Thursday, December 2, 2010

Obama's Moral Victory

Obama's Moral Victory

Obama's star has not faded at all, contrary to some speculations, it continues to shine bright, but many viewers are deliberately wearing blinkers, and are blinded by hate and anger and cannot see that in reality, we are witnessing one of the most historic presidencies of all time. In two years, Obama has achieved more than most presidents have achieved in four years, despite having to deal with intense opposition, not only from the other party, but also from within his own.
He has passed the biggest health reform act of all time in American history to extend health coverage to millions of Americans, but the Tea Party activists and some so-called Bluedog Democrats campaigned against what they dubbed 'Obama Care'.  Well, 70% of Tea Party candidates lost in the recent midterm elections, as well as most of the Bluedog Democrats. The surprising thing is that the Tea Party losers are prancing about claiming victory and the humble Obama was forced to concede that he got a Schellacking. What Schellacking?
Obama promised to end the war in Iraq responsibly, and he is on his way to accomplishing this with over 100,000 US troops removed from harm's way; with the remaining 50,000 scheduled to leave Iraq by August 2011. This is also the time that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan would commence in earnest.  Stanley McKrystal, the military commander in Afghanistan who disagreed his Commander in Chief was wisely fired and replaced. It is an example of the African philosophy of non-violence which Obama exhibited in opposing a war of choice that America was fighting even while he was just a candidate. He went on to win the election by beating the decorated war veteran John McCain who was out of touch with the mood of the electorate.
Obama has lowered taxes for the middle class several times in his two years in office, by reducing the rates of federal tax with-holding from earnings. He has also used the stimulus package to save the American banking system and the car manufacturing industry; saving jobs while also making a profit of over $28 billion dollars on the interests from the loans.
Obama announced a plan to close Guantanamo Bay on day one, but he has been blocked by ideologues who do not want to see suspects tried in civilian courts, and jailed in conventional prisons if convicted. He has given Cuban Americans greater opportunity to remit money to their families in Cuba, and to visit them without undue restriction. He has reached out to Muslims to open dialogues and offer intellectual and moral leadership rather than the threat of force alone. Obama has helped many Americans to save their homes or to buy a home with the $8,000 tax credit to new home buyers, and he has increased the grants to those who want to go to university to improve their skills.
The reason why many Americans are angry with Obama is because he inherited the biggest economic mess since the Great Depression, and many have amnesia of the fact that this mess was created by the Republicans over eight years, turning record surpluses into record deficits by giving huge tax cuts to the richest 2% of the population, and by waging a wasteful war of choice.
Now that Obama has pushed the American family car out from the deep ditch into which the reckless Republicans plunged it, they swagger back and ask to be given the key again. He is right to tell them to get in the passenger seat because it is obvious that, as one West Indian calypsonian once put it, their drivers can't drive!
Many are blaming Obama for trying to reach a compromise with the other party, but he is right to do so. There are liberals in the Republican party just as there are conservative Democrats.  His job description says that he is President of the United states of America, and not just for his party, his race, or his friends alone.
Once the unemployment rate is reduced significantly, many Americans would see Obama more for his accomplishments. He might even be able to reduce unemployment further by giving billions of dollars to fund business start-ups for the unemployed.
However, he still needs to deliver a policy success for people of African descent, specifically by endowing the slavery reparations fund, ending capital punishment in America, and ending the war on drugs in the next two years to guarantee that his Presidency would rank among the best ever.
Passing the funding in Congress for the damages won by African American farmers against the department of Agriculture despite calculated racist insults from several Teabaggers in congress is an indication that the Obama presidency will yet deliver more historic achievements for the American people.
An earlier version of this opinion was published in in response to an editorial opinion suggesting the contrary.

Monday, November 15, 2010

For Achebe @ 80: Tulu Ugo


By Biko Agozino, Ph.D.

I enjoyed reading the interview of Elechi Amadi by
James Eze in The Sun in October 2004. I wish to thank Amadi
for sharing the open secret of his success as a
writer: you need to read hundreds, and he repeated,
hundreds of novels before you can master that art form
and venture to become a successful novelist. I hope
that this simple lesson will be encouraged in many
more high schools by requiring students to read for
pleasure beyond their textbooks.

As a high school kid, I read some of Amadi’s novels
and books for pleasure and marveled at his ability to
move my emotion in sympathy with his characters. I
believe that it was his The Great Ponds that nearly
drove me to tears in sympathy with the people dying in
droves after someone swore an oath claiming a piece of
land that was in dispute between two villages. The
oath ended the bloody warfare but the mass suffering
from what we can suspect to be cholera (but which the
author represented as punishment from the gods) was
too much for a kid to take.

In the interview, Amadi was wrong in assuming that he is the first to
accuse Achebe of ‘pandering to the white man’. This
question is raised frequently on the internet by
university students of World Literature who argue that
Achebe did not accomplish his stated objective in
Things Fall Apart. As Achebe stated this objective
shortly after the publication of the novel, his aim
was: "to help my society regain belief in itself, and
put away the complexes of denigration and self

Like Amadi, the students point out that the white man
won the struggle and Okonkwo’s people were humiliated
and they wonder how that could be uplifting to the
people of Umuofia. The question is whether Achebe was
pandering to the white man by portraying him as
dominant or whether he was reporting the reality of
the colonial and the neo-colonial situations in
Africa? Is it an insult to Africans for someone to
tell them that we are still under the domination of
Europeans? How do you ‘help’ a people under domination
to regain self-respect if it is taboo to tell them the
home truth that they remain under domination? Is it
more empowering to explain everything in terms of the
anger of the gods?

In the work of Amadi the white man is almost
completely absent but the author panders to
superstitious beliefs in gods and goddesses. Is it not
the case that Achebe was rendering a more urgent
service to the people by telling them a few home
truths? For instance, what if the white man had come
to The Great Ponds of Amadi and diagnosed the cholera
that was wiping them out and advised them to boil
their drinking water and adopt sanitation measures to
save more lives, could that be dismissed by Amadi as
the triumph of Western medicine and therefore an
insult to his people? Achebe wisely saw the need for
us to send our children to the white man’s school to
learn his wisdom for our own purposes.

In other words, why should Amadi keep silent on the
colonial struggle in his own work and now try to
lampoon Achebe for addressing the struggle and
correctly concluding that our people have suffered
major set-backs? Achebe claims that he was named after
the husband of Queen Victoria, Albert, but that when
he went to visit the Victoria Falls in East Africa,
some petty colonial official tried to segregate him on
the tour bus by asking him to move to the back but he
refused and told him that in Nigeria we sit where we
like on a bus. I do not think that such is the
attitude of someone who would pander to racist

Apart from this point on realism, I suspect that Amadi
missed a secret in Achebe’s uses of European
characters in his novels. I suspect that this is also
a clever marketing ploy to get more readers worldwide
beyond the place of origin of the author. Reading
books without a character that you can identify with
could be fun but it could be even more fun when you
find characters that you can identify with. Beyond
Africa, readers might find it difficult to identify
with Amadi’s attempts to mystify the quite common
death of young men at a time that life expectancy was
so low in The Concubine or the senseless blood-letting
in The Great Ponds of interethnic wars that continue
to afflict sections of our society today.

