Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Of Jihads and Jeremiads: Vain Struggles in the Name of God

Nigeria singles out itself as the most violent soldier for Allah and Christ. Most northern Nigerian towns are flashpoints of intractable conflicts and feuding in the name of a god most people perceive through individual bias prisms. Over the past weeks, hundreds of Nigerians from across the religious spectrum have lost their lives in a struggle to affirm the superiority of one belief form over the other.

The Muslims declare a Jihad against the infidel Christians, while the Christians embark on Jeremiads against the savage Muslims. The ‘Realm of Peace’, where the Muslims call their favoured place is considered violated when pockets of peoples believing in something else exist; hence a ‘Realm of War’ prevails. Because of the cohabitation of Muslims and Christians in Northern Nigeria it is doomed to be in tension.

This permanent cultural/religious strife is not common to Nigeria alone. By way of comparison, we could cite the Crusades, European colonization of the New World, America’s sense of ‘Manifest Destiny’ (ordained by God as world leader), or the religio-political dualism of the Achaemenian kings. Away from their bona fide differences, all these historic projects are fuelled by sharp twofold distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’, in alliance with other bigoted contrasts, including moral versus immoral, modern versus primitive, dominant versus submissive, eugenic versus dysgenic, and sacred versus profane,. Those using such discourse naturally see themselves as persons who comprehend and strive to realize God’s will, that is maintaining a cosmic order or at least to impose that order they define as rational and progressive; while characterizing their rivals as religiously ignorant or rebellious.

Of the Holy God we seek his favor and succor, we all have to climb up the Jacob’s ladder, for in the eyes of God we are the lost tribes who have to strive to find his face. As to some people having the roadmap to God and holding the key to his kingdom, it remains to be seen through which valid model they qualify themselves.

The other day, the ‘erratic’ Colonel Khadafy proposed the partition of Nigeria along religious lines; Muslims in the North and Christians in the South. The distribution of religion in Africa did not happen along the same lines that the partition of Africa as the 1884 Berlin Conference, where a line was drawn on a paper and the east went to France and west to England. A complex series of Jihads and conversions to Islam took place just as the conversion to Christianity was going on. In the same ethnic group in Africa it is easy to meet dozens of different denominations/ religions. In the particular case of Nigeria, in the south, the Yoruba are both Muslims and Christians and in the North there are also pockets of Christians. Neighbouring countries like Cameroon have succeeded in interfaith campaigns where ecumenism is celebrated at the highest national level with the peaceful coexistence of cathedrals and mosques.

I have been wondering when Mohammed and Christ transferred their cross to Africans. It is understandable when Palestinians and Israelites fight. Fundamentally, the struggle is not over faith but over land. There are Muslims as citizens of Israel while there are also Christians as citizens of Palestine. The war over occupied territories is neither for Christ nor for Mohammed but for territory. When Khadafy compares his solution for Nigeria to the separation of Pakistan and India, he forgets the complexities of that region. We may again draw from the religious conflict pitting the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland. Sheer fanaticism is giving way to wisdom in Ireland, inspired by the South African post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Committee. It is easy to comprehend the struggle between the races but that between religions, coming in the realm of faith is better surrendered to the God in whose name we feud.

On the racial score, Charles Darwin might be recorded as the father of racism with his elaboration of his Evolution of Species. Continuing the bias of Herodotus, the father of history, against the black race, Darwin’s study was inspired by his quest to find a blueprint for the survival of the white race. In his work “the Evolution of Species…” he creates a coded formula for the survival of the Caucasian (white). Notice the truncation of the title of Darwin’s study. The complete title is “The Evolution of Species and the Survival of the Favored Race,” the favored race here meaning the white race. Most experiments carried under different code names are only geared to controlling the other races and promoting the survival of the white race. Eugenics, apartheid, Nazism, was all for the preservation of one race, the white race.

By the time Africans fight along other races which want our annihilation, we sign our own death pact. Africa was enslaved, colonized and dehumanized in all sorts of ways, by all other races. Today, Arab Muslims kill black Darfurians in Sudan; Africans are seen as the greatest threat to the survival of the white race. Obama’s election as the 44th president of the United States gives enough justification for the racist movements to convince the doubting that the black man is about to take over the world. How do we then preserve our race when we join in vain struggles?

