Friday, 5 August 2011

My fifteen minutes of fame..

For a while, I was undecided whether to title this post 'Fifteen Minutes to Save the World', a play on Madonna's song '4 Minutes'. I settled for the one above though, because this more accurately describes what happened last evening, when I was invited by a Dublin radio station, Dublin City FM 103.2, to participate in a 'lively discussion' on the crisis in the Horn of Africa, broadcast live. My role, I think, was to bring to the discussion arguments from the perspective of the angry and frustrated African, since I have previously strongly made the assertion that African governments and their peoples have repeatedly demonstrated an almost shameful lack of interest in, and concern for, the very serious human tragedy that is the drought and famine in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa.

I received the invitation only a few hours before the scheduled live broadcast and hence had insufficient time to notify everyone, although I did put out the word on Twitter and Facebook. The last time I was on a radio show was on the BBC World Service and as far as I am aware, nobody who knows me tuned in then. When BBC Radio 5 invited me subsequently to join in a discussion on the then impending Nigerian National Assembly Election, I dis-invited myself, for reasons I had no control over. So yesterday, it was important to me that somebody listened and that they should give me some reaction afterwards.

And fortunately, just five minutes before the show began my niece who lives in Lagos, Nigeria said "Hi Uncle" on Facebook. After hurriedly explaining to her that I was on the cusp of joining in a live radio show, I sent her the web link to the radio station's website, since the show was to be broadcast online as well. And so, apart from the several thousand Dubliners who were tuned in and would have heard my "passionate" and "heartfelt" remarks, a member of my family too listened in.

And the reaction she gave when we chatted afterwards was good too. I mean my niece is no pushover, (she holds a Masters Degree in International Business from a top UK university and holds down a senior position in the banking world), so her reaction really did matter to me. I was concerned, because I know of my tendency to be ardent and impassioned, (which even years of advocacy before the courts has done little to improve), especially when the subject-matter is one about which I feel strongly, as yesterday's was. I feared that I would stall and stammer, as occurred while on the BBC World Service, when uncharacteristically I stuttered and became tongue-tied and ran out of words altogether, lol.

But no, It was great to have the opportunity to express my views concerning this very important issue, the importance of which going by the evidence, few Africans seem to be aware of, or to be interested in. Many are nonchalant - the African Union has coughed up a measly $300,000 in relief aid, whereas, the British public alone has so far put together donations amounting to in excess of £44 million. My niece later commented that there was little talk, appreciation or awareness in Nigeria of the seriousness of the crisis; in a situation where even the governments of Africa believe that in times of crisis such as this, relief ought always to come from elsewhere other than Africa..


CodLiverOil said...

I've not heard the broadcast, but congratulations in advance, I know you will have spoken wisely in your time on air.

As regards the famine in the Horn of Africa which could have easily been avoided.

It is a tragedy, and a damning disgrace to Africans the world over. Why?

1) Famines don't appear from nowhere, as you pointed out ample time for preparation was given. Those nations that received notice, with the possible exception of Ethiopia have done nothing.
2) African leaders have been once again been exposed to the shallow, mean-spirited and pathetic bunch of characters that they are. What the former leader of Nigeria said Olusegun Obasanjo " African solutions for African problems..." is a just a whole load of rubbish.
3) The fact that they are so slow to organise, and then the meeting was put back a fortnight. Means they are in no way concerned about the plight of people on the continent. Then what is the point of the AU (African Union)? Are they just grand standing and making worthless gestures like refusing to arrest heads of state accused of human rights abuses. How sad! Are they waiting for all the hungry to die off first?
4) Even the civil societies throughout the continent are dormant, with a possible few exceptions. Why do they not mobilise. Nigeria gave money to the victims of the tsunami several years back.

Does it take a European or an American to demonstrate compassion to our fellow brethren (I mean brothers and sisters here).

This is a telling hour, and so far it seems we are falling flat on our faces. People can condemn the British and the Europeans "till the cows come home". But I will say this despite the historical wrongs they have imparted on Africans, they can demonstrate more humanity and compassion than those who regularly pack the churches and mosques throughout the continent.

So what is the purpose of religion in Africa then? It is just false peity, it has no substance unless backed up by meaningful actions without conditions attached.

At this moment in time, Britain and Britons stand head and shoulders above Africans as regard to charity and generosity, despite the many and shrill accusations of "racists and colonialists", that Africans like to throw at them. It all sounds rather hollow.

Africans have failed on so many levels here.
1) On a state level on the affected nations.
2) On a state level where nations who could do more have done next to nothing
3) On a civil society level throughout the continent.
There really is nothing to defend here.

