Friday, December 23, 2011

Press Release on Black Unemployment

Press Release: African Criminology and Justice Association Policy Proposal on Black Unemployment

The unemployment rate for African Americans (16.7%) has been reported to be at its highest level since 1984.[i] At nearly double the national average (9.1%) or over double the rate for white Americans (8%), the members of the African Criminology and Justice Association, meeting in Washington DC, November 2011, hereby vote to propose feasible policies for the elimination of such a scandalous level of unemployment among African Americans in particular and Africans in general who were always at the receiving end of hardship even in 1984 when unemployment was lower than it is today.

Source: Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2011.

We disagree with the rightwing proposal of Mr. Arthur Laffer, chairman of Laffer Associates, who is co-author, with Stephen Moore, of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).[ii] In an opinion editorial article published in The Wall Street Journal of September 12, 2011, Mr. Laffer called for the creation of ‘Enterprize Zones’ in the inner cities where a) There should be zero payroll tax on employers employing people who live in the inner city zone; b) The minimum wage legislation would be suspended; c) Building codes in the zone should be audited quickly with the view not to constrain entrepreneurs and union membership requirements should be suspended; and d) Profits from the zone should be taxed at one-third the normal tax rate.

Such a policy of sweat-shop zones in American inner cities would make matters worse by turning our fellow citizens into working poor who would be trapped in unsafe working conditions with less than minimum wages while corporate fat cats would enjoy tax holidays. Mr. Laffer’s ludicrous suggestions would only take African Americans back to the years of share-cropping with all the attendant oppression, exploitation and impunity. There must be a better way for African Americans and indeed for all people of African descent.

First of all, we call on President Obama and all the presidents of African countries to look beyond the Jobs Bill and consider an entrepreneurship bill for African Americans and all Africans. Obama needs to set aside at least $50 billion from the proposed Jobs Bill (estimated at $470b) to be disbursed to unemployed Americans to enable them to set up their own small and medium businesses. The same way that the government gives out huge grants as agricultural subsidies and business start-ups for the richest one per cent, we call on the government to initiate enterprise subsidies for the urban poor. 

We commend the governor of Anambra State in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Obi, for disbursing one hundred million naira to a thousand unemployed youth after their training to help them to be self-employed. We urge him to make this an annual part of the budget and not a one off and to increase the size of the checks given to some to enable them to become medium to large-scale entrepreneurs. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State in Nigeria has also implemented a similar grants program worth about fifty million naira while the federal government announced that it has fifty billion naira set aside for similar purposes. 

We condemn the plan of Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich to turn poor inner city school children into janitors and toilet cleaners for their schools in the guise of training them as apprentices on the assumption that poor children have no work ethics even though poor people are the hardest working people.

The entrepreneurship policy we advocate will work as follows: select 1000 unemployed citizens from each state and send them to be trained as apprentices by successful businesses. On completion of the short apprenticeship, award each of them one million dollars to set up their own enterprises. If each of them goes on to employ 100 people, that will be 5,000,000 new jobs every year! Repeat this every year and we will be creating millions of jobs every decade while making sure that the wealth created will stay in our communities to help transform the urban neighborhoods into zones of prosperity. The Hip Hop generation has been telling us that they are not into seeking jobs to work for Massa anymore, they want to be their own bosses and our simple and practical proposal will help to do this quickly and save the economy too. The government already does this to bail out Wall Street, it is time to bail out the street corner too.

We support the current Occupy Movement that is sweeping across the world but we go beyond the call to occupy Wall Street and to occupy cities to call for the occupation of the prison industrial complex. The excessive incarceration of African Americans and other minorities is helping to fuel to job crisis because corporations that rely on prison labor would be unlikely to hire free labor until we end the inhumanity of what Michelle Alexander[iii] aptly dubbed The New Jim Crow and free the captives from the unjust drug wars, decriminalize all drugs and restore the voting rights of all felons.
Across Africa, unemployed youth are increasingly being drawn into violent armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom gangs. We believe that have every African state implement our entrepreneurship policy proposal would result in massive wealth creation and possible reduction of street violence across Africa. Every industrialized country gives out massive grants to spur entrepreneurship while African countries neglect the creative talents that abound in Africa and only call on developed countries to end subsidies to their own entrepreneurs.

