Thursday, December 12, 2013


By Biko Agozino

Did General Olusegun Obasanjo plagiarize his so long a letter from Achebe’s There Was A Country without crediting the author? Obasanjo cited an academic research paper on allegations that Nigerian politicians are protecting an indicted drug dealer who is a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party even after the trial and appeal courts ruled that he should be extradited to the US for trial. This unusual reference to an academic source in Obasanjo’s self-opinionated lambasting of an administration that he helped to arrange is the only content that appears original compared to the contents of pages 243 to 258 of There Was a Country, a book that Obasanjo pretends not to have read or heard about. According to Achebe in part 4 of the book:

‘The post Nigeria-Biafra civil war era saw a “unified” Nigeria saddled with a greater and more insidious reality. We were plagued by a home-grown enemy: the political ineptitude, mediocrity, indiscipline, ethnic bigotry, and corruption of the ruling class. Compounding the situation was the fact that Nigeria was now awash in oil-boom petrodollars, …. A new era of great decadence and decline was born. It continues to this day’ (p. 243).


If Obasanjo's ghost writer had done basic literature review for his term paper-like letter, he would not have tried to reinvent the wheel of Achebe and he would not have placed all the blame on one individual party leader, President Jonathan. Achebe saw the problem as a task not just for the politicians but also for the followership and especially the ‘intellectuals, particularly writers’ who faced the ‘conundrum’ and tried to find solutions instead of blaming the problem on ‘our complicated past and the cold war raging in the background.’ He charged the intellectuals with the task of developing a new program, from the grassroots, through which to rescue the nation. But Obasanjo atomized the problem by blaming it all on one man. To Achebe, Nigerians needed to fight this enemy with every means at our disposal rather than abandon it to the rulers as Obasanjo seems to suggest.

Of course, Obasanjo appears to be in agreement with Achebe that the first task for Nigerians is to ‘identify the right leader with the right kind of character, education and background.’ But whereas Obasanjo focused on Nigeria almost chauvinistically, Achebe saw the problem as one that faced all of Africa – the problem of ‘where Africa had been, and where it needed to go’ (p. 244). Goodluck Jonathan is not the president of every state in Africa but the problems identified by Obasanjo do not apply exclusively to Nigeria. Achebe correctly identified the problem as that of the second struggle for libration: ‘For the second time in our short history we had to face the disturbing fact that Nigeria (and Africa by extension) needed to liberate itself anew, this time not from a foreign power but from our own corrupt, inept brothers and sisters!’ (p. 244).

Achebe confessed that after waiting around for a while, he and other intellectuals decided to enter into partisan politics to see what difference they could make from within. He and others (such as Eskor Toyo, Bala Mohammed, Wole Soyinka, Bala Usman and S.G. Ikoku) joined the ‘left-of-center Peoples Redemption Party’ of Malam Aminu Kano and Achebe was elected the Deputy National President. Their goal was to stir Nigerians into asking critical questions such as how to conduct a free and fair election, how to elect the right kinds of leaders who would not seek to prolong their tenure or turn into a dynasty as Obasanjo attempted in his Third Term bid and as he now accuses Jonathan of planning to attempt. Achebe concluded that his 'sojourn in politics' was completely disappointing and that he was frustrated to realize that despite the fact that some upright politicians like Aminu Kano existed, the vast majority of the politicians were there for selfish greed (as Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe predicted in his 1983 essay on ‘Entreeism’). The intellectuals had grand ideas all right but Nigeria lacked the ‘strong leader’ who would implement them, an idea that Obasanjo echoes in his long-winded letter.

Unlike Obasanjo who obsessed with one single leader in his letter, Achebe declared that the problem of leadership exists at every level from the local government council to governors and all the way to the presidency. As a dictator, Obasanjo may be more accustomed to thinking of the leader as a maximum superhero who swoops down from Asokoro Mansion and takes care of his cronies but that is proof that he does not understand the extent of the systematic problem that Achebe analyzed. Achebe specifically identified the problem of godfatherism as one that Nigerians must get rid of from the political process but Obasanjo still fancies himself a godfather of sorts and asked Jonathan to forward his open letter to some other godfathers who allegedly share his concerns. Achebe used the model of Igbo democracy to illustrate the emphasis on achievement as opposed to ascribed monarchical privileges and challenged Nigerians to deepen democracy as the very antithesis of military rule whereas Obasanjo warns of the possibility of return to military dictatorship based on his understanding that it is one Ijaw man, rather than the ‘ruling class’ that Achebe fingered, who is destroying Nigeria, warning that he may be the first and last Ijaw man to rule the country. Why?

Whereas Obasanjo cited the Central Bank of Nigeria in accusing the Jonathan administration of not accounting for a mere $7 billion in oil revenue, Achebe quoted the World Bank as estimating that Nigerian rulers had stolen $400 billion from the public since independence. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation immediately attempted to correct the accounting of the Central Bank of Nigeria and suggested that, ironically as Fela Kuti put it during Obasanjo’s military dictatorship when $12.2 billion went missing and they set up an enquiry that concluded that ‘money no loss o, them dabaroo everybody’, naming Obasanjo personally as the conductor of what Fela called a system of International Thief-Thief; NNPC suggests that no money is missing today.