Let us hope that this spectre of hunger doesn't strike the continent in another location at another time (watch out Niger and other Sahelian nations), because when you fold your hands and sit back and start shouting for help, only to be met by stoney silence from your "fellow Africans", maybe then you will know how it feels. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

I work in international developemnt for a major uk NGO and it is sad to see the situation in the horn of Africa. I really feel the response from other African countries and the AU has been pathetic. However when a lot of African countries are being misgoverned by their leaders, it is not suprising that they are not able to prioritise. The AU on the other hand is under resourced and I am sure relies partly on income from European donors. I do however agree that African solutions to African problems with support from others

Anengiyefa said...

@CodLiverOil, I agree. In a situation where governments are totally unaware of their responsibility towards their own citizens, its unsurprising that they are not too concerned about what is happening in other African countries. I have had conversations about this with some people in Nigeria and the overriding attitude was that Nigeria shouldn't be concerned about what's happening in Somalia, because the Somalis themselves are to blame for the failures of their society. Compare that attitude with the compassion and kindness that has been demonstrated by Europe and America, who in fact are much further removed from the crisis.

This is Africa after all, where success of governments is measured by how long they can hold on to power and by how brutally they are able to suppress political opposition. The ordinary African enjoys and indeed, knows no such thing as government protection. While their leaders squabble over how much parliamentarians should be paid, (MPs in Kenya and Nigeria are paid a whole lot more than their UK counterparts) and drive around in fancy cars, the quality of life for citizens is such that hundreds of thousands flee their countries, risking their lives crossing the Sahara and attempting to make it across the Mediterranean on rickety marine craft, (many of them dying in the process). A serious indictment of the leadership in Africa, if you ask me.

Africa has become accustomed to the idea that in times of crises, relief comes from abroad, when in fact the situations when relief and aid are required occur more frequently in Africa than anywhere else. You would think that the AU would have latched on to this years ago and made itself relevant. But no, the AU remains almost entirely ceremonial and of no real consequence.

I was angry when Jerry Rawlings, Ghana's former strongman leader, (while heading an AU delegation to negotiate access into areas controlled by the Somailan Islamist militant group, al-Shabaab, of relief aid provided by international aid agencies) in front of TV cameras was tearfully pleading to the international community for more aid, when in fact the member states of the AU, the organisation that he was representing had themselves, not only failed to show any genuine interest in the crisis, but also failed to make their contributions to the AU fund for drought in Somalia.

Severe events such as this drought are predicted to occur more frequently going forward. The region affected, ie, Somalia, Ethiopia, northern Kenya, is just one of several "climate and poverty hotspots" located on the African continent. Food prices worldwide have shot up, in some cases by as much as 500%, caused by the increased affluence and therefore increased demand, of the emerging economies, Brazil, India, China, Russia etc. The poorest people of the world are those who will be least able to handle these increased prices and it is they too who will suffer the most from failed rains caused by climate change. These are the challenges that the AU ought to be taking on if it is to become more relevant..

Anengiyefa said...

@Anonymous, regardless of how under-resourced the AU are, it surely cannot be beyond their capability to establish an organised system of monitoring the effects of climate change and driving member states towards making appropriate plans and taking preparatory steps in readiness for events such as this, which as I said, are predicted by climate-change scientists, to occur more frequently going into the future.

CodLiverOil said...

Thank you for your reply.
You have raised many issues:
1) Do you think the average European will know of developments in Africa, before something of a similar nature should happen in Europe? I think not. All this talk of uniting Africa, and regional co-operation, is just empty talk. All African governments are so focused on what occurs outside the continent, they know nothing of what happens on their own doorstep. When you look at this, you can see there is big gap between what smartly dressed politicians say and what governments and their people’s do and believe.
2) The next point was shocking
“Nigeria shouldn't be concerned about what's happening in Somalia, because the Somalis themselves are to blame for the failures of their society…”

It re-enforces my previous comments about false peity. How many times has Nigeria alone had to go running cap in hand for assistance, because of the huge mess they continue to make of that country? I can name a few, the Biafran saga, the repeated cases of cholera outbreaks, Lassa fever outbreaks, water pollution in Zamfara due to gold exploitation, now cleaning up the Bodo community in Rivers state. Each time, Nigeria had to send someone to crawl to the United Nations for assistance.

If the UN or developed countries whom they like to go crawling to, adopted such an attitude what would happen to that country. Many of the developed countries claim to be secular, but yet they don’t sit on their high horse and judge those who seek their assistance. Yet a purportedly “religious” country is adopting such an attitude.

