Wednesday, January 30, 2013
President Jonathan's CNN Interview & Issues facing the nation
Given the federal nature of Nigeria's political system, encompassing a federal, state and local tiers of governance, the presidency alone cannot be blamed for all the socioeconomic and political woes of the polity--even though that tends to be the case, including here in the United States. My humble prescription is that a country like Nigeria needs a strong presidency, led by a patriotic and nationally-minded leader. I am mindful of the danger that a strong presidency in the hands of a tribal despot will spell disaster. So, the electorate has to act wisely. The late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria's first president (albeit a ceremonial one) did advise the nation that what would serve its best national leadership interest was what he called a dyarchy--that is, a form of power sharing between civilians and the military. I am not sure how he wanted such a system deployed at the state and local levels of governance. Should I ask if the conduct of the ruling elite in Nigeria has proven him right or wrong? Is it reasonable to ask whether the contemporary governing elite in Nigeria is ready for or amenable to the kind of Western-style liberal democracy that Nigeria is currently experimenting with--an experiment under which we have witnessed mind-blowing excesses, such as the excessive and disproportional salaries that the national legislators have voted for themselves in the face of wide-spread poverty and high levels of graduate unemployment? What's really in force in Nigeria: a genuinely representative system of democracy that sees and believes itself to the accountable to the electorate or a "democrazy?" Is it a Mexico-style democracy for the benefit of the well-connected members of society while the masses languish in poverty and ceaselessly take dare-devil border-crossing risks in attempts to escape from motherland's hopelessness? As a representative form of governing human entities, democracy is meant to serve as a means to an end, namely the overall well-being of the governed. All things being equal, the elected officials would aspire to please their constituents so that they may earn re-election. This is supposed to be the case where sovereignty belongs to the people in reality--that is, where their votes count.
To our chargin, we recurrently encounter news stories of how certain past governors pilfered their state treasuries and went scot free. That such pilfering could occur and purportedly escape the notice of state legislative oversight--despite the existence of constitutionally-enacted checks and balances, such as the fact that each state has a legislature that is expected to perform an over-sight function on the executive branch--raises a question about how the human beings that constitute the legislative houses in the affected states have risen up or failed to rise up to their duties. What about the "sharing" that is alleged to be a pre-occupation of local governments? The fact that most parts of Nigeria do not have pipe borne water supply and lack adequate refuse disposal facilities attests to a general failure of local governance. Don't forget that Nigeria's 776 local governments (or thereabout) were created in order to bring governance and its benefits to the grassroots. But is that what most Nigerians are experiencing from their local governments?
Though I advocated for a strong presidency for Nigeria, I must also point out that instituting a strong presidency will not by itself turn Nigeria around if the country continues to socialize its citizens with a tribal consciousness (now compounded by statism). I am aware that it's politically correct to speak in terms of ethnicity as opposed to tribe, but, in my view, nothing better captures the entrenched system of social discrimination in Nigeria than the old-fashioned term of tribalism.
The day Nigeria will launch itself on a path towards full utilization of its vast human potentials is the day that it manages to learn from a successful US model of human relations--despite the latter's continuing challenges and struggles with racism. Here is what I mean. In the US, your so-called "state of origin" is not factored into qualifications for employment. Even in terms of college tuition, what matters is where you have established residency, not where you were born. A person who was born in Michigan might relocate to Wisconsin, establish residency there and assert the same employment and educational rights as those who were born in the latter state. Nigeria stymies its own potential for full utilization of its human potentials by entrenching and nurturing tribalism-cum-statism as component criteria for determining its citizens life chances--the eligibility of job applicants, recruitment into the armed forces, scholarship applicants, college admission applicants, etc. Whereas the doctrine of and imperative of reflecting the "federal character" in federal para-statals was enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution as a means of preventing tribal domination and reflecting the ethnic heterogeneity of the populace without prejudice to merit, that originally-well intentioned concept and constitutional stipulation appears to have been perverted and turned into an end in and of itself--instead of what the founding fathers and mothers of the constitution intended. A Nigerian-based colleague who participated in a group research project that I executed between 2007 and 2008, pointed to a phenomenon that helps undermine the effectiveness of federal institutions in Nigeria, namely that more often than not, certain bureaucratic positions would be left vacant because they are part of the quotas assigned to certain states which have not been able to provide qualified personnel for filling them. This colleague singled out this phenomenon as being significantly responsible for the general ineffectiveness of federal institutions and public utilities that are under the aegis of the federal government. If he is right, one cannot help arguing that for Nigeria to move forward and climb out of the hole into which it has fallen, it must find a way to enthrone and valorize meritocracy.