With the decriminalization of drugs and the ending of the war against African Americans in the guise of the war on drugs, as we have called for in a previous Press Release, many of the youth who may not get grants to start their own businesses could grow their own marijuana and sell them legally to medical patients and recreational users alike, pay taxes on their sales, create jobs that will pay well and end the ‘homey-cidal’ violence that is associated with the war on drugs. We can rely on education to get our fellow citizens to say no to drugs the same way we do with more dangerous drugs like alcohol and tobacco which kill more people than all the illicit drugs put together.[iv]

[i] ‘Black unemployment at highest level in 27-years’ Chicago Tribune, September 2, 2011.

[ii] Arthur, Laffer, ‘How to Fight Black Unemployment: The tragedy of the failed stimulus is felt hard in minority communities. There's a better way.’ Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2011.

[iii] Alexander, M. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, New York, New Press, 2010.

[iv] Rieman, J. (1979). The Rich Get Rich and The Poor Get Poorer. New York: Wiley.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


            As the members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) embark on another indefinite strike in December 2011, I re-circulate this opinion that I published in The Guardian on Monday, November 02, 2009, during the previous ASUU strike.

   ASUU and the Crisis of Hegemony
By Biko Agozino
   I SALUTE the courageous members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria for leading the struggle to improve higher education in the country. No other civic organization could lay claim to more dedication, more sacrifice and more achievement in making university education better in Nigeria than the great ASUU. The recent three month-long strike is another reminder that ASUU members are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the patriotic goal of advancing higher education to a level comparable in the international community. As a former member of ASUU and a passionate supporter of all the actions taken by the union, I send solidarity greetings.
   Having said that, I must submit that the time has come for us to review the permanent revolution strategy of ASUU and see if the mode of protest has   outstripped the means of protest and what needs to be done. The preferred means of protest by ASUU is the declaration of indefinite strikes. If we look around the world, it is clear that this means of protest is no longer as popular as it once seemed in the 20th century. Indefinite strikes by university teachers are almost unheard of in a modern university where the mode of struggle is predominantly intellectual and moral for obvious reasons.

