion of armchair critics. Take it from me that is our biggest problem. Look at yourself for instance, all criticism and none of them constructive."

"I am sorry you felt that way about me, sir. But we still haven't answered the question of why we need a loan to study why we are poor. Couldn't part of our problems be the lack of articulation of policy-intents by those in power?"

"You're right to an extent. This government has always been responsive. The idea was jettisoned right when it was discovered that the people are against it."

"I think the people were simply stupefied by the sheer effrontery of the idea. They have seen all the Poverty Alleviation programs lining only the pockets of our moneybags. They see that the only people that would benefit from the loan would be our deep pockets who will shuttle from one conference to another in their multimillion cedis Pajeros. In the name of fighting poverty, our cash-oozers will wine and dine at restaurants where food prices look like telephone numbers…"

The Minister cut in, "You certainly have fancy-phrases. 'Moneybags,' 'deep pockets,' 'cash-oozers.' You see what I mean by armchair critics? You see only the Pajeros and food bills, but what about the anguish our delegates to those conferences have to go through?"

"Anguish, sir. What anguish."

"Conferences don't come cheap. That's what we have to understand in this country. We should also jettison the idea that we could get something for nothing. Every good thing cost money. Part of our problems also is that we are too much in a hurry to get to the Promised Land. How do you solve a problem without understudying the underpinning theoretical basis? You see we live in a scientific era, information superhighway, globalisation, computers, mobile phones and things. We cannot continue to tackle our problems in traditional and old superstitious ways."

"Hmm. Don't you think that part of our problem could also be that there is this yawning inequitable distribution of resources?"

"It is incredible that you could still be pantomiming discredited socialist ideas in this age and time. The idea that we could improve the lots of the poor by impoverishing the rich has been discredited."

"I am not talking EQUAL distribution of wealth. I am simply talking about EQUITABLE distribution of the little resources we have. We cannot continue to maintain the fiction that our poverty stemmed from lack of resources. It did not. We have the resources; the problems come from the way we are allocating it. Don't you think that we could do with a little bit of egalitarianism?"

"There we go again with armchair criticism. In your case, the criticism are wide and far off the mark. What specifically is your gripe?"

"I could give specifics like granting our legislators cars and housing loans. It should not be the business of government to grant loans. A legislator that wants to buy a car or a house should go to his bank. It should strictly be the business of himself and his bank manager. We are a poor country and those that purport to serve us should not impose upon us financial burdens that do not exist even in the richest of the developed countries. In Holland, for instance, I know legislators that take the trains from Amsterdam to The Hague to go and represent their people. Holland can afford to buy cars for her lawmakers, but she would not. Why should an MP representing a poor constituency tools around town in a big jeep? What's he trying to portray? We can take the case of our ministers. Why should they get free cars, free phones and free houses from the government? Those from whom we are running to borrow the money do not give their ministers free cars, free telephones and free housing. I say it is only in Africa that the poverty of the poor is not reflected in the opulent lifestyles of those that govern them. We are going to take loan to study poverty while our president travels around in a cavalcade of expensive cars. Do we think that those from whom we're borrowing are unaware that our president goes around in a multi-billion cedis motorcade? And we pretend not to understand why they are reluctant to ease our debt burden. They are no fools. If those that govern us want to know why we are poor, let them come to our rat-infested, mosquito-overwhelmed ghost towns (ghost towns are ghettos within ghettos) their policies have consigned us. If they are serious about tackling poverty, let all our legislators come and spend a week at Alajo. Let our president spend a few days at Sahara. Let our ministers stop pontificating and experience the wretched lives they have foisted upon us. Let our sick leaders stop rushing to London and Paris for treatment; let them go to the blood-plastered slaughterhouses they call hospital. Let them withdraw their children from their expensive schools and send them to the rickety building they call schools. Let our rulers abandon their jeeps for one week only and experience the joys of traveling in our trotros. Let those that are ruling us give the slum a try. That is all the education they need to understand poverty."

We and Them

"We don't know how we and them are going to work this out. But someone would have to pay for the innocent blood that they shed everyday." - Bob Marley.

History recorded Marie Antoinette, wife of France King Louis XIV, as admonishing the poor for not eating cake in the absence of bread. Methink historians were too harsh on the poor woman. With a thousand-man strong cooking department, ever ready to whip up dazzling gastronomic effects for her, we should comprehend Marie Antoinette's inability to comprehend why Human Beings should riot over mere (for her) bread.

If, as I have written elsewhere, I have difficulties understanding human beings, rich men always flummoxed me.

In the month of June 1996, with all seriousness, top guns from across the globe gathered in Geneva (oh, God!) for a conference on the world's poor. The irony will not be lost on anyone who knows that Geneva is among the most expensive cities in the world. Doesn't it bordered on the laughable to be talking about poverty in the midst of the sickening opulence of Geneva!

'The UN secretary-general' shook hand with the world's poor.' The radios informed us. Big deal. Roll out the drums in celebration.

What do they take us for? That we are poor doesn't mean that our senses should be so insulted. We may be poor, but we are human beings too. They may know it not, but we are also endowed with human emotions. Why should they expect us to be gratified by the touch of the flesh of the world's top civil-servant? Would that handshake put bread on our tables or satiate our pang of hunger? Or would it help improving our roaches-infested, mosquito-plagued, rats and mice-overwhelmed hovels we call home? Rich men are you mocking us!

Are they serious when they dressed in their designer-suits, model-shoes and custom-made watches and dance to the beats of their own drums? We can count too. The last time I check, a ticket to Zurich cost a little under two million cedis. Let's assume that our delegates are fasting and that they sleep in telephone booths and walk to the conference hall and forgo their estacode. Are we so rich that we could throw away two million cedis to go to Geneva to discuss poverty? Can't we go to Alajo or to Asylum-down?