Achebe indicated that Nigeria was ranked at number 14 on the Failed States Index in 2011 and while Obasanjo openly accused the Jonathan administration of running a killer squad, Achebe concluded that; ‘In many respects, Nigeria’s federal government has always tolerated terrorism’ by turning a blind eye to ‘ferocious and savage massacres of its citizens – mainly Christian Southerners; mostly Igbos and indigenes of the Middle Belt and others – with impunity’ (p. 251). Achebe saw the solution in the dismantling of the 'conveniently incompetent' Nigerian federal government and its culture of mediocrity through the democratic political process. Obasanjo’s solution appears to be that of entrenching his own discredited political party in power by humiliating the figure head out of office for a candidate of Obasanjo’s choice to enter and use what he called 'carrots and sticks' to fight insecurity rather than rely mainly on the militarist strategy of the present administration, a strategy that Obasanjo himself fashioned and implemented in his previous administrations.

It is welcome to know that President Jonathan has avoided a public mud-slinging response to Obasanjo’s letter and opted to pay him a personal visit to discuss the important issues raised in the letter. The president should thank Obasanjo for his rightful contribution to the national conversation but remind him that the problem goes beyond any individual and envelopes all Nigerians as Achebe pointed out. Obasanjo should also be advised to avoid claiming that it is African leaders and foreign investors who begged him to help the Nigerian government because it is his patriotic duty to help his country given his position as a past president who is a member of the national security council and also a leader of the ruling party. Obasanjo’s identification of quality education as one of the solutions to what he called a ‘culture of hatred’, insecurity and poverty is a solution that could have been lifted out of Achebe’s book except that Achebe privileged free and fair elections as the foundation for all the solutions, a foundation that Obasanjo failed to lay. Achebe concluded with a postscript in which he called on Africans to emulate the example of the great Madiba who was wronged but habored no bitterness and who relinquished power after only one term despite a claim recently by Obasanjo that he had tried to persuade Mandela to stay on in power.

Beyond Achebe’s focus on the ineffective rule by an inept ruling class, Biodun Jeyifo, in his epic review of There Was A Country, has also called attention to the exploitative nature of the economic system in the country as deserving a transformation. Three good pieces of advice that Obasanjo gave to all Nigerians, not just to Jonathan, are that those in leadership position should not see critics as enemies to be eliminated, that the military alone cannot defeat terrorism and so by implication, some carrots need to be extended to the victims of terrorism as reparations despite President Jonathan having inexplicably ruled out reparations, and that leaders should not see themselves as representing only their own ethnic groups. Such pieces of advice are straight out of Achebe’s There Was a Country

All Nigerians should be required to study Achebe's book and they will agree with me when I say that the answer to the question in the title of this blog is no, Obasanjo did not plagiarize from Achebe; some of his complaints are voiced by the masses in the country all the time. President Jonathan should respond to ex-President Obasanjo with humility, admit his short-comings and ask for even more constructive criticism from all Nigerians. Truly, Obasanjo has sinned (like all) and come short of the glory of critics but the testimony of a rogue who flips to become a prosecution witness against his accomplices remains admissible in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. Set a thief to catch a thief.

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inconclusiveness: INEC Erred in Fact and in Law

 By Biko Agozino

INEC officials erred in law and in fact by declaring that the Anambra State Governorship election was inconclusive. According to the Returning Officer, Professor James Epoke, the Vice Chancellor of my beloved Alma Mater, University of Calabar, there will be a supplementary election in areas with cancelled votes because the cancelled votes were more than the difference between the winning party, APGA, and the runner up party, PDP. Fa-fa-fa foul, as Chief Zeburudaya would say.

The relevant sections of the constitution cited by the eminent Professor of Microbiology do not say anything about such an arbitrary ruling by INEC based on the margin of victory compared to invalid or cancelled votes. What the constitution demands is that the winner must secure 25% or more of the valid votes in at least 2/3 of the local governments, along with the highest number of the valid votes cast. On legal grounds, INEC erred by trying to legislate about the difference between cancelled votes and the winning margin. That requirement is not in the constitution.

According to Section 179 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, for any Candidate to be declared winner of a Governorship Election in Nigeria, he/she must satisfy the following requirements: Section 179 (1): The Candidate must score the highest number of Valid Votes cast in the Election. Section 179 (2): The Candidate must secure 25% or 1/4 (one quarter) of the Valid Votes cast in the Election in at least 2/3 (two thirds) of the LGAs in the State (in the case of Anambra State, two thirds is equivalent to 14 Local Government Areas out of 21).

Only the APGA candidate, Willy Obiano, met these Constitutional requirements, having won outright in 16 LGAs and having secured 25% or 1/4 (one quarter) of Valid Votes cast in 18 out of 21 LGAs. The minority parties only come close when the LGAs in which they scored 25% are combined to make 17 which is still less than the total of APGA with 18: (PDP – 9), (APC – 7) and (LP – 1). Supplementary elections are not likely to alter the margin of the APGA victory significantly.

Out of a total of 413,005 valid votes cast, APGA secured 174,710; PDP got 94,956; APC won 92,300 and LP managed 37,446. If the minority parties had combined their votes, they could have won the highest number of valid votes but APGA would still beat them in the number of LGAs in which its candidate secured 25% or more of the valid votes (see the analysis by Ghana News).

On factual grounds, INEC erred because statisticians routinely do not include what is known as ‘missing values’ when calculating the measures of central tendency and measures of dispersion. If you conduct a survey, there are questions that some respondents may leave unanswered. If you record zero as an answer for them, the computer will assume that the zero will be included in determining the average answer to that question.

This will obviously distort the mean or average and for this reason, statisticians will code non-responses as ‘missing values’ to allow the calculation of the mean and the standard deviation to be based on the number of valid answers. If 1000 people completed the questionnaire but 100 people did not answer a particular question, the average and standard deviation for the answers to that question will be based on the 900 valid responses and not on the 1000 sample of respondents.