A new generation needs to be raised with a consciousness that the best qualified person must have the job regardless of his/her ethnic affiliation, state of origin, religion or gender. To illustrate, if one's car breaks down, a rational reaction expected of the automobile owner is to take it to an effective service center for repair. This also applies to a sick and dying person who seeks out the best medical care that his or her resources can afford, regardless of the ethnic-origin of the medical doctor. You want your car repaired, period! You want your good health restored, period! The chosen service center or medical center might be owned or run by someone who is not related to you, or a member of your ethnic group. By taking your car to a repair center, or procuring the services of a competent medical doctor, you have actually hired somebody for a job albeit temporarily and in doing so, what mattered most to you is getting the job done. Such an attitude needs to be universalized within Nigerian society--at the local, state and national levels of bureaucratic employment. Successful businesses--that is, those who run their own private enterprises successfully, demonstrably understand this hiring logic or else they would have gone under while waiting to fill all available positions with relatives and ethnic group members, irrespective of their ability to perform.Who can get the job done, should be the central criterion for employment.
Dethroning primordial considerations and factors for determining fitness for employment, admission to educational institutions, recruitment into the armed services, dispensation of scholarships, etc, such as the case that I have made in the foregoing, is analogous to the idea that both germinated and watered the seed of civil rights in the United States. In other words, the overarching goal of the civil rights movement was to tear down racial barriers to equal opportunity. This movement brought about a new society in the United States--a new era based on a dejure social system of racial integration--as opposed to the old social system of dejure racial separatism. Although that dream of a society reasonably free of racism and racial discrimination has not been completely realized, and we still witness ugly recidivist tendencies or throwbacks to the past, such as covert racist stalking, other forms of continuing racism and what have you, America's model of the civil rights movement remains a paradigm for human liberation from man's inhumanity to man. I recommend it to the grassroots of Nigeria as a means of launching a needed war against the shackles of tribalism in Nigeria. Such a nonviolent movement must be waged if Nigeria is to begin a necessary journey of tearing down tribal and statism barriers to equal opportunity. The fruits will not come about over-night. Neither did those of America's civil rights struggles. Enough for now.--Victor Okafor
Professor Victor Oguejiofor Okafor is Head of the Department of Africology and African American Studies at Eastern Michigan University. Author of five books, Dr. Okafor has also contributed chapters to several anthologies, and published a variety of scholarly articles in such refereed journals as the Western Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Black Studies, Africa Update, and the Griot. Dr. Okafor's writings have appeared in national magazines and newspapers. He has presented papers at dozens of professional conferences, conventions, and meetings of student and other groups.
In Winter, 2014, Dr. Okafor was named and recognized as "a Most Valuable Professor" by Eastern Michigan University's Men's basketball team. In 2017, Dr. Okafor received THE DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR AWARD For Outstanding Scholarship, Teaching and Service in Africana Studies from the 5th Annual Africa Conference sponsored and hosted by the Department of History, Geography, Political Science & Africana Studies of Tennessee State University. Also in 2017, Dr. Okafor was appointed as a 2017–18 Great Michigan Read Scholar by Michigan’s Humanities Council. In 2018, Dr. Okafor received a "Kujichagulia Award" from the National Council for Black Studies' (NCBS) Task Force for Measuring Impact in Africology. The award recognized Dr. Okafor's "Leadership in Advancing Equity & Independence in Research."
A certified online course designer and instructor, Dr. Okafor has been designing and teaching online courses since 1999. Teaching both offline and online, his overall teaching experience embraces courses on or related to:History of Black Studies, Theories, Methods and Methodologies in Black Studies, Black Politics & Public Policy, African Civilization, Multiculturalism, and Afrocentricity/Afrocentrism
As a consultant on multicultural/diversity issues, Dr. Okafor serves as an expert court witness on cases related to African cultural questions and issues. For more than two decades, he has also served as a language interpreter on legal, corporate, medical and other matters requiring communications in Igbo language and translations between Igbo and English.