If the universities in Nigeria are nowhere in the ranking of the top 1,000 universities in the world, it may not be simply because of inadequate funding but also because for large chunks of the academic year, university academic staff are on strike for legitimate reasons when they could be contributing scholarly growth that would propel our institutions into the list of some of the best in the world.
   I am uncomfortable with the strategy of the indefinite strike because it leaves our students vulnerable to manipulation and NANS threatened to dramatize such vulnerability with a planned naked protest of 700,000 students in the federal capital territory, Abuja. Since students have always predominantly sided with ASUU in its disputes with the government, we need to review the dominant strategy of ASUU to avoid handicapping students in such disputes.
Besides the vulnerability of students, indefinite strikes leave our courageous intellectuals over-exposed as eminent professors moonlight in demeaning ways just to put food on the table of their frustrated families. I am sure that great ASUU members do not mind such huge sacrifices but are there alternatives that could prevent such indignities? For instance, ASUU could launch campaigns for the recall of failing politicians who are sabotaging education policies and raise voluntary contributions to support the campaigns of any politicians who would support education as is the case in many advanced countries.
   The privileging of indefinite strikes appears to come out of the books of what Gramsci described as the 'war of the maneuvers' which was how battles were fought in the olden days with each side lined up and with victory coming in a flash as a result of the breach of the defences of one side. Due to changes in the means of warfare and the mode of warfare which Gramsci used as metaphors for changes in political struggles generally, strategies changed to the war of positions or the war of the trenches with the awareness that, for politics, the trenches encompass the whole of civil society and therefore the fronts are everywhere and not at this fortress or that.
   There are many scandals in Nigerian higher education but the fact that university teachers are forced to abandon their duties indefinitely from time to time is a huge scandal that is making the great ASUU lose the struggle over hegemony with the government. The university intellectuals should reconsider this worn-out strategy and rely more on intellectual and moral leadership because such hegemonic tactics appear to be more successful when adopted in any struggle than the strategy of militancy and force. Lenin was credited with fashioning this strategy when it became obvious that Russian workers were too few to win the support of the peasant majority by force. He strategized that the workers would only win the loyalty of other exploited classes by offering them intellectual and moral leadership.
   Gramsci has been credited with extending this analysis to the ruling class since the ruling class in a capitalist society is also too few in number to rule by force alone. They have to dominate by offering intellectual and moral leadership to the dominated classes in order to win over their coerced consent. Force is never absent from the strategies of the ruling class but the reliance on the consent of the ruled is more effective than domination by force and whenever the dominant group resorts to force, it is proof that the hegemony of the group is in crisis. For people under domination, moral and intellectual leadership would be more effective than militant confrontations, Gramsci suggested in his Prison Notebooks.
   It may be argued that Gramsci is not relevant to Nigeria because he was theorizing conditions in advanced democratic societies where class struggles were the dominant concerns in the consciousness of the people (although Gramsci underestimated the importance of white supremacy or racism and patriarchy or sexism, his brief commentary on 'The war in the colonies', not withstanding) whereas Nigeria remains a society that is mired in ethnic and religious loyalties and crass opportunism. This may be why Nigerian University workers believe that the only language the country's rulers understand is force. However, Nigeria is not the only underdeveloped country in the world but we appear to be the only one where intellectual professionalism has sunk so low that many believe that the only way to correct the situation is to close the universities for five years and set up a commission of enquiry to find out what is wrong.
The law guarantees the rights of university workers to go on strike but next time, please make it a one or two day strike (not just as the so-called warning strikes) and return to the classroom to allow mediation and negotiation to continue while the intellectuals continue doing the great job that they love doing as best they could. Not even the general strike of the 1940s led by the great Michael Imoudu lasted for three months despite the fact that the struggle for the restoration of independence was more crucial than any of the demands of ASUU today.
   The tendency to abandon duties for months on end, no matter how justified the reasons and no matter how glorious the outcomes, must be ended because it is making us the laughing stock of the global intellectual community while giving employers the opportunity to declare victory over syndicalism. I salute ASUU but I am reluctant to support another indefinite strike in our crisis-ridden university system. So I hope that the end of the strike will translate into an enduring decorum suitable for intellectual pursuits.

As our high schools record massive failures, the lecturers have their tough task mapped out for them and so no more distraction as these patriots go about trying to raise another Achebe, Soyinka, Nwapa, Awojobi, Chike Obi, Bala Muhammed, or Ransome-Kuti from the debris of ruined opportunities. For instance, ASUU could launch a new course, 'Study Skills for High School Students', similar to General Studies in the universities to prepare more of the students for success before admission as part of the solution to the falling standards.
   Of course, the government could easily prevent another strike by granting the very basic demands of ASUU following agreements reached in the past but not fully implemented. The government should take the new agreements seriously and adhere to them. The government should even go beyond those basic demands and surprise everyone by investing heavily in education at all levels by, for example, recruiting unemployed graduates and deploying them as mass education teachers to eradicate illiteracy within four years the way that Cuba did. Increasing the funding for education four-fold would make ASUU smile and rule out any more hurtful indefinite strikes.
   Dr. Agozino is Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies Program, Virginia Tech. United States

Monday, November 14, 2011


By Dr. Biko Agozino

Achebe has again rejected the ‘third highest national honour’, CFR, from a second Nigerian President to make that offer to him in a row. The first time he was offered the honour by President Obasanjo, he turned it down on the ground that with the lack of attention to his thesis on The Trouble With Nigeria that he published decades ago during a period of his active participation in politics as the National Secretary of the Peoples Redemption Party, he did not see how the acceptance of a third highest national honor would make any difference to the suffering masses.