What the INEC officials decided is unreasonable in law and in fact because, for example, if there is a football match between Nigeria and Mexico at the World Cup and Nigeria is leading by 10 goals to 5, no reasonable umpire will rule that the result is inconclusive and call for extra time just because six goals were disallowed during the match. As everyone knows, disallowed goals are in fact and under football rules considered to be no goals. The same applies to votes cancelled or deemed invalid in an election: they do not count and the constitution made that clear by underscoring that what counts are valid votes.

INEC officials may have made the cautious announcement of inconclusiveness due to intimidation, from a patriotic desire to maintain law and order, or from a human error occasioned by a sleepless night evident in the announcement by Professor Epoke at the unofficial hour of 6:30 AM.

Now that the runners up candidates have had time to reflect on the results, it is time for them to concede gracefully to the winning candidate even if INEC continues to dither. The winning party should reciprocate by including members of the minority parties in the transition team and in the eventual government on the basis of individual merit and expertise.  

Inclusiveness will help to counter the dangerous insinuations that some parties are seen as representing religious sects or ethnic blocs whereas all the citizens deserve to be given the opportunity to serve the public to the best of their abilities irrespective of initial party affiliations or lack of such and places of origin, not withstanding.

However, the large number of cancelled votes and invalid votes is a cause for concern. If someone tried to stuff the ballot boxes with invalid ballots, this should be investigated in line with the on-going investigation into suspicions that some INEC staff attempted to sabotage the election but criminal investigations should not be the excuse for delaying the announcement of the clear winner. Justice delayed is justice denied, a situation that might even provoke the public disorder or ridicule that INEC officials may have been trying to avoid with their timid announcement of inclusiveness.

I commend the people of the state for avoiding mass violence during the election despite the unfortunate tragedy at Uke that some candidates tried to politicize. I commend the presumed winning party for remaining calm even while INEC delays announcing the obvious victory. I also commend the runners up for running a good race that came close to unseating the incumbent party if only they had combined their votes in an alliance from the outset. Finally, I commend INEC for appointing respected scholars as the electoral officers to help increase transparency in the electoral process.

The chaos that we witnessed during the election is not entirely due to the ineffectiveness of INEC’s planning or incompetence in implementation. It is part of what has been theorized as African Fractals – the fact that Africans, due to the experience of having been hunted as prey for hundreds of years, devised complex non-lineal geometrical styles of social organization to make it more difficult for any invaders to capture them, conquer them or enslave them. The democratic element of recursive self-organization in African Fractals may also have been evident in Anambra State where the minority parties may have combined to outspend the winning incumbent party and yet the people themselves clearly indicated that the fish at hand was worth more than two in the river Niger.

Also worrying is the fact that only about one third of the electorate came out to vote while some registered voters could not find their names on the voting list. To improve on this turn-out record, the Electoral Act should be amended to enable INEC to allow provisional ballots to be cast in advance by people who may be too old or too sick to vote on the election day and also allow Diaspora citizens to vote at Nigerian embassies.

Furthermore, the budget of INEC should include millions of naira to be awarded to lucky winners whose voting numbers are drawn in a lottery from valid voters as a way of improving participation in elections. We know what is in it for the politicians fighting for office but a chance to win a lump sum could be something for the voters themselves too. There is no reason why this cannot be done by INEC from the billions of naira that the elections cost each time, the legislature only needs to add this provision to the Electoral Act.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Criminal Resistance? A Review Essay

Oriola, Temitope B. (2013) Criminal Resistance? The Politics of Kidnapping Oil Workers, Aldershot, Ashgate, pp 243. HB. 

Reviewed by Biko Agozino

As the Series Editor of the Ashgate Publishers Interdisciplinary Research Series in Ethnic, Gender and Class Relations in which Dr. Temitope Oriola’s book was published, I was pleased and honored to be invited to review this original contribution to knowledge during the public presentation of the book at Alberta University, Canada where the doctoral research that led to the book was done and where the award-winning author was soon lured back, as an Assistant Professor, from a major US university.

As the Series Editor who recommended the innovative manuscript for publication, I was tempted to decline the invitation to be a reviewer of the book but I relish the challenge to replace my editor’s cap with that of the critic and reflect on the book in a way that a Series Editor’s preface may not have permitted. For full disclosure, I must also confess that the author, Dr. Oriola, caught my attention in 2005 as a graduate student when he hailed my book, Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason, as laying the foundation for what he called a ‘Post-Colonial Criminology’ in a review essay that I published in the African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies that I served as the founding editor for the African Criminology and Justice Association. It is clear that his own new book is a major contribution to that paradigm of post-colonial criminology.

Following the guidelines for book reviews provided by one of my undergraduate mentors at the University of Calabar, Professor Inya Eteng, who passed away recently at the University of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta terrain of Oriola’s book, I will proceed by critically reviewing the empirical tenability of the book’s claims, the internal consistency or theoretical adequacy of the book, and the policy efficacy of the implications of the conclusions and inferences. I will leave out a summary of the contents because the author himself has provided one in chapter 8 and because I do not wish to spoil the fun for those of you yet to read the book.

The empirical tenability of the claims in the book is without doubt and the attention to the triangulation of data sources, or what the author called ‘methodological eclecticism’, in the book is very commendable. The reflexivity of the author in terms of the potential to be perceived as an outsider because of his Yoruba ethnic identity is equally noteworthy as a key for understanding the violent ethnic chauvinism that tends to cripple intellectual excellence and everything else in its wake. Scholarship should be judged on its merit and not on the basis of the pigeon hole into which the author’s tongue could be classified but not in Nigeria where who you know is often more important than what you know. The risks he took to be added to the mailing list of militants, to interview army generals and observe focus group discussions of villagers in the creeks of the Niger Delta where he was ‘jokingly’ threatened with kidnapping by a key informant, and the attention that he paid to the history of gendered and class-specific ethnic violence in Nigeria makes his book required reading by all who are interested in resolving the violent crises that plague African societies today.

