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Nigeria is Garvey's heir; can it manage?

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, May 09, 2014    

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BY the 22nd century — based on miscegenation — Jamaica will not be a black nation, but we still need to take a keen interest in Africa.

The kidnap by Boko Haram of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the sequel is a tale of "less care", cover-up, cultural insensitivity, and incompetence. Education in Nigeria is like ours, but gets a beating. Schooling in an Arab derived-madrassa unreconstructed medieval chauvinism is the other option, as Africa has no indigenous system. This is at variance with Rolls-Royces, BMWs, and British army vehicles, AK-47s, but Boko Haram uses the innovation of the West, but embraces sixth-century mantras.

Much in Africa is mired in hypocrisy. Nigeria is superpower material, yet is the butt of corruption jokes, while Boko kidnap girls into a life of slavery. Africa's credibility is fragile; recall the 57 boys massacred last year? Aging freedom fighters live in lavish western palaces, not homes of their culture. S o the West says its culture is superior -- maybe so or maybe different? So why not live your traditional culture like tie-head Jamaicans? Yet education is also prized by modern Nigerians and they go for the best UK type.

African Kings, presidents, dictators, struggling parents sell cattle and send kids to private schools abroad. We have two centuries of an education system, even though it has not worked for the masses. Boko Haram: "Western education is sinful," oppose reading, writing for girls. I attend meetings overseas, oppose resolutions empowering girls, and explain that in Jamaica girls rule in education up to university -- they are shocked. There, from around age 12, girls who look like your daughter get married -- willingly or not-- have children, and serve men in culturally blessed unions. We call this sex slavery.

So girls are kidnapped and, after 3 weeks of filibuster by Nigeria, the USA's offer to help to find the girls is accepted. Our diaspora would murder us if we delayed like that. Nigeria is different. The belief that a leader's power is of god, however he comes by it, is backward. Here, we give power, take it back, and send politicians to pasture. I am not proud that the most powerful black nation can't handle its affairs. As I track African and British news I was expecting holy hell from Africanists here, but the kidnap did not move them. They talk Africa, tie head, robes, and kente cloth, but have no humanity -- just fashion.

Nigeria is a massive, wealthy nation of near 200 million people. I want to be proud of it. Can it be our first black nuclear power, in space, First-World class army, navy, air force; first in technology and innovation; first in rights, justice, caring and ethics; equal to the China, America, Europe, and India? Will it get there? Does it accept a role as black global leader?

On April 14 Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the school at Chibok as they were taking a CSEC-type exam. The tale is convoluted. The girls seem naïve for 15/16-years-olds, as this could not happen here without some serious drop licks, "guh fah mi madda" moves. They were carted off with cattle. The woe of parents -- mainly mothers -- the videos were moving. This nation is not in control of itself, despite a massive army. When the news reached Lagos there was politics, as Nigeria was to host the World Economic Forum. Many give the impression all is well -- not so! If African culture is different, say so. Do not pander to the West!

The media were mild until some do-gooder from Europe embedded in projects -- clean water, cottage industry, survival agriculture; "pripsed", the media in Europe said "nuff tings a gwaan". What you got in UK news you could not get in Lagos.

The USA offered drones to help find the girls, but Goodluck would not have it. Two weeks later Boko Haram's leader Abubaker Sheker announced he intended to sell the girls in the market and the European media, Al-jazeera had a feeding fenzy. I waited for the outcry here, but there is none. Where are our Africanists? The Africa freedom fighters who adorn my inbox weekly? The Rasta and Garveyite? Africa is a continent of some 52 nations and many peoples and tribes; some rich and some wrenchingly poor, but where is the African solution? Why must the UK and USA always rescue Africa? On the sixth, Abubaker Shekar captured more girls, "I abducted your girls and will sell them in the market, by Allah!" The mothers protest, but Chibok is no metropolis. The local media is lukewarm and we in the African diaspora are between shame and cynicism. "Ah suh Africa stay," while the white media carry the cause. President Jonathan is hosting a World Economic Forum conference on Wednesday (7th); this is an inconvenience. The missus denies there is kidnapping, but he now accepts USA help. Africa needs a big black god!

The African diaspora is fed up at the slow pace of the continent's growth, and poor performance on the kidnap is more grief. Why live on western products yet not support western values? Nigeria has more golf courses than Canada and more Rolls-Royces, Rolexes and Maybachs than countries in Europe, but you can still buy a virgin. Whether it embraces western stuff or African is its decision. Could a group here kidnap 50 girls and not be beaten to ribbons by decent parents? Oppression kills initiative; so does negative tradition. Is this the difference between Africans and Jamaicans? No one is better than us. We are so infatuated with freedom we even choose not to work but want cash and talk it plainly. If a nation wishes to live and be judged by African standards, may the force be with you. Leaders 'cuss' Britain, but they only wear Marks and Spencer underpants. Should they go commando? Hypocrisy is at pandemic levels. My heart is with Africa, but it disappoints. I can hardly live here with the violence and could not live where men kidnap and sell people and serious civil unrest and revolt does not ensue. Weak values, poor leadership of any colour, anywhere is an abomination.

We are fortunate as girls, boys are entitled to an education, to marry and are not sold. I am proud to be Jamaican, and I cannot stifle my conscience. Africa (generally) is not ready, and maybe we should not judge it by our standards. So, let them aver an African frame of reference, consumption and lifestyle, values and attitudes to shame the Western ones. Don't hold your breath. The saga of the abducted girls is not over. US help is there, the World Economic Forum must be underway and shame is receding. Will we do something here, or the usual hear no evil, see no evil when it comes to Africa. I am not proud of what's happening; but it is what it is. Nigeria, our great black hope, disappoints. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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