President Jonathan has just offered him the same prize and again Achebe turned it down with the remark that what is holding us down as a nation is still holding us down and so we should not dignify our incompetence in the face of abundant resources with the third highest national honor. President Jonathan did not understand this simple proverb of the wordsmith and so he came out with the allegation that the great writer is out of touch with reality. During the reign of Abacha, a Nigerian foreign minister used the same illogic to dismiss the campaigns of Wole Soyinka by telling journalists at the Commonwealth meeting in Edinburgh that Soyinka is a fiction writer who makes up things. 

President Jonathan should display more civility if he wishes to comprehend this public relations disaster fully. First of all, by offering the same honour to Achebe that he had rejected from Obasanjo, he was trying to personalize it as if it was rejected earlier due to any personal animosity towards Obasanjo. If Jonathan had good advisers, they would have consulted with Achebe before making the list public this time around. In fact, President Jonathan should have tried to demonstrate that he agreed with Achebe that the country was in a mess when he was first offered that third highest national honour and that the mess remains to be cleaned. He should have listened to the Brown University Achebe Colloquium on the 2010 election in Anambra state and at least demonstrated that he was willing to follow the simple conclusion that it was not a problem that could be fixed even with the most credible elections. 

Good advisers would have told President Jonathan to add jara or something extra to that third highest national honour before presenting it to the Eagle on the top of the Iroko once more. Why should the greatest writers from Nigeria be offered only the third highest national honour while kleptocrats and relative nobodies who managed to get away with treasonable felonies by ways of military coups and international-thief-thief are decorated with the highest honours of the land? What have they contributed to Nigeria to deserve such highest honours more than Achebe or Soyinka? Next time, the politicians should show humility by offering the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic to our greatest writers who have contributed more to the country than all the corrupt politicians put together. Next time, if they offer him the highest honor of the land after making credible moves to address the concerns he raised, Achebe should accept it because he has made the point clear enough and no one deserves the highest honour in Nigeria more than him.

Go to Scotland and you will find that the biggest monument was erected in a park to honour Sir Walter Scott for his novel Waverley after which the railway terminal in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, is named. England has both Shakespeare and Dickens on their pound notes while the US has Benjamin Franklin on the highest denomination dollar note. In Germany, Goethe’s name is used to market their culture internationally through their embassies. China has been building up the Confucius Institutes to teach the world about their language and culture. In Russia, a black man, Pushkin, is almost a Saint for being the first writer to use the Russian language. But in Nigeria, as Achebe stated in The Trouble with Nigeria, incompetence is celebrated and mediocrity is ranked over excellence. I believe that this is the major parable that Achebe is trying to convey but I may be wrong. The great man is likely to reject even the highest honor of the land if it is offered to him in this state of affairs where insecurity, poverty, illiteracy, ill-health and unemployment  are on the increase while World Bank economists tell us that there is no cause for alarm; that the economy is growing at over 7% per annum: growth of underdevelopment or growth without development.

Instead of seeking to quarrel with Achebe publicly, President Jonathan should make The Trouble With Nigeria a required book for social studies in Nigeria, set up a committee to study ways of addressing the concerns raised in the book, and start implementing the policy implications. Holding up the last general elections that remain contentious and also that engulfed the country into massive bloodshed as evidence of electoral reforms that should have persuaded Achebe to accept the third highest national honour is to display lack of appreciation for the enormity of the problems confronting Nigeria.

Having rejected a one million dollar donation from 50 Cents for the right to use the title of his iconic Things Fall Apart in his movie about the enslavement of African American men by the professional sports industry, Achebe is communicating the old Igbo adage that a good name is better than money at a time that people wrongly conclude that every Nigerian has a price and that the Igbo in particular will do anything for money. Personally, I think that Achebe should let 50 Cents use those three words because, although his rap music is misogynistic, this particular black film directed by Mario Van Peebles has a good moral message for young African Americans who are trapped in the elusive chase after the dream of sports super stardom (as far as I can tell from the trailer).  Moreover Achebe did not invent those three words, he borrowed them from ‘The Second Coming’, a poem by William Butler Yeats that was published at the end of the First World War. The Achebe Foundation should accept the donation from young African American Artists and use the money to award scholarships to poor students in the name of our father, The Odenigbo 1.