Africa had no reason to be involved in the First and Second World Wars. But we fought and died in King George’s Army, the Reich and the French armies. Biological weapons are all designed as subtle means to curb African population. When Africa numbered a billion people, the rest of the world cried foul. ‘Oh, how is Africa going to feed its billion people?’ But Africa has enough fertile lands, tenfold more than Europe. As to where the poor Africa was going to find the means to develop itself, Africa has the most wealth, the whole world put together.

Africa just needs to define itself, name itself and understand the minds of the other races who have taken enough time to understand the African mind. When Africa understands that it is a threat to the rest of the world, it will learn to develop means to counter the actions of the Economic Hit Men. Economic Hit Men was a cream of economists, scientists, engineers, professors trained to take over the developing world in subtle means in order to exploit their natural resources for the advancement of the interests of the industrialized world. The Economic Hit Men either succeeded in their ensnarement of developing countries, or they assassinated their patriotic leaders who stood in their way. When they failed to assassinate, they provoked a war and then came in and reaped the booty. While Africa loses its sons and daughters to the Economic Hit Men, it cannot afford to lose more in the name of God.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buea Coffin Riders

Every Friday, a horde of young folks troupe into Buea from adjoining villages on buses and on noisy motorcycles (bendskin). Their mission to Buea is for the weekly business of coffining a deceased friend or relative at the Buea Regional Hospital Annex mortuary. Weekends are generally favoured as they provide three days in a stretch to mourners. These mourners come into town riding on coffins.

Death has become a banal enterprise in Cameroon, as you would easily meet a two year old discussing dying excitedly and knowledgeably, things we of the days of yore dreaded even thinking about. People die for all sorts of reasons, motorcycle accidents, HIV/AIDS, stress and hypertension, suicide and all. The morose economic environment and the inability for most families to get their worth from life push them to the brink of nihilism and self rejection.

Brisk business is going on in Cameroon as undertakers thrive in providing services ranging from supplying coffins, providing hearses, funeral guards, hiring mortuaries, and entertaining and refreshing mourners after burial. Mourners and relatives of the deceased look for all means to excel by providing the best coffin and most grandiose funeral. According to Mola Ikome, “After Pa Kinge had worked so hard during his life, he should be given a befitting burial.”

Befitting burial is what Camerounese authorities are looking forward to giving the Pan-Africanist, Ndeh Winston Ntumazah on 27 March 2010. One needs to be in Bamenda on that day to judge the hypocrisy of many when it comes to funerals. For most people riding coffins noisily, beyond the show and sheer karma building, there is no meaning they attach to the momentary outpourings on funeral grounds. After abandoning someone in life, in sickness, what do we want to tell them with the outpouring of grief and the unreserved expenditure for coffins to catch the eyes of the ‘dead but living’?

Some of these coffins, made out of glass, aluminum and hardwood will cost the upwards of FCFA 150,000. Somebody just whispered to me that this amount will get only the cheapest coffin made out of stained white wood. Some folks do not hesitate getting coffins in the neighbourhood of millions, all in the name of a decent burial. Some mourners will be heard commenting that the coffin was the most beautiful and expensive. The dead hardly feel any difference in a coffin and what will a coffin of gold mean to Ndeh Ntumazah who had died since 2006 (when he became senile and could be heard asking what Nkraumah was doing), spiritually. In fact, before some people die physically, they would have already died long in advance, as their conversation will be about the dead than living.

It looks like most of us are long dead and we are only dead but living masses moving around and causing havoc to God’s people. Why do we have so many heartless people with dead consciences all over the place? They are dead but living. We are also dead but living when we invest only in the dead. Building mortuaries everywhere and allowing the dead to remain in the mortuary for more than 2 days is some form of desecration. Except for legal reasons, the dead should be allowed to continue their journey to the earth, dust and ash from which they came. Any delay is a travesty against their human right to prompt and decent burial. Some folks claim building mortuaries in their villages is development. This is only development of death and elevating it to an industry.