Oh, mockingbirds! Do we need rich men to talk about the plight of poor souls? Poverty is relative, isn't it? WE are poor because THEY are rich, ain't that so? Their opulence is directly linked with our destitution, let us tell the truth.

Their greediness is the cause of our wretchedness. We are poor not because there are not enough resources to go around, but because some people are getting more than their fair share of the national cake. Now, giddy by their newfound wealth, they can mock us and we are too poor and too weak to do anything about it! Would it not assault the senses if poor people should hold a conference to solve the problems of cash-gushers? Would our bottomless-pits not feel affronted should poor mortals have the effrontery to gather to talk about them? Won't they send their police, army, and navy and air force to disperse us military alacrity for such treasonable, felonious offence?

Oh, deriders, do we need a conference to know that poverty is not good? If it isn't good for them, it certainly is not good for us? What is there to ponder about? What is there to require the presence of a UN secretary-general?

All these bring us to the conversation I had with Yaw (he's my best friend, remember?) last Saturday. It took place at our new favorite spot, Burkina Faso. I have managed to swindle another half a bottle of akpeteshi from the owners on the pretext of awaiting some cash pretty real soon. My debt is ballooning and becoming, according to them, gargantuan. I heard that they've started referring to me as 'Brazil,' - behind my back, of course.

These fellas should understand that these are hard times. There are always plenty of days left at the end of the money. I have no way of earning income until pay-day - yes, I still work for Alhaji. Woe betides the worker that asks Alhaji for salary-advancement.

With half the bottle of akpeteshi in our bellies, we were well lubricated enough to start discussing serious affairs. One discussion led to the other and we finally ended up discussing the relationship between rich and poor men.

On why poor people drink: The well-heeled always seems baffled on why we poor people drink so much. Am I missing something? Does it really require a Nobel-caliber intelligence to know why poor drink inordinate amount of booze? They may know it not, but we are human too. They may be ignorant of it, but we are shamed by our lowly existence. It may not occur to them, but we are not happy with our miserable lives. It may not occur to them, but we want nothing but to flee our wretched environment, if only for a few moment of drunkenness.

The truth is that we drink ourselves silly because we hate our poverty! What else is there for us to do? Of course, we know the harm we're doing to our bodies - you need not tell us, professor doctor, thank you. If they don't care about our body, why are they worrying about our livers. Yes, we're destroying our livers only because our body is already destroyed. Malnourishment has seen to it that I weigh less than a third of a healthy being of my age. Lack of vitamins has ensured that my skin has the texture of that of an octogenarian. My eyes are hollowed like that of a cadaver. I suffer from uncountable ailment but lack the money to treat any of them since SAP ordained that our hospital operate a 'cash and carry' policy. Yet, they are worrying about my liver

Methinks that our money-bags should really be thankful that we drink so much. It baffles me that they are ignorant (with all their Oxford and Harvard degrees) of the psychological role drink is playing in maintaining the status quo. I wonder why the truth is escaping them that a drunk can't a revolutionary make. They are getting away with their crimes against us because akpeteshi is proving the great emollient. With plenty akpeteshi in the stomach, we can forget anything.

The rich, if they know what is really good for them, should really be waxing lyrical about the great drink. At least, in drinking ourselves silly, we are attacking ourselves, and not them. What are they complaining about? If we stop drinking today, the chances are great that we will turn to be what they won't like us to be. Only a sober mind can harbour dangerous thoughts. Our faculties are too dulled for us to be any threat to them. Yet, they are complaining. Will they ever be satisfied?

If we stop drinking, we will pose serious threat to the status quo. That is not good for anybody, is it?

On over-population: They don't know why, in the words of one of them, why we are breeding so fast. They are even referring to us now in zoological terms - Animals breed; human beings give birth. Since we do not figure in their definition of human beings, let's pardon them. They really don't know why we're breeding!

Let's asked some questions. Cash-oozers, what do you really want us do? Since your economics experimentations have taken our means of livelihood away, we have been consigned into hopeless existence. There is no job for us. We are endowed with brains and muscles so we know how much we could contribute to our society. No, the gospel of market forces has ordained that we must not be allow to work so that the economy can expand. Our children are out of schools so that we can realise our Vision 2020, or is it Hallucination 2020? What's a healthy man to do waking up everyday without anything to occupy his mind and hands and muscles? What can we do but grab our wives and ...? You know the rest of the story.

They refused to build any form of recreation for us ghetto-dwellers. There is no library of any kind and no sporting facility of any description in our ghettoes, yet they are complaining. They never fathom us into any of their budgeting or their annual planning. Year in year out, billions are being budgeted to, they say, ameliorate our suffering, yet we remain in our wretched existence!

The answer to me is simple. These Politricians (sic) campaign on the premise that they want to serve their people. If that were so, how do they come to be lording over them? If the leaders are serious, why don't they make the following amendments in the constitution:

That no Official of any of the branches of government or of their organs thereof shall operate a foreign bank account. I believe that if our leaders are constitutionally obliged to keep their monies (looted or legally earned) in our banks, they will move heaven and earth to shore up our fast sinking currency and do something about our inflation-ridden economy.

That no Official of any of the branches of government or of their organs thereof shall travel outside for the purposes of medical care. Our hospital have become glorified dispensary because those ruling us know that at the slightest hint of health problem, they can rush to Europe or the U.S.A to get treatment. If our leaders are forced to go to the same hospitals we go, they will be forced to do something about our collapsing (collapsed?) health-care system.

That no Official of any of the branches of government or of their organs thereof shall send his children to a school outside the country. I believe that it is highly immoral that those at the helm of our affairs and saw to the collapse of our educational system should think nothing of abandoning the ship they have ran aground.

Race First!