In this connection, the claim in the book that over 80% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings come from the ‘monocultural’ oil industry of the Niger Delta may need to be contextualized: The eminent Marxist economist and another mentor of mine at the University of Calabar, Professor Eskor Toyo, in his chapter,  ‘Revenue Allocation and the National Question’, in the book edited by Abubakar Momoh and Said Adejumobi on The National Question in Nigeria that I published in the same Ashgate Series as Oriola’s book, estimated the contribution of oil and gas to Nigeria’s GDP to be less than 50%. This appears to be supported by annual data published by the National Bureau of Statistics which reported that the contribution of oil and gas to the GDP in the second quarter of 2012 was less than 14% while the contribution from agriculture was 40% The estimate by Toyo only appears counter-intuitive because Nigerians tend to extrapolate from the estimate that hundreds of millions of barrels are produced in the country per day, then multiply them with the price of oil and deduce what they assume to be the contribution of oil to the national income but without taking into consideration that Nigeria probably only receives 10% royalties from whatever the oil companies declare as their profits after production and exploration expenses. In any case, oil and gas being finite resources should not be the exclusive motive for any social movement organization to kidnap workers, bomb and kill citizens and sabotage the environment without turning such an organization into a reactionary anti-social movement organization.

The empirical tenability of the claims in the book could be challenged on the ground that the author left out some of the important details but in fairness to the author, no book ever covers everything and so the author should be commended for narrowing down his topic to a manageable scale under the able supervision of his dissertation advisers. Yet, the empirical tenability of the claims in the book could have been greatly enhanced through a more historical-materialist epistemological approach or through a post-structuralist discourse analysis with more coverage of the narratives of trade unionists and kidnapped workers whose voices appear drowned out by those of militants, villagers and soldiers in the book.

I flag up the relative erasure of the narratives of workers in the book as a loophole that could be filled by future researchers or during the anticipated follow-up by the author towards advancing, revising or challenging some of the arguments and conclusions in Criminal Resistance? The Kidnapping of Oil Workers. I also suspect that the relative neglect of the workers’ perspective may have resulted from the choice of theoretical frameworks that are eclectic while privileging the symbolic interactionist perspectives of Ervin Goffman and the interpretive perspective of Max Weber rather uncritically unlike the reluctant application of the historical materialist theory of social banditry, according to the Africa-born Eric Hobsbawm, that eventually formed the explanations for kidnapping found in chapter seven. The author initially questioned its relevance in chapter two because of criticism that Hobsbawm restricted the concept to rural bandits even while predicting that social bandits would become more common in Africa whereas Oriola found that the Niger Delta insurgents operated in both rural and urban locations.

Oriola’s theoretical originality lies in the application of the theories of dramaturgy and frame-making that were developed in micro or messo sociological studies of radically individualist Euro-American societies to a macro sociology of power struggles with local and global implications in African societies that the author described as still ‘very much communalistic’. The book is internally consistent to the extent that the author sticks with the chosen frameworks even after briefly considering competing perspectives. The difficulty with the chosen analytical frameworks, in my opinion, is that a less skillful writer could have ended up with ahistorical and disjointed analysis given that frame-making tends to focus on a bird’s eye-view of one frame at a time and dramaturgy implies the beginning, climax and end of conflict whereas the historically specific nature of politically-motivated violence in Africa requires deeper social structural and more systemic analysis.

The question that arises for all African researchers is this; how suitable are theoretical perspectives developed for advanced capitalist societies in the West for the study of more communalistic societies in Africa? Oriola answered this question by borrowing metaphorical terms from his rich Yoruba vocabulary to explain the intricate Althusserian ‘interpellation’ of space and social process in the Niger Delta with implications for all and sundry. Perhaps the author should have considered the theory of African Fractals which has been found by Ron Eglash (African Fractals: Indigenous Design and Modern Computer Engineering), Abdul Bangura (Fractal Complexity in thoughts of African Writers), Horace Campbell (on the 2008 organization of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign) and as illustrated in my conclusion to Counter-Colonial Criminology - a common framework employed by Africans from different cultural backgrounds to emphasize the interconnectedness of society, culture and nature in contrast to the lineal analysis of much of Cartesian European frameworks or paradigms.

Given the nature of the subject matter, I believe that a historical materialist approach synthesized with the African Fractals-influenced perspective of deconstruction (see Derrida, Specters Of Marx) and chaos theory (as Hal Pepinsky attempted but without reference to the African roots in the Geometry of Violence and Democracy) could have complicated the analysis and raised more challenging implications of the study as Stephen Pfohl recommended (Images of Deviance and Social Control) than through the liberalist and apparently pluralist perspectives chosen for the analysis of what is obviously a systemic and post-structural violence.