As Biodun Jeyifo argued in The Truthful Lie, we need
more writers who would contribute to the
demystification of our crises and thereby contribute
to our search for solutions. Achebe could have blamed
Okonkwo’s death on some god or goddess, but he made it
clear that he took his own life with his own hands and
severely criticized him for killing Ikemefuna to
appease some god.

I believe that the work of demystification runs
through Achebe’s body of works in such a way that
after reading any of his books, we are encouraged to
seek human solutions to human problems rather than run
to flawed places of worship for answers to mundane
questions. The point of Achebe is that even though we
are a conquered people, the conquerors are not
perfect; even though we should learn the wisdom of the
conquerors, it does not follow that we should abandon
our ancient peace-loving ways either.

I use the occasion of Achebe’s 80 birthday to re-circulate this response as my contribution to the good wishes for our father, Chinualumogu nwa Anichebe! May your days be longer, Odenigbo, more ink to your printers; we are watching those who are watching you; keep on going, no shaking!

Dr. Biko Agozino is Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Against War on African Americans


By Biko Agozino
Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies Program, Virginia Tech,
Blacksburg, VA 24061, 1-540-231-7699

Contrary to the claim by Time magazine that  the war on drugs, the longest war that has cost American taxpayers $2.5 trillion over 40 years, has ‘no clear enemy’,[1] the NAACP in 2010 rightly condemned the war on drugs as a racist war against African Americans and against the poor generally.[2] Californian voters have also proposed the legalization of marijuana to avoid the unnecessary criminalization of otherwise law-abiding responsible adults, aid the sick who need the drug and create fair employment opportunities and wealth for the people and tax revenues for the state.[3]

The intensifying violence among poor urban youth across America, the Caribbean, South America, South East Asia and Africa have all been linked to struggles over the control of the lucrative illicit drugs trade that governments could tax for revenue to support education, health and social services while saving on unnecessary repressive enforcement. The attempt to arrest a single drug lord in Jamaica for extradition to the US resulted in the death of nearly 80 innocent Jamaicans in 2010 and the war on drugs in Mexico has claimed more than 30,000 lives in three years while a similar attempt to make Thailand ‘drug-free’ in 2003 resulted in the extra judicial killing of 2800 people. Not surprisingly, three former South American presidents, including the eminent sociologist, Dr. Cardozo of Brazil, issued a policy statement in 2009 denouncing the war on drugs as a costly failure that should be abandoned.

The Drug Czar of the Obama administration, Gil Kierekowski, in 2009 announced that the war on drugs was inconsistent with the goals of a democratically elected government that should be serving the people and not waging war against its own citizens but insisted that there is no need for a change in policy except the stopping of the raids on medical marijuana dispensers in states that approve of the legal prescription of the drug for patients and promised only a change in language.[4]

Research by Human Rights Watch in 2010 reported that “blacks comprise 62.7 percent and whites 36.7 percent of all drug offenders admitted to state prison … federal surveys and other data detailed in this report show clearly that this racial disparity bears scant relation to racial differences in drug offending. There are, for example, five times more white drug users than black. Relative to population, black men are admitted to state prison on drug charges at a rate that is 13.4 times greater than that of white men. In large part because of the extraordinary racial disparities in incarceration for drug offenses, blacks are incarcerated for all offenses at 8.2 times the rate of whites. One in every 20 black men over the age of 18 in the United States is in state or federal prison, compared to one in 180 white men.”[5]

Based on the available overwhelming evidence, there is no doubt that the war on drugs is a war against African American men and women primarily and we call on the Obama administration to immediately end this injustice and free the drugs war prisoners who are in prison for no violent offences.

We declare that the war on drugs is part of the systematic processes to strip African Americans, Hispanics and the poor generally of the constitutionally guaranteed right to equal protection and return them to prison slave plantations where their labor is exploited cheaply by the industrial complex and we call on President Obama to abolish this racist affront to democracy without further delay the same way that President Lincoln proclaimed the abolition of slavery with a stroke of the pen.

As educators, we are confident that we could teach our communities to use their civil liberties to choose not to consume dangerous substances the same way we have been able to teach large sections of the community to say no to tobacco and alcohol which kill many more people around the world than all the illicit drugs put together. We know from research that one illicit drug, marihuana, has never killed anyone but is used as the major pretext (with 800,000 arrests annually in the US alone) for the criminalization of otherwise law-abiding youth from the African American, Latino, South Asian, Caribbean, African and poor white communities worldwide at huge costs to tax payers.

We suggest that illicit drug dealers are the major beneficiaries from the war on drugs and therefore they oppose decriminalization because the war makes drugs relatively expensive and directly increases their profit margins the way bootleg liquor enriched organized criminals before the ending of prohibition. We are confident that the same way the Mafia violence associated with prohibition was ended with the ending of prohibition, the violence associated with the turf wars for the drug trade would be significantly reduced once this racist war primarily against African American, Hispanic and poor communities worldwide is brought to an end with rehabilitation programs for the prisoners of the war on drugs.

In line with the emphasis on prevention in the health reform act, we call for harm reduction through the hospitalization of those who fall sick from drug dependency just like tobacco and alcohol patients who are more numerous and more likely to die despite the fact that tobacco and alcohol remain legal.

We call on President Obama to extend his policies of hope and reduce the politics of fear and greed by borrowing from the experiments in countries like The Netherlands and more recently Portugal which have been implementing different forms of decriminalization with the result that their prisons are decongested, their streets are safer and their citizens face reduced harm compared to the US, France, UK, Mexico, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa and Russia, to name a few examples of the battlefields of the so-called war on drugs.

Many law enforcement officers favor decriminalization to remove the temptation of corruption, increase respect for officers in the community, and free them from a racist war so that they could concentrate on the real bad guys. The Vienna Declaration on illicit drugs has also called for policy change to help reduce the epidemic spread of HIV/AIDS.[6]

Thanks to Dr. Cornel West of Princeton University, the only eminent public intellectual with the courage to endorse the draft of this resolution within 24 hours after it was sent to him. I invite others with moral and intellectual courage to sign on to this resolution and help to bring about a change in policy for the benefit of all. The endorsements of Prop 19 below show that more black public intellectuals and organizations need to join this campaign given that the war on drugs is a war on the black people who do not use more drugs, especially in the case of black women who are close to suspected black men.[7]


The following people and organizations have endorsed Proposition 19 to allow local jurisdictions to legalize marijuana in California. To submit your endorsement of the initiative, click here.


