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Nigeria at 60: The Dialectic of a Failing Renaissance

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Standing elegantly before the visiting Princess Alexandra of Kent and Governor-General, Sir James Robertson, at the final lowering of the British Union Jack, in Lagos, in October 1960, Nigeria’s Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa declared that, “… independence (for Nigerians) implies a great deal more than self-government.”

For the constituents of the new sovereign, it was the consummation of a struggle which only intensified with the termination of the World War II and the rise of Black Nationalism led by notable Pan-Africanists like Henry Sylvester Williams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, to mention a few. Such was the enormity of the hope that Nigeria presents to Africa and the rest of the world in that era. The globe quickly took note of this potential power emerging from mother Africa, full of dynamic resources both human and minerals, with a firm promise to be a respected player at the international arena.

In the early days, Nigeria did not disappoint. Joining the United Nations as its 99th member in 1960, she stamped her readiness to provide the much-needed direction for Africa by making the continent the centre-piece of her foreign policy with the most important agenda of ending apartheid in South Africa and securing political independence for other African colonies at the time. In affirming her commitment to these goals; Nigeria was an active participant in the formation of the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U) in 1963, in Addis Ababa, and that of the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in 1975. Nigeria also became a part of the UN efforts to maintain global amity by contributing troops as part of the first UN Peacekeeping Mission to Congo (1960-64). Nigerian soldiers have so far adorned the blue berets in more than two dozen UN operations worldwide.

From Dream To Despair

For ordinary Nigerians, however, the honeymoon was short-lived as series of incidents drew a dagger at the heart of the young State which have continued to shape the fate of its political nay economy trajectory till date. To begin with, politicians (post-independence) exhibited gross lack of maturity which was most evident in the social disruption that erupted in the Western region between Premier Obafemi Awolowo and his estranged former ally, Samuel Akintola, in 1965. The killings, arson, and looting that accompanied the political rivalry between the two led to a severe loss of lives and property. Furthermore, the subsequent hijacking of political power by the military in January 1966 is considered an anathema especially since the coup d’état was perceived as ethnic-oriented in some quarters. Third in the chain of events was the devastating Biafra (civil) war that broke out after an attempt to secede by the mainly Igbo ethnic race in 1967. An estimated one million lives were sacrificed in the war which ended in January 1970.

Sandwiched amongst these events was the discovery of oil in commercial volume in the southern part of the country. Many historians have argued that oil is a poisoned chalice to Nigeria as it opened a vista of uncontrolled gluttony to the custodians of political authority and solidified unbridled corruption in the public service. So much was the level of profligacy within the system that then Military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, was quoted as saying Nigeria’s challenge isn’t how to make money ‘but how to spend it!’

Having reached its apotheosis a little too soon, Nigeria’s fortunes plummeted dramatically whilst the rest of the world watched in utter awe at the distasteful flatulence from the failing giant.

The Unanswered Question

Caught in the euphoria of shedding the toga of being a colony, the Nigerian state abinitio failed to answer a fundamental question: who owns Nigeria? This unfortunate oversight defines the colouration of what is termed ‘Nigerianess’ in/of Nigerians. It speaks to the dearth of a clear-cut structural identity; the vehicle which cascades a society into nationhood. It also, perhaps, explains the causal force behind the socio-political upheavals that appeared to have put the country in a state of perpetual sedation.

Many believe that the portmanteau: ‘Niger-area’ by the British through the 1914 amalgamation of the protectorates of the south and the north in the town of Sungeru is akin to what the Arabs called ‘Al-Nakbah’ – the Great Mistake. As was the case in many European colonies of Africa, the motivation for creating Nigeria was geared by administrative convenience without necessarily considering the cultural diversities of the ethnic components within the colony. That thus provides an understanding into Awolowo’s 1947 frustration in submitting that, “Nigeria isnot a nation, it is a mere geographical expression.”

A Broken Social Contract

For the mass Nigerian population, the state represents a creation of the oligarchs, fashioned to appropriate the collective patrimony at the expense of the weak majority. Morphed into a concert of zealous elites that turned into a neo-colonialist instrument of oppression and suppression, Nigeria’s social contract has – in the past sixty years – been desecrated, its trust abandoned, and the legitimacy of the political authority has become a subject of an interminable audit by different sections of the public.

The residual legacies of decades of leadership ineptitude, bastardized social institutions, wanton fleecing of common resources are far too unmistakable in vices such as sporadic ethnoreligious conflagrations, towering insecurity, kwashiorkor economy, youth restiveness caused by lack of access to western education and lack of job opportunities for able-bodied persons.