This raining season, hundreds of families have been dispossessed of their planting seeds by the serious hunger from the last two years. That is the death to be given a decent burial, poverty and hunger. Many will not be able to plant the fields because they do not have the seed s to plant. Next door to them tens of millions will be buried along some state personalities in the guise of state burials. The huge amounts used could be invested in farm seeds for poor farmers. That will be a development project not mortuaries and coffins.

Back to our Buea Coffin Riders (BCR), who have no other form of entertainment and showing off. They come in from small agglomerations like Ekata, Muyenge, Mamou, Ekona and Muyuka. Those places have no mortuaries. The BCRs usually accompany friends they called super bendskin riders, who unfortunately were killed riding. You need to see the way the bendskin speed on those roads to conclude that people die the way they live. Even when they die they give further reasons for people to dread and wish they were banned.

They put up macabre spectacles, with loose exhausts as they speed up and down the lone Buea Street with 4 to 5 passengers a bike. They accelerate like a space shuttle rocketing to its doom. While the escort speeds up and down a lone bus will carry other mourners and a coffin on the carriage. On the coffin, five young men will be sitting chanting loudly and waving leaves.

I tried finding out from Tebah why all the ambiance and wildness. “We have to sendoff our comrade in pump and noise. You know we bendskin are a lively and courageous bunch. We die once and die in noise. When we do not die we are maimed forever. It is better dying in active service and being sendoff professionally. Tebah said.

What a fatalistic conclusion. The karma of the occupant of the coffin is even made heavier by the five riders sitting over it. Every Friday, and sometimes Thursdays when I return to my mountain hut in Buea, I try to find answers to the uselessness of life in Cameroon as exemplified by the BCRs. Some of them even have to come to the mortuary on weekdays because the mortuary is so full and they have to create space for new bodies to be admitted. If dying does not mean a thing to anybody, then you may easily understand the attitude of the politicians who do not care about the plight of the common man. Week in week out, the coffins will be rode out of Buea with death a permanent visitor in town. Man has to conquer death by ignoring it and not celebrate it. When you ignore death, it dies from neglect.

By Christopher Fon Achobang

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mamadou Tandja And Virtuous Cycles Of Niger's Democracy

Two cycles of political struggle exist in Niger today: that with Hamani Diori, Mohamane Ousmane, and Mamadou Tandja as the linking beads; the other with Seyni Kountché, Ali Saibou, Ibrahim Baré Mainassara, Daouda Malam Wanke, and Salou Djibo as the links. One is a constellation of "democratically elected" civilians; the other is made up of people we would refer to here in Cameroon as "les grands muets" [those that never speak] - soldiers!

Both cycles are intertwined, and work on the understanding that any historical continuum can be broken; that new beginnings are always possible. In other words, the beads on one chain alternate (regularly) with the beads on the other... These cycles have been interspersed by "the people" organising general strikes, sit-ins, civil disobedience and protest marches to fight for their sovereignty.

The people have been fighting to have their say in the changing process. Going by Lenin's rhetoric that the proletarian army is first recruited in the struggle, and Rosa Luxemburg's that the masses must learn to use power by using power, it can be said that in the process, the people have been learning how to use their power; they have been struggling to institute democracy in Niger.

Therefore, unlike in countries such as Cameroon where a vacuum was created by an anti-colonial war that ended in the defeat of nationalist forces, and the ensuing one-party rule with its sit-tight leaders, the intertwined cycles in Niger are generating a consciousness and an activism that is slowly expanding the domain of freedom, at the detriment of power.

True, the rule is that in republican government, the military is subordinated to civil power; the principle of absolute civilian control over the military is universally accepted. But such subordination should only be valid where the civil power is a derivative of the people's will, "expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures", as required by the universal declaration of human rights.

Unfortunately, in most African countries, the people are held hostage by a cabal that passes for the civil power. Further, in most democracies, soldiers finish off as congressmen, bank presidents, senators, manufacturers, judges, governors, diplomats and democratically elected presidents. Indeed, several of the 44 presidents of the US have been former soldiers.