Law Enforcement

  • National Black Police Association
  • San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara (Ret.)
  • Seattle Police Chief and San Diego Deputy Police Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.)
  • Former Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing
  • Former Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant and Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney William John Cox
  • Former Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriff David Sinclair
  • Former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff MacKenzie Allen
  • Former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Jeff Studdard
  • Former Sutter County Deputy Sheriff Nate Bradley
  • Former Yolo County Resident Deputy Sheriff Danny Maynard
  • Humboldt County Sheriff’s Captain Stephen Cobine (Ret.)
  • Orange County Superior Court Judge James P. Gray (Ret.)
  • Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos
  • San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan (Ret.)
  • Former Senior Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney and Prosecutor Jeffrey Schwartz
  • Former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney and California Administrative Law Judge Mike Schmier
  • Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Walter Clark (Ret.)
  • Former Orange County Senior Reserve Park Ranger L. Lawrence Baird
  • Oakland City Attorney John Russo
  • Former Community Prosecutor James Anthony, Oakland City Attorney’s Office
  • Los Angeles Police Department Narcotics Detective David Doddridge (Ret.)
  • Former San Jose Police Department Narcotics Detective Russ Jones
  • Former Los Angeles Senior Police Specialist Walter McKay
  • United States Air Force Security Forces Officer John Darker, Anderson, CA
  • Former United States Military Police Officer Dr. Nina Graves, Santa Barbara, CA
  • United States Navy Officer and Intelligence Specialist Larry Talley (Ret.)
  • California Correctional Peace Officer William Baldwin (Ret.)
  • California Correctional Peace Officer Madeline Martinez (Ret.)
  • Mohave County Deputy Probation Officer Joe Miller (Ret.)
  • Former Lakeport Police Officer Rick Erickson
  • Former San Francisco Police Officer Bill Dake
  • Former Stanton Police Officer Jerry Ross
  • Former Torrance Police Officer Kyle Kazan
  • Atlanta, Georgia State’s Attorney Jay Fisher
  • Former American Samoa Attorney General’s Office Chief Prosecutor and Municipal Prosecutor for Washington Cities Jim Doherty
  • New Jersey State Police Detective Lieutenant Jack Cole (Ret.)
  • New Hampshire State Police Officer Paul Mac Lean (Ret.)
  • Retired Bristol, Vermont Police Chief and Saint Albans, Vermont Police Chief Tim Datig
  • Former Deputy Sheriff Leo E. Laurence, J.D., Central Missouri
  • Former Reserve Deputy Sheriff and Corrections Officer Dwayne Sessom, Lawton, Oklahoma
  • Former Davis County, Utah Deputy Constable Bret Black
  • Retired Washington Superior Court Judge David Nichols
  • Retired Police Captain Peter Christ, Syracuse, New York.
  • Former Spokane, Washington Police Department Narcotics Investigator Jay Fleming
  • Former Corrections Official Michael Gilbert, San Antonio, Texas
  • Former Department of Corrections Sniper and K-9 Narcotics Dog Trainer Rusty White, Bridgeport, Texas
  • National Black Police Association Executive Director and former Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Officer Ronald Hampton
  • Former Baltimore Police Officer Peter Moskos
  • Burlington, Ontario, Canada Law Enforcement Officer Alison Myrden (Ret.)
  • Law Enforcement Officer Tony Ryan (Ret.), Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Physicians and Doctors

  • United States Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, MD (Ret.)
  • Dr. Larry Bedard, Former President of the American College of Emergency Physicians*, Sausalito, CA
  • Dr. Newton Harband, Retired Oncologist, Past President, Stanford Medical School Alumni Association*, San Rafael, CA
  • Dr. Daniel Susott, MD, MPH, Medical Director, World Family Foundation*, San Francisco, CA
  • Dr. Floyd Huen, MD, Board of Trustees, Alameda County Medical Center, Oakland, CA
  • Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, State University of New York at Albany
  • Dr. Lester Grinspoon, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Norfolk, MA
  • Dr. Julie Holland, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine, New York
  • Dr, Leonard Krivitsky, MD, DD, Addiction Medicine Specialist, Philadelphia, PA
  • Dr. Frank H. Lucido, MD, Family Practitioner, Berkeley, CA
  • Arthur M. Strosberg, Ph. D., Pharmaceutical Industry Consultant, Foster City, CA
  • Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, MD, PhD, Seattle, WA
  • Dr. Christopher Fichtner, MD, Hemet, CA
  • Stephen Frye, M.D., Psychiatrist, Las Vegas, Nevada

Economists and Business Leaders

  • Harvard Economist Jeffrey Miron
  • Michael D. Whitty, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, University of San Francisco School of Business and Management

Elected Officials

  • Congressman Pete Stark (CA-13)
  • Congressman Dan Hamburg (CA-1) (Ret.)
  • California State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (Ret.)
  • California State Senator Mark Leno
  • California State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano
  • California State Assemblymember Hector De La Torre
  • Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley
  • Mendocino County Supervisor John Pinches
  • San Francisco Supervisor David Campos
  • San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi
  • Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates
  • The Berkeley City Council
  • The Oakland City Council
  • The West Hollywood City Council
  • Arcata City Councilmember Shane Brinton
  • Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington
  • Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore
  • Hayward City Councilmember Bill Quirk
  • Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
  • Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan
  • Oakland City Councilmember Pat Kernighan
  • Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid
  • Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel
  • West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran
  • Windsor Town Councilmember Debora Fudge
  • Palm Springs Unified School District Board Member Justin Blake
  • AC Transit Board President Rocky Fernandez
  • East Bay Municipal Utility District Board President Doug Linney
  • Water Replenishment District of Southern California Director Rob Katherman
  • Modoc County Democratic Central Committee Chair Thomas Romero
  • Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Member Edie Irons
  • California Republican Party Delegate David LaTour


  • California NAACP
  • California Libertarian Party
  • California Green Party
  • California Young Democrats
  • Republican Liberty Caucus
  • ACLU of Northern California
  • ACLU of Southern California
  • ACLU of San Diego
  • California 16th Assembly District Democrats
  • Alameda County Democratic Party
  • Butte County Democratic Party
  • Madera County Democratic Party
  • Modoc County Democratic Party
  • Monterey County Democratic Party
  • Orange County Democratic Party
  • Placer County Democratic Party
  • San Francisco Democratic Party
  • Siskiyou County Democratic Party
  • Sonoma County Democratic Party
  • Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley
  • Latino Democrats of Stanislaus County
  • Progressive Democrats of Stanislaus County
  • Desert Stonewall Democrats of Palm Springs
  • Culver City Democratic Club
  • West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club
  • Irish American Democratic Club of San Francisco
  • Democratic Women's Forum of San Francisco
  • Richmond District Democratic Club
  • Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club
  • Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club
  • Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club
  • Valley Progressives
  • Libertarian Party of Orange County
  • Humboldt Center for Constitutional Rights
  • San Francisco for Democracy Political Action Committee
  • San Francisco Women’s Political Committee
  • The LA Gay & Lesbian Center
  • NAACP Congress Against Racism & Corruption in Law Enforcement (CARCLE)
  • William C. Velasquez Institute
  • Latino Voters League
  • A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing)
  • Bay Area Chapter of Education Not Incarceration
  • Idriss Stelley Action & Resource Center


  • United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Western States Council
  • International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), Northern California District Council
  • Central Labor Council of Butte-Glenn Counties (AFL-CIO)
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA), Local 9415
  • Instituto Laboral De La Raza
  • Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), San Francisco Chapter
  • Sign Displays, Local 510
  • Michael Hardeman, Business Representative, Sign Displays, Local 510
  • John Roe, UFCW, Local 5*
  • Dan Rush, UFCW, Local 5*
  • Brian Webster, Staff Assistant, Instituto Laboral De La Raza