I will say this Nigeria and Nigerians have no right to say, that about any country ie they shouldn’t throw stones in glass houses. Their own society is far from perfect (as one could ever hope to be), and we know full well Nigeria is not out of the woods yet, dangerous times are ahead, not to mention the impending environmental dangers which face the country.

Would they like that, if Britian or the West in general were to take that high-handed tone with them? They would be the first to yell “racism” from the roof tops. Yet the gap in terms of development between Britain and Nigeria is larger, than the gap between Nigeria and Somalia.

Nigerians shouldn’t forget environment degradation is occurring throughout Nigeria, whether it is the expansion of the desert into the north, or soil erosion elsewhere, and now toxic pollution in the case of the Niger Delta.

What do you make of their reaction? (those people whom you spoke to)

3) The problems facing the continent about unworthy governments, corrupt bureaucracies etc, that were evident in the 1960s-1980s, are still as evident in the year 2011. This begs the question, has anything been learned over the intervening period?
4)On another note, even if the parliamentarians and regional governors of each region, sacrificed just one day of their pay (and illegal earnings), people would be surprised at how much is being stolen from them. The least the Kenyan MPs could do is take a 5% pay cut, but I’m sure that will not go down too well in halls of power.
5) No doubt the AU, is a waste of space. The money they spend in holding their worthless meetings, could be better spent in being channeled towards those who are in need. You are right, common-sense, and decency are sadly absent from the AU headquarters. I’m surprised that Ghana’s highly esteemed Jerry Rawlings risked be-smirching his name by associating himself with the leper-like AU. Many of the problems that the continent is facing could be addressed by re-assessment of priorities. But as I pointed out since the 1960s this has been the case, and this simple lesson has not been understood.

CodLiverOil said...

6) Climate change should be of concern especially to those countries which lie in arid or semi-arid regions. To have a government that does nothing about adopting strategies to combat this, seems to be asking for trouble. I pointed out Egypt has a greater proportion of desert than Kenya, but we never hear of Egyptians dying of starvation? In Australia, they have long and severe droughts, they have strategies, the government plays it’s role, farmers are smart and take precautions and they come through tough times. One can only think if Australia was ruled like the typical African country, their people too would fleeing in boats looking for asylum and Australia would be seeking aid to help it’s hungry. They are slowly turning to utilizing renewable energy sources. In fact Australia wouldn’t even export food, they would be importing it. Fortunately for them, they are not governed as African nations are.

What is the approach of sub-Saharan Africa, other than send emissaries to seek aid to tackle climate change, and make vague promises in return. This aid, will not be used for it’s intended purpose. The environment will be eroded, no planning would have occurred to handle droughts, so when drought and famine re-occur. All they will do is push the unfortunate victims into the media lenses of foreign journalists, so that these images are flashed around the world. Then they complain when Africa gets a bad press, what are they talking about?

You can’t have ever expanding herds roaming around the place, removing the scant vegetation that exists. People will have to be trained to find alternative methods of living, sizes of herds need to drawn up and monitored. Increasing education to offer the youth options, and investing in irrigation and the provision of water etc, will go along way to removing this. To do nothing and live as you were living 200 years or more ago, in an era of unpredictable climate change in a semi-arid region is unwise to put it mildly.
7) All the talk and actions of people like Marcus Garvey and the ideal of “Pan Africanism” to date have been betrayed by successive generations. For now, we can safely say there is no “Pan Africanism”, when dealing with matters of substance.

CodLiverOil said...

I just want to add in reply to this distasteful comment

“Nigeria shouldn't be concerned about what's happening in Somalia, because the Somalis themselves are to blame for the failures of their society…”

Whoever said that (and those that agree with that statement), should look at these pictures and think about what they have said...

Click here

I will say this, the little children that are suffering, I believe are in no way to blame for the situation they have been born into. I don't think anything more need be said as to why Africa should help people on the African continent who are in desperate need. To be honest such a question should not even be raised, it's that obvious.

CodLiverOil said...

Sorry, the links for the previous post moved, so I've reposted the links.

Why Africa should help, three simple reasons from 12 million...

Click here for the 1st reason why Africa should help

Click here for the 2nd reason why Africa should help

Click here for the 3rd reason why Africa should help

Anengiyefa said...

@CodLiverOil, I am of the view that in Nigeria there is a prevalent tendency towards self-deception. It is this which prevents many Nigerians, even among the supposedly educated elite, to fail to recognise the seriousness of the nation's predicament and appreciate the extent of the failures of successive governments, in action and in policy (that is if there's any such thing as "policy" where Nigerian governments are concerned).