Dr. Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies Program, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Artful Dodger Subsidy Withdrawal

By Biko Agozino

A colleague asked me to comment on his treatise on the just announced Nigerian policy of removing subsidies from petroleum products. The colleague started by stating that petrol is cheap in Nigeria and that the subsidies served as a form of wealth re-distribution especially given that there does not appear to be any other way of trickling down the oil wealth to the impoverished masses. He did not go the extra step in his logic to recognize that if his premise is right, then removing the subsidies is tantamount to raising taxation on Nigerians by executive fiat and without legislative authority. Not that it will be too difficult to obtain legislative rubber stamping with Ghana Must Go (or Imo Must Go from Abia and vice versa) bags.

I told him that his premise that petrol is cheap will probably be contested in Nigeria because the pump price in most locations is well above the #65.00 per litter that is the official price available only at the few NNPC Depots where you are more likely to run into ‘No Fuel’ cardboard notices. This means that when the government removes a subsidy that was not there in real terms to begin with, then the fuel hawker will put his own jara on top, the okada rider will raise his fares, the garri trader will inch up the cost of eba by factoring in the cost of transportation and the cost of kola at roadblocks, and the landlord will raise rents, schools and hospitals may charge more to cover the costs of gas; hence the inflation my colleague rightly predicted. 

The colleague had good advice for sister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to take it easy, because Nigeria is not the US where the World Bank and IMF are located and where the policies of those International Monetary Organizations are never imposed, no matter the level of their fiscal crisis. In the US, for instance, they have welfare policies for the unemployed and the aged but nothing like that exists in Nigeria despite the fact that the US owes tens of trillions of dollars as budget deficits. In the US, citizens are copying the popular struggles in North Africa by organizing the Occupy Wall Street campaign that has spread to cities across the country while in Nigeria, there does not appear to be a popular uprising against even worse income disparities and higher unemployment rates. 

Only the labour organizations in the country are mounting a credible opposition to the proposed subsidy withdrawal. The Nigerian Labour Congress has called on the government to cut  all 'unnecessary spending' as an alternative to the withdrawal of subsidies (This Day, 10/17/11). The NLC has been the leading voice campaigning for a starvation minimum wage of 18,000 per month that state governments are reluctant to implement. The Trade Union Congress has accused the government of corruption for claiming that it will spend #1.2 trillion this year on subsidy while only #240 billion was budgeted for that and the NNPC retaliated by calling organized labour 'enemies of the economy (The Punch, 10/17/11). The SSANU has termed the withdrawal of subsidies a 'declaration of war'. The Academic Staff Union of Universities threatens strikes over the refusal of the government to implement the extension of retirement age to 70 years at a time that the trend in other parts of the world is towards early retirement.

The US reduces gas prices by reducing taxation at the pump, compared to Europe. In addition, Europa and Americana give their corporations hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts and stimulus packages, farm subsidies and business start-up capital, such as the $500,000,000 given to the solar company, Solyndra, that just folded up after pocketing half a billion (yes, with a b) US dollars from Uncle Santa. 

As Finance Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had announced a fifty billion naira credit for cassava farmers, promising that 30% of that would go to female farmers but she was quickly moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and my guess is as good as yours that some big ogas simply chopped the 50 billion naira just like that. Similarly, Comrade President Yaradua ear-marked 200 billion naira to be disbursed as grants to Nigerians but he was quickly incapacitated by illness and his death was never investigated as Wole Soyinka demanded while the 200 billion naira he proposed just vanished without Nigerians asking questions.

In the US, the debate is whether to raise taxation on the richest one percent to the level being paid by the middle class but the Republicans, calling president Obama a class warrior to his delight, have vowed to maintain the Bush era tax cuts for the richest one percent and are seeking to cut welfare and Medicare entitlements for the poor as their preferred strategies for balancing the budget. Across Europe and Asia, huge sums of money are being doled out as corporate welfare while in Britain, welfare and social services have been drastically cut by the current Conservative government. The recent riots in England and in Greece and the current mass protests occupying Wall Street in America are obviously connected with on-going class warfare against the poor by the rich and the powerful as professor Stuart Hall clearly indicated in a recent article in the UK Guardian. Worse policies appear to be heaped on Nigerians and they continue to endure the hardship along with the insecurity that is bred by phantom capitalism.