Faith Leaders

  • California Council of Churches IMPACT
  • Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative
  • Karen Gilman, Women of Temple Israel of Hollywood*
  • Rev. Bryan Griem, Pastor of Montrose Community Church*, Montrose, CA
  • Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, Clergy Against Prohibition*
  • Jane Marcus, Ph.D., Board Member, Women of Reform Judaism*, Palo Alto, CA
  • The Rev. Canon Mary Moreno Richardson, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego*
  • Curtis D. Robinson, Sr., President, Girls Inc, WCCC*, Richmond, CA
  • Dennis Shields, Minister, The Religion of Jesus Church*, Captain Cook, HI


[1] Brief History The War on Drugs By Claire Suddath Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2009,,8599,1887488,00.html See also 1994 U. Chi. Legal F. 25 (1994) Race and the War on Drugs; by Tonry, Michael
[2] See also J. Gender Race & Just. 381 (2002) Race, Crime and the Pool of Surplus Criminality: Or Why the War on Drugs Was a War on Blacks; by Nunn, Kenneth B.;
[3] Miron, Jeffrey A. (2007-09-17). "Costs of Marijuana Prohibition: Economic Analysis". Marijuana Policy Project. See also Gender Race & Just. 225 (2002) Recovering from Drugs and the Drug War: An Achievable Public Health Alternative; Blumenson, Eric.
[5] See, e.g., Craig Reinarman and Harry G. Levine, "The Crack Attack, Politics and Media in the Crack Scare," in Craig Reinarman and Harry G. Levine, Crack in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); Michael Tonry, Malign Neglect: Race, Crime, and Punishment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); David Cole, No Equal Justice (New York:The New Press, 1999); David Musto, The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973);. See also 

[7] Lawrence D. Bobo and Victor Thompson, ‘Unfair by Design: The War on Drugs, Race, and the Legitimacy of the Criminal Justice System’ in Social Research: An International Quarterly   Issue:  Volume 73, Number 2 / Summer 2006   Pages:  445 – 472. See also SR Bush-Baskette ‘The war on drugs as a war against Black women’ in Girls, Women, and Crime: Selected readings, edited by Meda Chesney-Lind, Lisa Pasko, Thousand Oaks, Sage, 2004; Doris Marie Provine , Unequal under law: race in the war on drugs, Chicago, University of Chicago Press; Agozino, Biko ‘Editorial: Foreign Women in Prison’ in African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2008,

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Naipaul's Ingratitude

Naipaul's Ingratitude

Dr Onwubiko Agozino Mon, 22 Nov 10
Naipaul's problem is primarily that of ingratitude, which he probably inherited from his father. According to the literary theorist and former Principal of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, if Mr Biswas was a little more grateful to all the people who were trying to help him, he may have been a more successful person in life.
The son is similarly dismissive of his debts to the Caribbean, to Oxford ('Oxford taught me nothing'), to his parents, wife, and partners, as well as to India and to Africa. The lesson for younger writers is to learn the habit of gratitude and eschew the white-superiorism that might interfere with their writings, because even good prose would not be enough to attract and retain significant readership when the personality and ideology are obnoxious and turn-offish.
Yet, we must not throw away the baby with the bath water. As a graduate student in Edinburgh University in the early 1990s, I received my first Naipaul book, 'India: A Million Mutinies Now', from my book club, Quality Paperback Series. However, before I could read the book, an English friend spoiled it for me by asking why I even bothered buying a Naipaul book given the man's well-known racism in the way he portrayed Indians and Africans as dirty and diseased and with no redeeming qualities. The comment discouraged me from reading the book at the time, but when I finally did ten years later before a trip to India, I learned quite a bit from it.
For instance, Naipaul revealed in the book that when Gandhi went to live in South Africa after law school in England, he was 'politically naive'. Now, I have never heard anyone describe the great Gandhi as being naive, and so I read on. According to Naipaul, when Gandhi arrived in South Africa, he actually believed that colonialism was a good thing, but the Zulus soon reeducated him. Like many good writers, he did not go into detail about what lesson Gandhi learned from the Zulus, and so I had to go and find out for myself by reading 'Gandhi: the Autobiography'.
In that book, Gandhi himself agreed that he was a product of British education who believed that the white man was in Africa to bring civilization to the dark continent. He believed that the Zulus were lazy, and that that was why they were always going on strike. He hoped that the British would teach them the ethics of hard work so that they could become a little more civilized like the Indian traders who had invited him to come and fight for them against discrimination by the British, who as it happened, lumped the Indians together with the natives.
To Gandhi's surprise, the Zulu launched an uprising against the British and he quickly joined the British Army; being commissioned Sergeant Major Gandhi in the process. He was put in charge of a group of Indian volunteer nurses supporting the British army. Perhaps Gandhi wished for some of the British officers to be wounded, so that he and his fellow Indians would get an opportunity to treat them and thereby show the British that Indian nurses were every bit as effective as British ones. He probably also hoped to persuade them that Indians should not be categorised in the same level with Africans.
But when all the wounded turned out to be Zulus, Gandhi was frustrated and started asking them why they were sitting there like sissies and taking the beatings, instead of fighting back like men. They laughed at Gandhi and told him that they were fighting back all right, but that they were fighting back non-violently by refusing to pay taxes to a government that did not represent them, and by refusing to work for employers who exploited them.
Naipul narrates how Gandhi took this lesson back to India and used it to change the national liberation strategy that was predominantly the militaristic strategy of mutinies which the British easily defeated through the war of manicures in the past. Now, the Indians started using the non-violent strategy of refusing to buy salt when the prices were inflated (they made their own salt) and refusing to buy British cotton when the prices were hiked up (they wove their own loin clothes).
The nonviolent methods proved more effective in winning Indian independence, and Kwame Nkrumah later adopted similar tactics (Positive Action) for the independence of Ghana, but emphasized that the strategy was an African one in its own right. Although the Civil Rights Movement in America adopted this philosophy, the Martin Luther King Jr Museum in Atlanta still mistakenly attributes it to Gandhi, without adding that Gandhi himself attributed it to Africans. A graduate student from Howard university told me that the day after she heard me make this point at a recent Association of Black Sociologists meeting in Atlanta, she went to the museum and could not resist correcting a parent who was explaining to a child that MLK borrowed non-violence from Gandhi.
Other surprising lessons that I have learned from Naipul's India include the fact that the Black Panther Party influenced the lowest caste in India, the Daliths, to form the Dalith Panthers Party. He also explained that arranged marriages are more prestigious in India than what they call 'love matches'. He has a fascinating chapter on a monthly magazine, Indian Woman, that is published by a man, but is very successful among women because of its ability to involve the readers in the interactive development of soap-opera-like themes. When I arrived New Delhi in 2004, the first thing I bought was a copy of Indian Woman, and not surprisingly, it came with a free gift: a tampon! Some lesson in marketing.
I have since bought other Naipaul books, but I must confess that I have never read any of them from cover to cover. Am I alone in finding his style a touch boring? This might have to do with the attitude of the author to his audience, and since postmodernists have proclaimed the death of the author with the arrival of the reader who is free to interpret the work as he/she feels, I agree with those who have pointed out that when it comes down to a competition for my time, there are choice pieces of literature that I have prioritized over those of Naipaul. Yet, I will not deny that it is possible to learn something new, even from an unusual Naipaul source. I have not read his new critique of Africa but I will not rule out doing so someday.
It is not enough to condemn Naipaul's racism and snobbishness. We need to encourage more writers to dwell on the positive contributions that Africans have made, and continue to make to world civilization- Europe, the Caribbean, the Americans and beyond- even while critiquing the negative remnants of centuries of slavery, colonialism and post-colonialism in constructive ways that would help us to usher in a greater Africa, the Renascent Africa that Azikiwe announced in 1937 while cursing the 'Old Africa' for blocking progress.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ode to Soyinka @ 76