I met total pandemonium when I returned from work today. Women were crying and wailing and throwing themselves on the ground, the way only African women know how to cry and wail and throw themselves on the ground. Some of the older women were fainting. The men gathered in small clusters, their countenances serious and foreboding. Many of them were drunk and the vacant, zombie-like expression on their faces gave an inkling of their state of stupor. The drunkest among them were hitting their heads against any solid material and tearing off their hair. I was alarmed. I raced as fast as my hunger- ravaged body would carry me. I emerged panting like an asthmatic patient. A neighbor held me long enough for me to catch my breath and told me that Dela, Yaw's eldest daughter, had been knocked down and killed by a speeding car. Yaw is my best friend, remember?

No, it was not a 'hit and run' affair. That's the car over there. Yes, the red Ferrari, gleaming like it'd just came out of production line. And that's the driver over there, the neighbor pointed out. Yes, the beefy, fat-necked, pot-bellied Lebanese, chewing gum and looking so unconcerned. If I'd accidentally killed a chicken, I'll show more emotion than the Arab who had just killed my best friend's daughter was displaying. And why is he holding a pistol like they do in gangster's movies? The neighbor explained that he came out of the car with the gun already in his hand, apparently to warn the people against entertaining any funny idea. Dela, the neighbor continued, was still breathing some life when they got to her, but the Arab refused her space in his car. "Obroni's car was more precious to him than the life of Dela," the neighbor broke down, cried and wiped tears from his eyes.

"Find a taxi." The murderer instructed the people, they told me. How do you find a taxi for an emergency in a ghetto where the only rickety jalopy plies once in about an hour. The wailing continued unabated. Many of the women were crying and rolling themselves on the newly-laid asphalt and many more were shouting abuses in glossolalia. And who's that black girl holding the Arab as though her life depended on his body heat? At least woman instincts should move her to display more emotion than her apathetic companion. Her mascaraed face was rolling over the whole 'show' as though she couldn't comprehend what the hullabaloo is all about.

So, Dela, the daughter I never had was dead. She's like a daughter to me - Yaw's children are like mine, even if I'm too poor to shower them with gifts. Dela is (was, O God!) a pretty thirteen year old princess. I call(ed) her princess and she was my god-daughter. Pretty and comely as they'll ever come. She's been killed!

My neighbor told me the circumstances under which she had lost her life. Her mother, Yaw's eldest wife, sent her daughter to buy some gari so that they can soak it, add twenty cedis groundnut and have their first meal of the day. She'd to cross the new road. The devil also put a speeding car on the road at the same time. My neighbor vowed that the car must be going about two hundred miles (let's divide that by two) and that the driver was holding and speaking on a Mobile phone while a trollop was hanging on his neck. Many people vowed, on their honor, that, on coming out, they saw the Arab zipping his pants, implying that the lady must have been doing something to his manhood (perhaps fellating him), in a car traveling at hundred miles with the driver speaking on a phone! Dela was a victim of our new noveaux rich! Dela breathed her last on the road, close to her father's leaking shack. She was still holding dear to the gari, as if to ensure that her family only meal in the day was not snuffed out like her life.

I asked to be taken to see the body. I don't like dead bodies. I don't know if I am too much of a coward, or if my constitution is just not favorably disposed to inorganic anatomies, but there is no way I could avoid saying my tearful bye-bye to my god-daughter. The body was wrapped in a cloth that must have been white - Dela's blood had soaked it. Seeing the little girl smashed head, I promptly fainted. Concerned neighbor rushed me to the only Pharmacy in our ghost-town (a ghost-town is a ghetto within a ghetto).

None of my neighbors is rich enough to pay the five thousand cedis 'consultancy' fee. What is there to consult on a man who fainted from shock? They found one hundred and fifty cedis in my pocket. With that they bought some paracetamol and forced about six down my throat. Another concerned neighbor rushed for his half-drunk akpeteshi bottle. He threw about half of it down my throat. I bleated like a goat and came to. I have suddenly become the new object of concern. "I am fine, thanks." I said and staggered to my feet. When my drowsy, (and now drugged and drunk,) mental faculties remembered Dela, my tear-duct gave way - I soon joined the women and started shrieking like a banshee.

Life in our ghetto is hard enough to live already without an Arab coming to snuff out the lives of our little ones. No one among us own a bicycle; the road was tarred to link the two posh suburbs between which our slum was sandwiched. Why do they have to drive so fast? Are they afraid that we're going to waylay, molest or kill them? No, we are too busy minding our own business. We begrudge no one not.

Aha, there come the law and order men, now. There were two of them. Their famished appearance did not inspire much authority, though. One held a rickety AK-47, the other carried a baton. Government's agents are bound to take charge of things. The Lebanese did not appeared awed by their arrival. At the approach of the police men, some of the women gained enough confidence to moved closer to the car, some of them started rolling on its fine exterior. The Lebanese got furious, "Hey, Hey, don't come near my car." He bellowed with contempt. He took out a kerchief and started wiping the places where the women touched as though their very hands had defiled his altar. Slapping one of the policemen on the back, his tyrant's voice bellowed, "Hey, are you not going to do anything. You're allowing the monkeys to destroy my car, ehn?" And this is 1997 Africa!

The older, more fragile policeman took a combat position, charging the women with his baton. There were howls of pain as the stick impacted skulls, bones and buttocks. The younger policeman, cradling his AK-47 like a toy, busied himself admiring the expensive car. He touched, felt and smelt it. Giddy with admiration, there's little doubt that he'd have kissed the car if asked to. The Lebanese seems to like it he smiled condescendingly. Satisfied with a job well- done, the Lebanese called the older policeman into his car. Few minutes later, they emerged. A satiated smile was dancing on the beast's face. The policemen didn't even make any attempt to disarm the murderer!