My colleague outlined the projects on which the government intends to spend the savings from the withdrawn subsidies but none of the plans for the estimated six to ten billion dollars savings has any reference to the suffering people. Rather they propose to use it to patch up roads that they have multiple times budgeted to patch up with vanishing funds, open new refineries that would soon be handed over to private investors at a discount, generate electricity, build infrastructure, all euphemisms for sharing and chopping the savings because all those things they want to start doing are things they had revenues to do before. For instance, President Obasanjo spent $10b or more on power generation while generator tycoons continued to kill whole families with CO2 poisoning; power ko, power ni. 

No American president will wake up and slap a huge tax on the citizens in the guise of subsidy withdrawal without facing a recall election or mass protests even from members of his own party. What President Obama is trying to do is to get Congress to approve additional stimulus of $450b with which to help to create more jobs in America but Republicans in Senate and even two Democratic senators have blocked that move simply because it includes proposals to raise the taxation rates for millionaires back to what it was under President Clinton.

If you ask me for an alternative since President Jonathan has presented Nigerians with a fait accompli, then for the first five years, all the $10b annual savings should be disbursed directly to the Nigerian people for business start-ups, research budgets in the sciences and humanities, scholarships funding, welfare benefits, housing, free medical access and publicly funded education at all levels for all... That will work out at one thousand five hundred billion naira a year and so every corner of the country will be touched by the entrepreneurial and industrial revolution that will be unleashed when such grants are disbursed transparently. Some of the start-ups will fail but those that succeed will make all the differences in job creation and the government will eventually recoup the investment through corporate taxes and income taxes from the employees in addition to value-added taxes from their sales.

All those Egbesu, Area or Bakassi Boys running around looking for someone to kidnap for ransom or the Boko Haram activists looking for something to blow up may just go back to school, or go to any city and open up a small business or return to their villages and set up an agro business with their #1m naira grant and employ five or more desperadoes or team up with other grantees to set up medium sized cooperative businesses. After five years, then let the politicians give Nigerians half the savings and embezzle the rest as they always planned to do and let EFCC chase after them for that. Of course, as the NLC implied, the government could implement such a massive grants programs to Nigerians without imposing draconian taxes in the guise of withdrawing subsidies

Dr. Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies, Virginia Tech.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Zero-Tolerance, Control-Freaks and UK 'Riots'

The War on Drugs Done It.
By Biko Agozino

The uprising and the looting that occurred across England recently have renewed calls for zero-tolerance policing and get tough approaches to law and order. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, set the tone when he suggested that police tactics were ineffective and he reportedly threatened to cut off social media and authorize the police to use water cannons and rubber bullets. He blamed the ‘riots’ on hooligans, criminals and badly brought up kids who had no respect for the authorities. This was quickly followed by newspaper opinions suggesting that the police did nothing to stop the disturbances whereas the police protested that they did the best they could in a democracy that prides itself with policing by consent rather than by force. In this chatter, it is easily forgotten that the disturbances were ignited by a police killing of a black man.

In the Global Commission on Drug Policy Report, there is reference to research reports which concluded that more intensive policing of the drugs market leads to increased violence on the streets. The conclusion appears to be supported by the circumstances that sparked the disturbances in England recently. For instance, if the British government was not waging a lost war on drugs, the police may not have assumed automatically that the young black father of four that they executed must have been an armed member of Yardie drug gangs. Rather than push the police into using more force to police the people, a sober reflection on the chain of events would call for more restraint on the powers of the police as a more lasting solution to the problem of unsafe streets: End the war on drugs as many, including police officers, have been demanding.