By Biko Agozino

‘Unlike societies right next to the Igbo for instance – more famously the Benin, or further West, the Yoruba or, all the way southwards of the continent, the Kwazulu of the legendary Shaka – the Igbo, with their strong social formation rooted in republicanism, would appear to belie my general claim. The Igbo have no history of expansionism, being content with a strong organization around autonomous clan entities that made contact – friendly or unfriendly with one another as the need arose (Wole Soyinka, Distinguished Nyerere Lecture, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, 2010: 1).

Soyinka may have helped to answer a question that I have been longing to ask him for a long time: Why does he love Igbo culture so much when almost everyone else appears to hate the Igbo? I found clues to this answer that his 2010 Nyerere Lecture confirms starting with his childhood autobiography, Ake, where as a kid he refused to lie down to the elders as is expected in Yoruba culture and reasoned that if he was not expected to lie down to God, why should he lie down to anyone? Before the publication of Ake, he had already fictionalized this biographical sketch in his novel, The Interpreters that a Youth Corps teacher, Adamu, tried to get my form four High School class to understand without much success perhaps because of the fractal elliptical structure that is characteristic of Soyinka’s work.
What Adamu taught us effectively was always to look for a deeper meaning in the work of Soyinka and not to read it at the surface level. In that novel, there was a university lecturer, Soyinka’s alter ego, called Egbo, who delivered exactly the same defiant line of prostrating to neither God nor man. Now I wonder if Egbo was a suggestive code for Igbo because Soyinka may have been rebuked as a child by elders for being an uncultured bush man or Igbo man, ‘igbo’ means bush in Yourba language, all because he admired the Igbo concept of all heads being equal. Maybe Soyinka actually witnessed an Igbo man perform this indomitable spirit and admired it enough to adopt it himself.

That childhood sentiment of his must have been reinforced later in life when he was obviously an admirer of Nnamdi Azikiwe and was the Master of Ceremony for the artistic tribute during Zik’s inauguration as the first President of Nigeria where he refused to succumb to the domineering demands of an American opera singer who did not intend to keep to the time allocated to her despite what Soyinka saw as her poor musical talents and not withstanding that she was a personal guest of the guest of honour, Zik (see the autobiography, Ibadan). I think that Soyinka was the first to inform me that Zik was a poet, although he called him a bombastic poet somewhere in his writings, prompting me to go looking for Zik's collection of poetry that was recently republished by his wife, Professor Chinyere Azikiwe of the University of Nigeria. I read the poems and found no bomabastic verses unlike Zik’s political speeches but it was probably to the speeches that Soyinka referred when he called Zik, Mbonu Ojike, K.O. Mbadiwe, et al, the bombastic poets of nationalism.

Soyinka's love for Igbo culture is very obvious in Ibadan: The Penkelmese Years where he secretly admired a bombastic prefect in his high school and said that he talked the way he did probably because that was how everybody talked in his village. No wonder Soyinka became the master of the bombast in his own work as an adult. In the Ibadan volume of his always stranger-than- fiction fictionalized autobiography, he recounts how he was approached as a family friend by the daughter of a western regional governor to ask him why he was supporting the 'socialist' culture of the Igbo rather than the monarchical tradition of his own people? The mutual admiration of Baba Sho and Igbo culture is clearest in that part of Ibadan where Soyinka narrates the role of Power Mike Okpala during operation ‘Weetie’. Instead of sending thugs from the East to join the orgy of violence in the Wild Wild West, Okpala sent a team of mobile broadcasters from the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast live election results to the whole world since Akintola's faction was in control of the Western Broadcasting House.
Soyinka said that he sat in Awolowo’s chair and persuaded the mobile broadcasters to go back to Enugu because security agents were searching for them frantically but he himself was not afraid to wait alone for the security agents that desecrated the library of Awo in search of incriminating evidence to return and face his resistance. That took some courage and is indeed part of the democratic trait that Soyinka has identified in our own African culture that is worthy of emulation. This Igbophilia is found in his collection of poetry, A Shuttle in the Crypt and in the prison diary, The Man Died, where he bore witness to the oppression of the Igbo during the civil war and his one-man attempt to stop the carnage, earning him solitary confinement. Then he capped it all with that eye-popping witness-like harrowing account of the pogrom against the Igbo that he detailed in Season of Anomy. In Ibadan, he said that he traveled the country to conduct ethnographic observations of traditional theatrical performances and in Season of Anomy, the hero also travels the country searching for traditional socialist roots but ended up being confined in a psychiatric hospital as a mad man. Did Soyinka witness the pogrom in the North and could he have achieved more in preventing the tragedy if he had worked as part of a popular democratic organization instead of always tending to perform his one man shows apart from that stint with the Peoples Redemption Party as Director of Research in the 1980s?

Soyinka’s love of a people who were almost universally hated calls for some explanation and he may have provided the answer in the Nyerere Lecture that I quoted from above. The Igbo are admirable because they have resisted the temptation to build empires and impose monarchs. Of course, Soyinka could have added that General Obasanjo tried to sabotage this radical republican Igbo tradition by imposing the requirement in the 1976 Local Government Reform Decree that every town should have a 'traditional' ruler, forcing the indomitable Igbo to plunge into bloody chieftaincy struggles unbecoming of their egalitarian principles. Afigbo narrates a similar attempt by the colonial administration to appoint warrant chiefs for the democratic Igbo but the result was that Igbo women declared war on colonialism and warrant chiefs just as Yoruba women did 20 years later by forcing the Alake of Abeokuta to abdicate and make way for a new Alake to be installed and just as Kikuyi women did 30 years later in Kenya. The significant difference was that the Igbo and Ibibio women fought against all warrant chiefs and the colonial administration rather than against an individual chief while the Kikuyi women were led by a Mr Harry Thuku, the Chief of Women.