Our chief, (yes, there's a chief even in our ghost-town,) took unsteady steps towards the older policeman, "Aban.," He began but cut short by a savage outburst, "Get back, get back. Who asked you to open your bloody civilian mouth?" Baton flipped in the air and made impact. Our chief was snuffed out like a cheap candle. There was more wailing as people rushed to revive him.

Satisfied with his conduct, the older policeman took out his charge-sheet, "You, you, you," he bellowed pointing to three of my neighbors, "Come and give your statement." The men were stupefied. There was profound fear written on their faces.

I couldn't take it no longer, "What are you charging them for?" I cried out. A baton made contact with my skull and my legs gave way. I was added to the list. We were charged with affray; insulting and attacking a policeman conducting his official duties; threatening misbehavior; destruction of property; general incitement; incitement to riot; constituting general public nuisance; breach of public order and we were frog-marched to the police station.

It could true that we need foreign capital and expertise to develop our 'under- developed' economy, but would someone kindly tell me what expertise and what capital can we gain from a stateless people like the Lebanese? Where in the world has Lebanese capital and expertise developed anything? What can we learn from a people whose own country has been torn apart by tribal and religious strife? Charity, they say, begins at home. If Lebanese are capable of developing anything, shouldn't we expect them to develop their own country first.

So in the name of 'development,' we've turn ourselves into a groveling dog to be raped by any jackal from Euro-America, Asia and Arabia! Because we have so little respect for ourselves, we allow the Euro-Americans, Asians and Arabs to come, mess up our economies and scandalously mess up our women. Go to any beach in our land, what sight beholds us except foreign pot-bellied grand- daddies messing up our daughters.

Oh, they're paying them. With our money, they are paying to rape our daughters and saddle us with the health bills! Let the truth be told, how many Euro- Americans, Asians, Arabs came to our land with their own money?

Because we have surrender our sovereign power to foreigners, they can come and do whatever they like to us. We are too weak to protest - if even we care, that is. We are cowed by the presence of the 'Masters.' How many patriots are writing, singing, painting (doing anything) to denounce this second enslavement of the Black race?

If Lebanese are here to help develop our economy why are they establishing only hotels and fast-food joints, or is there a single Lebanese factory anywhere in this land? Do we need Lebanese to sell us Korean dog-chains, Indonesian mosquito coils or Indian matches, as we see them do in their retail shops that dotted our lands? Mention any shady business, you'll find them there. Let's face reality, these guys are blood-sucking vampires; economic parasites feeding on the weak and the gullible. They will buy foreign exchange at any price -what do they care if our currency becomes worthless in the process?

Yes, they are Africans too. Their fathers and mothers were born here, they will tell you. Hybrid, that's what they are. At the sight or smell of impending trouble, they always align themselves with their Indo-European brethren. They are instantly transform into foreigners as happened recently in unfortunate Liberia (their role in starting and sustaining the tragedy in that country is well- documented). Yes, they always keep a foreign, preferably a European passport, for emergencies like that. Since their 'investments' are always minimal, they have little to lose if they fled our shores.

Since the Cambyses and the Hyskos, destroyed our original civilization in Egypt, the Indo-Europeans have had us on the run. They've being destroying all that we build. The 1440s were just another chapter in the long history of the destruction of the Black civilization. When the catholic pontiffs divined that the enslavement of Africans was in the service of God, slave ships descended on Africa like a swarm of locust. One hundred million Africans (our best and brightest) were uprooted to build the wealth of their 'New World.' Three-quarter of the numbers (about seventy-five million) lost their lives in the so-called middle-passage. We have hardly recovered from that catastrophe when the long-nosed jackals sat at a conference in Berlin to sunder our societies. Fine geometric patterns were drawn and called 'countries,' to satisfy the imperial caprices of Europeans. Let no one tell me about any holocaust. Let no one insult me with a cry of the 'greatest crime against humanity.' At least, 'they' get their compensation and their apologies. The colossal crimes against Africa remained unrequited until today. No one has deemed it fit to apologize to us. We lay prostrate and everyone is trampling upon our prone bodies.

Oh, yeah, they were on a civilizing mission. We're the objects of scorn because we do not learn our history. When a Roman General got to the Anglos, he was so appalled by the savagery of the people that he doubted if he could make a successful slaves of them. There were empires in Africa then. The Anglos are what we call British today. When our fathers were building empires, the Anglos still thought that bathroom were satanic devices! Today, they are going around the world, glorifying themselves as the pioneers of civilization. I do not write this to deride the British; history is my witness. Their scholarship\leadership would want us accept that they are 'developed,' 'First-world,' while we are 'underdeveloped,' and belong in the 'Third-World.' Our humiliation is complete because we use their terms without even feeling a pain!

It is time we start asking for a New\Fair deal. How do we get into the position whereby we are poor while the foreigners are having all the money? The land is ours, so are the resources underneath! We have the gold, the oil, the diamond, the ores, and the timbers. They are supposed to be buying our products. How do we end up being indebted to them? My questions are simple because, no thanks to my ill-education, I am simple-minded. What type of hanky-panky is going on that we end up being debtors to whom we are selling our precious resources?

Yes, they are meeting to relieve our debt burden. Each and every time they come out of their 'Paris Club,' 'Group of 7,' 'IMF,' 'World Bank,' meetings, our debts are ballooning! We are said to be owing US$300+ billion. Where in Africa do we find projects worth this amount or are we to believe that Babangida, Mobutu Sese Seko, Eyadema's corruption have consumed this staggering amount?