Although none of the cycles in Niger has any single, concrete result that could mark its success, the unintended benefit to the people is laudable, barring the duplicity of the so-called international community that claims to prefer the civilian cycle; and the penchant of African organisations, dominated by sit-tight civilian leaders, to disrupt any attempt by soldiers to rock the tranquility of their exclusive club...

As the beads on the intertwined cycles in Niger change places, we continue to ponder the fate of democracy in our countries. Indeed, elections that are supposed to be the hallmark of democracy, mean one thing in the West, and completely another in African countries. In our Cameroon, they have come to represent a process through which the powerful give their stay in power a semblance of legitimacy, since they know that their "victories" do not derive from the people.

Invariably, following the fraud to render the consent of the people irrelevant, there are always condemnations, reports of international observers, the cutting of aid, and sometimes relations, all of which, sooner or later, convert the "winners-by-fraud" to "democratically elected" leaders! Then friendship is quickly re-established through juicy exploration, mining or other commercial bargains... Locked in their "new" friendship, they make similar noises about fighting "poverty", the greatest scorch of the same people the friendship made powerless.
It is always well known that those who win leadership through fraudulent elections do not have their people behind them.

It is also a well known fact in international relations that it is easier to deal with a leader that does not have his people behind him, than with one that has. This is why to Wangari Maathai's question why Africa is one of the richest continents on the planet, endowed with oil, precious stones, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land, agricultural products, and millions of women and men, and yet most of Africa's people remain impoverished, I can say here that it is because their illegitimate leaders cut bad deals to gain friendships that comfort their eternal, fraudulent stay in power.

The generation of the 60s that succeeded the White man in Africa following independence failed to use the momentum of the struggle for independence to completely free the continent from the dominance and influence of the West. The intertwined cycles in Niger, and the struggle they are inducing in the people, are creating a shared experience, a common sense that is preparing them for Niger's own revolution. After all, revolutions to create new beginnings of liberty and freedom are good for every people, in every society, including here in Africa. Let Niger's struggle continue

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Of Terrorism and Patriotism: Tribute to Ndeh Ntumazah, Nelson Mandela, et al.

Ndeh Ntumazah, Cameroon’s long serving “maquisard” or terrorist for 60 years was ‘rehabilitated’ in a presidential decree signed by President Paul Biya of the neo-colonialist République du Cameroun granting him a State Burial. This crusader for the union of the populations of Cameroon , who never benefited from the Cameroonian state except negative categorization, will posthumously be raised to the status of Patriot Number One, as such erasing the fairytale images of a dangerous terrorist.

Last year, Madiba Nelson Mandela, South Africa ’s first majority president, branded terrorist for over 40 years saw his name removed from the list of terrorists, and given a special day in the history of the community of nations by elevating his birthday to a United Nations Day. Few former terrorists in their lives have been so lucky to be rehabilitated and celebrated. Needless reminding ourselves that Ndeh Ntumazah, Ernest Ouadie, Um Nyobe, Wambo Le Courant, Patrice Lumumba et al, all fought for the liberation of their people from an oppressive neocolonial dispensation.

Even at the end of colonialism, the departing colonials made sure they installed neo-colonials to continue their plunder of Africa . Under such pseudo-nationalists the true sons (patriots) of Africa , who fought for the survival of the continent were hunted and assassinated like mad dogs. Africa lost hundreds of its most valuable sons in such circumstances, in what Jean Ziegler terms the depersonalization of a people. Indeed, most Africans allowed themselves to be used in very inhuman ways and some of their brothers worked and continue to work as accomplices of the colonialists.

For all their perceived crimes against the peace of the people, John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty published in 1859, states, “No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear.” This is in tandem with the redefinition of our history and aspirations.

Neither the French nor Ahidjo had any reasons to stop the members of the UPC (Union of Cameroonian Populations) from arguing that it was best to reunite all the populations in the former German Kamerun. Ndeh Ntumazah and his associates were all justified in their wishes and history has proven them right in this anniversary year of Cameroon ’s independence. The Unity of Cameroon is celebrated today, in total forgetfulness of those who fought for it. When Yaounde cited people to be honoured for the independence of Cameroon , valuable patriots like Ndeh Ntumazah, Um Nyobe were not considered. Yet without the pressure and guerrilla tactics they used, Cameroon ’s quasi-independence will still be undergoing negotiation, today.