Please note that Soyinka's praise for the Igbo culture of radical republicanism in the epigraph above and his critique of empires and kingdoms echo that of Walter Rodney in Groundings with my Brothers where Rodney told poor Jamaican youth to be skeptical of African histories that emphasize only kingdoms and empires given that many parts of Africa had no kings or queens but practiced direct democracies of the sort that Soyinka appears to be recommending as a better alternative for the whole of Africa. Europeans simply assumed that such societies were primitive ‘headless societies’ and proceeded to impose chiefs on them but Igbo and Ibibio women declared war on such Warrant Chiefs as Adiele Afigbo documented.

The obsession with monarchism is rife in the Diaspora as well where there are annual contests to see who would be the carnival monarch, the dancehall king, the king of pop, king of reggae, calypso monarch, socca monarch and what have you despite the fact that the American revolution and the Haitian revolution clearly rejected monarchism and opted for republicanism. The late Adiele Afigbo critiqued the tendency in nationalist historiography to focus only on kingdoms as a vain attempt to prove to the Europeans that Africans are not inferior because we also had kings and queens, forgetting that we also had participatory democracy that could only be devalued at our peril.

Soyinka is emphasizing that monarchical institutions tend to be anti-democratic wherever they are found and that our people have better models of democracy to draw from rather than celebrate authoritarianism in the guise of celebrating traditionalism. Baba Sho could have strengthened his case by pointing out that this radical democracy that he admires among the Igbo is not as exceptional as he suggested because the Ibibio of Nigeria and the Kikuyi of Kenya, for instance, were also radically republican traditionally.  Yet, our beloved Baba Sho should be given credit for recognizing that African cultures have indigenous models of democracy that the rest of the world could learn from as opposed to the tendency by Cornel West and CLR James alike to point to ancient Greece as the model for direct democracy despite the institution of slavery, a monarchy and the disenfranchisement of women in Athenian 'democracy'.

Happy birthday Prof! Many many more happy returns!
Biko Agozino is Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Abati on Sports and Development

By Biko Agozino

Ruben Abati made very insightful observations in his analysis of the failure of the Nigerian national football team to inspire enthusiasm from supporters at home and abroad during the World Cup in South Africa. He concluded that the outing has brought more shame than pride to Nigerians given that the Nigerian preparations for the competition were characteristically shoddy, while the South Africans distinguished themselves by organizing an efficient competition at a level that Nigeria could not manage, the way they effortlessly introduced a new equipment to the game, the vuvuzela, while Nigeria has yet to bring an innovation to the game we love so much, and how their national team played well even when they lost or drew while the Super Eagles are praying that some other team should suffer misfortune at the hands of some other team in order for us to qualify by default the way we managed to qualify for the finals.

Nigeria’s only innovation appears to be in the unprecedented image of the hustler with 30 stolen tickets who was sentenced to jail by a FIFA special court that must be the first of its kind. The other disgraceful image was that of the most unprofessional player ever whose name, Kaita, supposedly means disaster, who kicked a player outside the sidelines because he allegedly shoved the ball at him and called him unprintable names to get him out of his face so he could throw-in the ball. His red card caused the Nigerian team to collapse from an early lead to a 2-1 loss as they all trooped to the defense and gave up the mid-field to Greece without any imagination that they could still win a game with one man down the way Ghana’s Black Stars beat the Nigerian Super Eagles during the nation’s Cup in Ghana and again in Egypt with just ten men each time. Next time, Kaita should play hurt and see if he could send off an opponent instead of lashing out with the typical Nigerian gra-gra or bolekaja (Yoruba for come down and let us fight) mentality and if he gets sent off for acting hurt, the team should play on and try to win with an attacking game – the best type of defense. Apologies to Abati, I was wearing my coaching cap there, every Nigerian is a coach, says Abati, and yet we believe in the Cargo Cult mentality that the best coach must be imported from Europe.

Abati’s observation about national branding by Argentina which distributed free jerseys of their stars, free national flags and free vuvuzelas with their national colours to the international fans is a teachable moment for Nigerian officials. The Nigerian memorabilia were put up for sales even though the national sports commission may have already paid for the items to be distributed and in any case, there is not likely to be any accountability for the miserly sale of unpopular jerseys with names like Kaita on them. Typical of Nigerians, some official probably saw it as an opportunity to make quick bucks with the result that some Nigerian fans had no choice but to accept the free Argentina jerseys and wear them proudly without fear of losing their citizenship as punishment given that many Nigerians throw lavish parties to celebrate whenever they give up their citizenship and naturalize in some other country with regular electricity supply as one fan told Abati when threatened with denationalization for wearing the colours of Nigeria’s opponents.

I completely agree with Abati that we need to use this opportunity to re-examine our sports institutions from the local leagues that Nigerians do not seem to care about while they appear ready to kill and die for English Premiership clubs, to the training of coaches with the knowledge that mercenary foreign coaches will never teach us all they know for fear that some day we will face their own national teams, to the organization of supporters’ clubs and to private-public partnerships in the sponsorship of sporting events as is the case all over the world. Bringing in Tokunbo coaches from abroad at the last minute to disrespect the Nigerian coach who struggled to win qualification and demonstrating Pharisees-like prayers on the field of play will not cut it for us.

Where I disagree with Abati is on his observation that the National Stadium is being used by sex workers and fast food hawkers instead of being used for sports development. I would like Abati to visit the stadium early on any Saturday morning and he would be stunned. I recently visited a nephew in Lagos and he told me to get ready for a treat because early on Saturday morning, he wanted me to go running with him at the national stadium. I was intrigued and sure enough, he woke me up about 7:00 AM and off we went with Okada, then changed to a bus, then got another Okada before reaching the distant stadium.

I could not believe my eyes as the whole area surrounding the stadium was filled with amateur sports enthusiasts and fitness gurus and freaks alike jumping, boxing, doing martial arts, weight-lifting, dancing, running, skipping, doing yoga and aerobics, sweating and smiling. Sure, there were food and drinks vendors around but the people needed such refreshments after running non-stop for two hours. We joined one popular group that was led in song by a tireless young man and we chorused with the growing crowd of followers. It was as if we were back in high school and many of the songs were Igbo songs like ‘Obi Kererenke’ - ‘Obi’, to which the lead singer added popular Christian chants like ‘Anyi Ga Ebulia Aha Yaa’ to the chorus, ‘Enuuu’ (or let us raise His name, High!) which served as a notice that he was about to change to a different song. He would chant about the end of diabetes, the end of smoking, the end of alcoholism and his followers provided the ‘End’ chorus faithfully but when he chanted about the end of Igbo or marijuana many protested and shouted nooo! Some who did not understood the exchange in Igbo language asked for translations. I was soon exhausted as I had not done such hectic running in a long time and thankfully, the pure water vendor was on hand to rehydrate me with four sachets of water while I sweated buckets with a big smile on my face.

There and then I began to understand something that I had observed on the faces of many Nigerians: They looked more healthy than I had imagined from the sad stories of poverty and hunger we hear abroad. This must be one of their survival strategies – keeping fit for the fun of it. I asked when this revolution happened in Nigeria and they said that it was started by Sam Oparaji, the Nigerian football player who died tragically on the pitch from a heart condition at the national stadium where his statue stands. It was said that he used to run at the stadium in the 1980s and gradually, his fans joined him every Saturday morning. It felt as if I was witnessing something that happens only abroad and not at home and I was highly impressed.