How did we end up owing this money? How much did we borrow and how much have we paid back? In demanding their pound of flesh, the shylocks have a on grip on our throats, suffocating the little life left in us. Our hospitals have become glorified dispensaries. Our education system have collapsed. We have created two economically-unproductive classes (the mass of poor illiterates are too weak to be economically useful to our societies; the new noveaux rich class are into speculation and not production.) Economic orthodoxy dictated by Adam Smith Fundamentalists has wiped out our middle class - the only class capable of lifting a society out of economic morass. Market Forces Economists have succeeded in creating an entirely new species of sapiens - IMF SAPIENS

We cannot do anything. Our very lives have been SAPed out of us. We gave no trouble to no one. We no longer even bother to protest. God is up there and he'll intervene on behalf of his children - we only have to re-double our prayers - more candles, please. We stay in our ghettoes, our ghost-towns, where our economic means dictated that we stay. We wake up in our wretched existence, eke out a living from our SAP-induced woebegone world. Drink ourselves silly to mask our miserable reality. We live (pardon me, exist) just for today. We have lost the most important reason to live - HOPE. What's there to live for without hope.

Yet, we keep drawing breath - until that's subjected to the regulations of market- forces! And now, they have to chase us into our hell and snuffed the lives out of our kids, and we are powerless to do anything. We cannot even mourn the way only poor people can mourn - by wailing, shrieking because the rich cannot stand the sight and the sound of our sadness. Baton and AK-47s are used to protect the criminal that terminated the lives of our daughters! We, the victims, are the very ones the agents of 'law-and-order' are maltreating.

Oh, Ancestors, are you up there? Wake up! Look at the mess your children have made of their lives! The oppressors came, they raped, exterminated, pillaged. It took the AK-47s of Neto, Cabral, Kimathi, Machel and the mighty pens of Nkrumah and Azikwe to get the imperialists off our back. They are back. Oh, ancestors, they are back. Once gain, they have successfully taken over the management of our affairs. Or what in our land belong to us today? Our oil fields, our gold and copper and diamond mines have been given back to the rogues. We do not produce what we eat - market forces dictate that we have to import British mad cow. We do not eat what we waste our labor producing - SAP has ordained that we must only produce for exports. We control nothing. Yet, we are happy - We have a flag to show for our independence and museum pieces for our 'armed forces' to march and celebrate our sham freedom. When we die is even controlled by the MASTERS! They can give enough money to one of our ex- convicts to start a 'civil war' in our land - a la Liberia

The Holy Books say "Love your neighbors, like yourself." That's all that was asked for us. No one told us to love our neighbors more than ourselves. Why is it that those we invited to dinner are having the center table and eating the rare- ribs while we are on the floor eating the crumbs! Why are those we invited to sleep sleeping on the bed, while we are on the floor! Or, fellow patriot, when was the last time you saw a starving Euro-American, Asian or Arab on our street? Does anyone of them live in any of our numerous ghettoes? How do Africans always manage to end up in a lose-lose situation? Time for some soul-searching, patriots!

In Poll We Trust

This was written some years back

The humbled, almost pathetic, picture cut by President Clinton, was unlike anything I've associated the President of the United States of America with the world's most powerful figure. Hair disheveled, eyes bloated as though from lack of adequate sleep. His body was shaking palpably, like an escapee from the dungeon of a refugee camp. I even detected something like a three-day old shrub on the normally cherubic chin. What had happened to the holder of the most powerful office in the world?

I placed a call to the USIS office. The Information Officer was out of town. Luckily though, his deputy, MacBoeing Donald, was willing to help with my inquiries. I described my anxieties to him and was baffled when he answered with chuckles.

"What do you find so funny, you a Republican?"

"No, I am apolitical. But I assume that you're not an American citizen. Your accent, I should add, is a dead give-away. If you don't mind, I will place around that geographic hocus-pocus they call Nigeria, am I right?" He was still guffawing.

"I don't see the funny side of the story, Mr. Boeing. What are you guys, a bunch of blood-thirsty maniacs? Why would Americans delight in seeing their president looking dejected?"

"It's MacBoeing, or Mr. Donald if you wish. Americans love to see their president like a strong, almost god-like figure. They've got either the stomach nor sympathy for a whimpering, cringing bum - like the leader of some banana republic. Americans cannot stand wimps. That's the beauty of the American System, and that's why our system is so appealing to the rest of the world."

"How could they expect him to appear god-like when they keep throwing distracting statistics at him?"

"You do not appear to see the logic, eh. eh!"

"I don't see the logic in a system which democratically elected a man to office, yet within five years reduced him to shreds, by the constant bombardment of conflicting opinion polls, and still yet expect him to appear god-like."

Mr. Donald released a series of laughter. "You're missing the big picture. Mr. ...( I can't cut that name, pardon me.) The majestic of the American system is that those in government have to take into account the opinion of those who are governed. Now, you and I know that this opinion is best expressed in free polls."

"But don't you see that the guy has just been elected to a second time. Why don't you, guys, give him a break - till, say, the end of his term. He has but a few more years to go into retirement. He cannot contest elections again. But now, polls are suggesting that over 72.012% American think that he's doing a bad job. That is enough to drive any sane man crazy. The guy has been reduced to tatters."

Mr. Donald finds this assertion funny. "See," he bellowed with hilarity, "Americans have to constantly remind their leaders who sent them to office in the first place. Everyone has to be given a chance to have some input into the system. I guess that the cabal of klepto-feudal-military reprobate oligarchy mis-ruling your country do not care for such democratic niceties. But Americans, God bless them, would settle for nothing less. According to a study by the Kennedy School of Government conducted early this year, 97.986% of Americans agreed that they have the best political system in the world. That is with an error margin of plus or minus three percent. See what I mean?" Mr. Donald was beside himself with laughter.

"I see what you mean, but the same poll said that 98.345% thought that the American political system is corrupt beyond redemption. A MORI poll of the same week said that 95.234% of Americans said that the Presidency is unwieldy, while in a TIME-CNN poll, 96.567% thought Congress is crooked beyond reformation. A Gallup poll of the previous week found a staggering 99.8% of Americans opining that your judiciary is a huge, albeit expensive, joke that serves the interests of only the well-heeled. What do you say?"

