Sunday, November 6, 2011

NIGERIA: The African Abattoir-Version 2.0

[ab-uh-twahr, ab-uh-twahr] 
a slaughterhouse.



Nigeria's Boko Haram has threatened to carry out more attacks, a day after a series of blasts and gun battles claimed by the group killed more than 100 people in the West African nation's northeast.

Ibrahim Bulama, a Red Cross official, said on Sunday (Nov. 6) that the death toll is expected to rise as local clinics and hospitals tabulate the casualty figures from Friday's attacks in Damaturu, the capital of rural Yobe state.

The group's spokesman, using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa, promised "more attacks are on the way", speaking hours after witnesses reported "scenes of carnage".

Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sacrilege", has claimed responsibility for previous attacks and the latest was the deadliest since the group attacked a UN building in the capital Abuja in August, killing at least 20 people...(AFP)

Remember the flood of 419 scams that we get in our email boxes--usually some African politician needing to put large sums of government funds into our banks accounts? Or how about the distressed and attractive  woman relative of said politician who needs help with money to get her out of a tragic situation that was not of her doing, and through your help, there would be a greater chance of a romantic encounter? They come from Nigeria. These absurdly comical con games come from a nation of massive wealth and potential, making them even more pathetic. Why is Nigeria so underdeveloped? It is the most populous Black nation on earth!  The answer that we would get lies in Nigeria’s inter-ethnic conflicts. And, moreover, the seeds of the ongoing bloody implosion of the Nigerian nation-state were actually sown at its post-colonial inception. Understanding the sources of Nigerian ethnic ultra-violence will allow us to better understand the social, cultural and political factors that cripple most of Sub-Saharan Africa today.

As we witness a transparent re-colonization of the African continent, we must also confront an ongoing and deliberate process of Balkanization across the continent. This process comes clothed in the proliferation of seeming innocent ethnicity-driven, micro-nationalisms. We must consider the external dynamic of colonialism and its application to Nigeria, and we have to be aware of the internal contradictions that would be exploited to maintain the colonial yoke.

Nigeria is actually the testing ground for the re-colonization mechanism. A presidential election was held in Nigeria on 16 April 2011, postponed from 9 April 2011. The election followed controversy as to whether a Muslim or Christian (Southerner or Northerner) should be  allowed to become president, given the tradition of rotating the top office between the major confessional blocks, and following the death  of the Muslim president Umaru Yar'Adua. Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, assumed the interim presidency. Johnathan allegedly whipped his Muslim rival at the polls on April 16. Then all hell broke loose. Muslims went on rampages against Christians in the central and northern sections of the country. Blood continues to run in the unpaved streets. As one views the Nigerian electoral process, after the return to civilian rule in 1979, the continent of Africa had welcomed the free and democratic rule in Nigeria as it seemed. It had been argued that a military regime—however benelovent —was at best, an oddity since “it is an inalienable right of the people to choose those that should govern them.” While it has been further emphasized that any government that comes to power through a free and democratic election by the people is necessarily good for the people, in particular, because it is their choice.

This is the current political ideology of the Nigerian ruling elite. It is overriding and leading in the sense that there is no opposing view which has any political force behind it. But like every other ideology of a ruling stratum, this particular one is a distortion and falsification of reality-- not because it is a fantasy, but because it is an abstraction from the totality of the social reality, an abstraction which deals with mere forms, remaining profoundly silent on specific content. In short, Nigeria stages elections for the sake of staging election. In no way is there any expectation that the periodic electoral square dances between the various elite cliques will ever address the developmental needs of the vast, poverty-stricken working and agrarian populations. There is no way that the Nigerian nation-state, embodied in its elites, can ever serve as a vehicle for social development.

Poor Nigerians know this. Consequently, the Nigerian nation-state has no social integrity. The modern nation state should at least stand as a supra-ethnic (religious) institution. The Nigerian nation state, crafted by the colonizing British for the British, could never succeed at this. Consequently, the vast majority of Nigerians have simply politically packed up their bags and gone home to their numerous and respective ethnic identities, given that no operative Nigerian national identity nor social practice exists.

This is the fuel that drives the escalating clashes between ethnicities and confessional groups in Nigeria and the Balkanization of the landmass we call Nigeria. The violence is, in fact, merely a struggle over material scarcity, literally the crumbs left to the poor by Nigeria’s elites.

Generally speaking, the clash of ethnic minorities is a historical one. The origins, development, manipulation and solution to ethnic problems— either within the boundaries of a single country or in the world at large—are bound up with the movement of history, which not only has a concrete basis, but also involves several social forces, often acting in conflicting directions. These problems are neither accidental, any more than history itself is a mere accident; nor are they the creation of an evil genius, any more than history is the handiwork of a demon.

It is necessary to make this seemingly elementary statement at the outset because of the way the minority question is often formulated in Nigeria. Many analyses completely ignore its historical character— as if some people just woke up one day to find themselves a minority. Others who pretend to take a historical perspective merely cite the past autonomy of an ethnic group or community as sufficient grounds for demanding an autonomous state within the Nigerian Federation. This reactionary viewpoint completely ignores the historical transformations, some of them irreversible, which have undermined micro-autonomies, not only in Nigeria but globally. To wit, small groups--even autonomous ones--tend to get their asses thoroughly whipped by hegemonic groups or social constellations. Autonomy—in and of itself—is no remedy to ethnic oppression. In this epoch of African re-colonization, it is in fact no more than a socio-political sugar pill!

But the minority question is real enough. One merely has to look around the world to see
how real it is. In countries like Spain, India, Ethiopia and Ireland the minorities are fighting it out with guns. In the US, the minority question exists, although in a different veneer.  In this case, the usual formal solution to minority problems—increase autonomy—is not  applicable, since the minority ethnic groups—Blacks, Native American, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos and others—do not necessarily reside on separate landmasses. They are physically “integrated” with hegemonic, White Middle America.

In several parts of the world, ethnic minority problems are being tackled either positively or negatively—positively if the social, economic, political and cultural disabilities associated with minority status are being systematically removed and  negatively if these disabilities are either denied or given a mere bureaucratic solution (.e.g. the creation of more micro-states which in no way challenges the hegemony of the big ethnic group). The reality of the ethnic minority question is therefore not in doubt. Thus the question, for all practical proposes, must be presented within a historical perspective. This is the only real beginning for its solution.

The very act of creating Nigerian nation-state actually created its own unique brand of
inter-ethic hostilities. This is not to say that minority problems did not exist in pre-colonial Nigeria. Without a doubt, pre-colonial Nigeria was characterized in several areas by very brutal forms of  inter-ethnic oppression.
In the next section of this series, we will examine how the British colonial juggernaut encountered and exploited ethnic conflict on the pre-Nigeria landmass. You may be surprised by what we have discovered.

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