Thirdly, how efficacious, policy-wise, can the conclusions and implications of the book be said to be? This is a question that haunts the reader right from the preface by Professor Patrick Bond where it was almost gleefully stated that the book proves that the ‘romanticization of non-violence’ by African scholars was debunked by the book. The author repeats this theoretical claim without endorsing it in the book and reports the belief of the insurgents that non-violence failed and so, presumably, violent armed struggles were more successful. I invite readers to engage the ex-insurgents in debates on this conclusion that the author stated alongside the views that contested the presumed efficacy of violence because violence deserves more explicit critique given the high frequency of futile violence in Nigeria:

First, the claim by ex-insurgents that non-violence has failed and by implication only violence led to their success appears spurious given that the history of Africa is enveloped in permanent violence since the intrusion of Arabs and Europeans starting with Trans Saharan and then Trans Atlantic slavery and continuing in the post-colonial situation under the domination of imperialism as Oriola himself pointed out and as Toyin Falola detailed in Colonialism and Violence in Nigeria. If violence is a successful strategy, then Nigeria would have since joined the ranks of developed democracies given its recent history of a genocidal war in which an estimated three million people were killed presumably to guarantee access to the oil of the Niger Delta for members of the ruling class and yet another mentor of mine from the University of Calabar, Professor Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe (Biafra Revisited) never tires of reminding us that the Igbo genocide is the foundation of the genocidal state in post-colonial Africa. Similarly, the genocidal states in Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Congo have all failed to record significant success despite the abundance of violence and despotism. The failure of insurgent violence and violent military repression cannot be overemphasized but all Nigerians need to extend their concern to the poor throughout Nigeria who appear to be deliberately deprived of the benefits of modern education, healthcare and jobs in the midst of plenty of national resources.

Secondly, it is dubious to cite Fanon as an evangelist of violence because Fanon used his psychiatric skills to explain why people resort to violence under violent domination but not why they should do so. On the contrary, Fanon repeatedly pointed out the violent pitfalls of national consciousness by people who may fall upon each other and continue to kill even after the foreigner has been forced to withdraw as he predicted in Ivory Coast which lived up to the prediction with the fanatical blood-thirsty ideology of Ivorite or the search for who is more purely Ivorian than others. Fanon saw violence more accurately as a sign of mental disorder displayed by the torture victim who runs down the street screaming that he was going to kill a settler with a kitchen knife only to be gunned down, on the one hand, and equally by the torturer who goes home after work to torture his wife and kids, on the other. What he offered was an explanation of violence and not a prescription of violence and he concluded by inviting us to find a different path that avoids the abomination of humanity everywhere by Europeans who were nevertheless tirelessly theorizing about humanity. Had the insurgents adopted the African philosophy of non-violence they would not have resorted to the superstitious dehumanization of younger women who were expelled from their camps whenever they had their periods with the belief that such crude sexism was necessary to avoid polluting the 'warriors' who nevertheless welcomed post-menopausal women to come and 'fortify' them spiritually for victory.

Ali Mazrui may have inadvertently validated the Eurocentric wanton adoration of militarism only four years after the genocidal war in Biafra by positing that Africa was reviving a glorious ‘Warrior tradition’. He completely neglected the much more vibrant tradition of non-violence and participatory democracy that relatively survived European conquest and distortion even among the African Diaspora where Martin Luther King Jr. led a successful non-violent revolution while the Rasta philosophy of Peace and Love remains lively. Not surprisingly, Oriola found vocal condemnation of violence and kidnapping even by a major insurgent commander who complained that the tactic of kidnapping had been hijacked by purely criminal elements and rejected especially by communities that did not have a ‘benevolent insurgent commander’ who could rationalize such violence by providing infrastructures and patronage in the vacuum created by those that Fanon called the unproductive phantom Bourgeoisie of post-colonial Africa.

Contrary to the claim in the book that scholars are relatively silent on the efficacy of violent modes of struggle, left-wing scholars tend to romanticize violence to the extent of misreading Karl Marx as advocating only a bloody revolution without realizing that The Manifesto of the Communist Party was not a call for the establishment of an army and that Friedrich Engels stated in the preface to Capital that Marx saw England as having the possibilities for a non-violent revolution. Subsequently, the Bolshevik party of Lenin was called the Social Democratic Party and his answer to the question of What Is To Be Done was the establishment of a newspaper for the organization of the masses. Gramsci capped the much misrepresented Marxist tradition with the observation that even the ruling class cannot afford to dominate by force alone or even mainly by force but more commonly through coerced consent or hegemony – the very exact strategy through which the working class wins the support of other oppressed classes, not by force or mainly by force but through intellectual and moral leadership - hegemony. Amilcar Cabral applied this in his national liberation war by emphasizing the need to understand that culture and even theory is a weapon in the struggle, not just militarism. Joe Slovo also defended the strategy of the national democratic revolution in South Africa against enthusiasts of militarism (who preferred to chant one settler, one bullet) just as Lenin defended the strategies of social democracy and dismissed the militarists as people suffering from the infantile disorder of left-wing communism. Mao Tsetung suggested that the contradiction between violence and non-violence is a false contradiction because the response depends on the nature of the challenge posed. Malcolm X also stated that any means necessary was appropriate in the struggle for freedom but Malcolm used the means of intellectual and moral leadership himself, he never kidnapped or killed workers for ransom.

Finally, to answer the rhetorical question that Oriola posed with his very own title: Criminal Resistance? The Kidnapping of Oil Workers; the unambiguous answer is affirmatively yes; it is criminal to kidnap and kill workers and this cannot be justified with the claims to ‘resistance.’ It is completely reactionary violence to bomb citizens who were gathered to celebrate the independence day of their country and claim that the militants were doing so ‘with due respect’ because, in their view, there was nothing to celebrate. It is indeed criminal to bomb an oil refinery and kill or wound dozens of workers as one militant organization did while this review was being written at the end of October 2013. At last MEND apologized for bombing oil pipelines and thereby spilling oil to pollute the environment that they pretend to be seeking to protect with questionable ‘resistance’ strategies that are simply geared towards what Oriola dismissed as ‘crass opportunism’ designed to extort ransom payments from the state and from oil companies for the benefit of a few ethnic warlords who would not hesitate to collude with the state to eliminate scores of their own supporters who question their leadership style as some members of the community complained to Oriola during his courageous fieldwork.