"Now," Mr. Donald laughed, "You're getting the picture. No system is perfect, but every single member of a society should have a say in how it's governed. Only in American is this done."

"Actually, I call to express my concern for the health of the President of the United States. Is it too difficult for you Americans to see that your president is human, after all? There was a poll in the MILWAUKEE DESPATCH last week that says that 97.53% of members of the Milwaukee Farmers Association were against the sale of Fiber-Optic Technology to China. Now, now, how could the president of the world's only superpower be expected to take such ponderous geo-political and geo-strategic decisions, hamstrung by members of a farmer's union in a backwater state?"

"That's not fair, Mr. ... (I still cannot get the hang on that name of yours), you have taken that poll completely out of context. You seem to have, shall we say conveniently, forgotten that President Clinton was the first DEMOCRAT to come along in a very, very long time. Those farmers are solid, born-again Republicans. They changed their minds to give the DEMOCRAT a shot at the most important post in the world. President Clinton, any president, owe it to them to, at least, listen to what they have to say."

"What do farmers know about fibre-optic technologies?"

"Enough to construct informed opinion. China is a backward, communist country rule by regenerate Bolsheviks. It is a country with more people than food to feed them. America is the leading, most technologically-advanced, most politically-sophisticated in the world. The farmers were asked if America should help China with FO technologies and, of course, like most true-blooded American patriot, they said NO."

I was flabbergasted with the logic. "I am beginning to see the picture. But how do you explain the poll in the Minnesotan daily, TWIN-CITY ECHO, which suggested that 98.897% of the respondents to their poll think that president Clinton is doing a bad job in his handling of American-Vanuatu relationship. What's this relationship? Where is Vanuatu?"

"Are you asking me? I am a diplomat, not a geographer. Actually, Mr. ... (forget it!) I don't understand your cynicism. We've got the best system in the wold, even our adversaries recognized this. Why do you think that the Soviet Union imploded?"

"I am very sorry you feel that way. I have nothing against your system. But I was just wondering why Americans cannot make life a little easier for your elected officials..."

Mr. Donald interrupted me, " Yeah, how?" His voice registered great impatience.

"How about setting up a Presidential Poll Advisory Board to advise your president on opinion polls. The board would be responsible for distilling the mish-mash polls into something more coherent (and, hopefully, palatable) for the president. It will not, in my opinion, diminish your country's democratic ideals, and your presidents will stop looking like the wrath of the gods. ..."

Mr Donald interrupted again, "Hey, Mr. ... Something just come up. I'll be in touch."

Live and Let's Die

Did you ask if I believe in miracles? I don't need to believe in miracles; I am a miracle. I epitomized, encapsulate and synopsized miracles. I am THE miracle.

I have been nothing but miracle all my life. I am on the wrong side of thirty and each day of those long years have been lived miraculously. Take my personal finances for example: My Savings account - the loose changes in my pockets - consist of three hundred and twenty cedis. My Current account balance - the capital I hid away under the mat, tins and wall openings in the shack I live - amounted to a whopping six hundred and seventy cedis. All in all, I am worth almost one thousand cedis! Praise be to Allah for his everlasting showers of blessings.

It is not that I don't hold a job or that I'm lazy. No. I suffer from various ailment, but laziness is certainly not one of them. I work as a general-factotum for Alhaji. I think that his real name is Alidu or something. But Alhaji is far too big for me to worry about his real name. He is Alhaji to me and that's that. He has money like no man's business. In Nigeria, they will call him a 'deep-pocket.' He has his hand in every business you care to name. Building Contracting, Business Consultancy, etc, etc.

Wheeling and Dealing is however Alhaji's real passion. He has irons in several fires. He oozes money and it shows. No one messes up with Alhaji - he is as big as they come. Fleet of cars adorned his plenty, elegant bungalows. Alhaji has bequeathed uncountable mosques to thank Allah for his huge kindness. His religion allows one to marry as many wives as one can support, Alhaji can support many, so his wives are numerous and his children are multitudinous. I doubt if Alhaji knows the difference between illicit and legitimate businesses and it's equally doubtful if he cares. Many a times I saw top police officers go into Alhaji's office frowning, but they always emerged smiling like a virgin on her first date.

It would be difficult to give my job description; that explains why I called myself Alhaji's factotum. I am a sort of major-domo. I am a driver when Alhaji say so. I'm transformed into a petrol attendant when Alhaji gives his command - he has numerous petrol stations - I heard rumors that they are sometimes supplied by illegal refineries. I become a gardener whenever Alhaji wanted me to become one. A nanny, messenger or a shepherd-boy when it fancies Alhaji. Alhaji controls me like the Lords controlled their serfs in medieval times. It is sometimes difficult for me to know whether or not Alhaji knows the difference between those of us who work for him and the cattle we keep for him. For all my troubles, my take home pay is ten thousand cedis a month. You are laughing. Why? Alhaji considers himself a generous man. Every pay day is important to him. At least, Alhaji pays what he promised. Most of my friends, whose jobs have not been wiped out by market forces, complain to me about how their bosses perform 'hide-and-seek' when it is pay time. Alhaji is far too big to mind petty, petty things and do such things. He never deducts from what he promised to pay us. He's a man of God who doesn't break his words. Every Friday a fat cow is dragged from Alhaji's ranch near Dome. The beast is slaughtered to appease Allah and entreat him for more bounties. Of course, ordinary mortals like me are not to partake in the merry-making. I never will understand human beings, especially rich mortals. Rich men pay their workers starvation wages and lavish their loot on PR!

What do you do in modern Ghana with ten thousand, you're sneering. At my level of the poverty divide, plenty, I'll answer you. Renting a room? You can forget it. I live in a shack sandwiched between two uncompleted buildings. My shack has been well graffitied by AMA quit notices - someone should take these guys to court for wasting public money on useless paints.