The people in Nigeria I spoke to are university graduates, whom you would expect ought to have a deeper understanding of the issues. Rather than this, they were quick to move the discussion on to talk about Nigeria. And the theme of their argument was that, with the "new" political dispensation, its only a matter of time before things get better. But this is an argument I've been hearing in Nigeria for the last 30 or more years and rather than improving, the quality of life for the majority of Nigerians has actually been in steady decline. And it beggars belief that they would think of this current Nigerian government as a "new political dispensation", since the actuality is that this government has evolved straight out of those previous regimes that presided over the ruin of the economic potential of the country.

But again that's the point I was making about self-deception. Nigerians seem to have taken selfishness to a new level. Its as if they believe that: I am fine when I can afford to build my own house, buy my own electricity generator, dig my own borehole to supply my household with water and when I can afford to send my children to schools in Europe (those who can't afford schools in Europe send their kids to Ghana, lol) and when I can afford to fly abroad for medical treatment. And it seems to be irrelevant to them that the majority of their fellow citizens are never going to be able afford any of these things..

Someone was commenting on Twitter the other day that with all the deprivation in Nigeria, the country's leaders are still revered abroad as "statesmen", but I was quick to point out that perhaps they are revered in Nigeria, but in the international community, African leaders are not even respected, much less revered. In my view, it is a thing of shame to be known to be presiding over the shambles that is much of Africa. The destitution of the majority of the continent's population, is a direct consequence of the incompetence and ineptitude of the continent's leadership..

CodLiverOil said...

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

I tend to agree with you that Nigerians are in a state of mass self-deception, thinking they are bigger and more important than they really are. I’m not agreeing with you for the sake of having my comments published (I know you don’t think that, but I’m sure someone out there might). But whenever one looks at statistics that are independently compiled regarding quality of life, human development index etc, compiled by apolitical bodies. Nigeria is always close to the bottom. There was another one, where Lagos was categorised as one of the 10 WORST cities to live in. Again this grew unhappiness from those who think somehow that Lagos is “a world class city”, believe me it is far from that. Then the usual racist jibes of “what does an oyibo man know anyway”, started circulating. Just visit Canada or Australia and you will see how cities should be run, to see what I mean.

I’ve seen on other boards, Nigerians making excuses saying that those who came up with such statistics never visited the country (how would they know if they did or didn’t). Doesn’t really matter, the guidelines they are following must have been internationally approved, but someone will rubbish this by their anecdotal observations which are far from being complete or even scientific, but yet they feel compelled to refute such arguments. On what basis, because they don’t like the news! No wonder the country is where it is, with people like that running around the place.

You are right about the middle class, they are more right wing than the tea party. Even the conservatives in Britain, or the tea party in the US, don’t espouse such extremely selfish views are providing merely for yourself and to hell with everyone else. That is no way to develop a harmonious society. Only the extremely rich can afford to live in a bubble, but the rest of us have to rub shoulders with everyone else and interact, that way we are not immune from whatever is circulating in society. Nigeria will never get to the stage of development of any developed or BRIC nation, if they continue to follow such extremer right-wing policies, on the contrary it is a recipe for disaster, as the situation in Nigeria is in testifies to.

CodLiverOil said...


People can be talking about all the political dispensation they want, this was the same language Obasanjo was using, to get Nigeria out of the debt, it had built up. The Paris club bought such “hog-wash”, and Nigeria exited from the Paris club. Now the late Yar’Adua and now Jonathan have now run up the national debt again within the space of 5 years. What political dispensation will remove that this time? People are now wiser than before and less inclined to believe the government. All these snappy titles, are an illusion, what is needed is comprehensive action and a willingness to drag the country forward, following a different model than what is currently being pursued.

Are people so bankrupt that they cling to the slightest decorum on an international platform to say that our leaders are revered? The only person who drew such esteem from abroad I can think of is Nelson Mandela, all the others to be honest are politely tolerated. What has any Nigerian leader done to deserve to be “revered”. People are getting too carried away with such nonsense. They should wake up to reality. Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings is a good leader, but he was never revered abroad, maybe because he was too independent and thought for himself and put Ghana first, rather than the contrary as is the norm.

Those developing countries that are making rapid progress are only doing so, because they have faced their problems and are tackling them head on. This is not the case for Nigeria, they ignore anything that is too difficult to tackle, or that makes them feel uncomfortable. Now this thinking has been extended to the events on the African continent. Then some people will say Nigeria deserves a permanent seat at the UN (United Nations), on what basis? Having a large, poor and unstable population is not enough. People should forget about a seat on the UN, or even acquiring nuclear energy, and concentrating on building a more equal and stable society.