Rather than be seduced by violence, readers of the book should also read Chinua Achebe (There Was a Country) who condemned the hostage-taking of Italian oil firm workers as a tactical blunder by Biafran troops that cost them a lot of goodwill internationally. He called on all Africans to revive the greatest contribution of Africans to political strategy and philosophy – the discourse of Ubuntu or Mbari which Mahatma Gandhi claimed that he learned as non-violence from the war-like Zulu in South Africa. Martin Luther King Jr. echoed these thoughts in 1967 at the outbreak of the Biafra war which coincided with the climax of the Civil Rights Movement in America, the Vietnam War and the anti-apartheid movement, in three speeches on the theme of a 'World House' that was inherited by distant relatives of different races, religions and classes who must learn to love peace and end violence before violence puts an end to them (Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

What the militants in the Niger Delta want more than anything else is a fair distribution of the revenues from oil and the protection of the environment but if these can be guaranteed by the Nigerian government and by the oil companies, there will be no question about the criminality of the kidnapping of workers for ransom, the killing of citizens with explosives or the damage of the environment in the name of resistance. The late President Umaru Yaradua heeded this kind of logic by abandoning the militarist strategy of his predecessor, General Olusegun Obasanjo whose security forces committed massacres in Odi in the Niger Delta and in Zaki Ibiam in Benue State, and instead initiated the 50 billion Naira amnesty program for the rehabilitation of the ex-insurgents who gave up their arms. Such a program of reparative justice should be extended to the survivors of the mass violence by the state and insurgents alike by allocating generous resources as a fund for reparations for the continued killing by militants, terrorists, cultists and by the state all over the country.

This can be partly achieved by setting aside at least 10% of the budget annually to be awarded to the citizens as grants for them to invest as they see fit while using the rest to develop basic infrastructures in the country rather than embezzle the bulk selfishly and use token sums to settle insurgent commanders. Nigerians should also look beyond their own ethnic interests and collectively demand that the Nigerian state should atone for the Igbo genocide that evidently brutalized the consciousness of the nation so much that the slaughter of students in their dormitories, the killing of worshippers or the kidnapping of babies and workers for ransom could be seen as legitimate by some selfish or deluded groups and individuals.

The South American countries that followed the path of guerrilla warfare for decades have since transitioned power to the former rebels through the ballot while the violent method has achieved nothing in the Niger Delta except to force the release of one corrupt politician from detention or win the release of one insurgent commander from jail. Given the hundreds of billions that are annually allocated to the Niger Delta states by the Nigerian federation, the militants could democratically win control over such budgets and use them to transform their localities rather than encourage the kidnapping and killing of workers in Nigeria, including foreign employees of oil companies that they xenophobically call ATM but rarely kill unlike their Nigerian counterparts that tend to be wasted by their predatory abductors. The fact that they describe kidnapped workers as ‘enemy combatants’ is an indication of how much they mimic the ideologies of the war on terror by the international community.

In the light of the recognition of the exceptional tolerance that Wole Soyinka (Of Africa) identified as characteristically African, the Niger Delta ex-insurgents should renounce their past violent strategies against workers, go beyond their narrow focus on the Niger Delta and utter neglect of the suffering of other Nigerians in other parts of the country and other Africans with whom we should unite to build a more viable Peoples Republic of Africa, and desist from their inexcusable destruction of the environment as ‘collateral damage’ in the greed for ransom from oil companies and from the state just to enable a certain  ‘Mr. Government’ to offer them patronage which he is capable of continuing to dish out anyway from the profits of the pipeline security contracts that were awarded to him as part of the amnesty agreement. They too should consider the non-violent strategy of Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr. and the Ogoni who successfully sued a major oil company in the US and won some damages but without taking workers hostage, bombing them or spilling oil through the inexcusable and irresponsible damaging of pipelines for profit. Kidnapping workers and killing some to extort ransoms is bad enough but to target the members of one of the most radical trade unions in Nigeria, National Union of Petroleum Energy and Gas employees, who paid huge prices for their opposition to military rule when most of the so-called militants were nowhere to be found, deserves to be condemned by scholar activists for the neo-fascist opportunism that it represents.

This book, in short, demonstrates that there is no heroic exploit in exploitation – a term that is used interchangeably to refer to the extraction of natural resources and to the exploitation of workers in the English language. Oriola carefully avoids using the term, resource exploitation, preferring to talk about extraction while the villagers and ex-insurgents were more likely to call the spade of exploitation the spade of exploitation. The Canadian First Nation people, the Innu, also have a story that Joseph Campbell included in his classic, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, about the raven who tricked the native people and made them run away so that he could have the carcass of a whale cow all to himself. That was not heroic because the greedy raven could never consume all that meat by himself and would more likely watch the meat rot and waste to damage the environment or stuff himself into the chronic illnesses associated with affluenza or excessive consumption.

The lesson of Criminal Resistance is that criminologists should not focus exclusively on street crimes when the macro analysis of political criminality could make more original contributions to knowledge. The ‘denouement’ that Ken Saro Wiwa warned against at his conviction and subsequent execution for the murders of Ogoni chiefs that he did not commit is also a self-fulfilling prophecy of the brutalization effect of capital punishment which tends to escalate violence than deter it wherever it is applied and therefore the death penalty should be abolished. In spite of a damning report by Amnesty International in October 2013 to mark the international day for the abolition of capital punishment, Nigeria under a president from the Niger Delta, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, is pursuing the resumption of capital punishment instead of joining the enlightened world to abolish the barbaric punishment that contributes to the normalization of violence in Nigeria.