The shack belongs to a kind Ewe lady who used to sell fried yam and fish and shito. My beneficiary married early - a gun-designer took advantage of her good looks when she was still in School. A baby boy was the product of their illicit liaison. Her family promptly disowned her. Hubby number one joined Auntie Gloria to his growing harem and the boy to his numerous (actually, uncountable) children.

Therefore, she didn't finish her education. The man finds it beneath his contempt for his wives to work. His business was booming and 'chop' money was no problem, so none of the wives was allowed to learn a trade. They exist only to satisfy the copious sexual caprices of their husband. Nothing good last forever, though. Husband number one died suddenly one bright afternoon. His family suspected the wives of demonolatry and drove all of them out with their children. Witchcraft was blamed for the death of a young man, with fourteen wives and countless concubines, who drank a full bottle of gin a day, and worked sixteen hours every blessed day. When they cut him up for the autopsy, they found a liver bigger than a house.

Auntie Gloria, a victim of superstitious, took her victimization in good stead. She moved to Accra to join a cousin who sells THINGS at Kaneshie. An uncle (they were just from the same village) who works as a freelance mason helped rescued some planks from his places of work and slapped them together to make a shack for Auntie Gloria, to sell fried yam and fish and shito. He was rewarded for his gallant efforts. Baby number two was not long in coming. He was married and since his religion frowned on polygamy (but obviously not on adultery), he only comes now and then to 'chop' Auntie Gloria small small.

Auntie Gloria belongs to that special class of African women. Those redoubtable, indefatigable and eternally optimistic ladies, who believe that they could triumph against all odds. Five husbands have deserted Auntie Glory due to no fault of hers. Other people would have let that get them down. But, not Auntie Gloria. She remains hopeful: 'As long as there's God in heaven, I'll find my true love.' She used to tell me.

Auntie Gloria is religious. She has belonged, one time or the other, to all the major sects in Accra and a host of the minor ones. Her third husband's mother was a prophetess who sees visions and held direct communication with HIM all the time. HE must have frowned upon the marriage as the prophetess took a special disliking to Auntie Gloria. To counter her machinations, Auntie Gloria changed churches. Her new pastor is a young, sartorially competent man who speaks with an American slang and carries himself with the elegance and grace of angels of heavens. He divined Auntie Gloria's problem. Only Atlantic water from Fetteh Gomoa could cure it. Auntie Gloria was desperate. She wasted no time in fetching the water. She was bathed in it. Her clothes were washed with it and her room (oops, shack) sprinkled with the blessed Holy Water. It was Spiritual power versus Spiritual power. The impartial Father in heaven must have sided the prophetess; Auntie Gloria lost husband number three. She also lost numbers four and five.

To double her insurance policy, Auntie Gloria doesn't rely exclusively on the Christians alone, she also dabbles in juju given to her by the numerous traditional spiritualists she consults regularly.

How did I know? It happened when husband number five came to 'shake' my favorite aunt. Within a twinkle of an eye, Auntie Gloria removed and threw away her wrapper. From her voluptuous waist she produced the most ferocious-looking olode (talisman) I ever saw in my life apart from the one the Alhaji wrap around his waist. She untied the thing and muttered some incantations. Seeing the leathery tali, hubby number five uttered some inanities, his legs already in motion working like well-oiled pistons. He didn't stop running until he reached his abode at Dansoman.

I believe that the importers of our alien faiths - Christianity and Islam - should not crow: No matter our outward postures, Africans are still traditionalists at heart.

Auntie Gloria remains an enigma to me, as are most ladies. What does she see in THEM? She's a capable woman who could look after herself. Why then does she allow THEM to mess up her life - she has nine children to show for her troubles? Psychologists should investigate these phenomenons.

Anyway, I'm running ahead of my story. Auntie Gloria lives with her nine children in her one room. Few months down, she was engaged by a big fish-dealing woman to help sell fish in Accra. She knew my predicament and offered to help. I could use the shack on the condition that I shall vacate it as soon as she gives the world. I bought a full bottle to celebrate my good fortune. Yaw came with another bottle. Yaw? He's my best friend. We rounded up a host of friends and had a ball as only poverty-ridden people know how have balls.

How do I manage on ten thousand cedis, you're wondering. I just narrated how I got a free accommodation, courtesy of Auntie Gloria. The Frafra girl Alhaji employed as cook throws some food in my direction whenever Alhaji is not around to see her felonious act. We are too scared to contemplate what will happen if he should find us out. No one works for Alhaji who's not scared of him. I 'chopped' the girl a few days after she's engaged and free food was her way of saying thank you to me. She's a greenhorn from 'up country' glad to be 'noticed' by a civilized Accra guy like me. I am also giving it to the Bankwu seller around my shack. Her husband works at Tema and by sheer good-luck (bad-luck to him), he's a five-to- eighter. He goes to work at five in the evening and comes back home around eight the following morning. The woman caught me in a compromising position one day. She took pity on me and took charge of things since then we've been having regular trysts.

We poor people have to give big hallelujah to our father in heaven for the blessings of our women. They are the kindest creatures on earth. No matter your level of poverty, you'll find a woman to take pity on you. I not only get free sex; I also get free Bankwu to keep the muscles in shape. Therefore, we have to remove sexual- expenses from my imprest account. I live about five kilometers from Alhaji's headquarters. So, I walked and sometimes ran to work every day. It was too long time ago I took a transport on my own volition. Whenever Alhaji sends me on errand, he either give transport money or allow me the use of one of his wagons if I have to carry a heavy load. We can safely move transportation cost out of the way. My wife left me long time ago. She cast a disdainful look at my face one early morning. It was a Sunday. I didn't know how I got home the previous night. I had gone out with Yaw and the result is always predictable: dead drunk. She shook me rudely and woke me from a drunken sleep. My rheumy, drunken eyes roamed her pretty face - she's pretty, my wife. I saw some bundles on the floor. "What are those things doing there?" I inquired. Without raising her voice, she ended our marriage with the following declaration: "I am going away, taking Thommy with me. You're a dirt of a husband." With that she walked out. I was weakened. I wish she could have fought me. Her calm voice and composure deflated me. The words lashed at my heart, wounding me. It took several hours for the true import of her words and departure to registered. We, thus, have to remove family allowances from my expenditure.