I was surprised to know that such a popular lifestyle activity was going on for years and none of the newspapers had covered it. If Abati visits Surulere any Saturday morning, then he will realize that his dismissal of the national stadium is premature. Where Abati may not be surprised is that neither the government nor corporate sponsors have absolutely any role to play in all this. There is no budget to train the fitness coaches on safety precautions, there are no ambulances or health workers trained to attend to any emergencies, there are no freely distributed running shoes and jerseys to promote any company products and wait for this, there was no toilet for the athletes who had to enter the nearby bushes to do number one or number two.

The gates of the stadium were firmly shut against the enthusiastic sporting citizens from whose ranks would emerge the next sporting superstars. Only national sporting stars were allowed to train inside the stadium, I was told. There is no doubt that talents abound in Nigeria in all fields but the government and private investors are yet to tap in adequately towards the development of these talents in all fields to win national honours, create wealth for the sports players and create fair employment opportunities for others. For instance, the young man who led the jogging songs was not paid by anyone but I understood that some of the fellow runners settled him occasionally. Here is an opportunity for sporting clubs to emerge and train the Usain Bolts, Tiger Woods, goalie Enyeama and the Williams sisters of the world to break new world records in sprinting, golf, football, tennis and many other sporting areas but greedy leaders are more interested in scrambling for oil blocks that they always auction off to foreign coaches (sorry, companies) and pocket billions of dollars in commissions that they claim they do not know how to spend. What a crying shame!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Any Cook Can Coach

By Biko Agozino

This title was suggested by the title of an essay by CLR James on politics in the Caribbean in which he argued, following Athenian democracy, that ‘Every Cook Can Govern’.  However, the institution of slavery in Athens, the fact that Athens had a war-mongering monarchy that oppressed philosophers, and the fact that women and children did not have the rights of citizenship meant that Athens was deeply flawed as a model of participatory democracy. The unfitness of Athens as a role model is particularly so for people of African descent who suffered centuries of chattel slavery, colonization and disenfranchisement, and who have also retained radically republican democratic traditions of the sort that anthropologists dubbed headless or acephalous societies. In his recent Nyerere Lecture, Wole Soyinka concluded that one such society, the Igbo, is a good model for the rest of Africa.

Walter Rodney identified such village democracy types of society in his Groundings with My Brethren as true of the majority of cultures in Africa and warned against using the few monarchical traditions, just like monarchical Athens, as a model amplified and made the hegemonic representation of a supposedly monolithic African culture. This is not only in Africa but also in the Diaspora where music genres created by Africans tend to have Kings and Queens of each genre despite the tendency towards democracy in the African worldview and struggles.

Nevertheless, the historical-material ist critique of elitism in politics by James could be extended to the colonial mentality in sports by which we are made to believe that only elite coaches from elite countries with elite pay could coach the teams of poor countries. The Wall Street Journal recently asked whether African teams could not be coached by African coaches given that all but one of the African teams participating in the World Cup in South Africa have foreign coaches, including some that never coached a world cup squad or failed to qualify for the competition as their own nations’ football coach? The answer to the question is that any cook can coach although the journal quoted some Nigerians as saying that the players will respect a white coach more than a Nigerian coach. The fact remains that even European national teams also hire foreign coaches and maybe someday, an African would coach a European team.

What are the lessons that we could learn from the poor performance of our teams that are full of talents and what is the way forward for sports and the nation for the national team could be a metaphor for the nation with enormous resources largely controlled by good ‘coaches’ but with mediocre results to show for it all? My twelve year old nephew once asked me, ‘Uncle, I am happy that Essien scored one of the goals at the African Nations Cup because I am a Chelsea fan but I cannot believe that the Super Eagles were beaten by a ten-man Black Stars team. What happened?’ Here he was demonstrating what James would see as the Athenian democratic principle by which the audience voted on the plays to select winners during festivals even if some of the winning poems openly mocked the then rulers like King Pericles. I explained to the young boy who already plays in a junior football club in London that it could be that our talented players played like individuals and not like a team. He asked me to explain that to him.

I explained that although I am not good at football, I have had the experience of coaching children in league tournaments when my two sons were involved in youth soccer in the US. I asked my nephew to watch all the goals scored in the English Premier League and tell me what he learned from the skills. He simply told me that they were great goals. I told him to look more closely and he gave up, asking me to explain the skills necessary for scoring goals to him.

The skills are very simple. Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea use these skills all the time to dominate the top league. The teams that do not use the skills are the ones that struggle in the league. Steven Garrald ignores this principle frequently as he tries individual play to the disadvantage of Liverpool FC. Ghana used the skill to score the winning goal in the quarter finals match during the Nations Cup when Agogo tapped in that square cross with eight minutes to go. It is called team work as opposed to talented but selfish waste of energy. This is how it goes:

A player runs at the goal with the ball and pretends that he is about to strike at goal. The goalkeeper and the defense all focus on blocking his shot but at the last second, he dummies and passes the ball to an unmarked team mate who stabs the ball into the net. That is simple and it works most of the time. The inadequacy of it explains the weakness of our Super Falcons and Super Eagles but also super corporations and super states alike.

The struggling teams are those in which the attackers are so full of confidence that they think that they could dribble past every opponent but they almost always lose the ball after skipping past a few defenders. If they manage to bulldoze through the defense repeatedly, they suffer recurrent injuries as a result, like Ronaldo, Rooney, Yorke, Gerrald and Maradona. England was dominating the USA until the introduction of Wright-Phillips who dribbled and dribbled instead of crossing the ball in as expected from the wings.

My nephew nodded in agreement and told me that his coach never told him that. He wanted to learn more skills from me. He stood up and started dancing around an imaginary football to show off his own youthful skill as if imitating one of his heroes, JJ Okocha. Forget Okocha, I told him. You want your team to win games not just to show off your personal entertainment skills. Argentina dominated the opening match against Nigeria with short passes while the Super Eagles tried long shots, possessive dribbling and weak shots that were nowhere near the goal when they could have touched the ball once to control it and then pass it to a team-mate in an open position to score!

The skill that is applied at the goal mouth to score goals is also the skill that is applied in the midfield to keep control of the ball. The top teams have perfected this skill. It is called one-two touch football. The first touch is to control the ball and the second touch is to pass it to a teammate in a better position. As soon as you pass the ball, you run into an open position ready to receive it back. That is called teamwork, I told the young man. If you play selfishly in any successful team, you will be lucky if you sit on the reserve bench at all, you would be soon dropped, sold or traded before you know it. Tarves is still wondering why Manchester Untied sold him but he tends to keep the ball to himself for too long whereas Messi has mastered the solo run that is intended to end in a one-two with a team mate. Many politicians ignore this rule of teamwork by seeking tenure elongation and sitting tight when they should be passing the ball in the interest of the national team or even take a recovering position after they have lost the ball to the other team.