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Oriola Launches 'Criminal Resistance' book in Canada

Canada-based Nigerian Professor Launches Book on Kidnapping

20 Oct 2013
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Tope Oriola

A new ground-breaking study of the complex politics of kidnapping of oil workers in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria is due for its first public presentation on Saturday, October 26, at Telus Centre, Room 150, University of Alberta Campus, Edmonton, Canada. Entitled Criminal Resistance? The Politics of Kidnapping Oil Workers the award-winning work by 2011 Governor General of Canada Academic Gold Medal recipient, Tope Oriola, will be formally reviewed by Biko Agozino, Professor and Director, Africana Studies, Virginia Tech, USA. The event is being sponsored by the Global Education Program, Department of Sociology & Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta, Edmonton.
Recently released by the notable academic publishers Ashgate, the book is based on a multi-actor qualitative research in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Crude oil extraction in the Niger Delta region generates 96% of all foreign earnings and 85% of state revenues. However, several generations of state neglect and mismanagement have ensured that the Delta region is one of the most socio-economically and politically deprived in the country. By the late 1990s there was a frightening proliferation of armed gangs and insurgent groups. Illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism, disruption of oil production activities, riots, and demonstrations intensified and in 2003, insurgents began kidnapping oil workers at a frenetic pace. An uber-insurgent movement “organisation” was formed in Nigeria in late 2005. Christened the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), it operates as an amorphous, multifaceted amalgam of insurgent groups with an unprecedented clinical precision in execution of intents.
Offering more insight into the book in his Foreword, Patrick Bond, Professor of Political Economy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa avers that the “book is a healthy corrective to the romanticised non-violence fetish of much social movement scholarship as well as that of solidarity movements which arose to support Ken Saro-Wiwa’s heroic fight against pollution and underdevelopment of the Ogoni people a quarter of a century ago.” Bond further notes that: “In part because of his tasteful stylistic approach, as well as the extremely rich information and synthetic capacity, Oriola has produced amongst the finest works in the tradition of socio-political framing narratives.
This book is, therefore, a vital addition to the academic understandings of the Delta conflict, but much more, it offers lessons to anyone interested in Nigeria, Delta solidarity, the oil and security sectors, social movement mobilisation, and environmental justice strategies and tactics”
The book launch event promises to provide an enlightening narrative about the production of the book – the experience garnered in the course of the research, including interviews and focus group discussions with insurgents. The event will bring together (public) intellectuals, students, human rights activists, as well as the Edmonton community and beyond. Guests will be engaged in a robust conversation on kidnapping of oil workers in Nigeria’s Delta region as well as the significance of the global phenomenon. 
Currently an assistant professor in criminology and socio-legal studies, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Oriola has authored or co-authored several refereed journal articles. His works have been published in leading journals, such as Sociology, the British Journal of Criminology, Critical Studies on Terrorism, and Canadian Journal of Family and Youth, among others. His research focuses on kidnapping, police and use of force, state crimes and the political economy of crime. Oriola’s on-going SSHRC-funded book project investigates the use of “less-lethal” force options by Canadian police (under contract at University of British Columbia Press with Nicole Neverson and Charles Adeyanju).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Oppositional Governmentality

By Biko Agozino

The US constitution makes no reference to an opposition party and so the US has no official opposition party but the Tea Party Republicans appear not to0 know this. To what extent can we say that the Tea Party has fulfilled the role of an opposition party in US politics and what price are Americans paying for such a constitutional anomaly? My contention is that whereas a robust opposition is essential to good governance, an official opposition party is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for a robust opposition. One can exist without the other. Choosing to oppose the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the federal government goes to show the wisdom of the Founding fathers in not providing for a party that is defined by opposition to the governing party, right or wrong.

Most of the references around the world to 'opposition parties' were to the announcement of new opposition parties, the banning of opposition parties or the murder or jailing of their leaders, the perceived weakness of the opposition, or the intolerant might of ruling parties around the world. Occasionally, organized labor is recognized as the only viable ‘opposition group’, or religious groups and religious leaders sometimes fulfill the expectation of opposition groupings in some polities.

Moreover, a word search of the US Constitution - the first modern presidential constitution after which many existing presidential systems were cloned - revealed that the word was never used even once by the framers of the constitution. A similar search of the American-style Nigerian presidential constitution found no instance of the word. Why is it that a term that is used frequently in political discourse lacks any clear definition in law and in political philosophy around the world? Why is it that there is no official opposition party in the US and would it make any difference if the minority party is formally recognized as the official opposition party under presidential systems of governance?

Theories of governmentality (or the discourse of governance) are relatively silent on the role of the opposition as a part of civil democratic governance and Michel Foucault was also silent on this in his theory of governmentality with reference to the administration of populations in the European Middle Age that brooked no opposition. From African traditional political thought , similarly, there was no notion of a party whose official role it was to oppose the government of the day. Similar consensus philosophies of government can be found in Asia, among American Indian Natives, Aboriginal Australians and indigenous Europeans of different nationalities.

Machiavelli clearly advised the modern Prince to crush all opposition as the surest means of consolidating power. In line with this philosophy, Thomas Hobbes was unique among social contract theorists for recommending that the sovereign should be an absolute monarch who should have the authority to check the inherent selfishness of human beings or else they would revert to a state of nature that Hobbes saw as the state of a war of each against all where life would be nasty, brutish and short. However, we must not forget that Machiavelli and Hobbes were writing at a time that monarchs were believed to have a divine right to rule and so any questioning of the monarch’s authority could have resulted in execution for apparently opposing the will of God. Writing about 100 years after Hobbes in a relatively more enlightened time, John Locke and Jean-Jacque Rousseau were bolder in calling for a representative system of government in which the people should have the right to elect their rulers and retain the right to recall them if they do not serve the best interest of the people.  