Paul Gilroy, Professor of Sociology at LSE, prefaced his classic essay, ‘The Myth of Black Criminality’ in the 1982 issue of The Socialist Register, with the view of a top London police officer, who claimed that policing was like a cricket match in which you were expected not just to win but to ‘thrash’ the other side, contrary to the claim of CLR James that cricket is a game of sportsmanship in which you are expected to be nice to the other side even when you win. In the article, Gilroy cautioned left-wing criminologists who thought that they were being realists when they proclaimed that they had discovered something called ‘black criminality’ in official crime statistics and victimization surveys. He warned that such a way of thinking would embolden the police to intensify repressive ‘fire-brigade policing’ and also extend surveillance strategies that were concentrated mainly on black communities through ‘community policing’. In reality there is no such thing as ‘black criminality’ just as there is no such thing as ‘white criminality’ because no crime is committed exclusively by any racial group and no such group is made up entirely of criminals. Yet the police set up Operation Trident exclusively targeting the black community.

The point that Gilroy was making is that the responsibility for abuse of power is not borne exclusively by brutal officials but also by the intellectuals who provide the ideological justification for ‘taking crime seriously at the working class level’ while remaining silent about crimes of the powerful. This was indirectly brought up in the viral internet video clip of a BBC interview with Darcus Howe in which the former moderator of the Devil’s Advocate series of debates on BBC television was accused of being fond of rioting himself after he complained of the harassment of his grandson by the police on numerous occasions. He calmly explained to the female interviewer that there was no need to ‘insult an old West Indian Negro’ and added that he organized peaceful demonstrations in the past for which he was often arrested but acquitted because he broke no law. He called that type of activism an uprising and differentiated it from a riot. The BBC reportedly apologized to Mr. Darcus Howe for the offensive interview but David Cameron is yet to apologize to parents in England for suggesting that only badly brought up children joined the protest. Gilroy could have cited Stuart Hall on Policing the Crisis if only to demonstrate that not all left-wing intellectuals buy into the myth of black criminality.

While blaming the problem on poor parenting, Mr. Cameron promised to consult with a former New York police chief on how to reduce gang crime in London without realizing that even after the reductions in New York, London was still much safer compared to New York and Los Angeles. Before Mr. Cameron rushes off to Uncle Sam for magical solutions that do not exist in volatile American cities, he should do very well to consult someone like Professor Stuart Hall who was warning 25 years ago that Britain was Drifting Into a Law and Order Society with a brand of neo-conservatism that was both authoritarian and populist; relying on a mobilization of ‘nation’, ‘Britishness’, culture and commerce as metaphors for whiteness, wealth, privilege and rank; to construct a society structured in race-class-gender dominance. Cameron should also read Folk Devils and Moral Panics by Professor Stan Cohen, lest he creates more problems in the guise of solutions by, for example, supporting the control-freak sentencing of an eleven year old to nearly two years of detention for being found with a garbage can and sentencing a 12 year old to nearly the same time for taking a chocolate bar during the uprising.

I recommend the Global Report on Drug Policy published recently by world leaders including Richard Branson, Kofi Annan and Professor Cardoso, the eminent sociologist and former president of Brazil, calling for an end to the war on drugs because the war has only succeeded in ruining the lives of poor youth around the world without reducing access to drugs. The youth who looted shops in England may have been indirectly asking for farm subsidies-type of grants to run their own businesses and or be left alone to lawfully sell their little bags of marihuana on the streets of London and create wealth without being harassed by ‘BabyLondon’ forces while we use education to get young people to say no to drugs as we do with tobacco. Rather than look to New York for solutions, Mr. Cameron should look to Amsterdam and ask himself why it is a relatively safer city than New York. Young people are no longer simply looking for jobs, they want to be their own bosses!


Dr. Biko Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA. 1-540-231-7699

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AU Press Release on Libya

AU Press Release on Libya

Suggested By Biko Agozino

Whereas the conflict in Libya arose over the legitimate demand for increased democratization of the country in line with the mainly peaceful democratic revolutions sweeping across the world, it was quickly hijacked by an armed gang of rebels and metamorphosed into a civil war with the help of NATO countries that took military action in support of their sponsored UN resolutions 1970 and 1973 supposedly to protect civilian lives but inevitably killing Libyans and drowning hundreds of fleeing African refugees;

The African Union hereby orders an immediate stop to the bombing of any African country by NATO forces or there will be a complete break in diplomatic relations with all the countries participating in the military aggression against Africa. If the bombing does not cease by the weekend, all members of the African Union are hereby directed to recall their diplomats from the offending NATO countries and expel their diplomats from Africa until further notice.