France took this team skill to a higher level during the World Cup in Germany by using a one-touch method that made the games much faster. That is, the first touch was to pass the ball or strike at goal. Unfortunately for them, this led to too many inaccurate passes or shots wide off the mark although it helped Henry to stab in the winning goal against Brazil in the semi final but ultimately failed against Italy in the final match. France used the same tactic of fast-paced one-touch French-kicks in their opening match against Uruguay and were lucky to get a goalless draw. So I would still recommend the one-two method any day because by the third touch, you have given the opponents time to anticipate your move and block it and with only one touch you do not give your teammates enough time to anticipate your move and position themselves. Argentina used this a lot especially in the midfield and Nigeria appeared clueless a lot during that opening match in Johannesburg.

My fascinated young nephew told me that sometimes it is necessary to run at the goal and try to score when you see an opening like Drogba, Adebayor, Messi, Henry or Ronaldo or simply send a salvo at goal with your first touch like Kanu’s trickish surprise shots that sometimes zip out from behind him with a flick of the leg or Gerrald’s long distance shots for Liverpool and for England. I agreed with him but insisted that such moments are rare and that teamwork is the best guarantee of success as both Kanu and Gerrald prove by also being selfless playmakers of note with records of many assists, earning them captaincies. The goal by Argentina from a corner kick was a sign of teamwork as the attackers distracted the Nigerian defence and pushed them back towards goal to allow a free header to the scorer, prompting Efan Ekoku, the commentator and former Nigerian international to criticize the Nigerian players for ball watching and failure at school yard defense principles that frown at free headers.

‘Uncle, teach me more skills please’, he pleaded. Well, this one is an elementary skill, I told him. I told him to touch the ball, kiss the ball, hug the ball and tell me what it felt like. He said that it felt normal. Exactly my point. The ball does not bite, it has no claws like a lion and it is not hot like coal. So when next you are in a wall defending a free kick from the likes of Bekham or Messi, keep your eyes on the ball and do not get scared of the ball the way most defenders instinctively do. If you keep your eyes on the ball, you improve your chances of stopping the free kick successfully but jumping aimlessly just allows the free kick to be bended over the wall and into the net before the goalkeeper sees it, blinded by the unnecessarily scared-like- hell wall.

The young boy protested that he would never stand in the way of a shot from some of the top scorers because such scorchers could maim a man or a woman for that matter. Wrong, I told him, it is always a lump of leather filled with air and if you keep your eyes on it, you stand a better chance of avoiding having it slammed into your closed eyes to knock you down or having it slammed into your pants, causing clutching pain.

‘Oh uncle, tell me more because I want to play for the Eagles when I grow up, I will be too ashamed to play for England because I see myself as a Nigerian,’ he stated. Well, I told him, if you play for Nigeria, you will become a national hero and the country would reward you with cash and give you houses in choice plots. He licked his lips in anticipation. But you must start practicing teamwork now by helping more around the house, ironing your own clothes, clearing the table and sweeping the house as a team player, I told him. He said that he already ironed his own clothes.

My final tip for success is related to the previous one but it is mainly for the goal-keeper. The goalie must not panic at the sight of a striker because the shot is never going to be a thunderbolt or a bullet, just a lump of leather filled with air although most goalkeepers who panic are less scared of the ball and more anxious not to mess up. We saw this in the courage of Enyeama who single-handedly denied Argentina the chance to humiliate Nigeria with more goals. The Under 17 Nigerian goalkeeper who helped to win the World Cup for Nigeria by saving more penalty kicks than the French goal-keeper also practiced this. He said back then that what helped him was the secret verses from the Koran that he was chanting. This is an indication that he had such strong faith that nothing the attackers could throw at him would hurt him because, they could not shoot cannons, only balls of leather, Insha Allah. So the young man did not dive blindly, hoping to gamble correctly as most goal-keepers do. He waited for them to kick the penalty and then he dived to stop it! That was how Ghana scored from the spot against the Serbian goalie who dived first in Pretoria, to give Africa the first win in the first World Cup on African soil.

To inculcate these simple teamwork skills, we need to watch what other footballing nations are doing. They start training teams from age four and keep exposing them to team competitions from that age on. Mikel Obi was probably referring to the lack of team spirit when he said that there was no love among the Eagles players in Ghana. Everyone wanted to be the hero that saved the nation, it seemed. The answer is not in a foreign coach because no coach can teach the team spirit if you have been brought up all your life to hustle selfishly for everything as many children grow up to be due to poverty-induced hoarding tendencies or due to undeserved sense of a privileged right to greed born of unearned affluence.

The team spirit goes with sportsmanship such that when you lose, you do not lose the lesson. We need to congratulate the successful teams that beat us and wish them all the best because the better teams won the matches instead of trying to use bribery or intimidation the way some of our politicians do after losing elections. The Trinidadian social theorist, CLR James, in Beyond a Boundary, credited the game of cricket with his moral upbringing in the sense that he never tried to cheat or whine or complain, saying well played to the winners but did his best and did not gloat even in victory, telling the losers better luck next time.

He may have been exaggerating his obedience to the rules of game theory given that he was an activist transgressional radical who overstayed his visa in America by many years and had to be detained and deported after he appealed unsuccessfully. However, I have always thought that James’ moral and intellectual character could be attributed more to his African cultural background of radical republican democracy but proof of that is disappearing due to the legacies of slavery and colonialism which have sadly eroded much of our cultural values and replaced them with dog-eat-dog dodgy capitalist perversions by those that Fanon called the phantom bourgeoisie in The Wretched of the Earth that mimics the bullishness of the metropolitan bourgeoisie with little of its fanatical patriotism.

As Nyerere would recommend with the Ujamaa philosophy of familihood that he found common in Africa, we need to recover our sense of communal morality and rejoice and celebrate the fact that West Africa has produced some of the best teams consistently in the continent. If we have been doing so without any organized training from an early age, imagine what would happen if all over Africa, the 54 states start youth sports programs in football, baseball, lawn tennis, basket ball, cricket, tracks and all manner of sports and games with annual leagues. Our raw talents would be polished and we will shine again and again in all sporting activities and sooner win the World Cup or Wimbledon and still allow individual talents to emerge and flourish.

Such programs could also contribute to poverty eradication in Africa when the individual players become big on the world stage and earn enough to uplift their extended families at least. But beyond monetary gains, the training in team spirits could contribute to nation building and entrepreneurial success as we begin to see the bigger picture of ourselves as members of one family, club, national and international teams as players but sometimes even as supporters. Together Each Achieves More = TEAM

We can apply the same team principles to all athletics by sponsoring athletics clubs across the country with private companies partnering the government. The shame of returning from the World Athletics Championships empty-handed must come to an end. The aim of winning four medals at the next Olympics is too criminal for contemplation when a small country like Jamaica hauls in medals in double digits. Let us aim for 100 medals and start training teams of individuals with targets of breaking existing world records in every sport. Let us aim at going to the Tennis Grand slams to challenge the Russians and the Americans for the championships in ladies and men’s events. This way, we will give our restless youth something positive to focus on. When they know that Kenyans and Ethiopians win up to a million US dollars just for running a marathon, no one would be able to stop them from dominating that sport if we train them.