Before joining Eastern Michigan University in 1995, Dr. Okafor previously served as Director of African American Studies and Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University.
Books & book chapters
- Okafor, Victor. (2017). Towards an Understanding of Africology. (5th ed.). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt. (https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/towards-understanding-africology)
- Okafor, Victor. (2014). Development: Definitions, Trends and
Controversies -- An Interrogation of Key Issues Related to Modern
African Political Economy. In W. Idada & M.L. Rilwan (Eds.). Governance, Peace and Security in Africa (pp. 212-228). Benin City: AMBIK PRESS.
- Okafor, Victor. (Ed.). (2013). The State of Africana Studies Today: Essays on Scholarship and Pedagogy. New York: the Edwin Mellen Press.
- Okafor, Victor. (2010). Towards an Understanding of Africology. (3nd ed.). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt.
- Okafor, Victor. (Ed.). (2008). Nigeria’s Stumbling Democracy and its Implications for the Democratic Movement in Africa. Westport: Praeger Security International.
- Okafor, Victor. (2008). Malcolm X: An Appostle of Violence or an Advocate for Black Human Rights? In James L. Conyers, Jr. & A.P. Smallwood (Eds.), Malcolm X: A Historical Reader (pp. 215-226). Durban: Carolina Academic Press.
- Okafor, Victor. (2007). Towards an Africological Pedagogical Approach to African Civilization. In D. P. Aldridge & E. L. James (Eds.), Africana Studies: Philosophical Perspectives and Theoretical Paradigms (pp. 266-280). Washington: Washington State University Press.
- Okafor, Victor. (2006). A Roadmap for Understanding African Politics: Leadership and Political Integration in Nigeria. New York: Rutledge.
- Okafor, Victor. (2006). Towards an Understanding of Africology. (2nd ed.). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt.
- Okafor, V.O., & Adeleke, T. (Eds.). (2006). Studies in African American Leadership: Individuals, Movements, and Committees. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.
- Okafor, Victor. (2004). Rebuilding Continental-Diaspora African Relations: An Examination of Path-Breaking Trends in Governmental, Pan-African and Educational Linkages. In T. Adeleke (Ed.), Critical Perspectives on Historical and Contemporary Issues About Africa and Black America (pp. 139-166).Lewiston: The Edwin Mellon Press.
- Okafor, Victor. (2002). Towards an Understanding of Africology. (1st ed.). Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt.
- Okafor, Victor. (1999). Africology and the Academy: Essential Texts, Concepts, Methods & New Controversies. In J. Conyers, Jr. & A. Barnett (Eds.), Africana History, Culture, and Social Policy (pp. 327-348). Lanham: International Scholars Publications.
- Okafor, Oguejiofor Victor. (1998). The Functional Implications of Afrocentrism. In J. Hamlet (Ed.), Afrocentric Visions: Studies in Culture and Communication. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
- Okafor, Oguejiofor Victor., & Tella, A. Sheriffden. (1998). Economic Development & the Prospects for Economic Security in Africa. In A. Oyebade & A. Alao (Eds.), Africa after the Cold War: The Changing Perspectives on Security (pp. 17-42). Trenton: Africa World Press.
- Okafor, Victor. (1997). Afrocentrism and A New World Order. In N. BaNIkongo (Ed.), Leading Essays in Afro-American Studies (pp. 667-684). Durham: Carolina Academic Press.
A sample of Okafor’s Journal & other publications
- Okafor, Victor. (2015, June). Racism, White Supremacism & the Tragedy at Charleston, South Carolina: President Barack Obama Hit the Nail in the Head. Usaafricadialogue@googlegroups.com. (https://mail.emich.edu/zimbra/h/search?si=21&so=0&sc=52368&sfi=2&st=message&id=304659&action=view).
- Okafor, Victor. (2015, March). Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Et al.: A Survey of Emergent Grassroots Protests & Public Perceptions of Justice. The Journal of Pan African Studies. vol. 7 (8), 43-63. (http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol7no8/7.10-8-4-Victor.pdf).