If Margaret Thatcher has been reduced to obscurity, it is not because she is lackluster or sick but because she is haunted by her actions of despising Nelson Mandela. On an official trip to South Africa , an impetuous reporter asked her whether she would visit Nelson Mandela in Robin Island . Margaret Thatcher replied that “The prime Minister of England does not talk to terrorist.” A few months after, Mandela was freed from prison and became the first South African majority President. As president, Margaret Thatcher sought an audience with him. In typical Mandela outspokenness, he replied, “Terrorists don’t receive the Prime Ministers of England.” Poor Margaret Thatcher has never recovered from this shock.

It is quite a marvel how some celebrated terrorists metamorphose into venerated patriots. I am forced to go into the nuances of who is a terrorist and who is a patriot. A patriot is a person who loves his country and defends and promotes its interests. He is also one who remains loyal to his country when it is occupied by an enemy. A terrorist is an advocate of terror as a means of coercion. Ndeh Ntumazah, Nelson Mandela et al were all people who loved their countries passionately and were ready to defend and promote their interests. For Ndeh Ntumazah he understood that the formidable French colonial regime could only be defeated if the populations of Cameroon united to chase them out. This was frightful to the French above everything else. It provoked terror as they were frightened imagining the eventuality of losing all the wealth in Cameroon . But for pa Ndeh and his friends they were simply defending their beloved countries.

The wonder is why it took so long for their compatriots to recognize that they meant all good for their country. Pa Ndeh died on 21 January 2010 in St Thomas Hospital , London , destitute, senile and demented. No Cameroonian authority paid him a single visit or provided the basics for this historic patriot to survive. Ndeh Ntumazah was not so lucky like Nelson Mandela to see larger than life-size statues erected in his honour.

As Ndeh Ntumazah will be flown back to Cameroon for a State burial on 27 March 2010, his persecutor Ahmadou Ahidjo will be turning in his grave in Senegal . The irony is that since his death in 1988, Ahidjo remains a fugitive on the run from the country he prevented Ndeh, Ouandie, and Wambo from having a quiet enjoyment in.

Today, of the many lessons we learn, we will learn not to be conformers to common place. It is not because everybody is condemning an idea or a movement that it becomes trendy. Timeservers for truth will remember Socrates was put to death, but the Socratic Philosophy rose like the sun in heaven and spread its illumination over the whole intellectual firmament.

In University environments expected to be intellectual laboratories, the same political intolerance that characterizes the mundane world is manifest. Dissentients afflicted by the malady of thought, prescribe a convenient plan for having peace in the intellectual world, and keeping all things going on therein very much as they do already (undisturbed by vigorous debating). But the price paid for this sort of intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind. Professor Nyamjoh and others were chased out of the University of Buea for simply passionately believing that there was an Anglophone problem. Today, I join the chorus of the blacklisted and hunted for truly believing there was a problem in Cameroon and the University of Buea , where impostors and pseudo-intellectual s brand patriots as terrorists.

I have been articulating this Anglophone problem since 1990, to the surprise of people like the veteran political anarchist Sam Nuvala Fonkem. He is surprised that I was never witness of the Southern Cameroons period, yet I am able to command the courage to articulate its concerns. For this vituperative approach to the Southern Cameroons problem, some faculty at the University of Buea elected to brand me terrorist, while those who have sold their souls to the occupiers are hailed as patriots. Yet, today’s patriots will be portrayed and spared from the hang post tomorrow only by humanitarian considerations.

May the rehabilitation of the patriots falsely branded terrorists begin on 27 March 2010 with the honours due a real patriot like Ndeh Ntumazah. I am not waiting for a posthumous honour because people like Ateba, Tiayon Boromee et al have said I am a threat to the lethargic minds of moribund intellectuals. We, today’s blacklisted terrorists, tombstone for the destroyers of our patrimony, simply want to be given the opportunity to fight and defend the interests of our beloved country and people.

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