No, I am not blaming her. I blame myself. She did and tried her best to hold our marriage together. I was just a good-for-nothing husband. I cannot remember the last time I gave her money for food. I cannot buy her cloth because the last time I bought a common singlet for myself was about seven years ago. Shoes are out of the question. I have only one - a service-boot - courtesy of Alhaji, God protect his sandals. I've worked for Alhaji for eight years, and he's given me boots twice. "Use am for work, ehn." He bellowed like a Biblical patriarch. He meant that they are strictly working boots not meant for my socializing.

I missed my little boy, Thommy. By what right did I call him my 'little boy?' He also must think of me as a dirt of a father. After all, he didn't ask me to bring him into my poverty-ridden life. I felt sorry for him. Seeing him in his tattered rags, I sometimes feel like crying. Seeing the smartly-dressed children of other mortals, I felt certain that my Thommy must be cursing his good-for-nothing father who cannot provide him with decent raiment. I don't even remember his date of birth, not to mention organizing a party for him. He must be seven or eight or nine. I heard that his mother took him to her aunt in the Volta Region. I hope that my boy is fine.

I am not complaining too much even if it sounds like that to you. I have plenty to thank Allah for. At least, I have a job for eight years even if I am still on the same salary. Yaw, my friend, has not had a job since he was thrown out of his ministry job six years ago when SAP demanded that the civil service must be controlled by market forces. He has two wives and seven children and they all live in one room. The younger wife stroll at the Nkrumah Circle. She helps pay the rent and give the hubby money for the bottle so he cannot complain. This is what SAP has done to our family life!

I have mentioned the bottle a lot of times. I am not referring to beer - no one in my position can afford to drink beer. I am referring to God's greatest gift to Ghanaian men - akpeteshi. Come to think of it, I think that it is time our government award a national honor to the first man or woman to distill our contribution to world's beverage. Where would Ghana men be without their kind women and theiakpeteshikpeteshie? I went with Alhaji to a supermarket recently. Out of curiosity and boredom, I checked the price tags. I couldn't believe my eyes. Is it true that in our Ghana, men pay six-figure for a bottle of drink! That's more than ten times the money I earn in a whole month. I need one of their super-computers to calculate how many boakpeteshikpeteshie I could buy for that amount.

Another enigma, this SAP thing. Onakpeteshikpeteshie bar I frequent has a small color television. The others have black and white sets and many simply have none. I do occasionally catch our well-fed elite on the tube arguing the arcane subject they call economics. Are they talking about you and me? From the way they dress, talk, and comport themselves, those guys live in an entirely different world. However hard they try, they cannot relate to my reality. How could they? If the economy has been growing eight percent for the past five years, how did I come to be on the same salary for eight years? How could they relate to the poverty of people like myself when they are adorned in suits that cost over a million cedis? Do they know what poverty is?

Yes, I could resign. Resign and join the hordes of unemployed like my friend, Yaw. Resign and miss my Frafra girl and her nice dishes. The economy could be growing for them, but it is contracting me in the process.

SAP put a lot of fine cars on our new roads and put a lot of our children out of school. I never will understand these contradictions. As the rest of mankind are awaiting the new millenium with hope, we continue to die of CURABLE disease. Imposing buildings are springing up like mushrooms in the rainy season and they carry impressive price tags (no cedis around there, strictly dollars, thank you), yet many of our people are sleeping rough on the streets, in the markets, in the gutters, and under the bridges.

United Nations dem come get name for us Dem go call us under-developed nations We must be underdeveloped to sleep ten ten in one room First and second day dem go call us Third-World We must be Third-World to dey sleep inside dustbins Dem go call us Non-Aligned Nations We must dey craze for head to dey sleep under bridge Ordinary thing for man to enjoy for town nko, o E no dey. - Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

As you might rightly have guessed, I am ill-educated. I lost both parents when I was too young to remember. The uncle who vowed on my father's sick bed to look after me and give me a good education broke his vow as soon as my old man passed away. He did gave me some education, though - I have the imprints of his lashes to show for his brand of education. The closest I got to school was when I had to carry his children boxes to school.

Don't blame me if I appeared simple-, even feeble-minded. Don't blame me if SAP theories, Market Forces are incomprehensible to me. I just don't know why I am hungry when our economy is booming. I cannot understand why all my friends have to lose their jobs to market forces that also threw their children out of school. I don't know why our television stations have to invite fat cats to come and talk about poverty - they are not the ones feeling the pinches of grinding poverty.

If you cannot beat them, join them, they say. We are in the mess we are because most of us choose that escape route. What legacy, fellow patriots, may I ask you, are we bequeathing to posterity?

Can we go and face the ancestors and say, "Oh, Grand-pa, Father, I messed up big time!"

No, I won't join them. I prefer to remain in my poverty, carry my anger like an ugly sore, and drown in my drink, rather than join the Market Economists. As long as my poverty-ravished body can vibrate, I shall continue my condemnation and denunciation. I shall not waver; I will not equivocate; neither will I prevaricate; I will not compromise; I shall never tergiversate. Patriotism and Personal-Integrity is my motto and shall continue to be my battle cry.

Where is the bottle!

Wise saying:

" Never use both feet to test the depth of the sea." - African proverb