- Okafor, Victor. (2014, March). Africology, Black Studies, African American Studies, Africana Studies, or African World Studies? What's So Important about a Given Name? The Journal of Pan African Studies. vol. 6 (7), 209-224. (http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol6no7/6.7-9Okafor.pdf).
- Okafor, Victor. (2007, Fall). Nigeria’s Disputed Elections: Symptoms of a National Malaise. Africa Update, Vol. XIV, Issue 4. (http://www.ccsu.edu/Afstudy/upd14-4.html#National%20Malaise).
- Okafor, Victor. (Ed.).(2007, Fall).Nigerian Politics and Society. Africa Update, Vol. XIV, Issue 4. (http://www.ccsu.edu/Afstudy/upd14-4.html#National%20Malaise).
- Okafor, Victor. (2007, Summer). Nigeria’s Census Jinx: Is there a Way Out. Africa Update, XIV(3).(http://www.ccsu.edu/Afstudy/upd143.html#Nigeria%E2%80%99s_Census_Jinx:_Is_there_a_way_out).
- Okafor, Victor. (Ed.). (2007, January). Sustaining Black Studies: A Special Edition of the Journal of Black Studies, 37 (3).
- Okafor, Victor. (2007, January). Shortcomings in Wilson’s Chronicle of Higher EducationArticle on the State of Black Studies Programs. Journal of Black Studies, 37 (3), 335-347.
- Okafor, Victor. (2006, Spring). The Paris Club Deal: Reason to Celebrate? Africa Update, XIII (1). (http://www.ccsu.edu/afstudy/upd13-2.html#The_Paris_Club_Deal_).
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, Fall). Nigeria’s electoral challenge: what is to blame, the ballot box or political culture? Africa Update, XII (4). (http://www.ccsu.edu/Afstudy/upd12-4.html#toc).
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, October 28). The Paris Club Deal: Reason to celebrate or reason to cry for Nigeria? USA/Africa Dialogue, no. 1284. (http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa).
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, September 19). Nigeria’s electoral challenge: what is to blame, the ballot box or the political culture? USA/Africa Dialogue, no. 1160. (http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa).
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, September 11). Concerns about non-Ratification of the UN Convention against corruption: OBJ is right on the mark. USA/Africa Dialogue, no. 1117. (http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa).
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, September 5). The Tragedy of Katrina and the Reflections of a one-time war refugee. USA/Africa Dialogue, No. 1072. (http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/Africa).
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, August 31). On the Rule of Law or the Lack of it in Nigeria. USA/Africa Dialogue, no. 1060. (http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/Africa).
- Okafor, Victor, et al. (2005, May 27). The Present and Future of Black Studies. The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. A47.
- Okafor, Victor. (2005, April 25). Shortcomings in Wilson’s Chronicle of Higher Education’s Article on the state of Black Studies programs. USA/Africa Dialogue, no. 643. (http://www.utexas.edu/conferences/Africa).
- Okafor, Victor. (1997, January). Towards An Africological Pedagogical Approach to African Civilization. Journal of Black Studies, 27, (3), 299-317.
- Okafor, Victor. (1996). Towards an Africological Pedagogical Approach to African Civilization. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 20, (3), 125-133.
- Okafor, Victor. (1996). the Place of Africalogy in the University Curriculum. Journal of Black Studies, 26 (6), 688-712.
- Okafor, Victor. (1996, spring). Towards an Understanding of the Afrocentric Conceptual Paradigm. The Griot, 15 (1), 44-54.
- Okafor, Victor. (1994, Winter). The Functional Implications of Afro centrism. Western Journal of Black Studies, 18 (4), 185-194.
- Okafor, Victor. (1993, December). An Afrocentric Critique of Appiah’s In My Father’s House. Journal of Black Studies, 24 No (2), 196-212.
- Okafor, Victor. (1993, October 21). AT&T and the Monkey Palaver. Black Issues in Higher Education.
- Okafor, Victor. (1993, September 23). Let it Be Informed Debate. Black Issues in Higher Education, pp. 9 & 39.s