The American founding fathers agreed with Locke and Rousseau perhaps because they won their independence after fighting against the army of the British monarch, King George. They debated whether to call their new leader, George Washington, a king, an emperor or a chancellor but finally settled for the president. Americans found persuasive, the argument of Rousseau that all men were created equal and endowed with the ability to reason by their creator for the purpose of choosing how they should be governed by themselves. If human beings were as bad as Hobbes presumed, by nature, then it would be inconceivable that such ‘a race of devils’ would one day wake up and slap their buttocks and come to an agreement to give up some of their rights in return for the equal protection of all by the sovereign. Rich white American men adopted the Lockean philosophy for centuries even while their fellow human beings continued to be enslaved (Locke did justify slavery under certain conditions) and while women were not regarded as citizens, a discriminatory practice that continued even after a constitutional amendment was passed to enshrine the principle of equal protection within the law.

Karl Marx was one of the earliest theorists of opposition politics for he openly challenged the assumption of the social contract theorists that since capitalists sign business contracts, then the origin of civil society must have been a philistine calculation of profits and losses in a similar social contract. According to him, whether the parties know it or not, there is not just one opposition party since both parties are usually opposed to each other‘s interests. The slave versus the slave master, the serf versus the free man, the capitalist versus the worker, or simply, the exploiter versus the exploited. Yet, even Marx predicted that some day, there will be no more need for an opposition because when the workers defeat the capitalists, they would build a classless society and bring an end to exploitation, an end to classes and to class struggles. He even suggested that the capitalist state would wither away along with capitalist law when society takes from each according to his ability and gives to each according to his needs. That was probably why Lenin ridiculed those who wanted to form an opposition group of left-wing communists as people suffering from an infantile disorder. Under all known communist style states, there is no room for an official opposition party. East Germany experimented with multi-party democracy but all the parties were subscribed to the same ideology and so could not count as opposition parties.

Marx Weber was one of the fiercest critics of  Marx on socialism. Weber defined power as the ability to get people to do something even against their wish while Marx believed that human beings can be organized to do the right thing without being forced. Weber sharply disagreed with Marx that class struggle is the driving force of history and instead suggested that bureaucratization or rational administration was the driving force of history. He saw two types of leadership in the world - rational leadership and irrational leadership. Irrational leadership includes charismatic leadership under which people follow a leader because the leader is able to mobilize them into action. Gradually, according to Weber, the charisma of the leader will undergo routinization or increased bureaucratization. Weber saw the American presidential system as approximating a charismatic leadership model but he did not envisage a role for an official opposition party within what he saw as the technically superior system of bureaucratic leadership that is supposedly based on formal rules and was run by trained professionals.

Noam Chomsky agrees more with Marx than with Weber. To him, consent is manufactured by the bureaucratic media but dissent continues to be expressed across the world. Such dissent is seen by him to be politically incorrect because it does not agree with the dominant groups in society whose views are accepted as politically correct. Chomsky calls for greater access to the freedom of expression to be guaranteed to opponents of his own views so as to enable him to respond to them publicly. He notes that the reverse is the case around the world where opposition politicians are hunted down like common criminals, making it more likely that opposition would go underground only to manifest in less desirable forms.

The official recognition of an opposition party in some European systems of governance varies from country to country but in reality, hardly any of the opposition parties opposes the ruling party any more than the minority party does in America. The opposition system has survived more in the British parliamentary system where the two major parties duel daily in the House of Commons on policy options although everyone swears allegiance to the throne. In France and Germany where they have done away with the monarchy, they have a president and a Prime Minister or Chancellor who share power in ways similar to the Queen and the Prime Minister in Britain.

Americans may have rejected the terminology of official opposition because they have no executive dichotomy between the Head of State and the Head of Government as many European governments do. Perhaps the legendary pragmatism of the Americans led them to believe that the term ‘opposition’ is pretentious since all politicians swear allegiance to their nation and both the majority and minority parties cooperate to run the country together. In the presidential system, the people are seen as the ones who have the   power to change their leaders either through a recall election, through a fresh election or through mass action. This makes it possible for an American president to remain in office even if his party is in the minority in the congress and the senate. Such a situation would trigger a fresh election in a parliamentary system that has an official opposition party. 

The philosophical reasons for the US alternative terminology (majority and minority parties) should be re-examined as the Tea Party seeks to distort and truncate the US presidential system by trying to make an ideological minority tail wag the dog of democracy. The Republican Party Congressmen should not use their control of one-third of the three arms of government to hold Americans hostage unless President Barack Obama agrees to the defunding of his signature law that was duly passed and adjudicated to be constitutional by the Supreme Court, followed by approval in a referendum-like Presidential Election. 

A common ground would be for the majority and the minority parties in Congress to pass a revenue-creating bill to end the Bush era tax cuts for the one percent of the population that do not need tax cuts and to deploy the extra revenue towards expanding the Affordable Care Act so that even more needy Americans could be covered and towards the rebuilding of public infrastructures to create jobs that would add to the recovery of the economy. To oppose a law that seeks to make anything like health more affordable to the people is an excellent  good reason why the American Presidential Constitution evaded the provision of an official Opposition Party. 

W.E.B. Du Bois was nearly jailed for trying to set up a Peace Movement during the era of McCarthyism but he was able to convince the US Supreme Court that peace does not belong exclusively to any enemy foreign country and that all human beings (including Americans) should be seen as peace lovers without any opposition to peace from any country. The same should be the case with making health care affordable and with raising revenue for the government to fulfill its obligations to provide equal protection of all. The Republicans are spinning this to suggest that President Obama does not wish to negotiate but he should agree to negotiate for increased revenue with which to make affordable care even more affordable as even ignorant people who oppose Obamacare for ideological reasons still confess that they support the affordable care act.