Since the NATO forces claim to be acting on behalf of UN resolutions, we have resolved to remain in the UN to voice our opposition to this neo-imperialist aggression against Africa. The arrogance with which the NATO countries are bombing Africa would not be tolerated by any other region of the world and neither would the African Union stomach such a naked grab for the natural resources of Africa in the guise of humanitarian intervention.

NATO forces have continued to bomb the African State of Libya for more than three months in total disregard of the reasonable call for a cease-fire by the African Union Commission, using the excuse of a resolution by the Arab League as an additional justification. We call on African Union members of the Arab League to immediately break ties with that unrepresentative and unaccountable organization which has never called for the bombing of any repressive Arab country outside Africa and which remained silent when black African citizens of Libya were being murdered by racist rebels who dubbed them mercenaries.

 Rather than rush to join NATO neocolonialist in recognizing an unelected band of rebels hired and equipped by aggressive NATO countries as the only legitimate representatives of the proud people of Libya, the African Union hereby calls on the rebels to lay down their foreign arms and engage in the African philosophy of non-violence as the best way to resolve the crisis in Libya.

We demand that the NATO countries that are bombing Libya must bear the full cost of reparations for the people assassinated and for the reconstruction of the homes and infrastructure destroyed in the country as a precondition before any renewal of diplomatic relations between those countries and member states of the African Union.

It is a fact that Libya is the African country ranked highest on the Human Development Index of the UNDP for decades and it is true that Gaddafi has been the most vocal advocate for African Union government. Now, the NATO imperialists are taking pride in bragging about degrading the infrastructure of the country, with the greedy wish that their own companies would be awarded oil contracts and contracts for the reconstruction of the country. We condemn such violent greed and hold the NATO countries accountable for the damage being done on African soil.

The African Union reiterates the call for a comprehensive cease-fire by NATO forces, the rebels and by the Libyan army to enable political negotiations by the people of Libya on the way forward for their country under the supervision of AU Peacekeepers. The NATO forces claim that they will continue to bomb Africa until Gaddafi steps down but as Africans, we cannot accept such an imperialist ultimatum any longer. It is not up to a gang of imperialist bullies to determine when any leader steps down in an African state; only the citizens should decide that through a peaceful democratic process.

We call on our brother leader, Gaddafi, to heed the call for change in Libya by initiating a process of transition, starting with a national constituent assembly to draw up a multi-party constitution which would provide for equal representation of men and women in all arms of government, give all Africans at home and abroad the right of citizenship in the state of Libya as a model for the African Union Government, allow elections to be held before the end of the year and allow a new leadership to transition in the country peacefully.

We call on all members of the African Union to witness the ongoing fantasy of re-colonization being performed by NATO war-mongers and therefore speed up the process of reconstituting the people of Africa into the People’s Republic of Africa United Democratically (PRAUD). That is the only guarantee we will have that no small ants, foreign or native, will ever again attempt to swallow the African elephant without thinking twice.

When we are reunited as the African republic, citizens at home and in the Diaspora can move to any state of their choice and settle without fear, state governors and the president of Africa will have term limits, we will pool our resources together to provide decent living for Africans and we will be able to demand successfully for the countries that enslaved and colonized Africa for centuries to pay reparations to Africa.

This will be a win-win for the entire world because a united Africa will be able to buy more from and sell more to the rest of the world with our convertible common currency – the Afro, save resources by ending the duplication of foreign embassies and armies by the fifty-four states, reduce corruption, prevent civil wars, deter foreign invasions, provide additional internal revenues for poorer states and foreign aid for poor countries in other parts of the world, and ‘defossilize’ the genius that made Africa the origin of civilization for the benefit of all humanity.

Do not agonize; organize!

Dr. Biko Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Director of Africana Studies Program, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061,