The structural insolvency in Nigeria is further pronounced with the distrust which has characterized the interactions between the government and the governed since independence. For renowned literary icon, Prof.  Wole Soyinka, the relationship between the leaders and the led in Nigeria is based on deceit and at best lacking in “frankness.”

A study from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put the current inflation rate at a two-year high 13% while the unemployment rate is 27.1%. Combine that with the just-released Global Terrorism Index 2018 report which sits Nigeria in third place globally among countries most ravaged by terrorism, one then begins to see an unglossy picture of the exact stance of Nigeria at the moment. In those statistics exist a deluge of ingredients for socio combustion which has come to the fore in recent years, especially since the return to civilian governance in 1999 after decades of military interregnum.

Self-Determination or Self-Destruct?

Unattended to for years, the dissatisfaction of the oppressed has germinated into a chorus of clamour for an equitable and just society that now manifests as calls for self-determination by various ethnic spheres in the country. To coincide with the diamond jubilee celebration of Nigeria, a group of citizens of Yoruba origin took over major streets of capitals of the world in demand for a breakaway homogeneous sovereign to be christened Oduduwa Republic. The Yoruba call for separation is just the latest as the Igbo – through the activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by exiled Nnamdi Kanu – remain resolute in their quest for self-determination.

Negotiating Co-habitation

To survive the existential threat throbbing Nigeria’s soul at the moment, a few suggestions would suffice. First, there is a need for a national document that truly reflects the wishes of the people to live together. The notion that the indivisibility of Nigeria is ‘non-negotiable’ is a farce and should be discarded in search of a template for peaceful co-existence. Second, a return to regional autonomy in place of the subsisting quasi-federation is long overdue; the system is yearning for deconstruction to help redress its many conspicuous contradictions and the attendant deficient outcomes. This would afford the regional components opportunity to develop from within without necessarily being dictated to by the federal authority. Third, the ‘gentlemen agreement’ for rotational Head of Government should be constitutionally sanctioned to avoid making such a privilege an exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group at the expense of others.

Unity in Diversity

As the drums of apocalypse sound louder in Nigeria, it is germane to say that, despite its intractable challenges, the strategic nature of the country makes it more appealing to remain one. The strength of its huge population is one reason which has over the decades made Nigeria a place of choice for trade and economic interests by many foreigners. For IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu the song remains ‘to your tents, O Israel’ due to “… mutual suspicion, mutual hatred, (and) mutual resentment (in the body polity of Nigeria).” In contrary, octogenarian politician, Bisi Akande views the ongoing development with some reservations even as he warns that dismembering Nigeria is a whirlwind that would only lead to further intra-ethno balkanization and depletion.

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Pragmatic Proposals to Optimize Russia’s Pledged Rehabilitation of Ethiopia

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A girl stands outside her home in the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin pledged that his homeland will help rehabilitate his hosts after getting a clearer understanding of the full extent of the damage that the terrorist-designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inflicted on the northern part of the country throughout the course of its approximately half-year-long occupation of the Afar and Amhara Regions. China’s Xinhua recently cited official Ethiopian government statistics about this which claim that the Amhara Region suffered damages upwards of approximately $5.7 billion.

According to their data, the TPLF partially or fully damaged 1,466 health facilities and vandalized water, electricity, and transport infrastructure. 1.9 million children are out of school in that region after more than 4,000 schools were damaged by the group. Over 1.8 million people were displaced from the Afar and Amhara Regions while 8.3 million there are suffering from food insecurity. The scale of this humanitarian crisis is massive and the direct result of the US-led West’s Hybrid War on Ethiopia that was waged to punish the country for its balanced foreign policy between the US and China.

It’s here where Russia can rely on its recent experiences in helping to rehabilitate Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to optimize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopian. Those two countries are much more war-torn than Ethiopia is, the latter of which only saw fighting in its northern regions instead of the entirety of its territory like the prior two did. The most urgent task is to ensure security in the liberated areas, which can be advanced by summer 2021’s military cooperation agreement between Russia and Ethiopia.

This pact could potentially see Russia sharing more details of its earlier mentioned experiences in order to enhance the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) security and stabilization operations in the northern part of the country. Syria and the CAR survived very intense Hybrid Wars that utilized cutting-edge military tactics and strategies against them similar to those that were subsequently directed against Ethiopia by the TPLF. It would help the ENDF to learn more about the challenges connected to ensuring security in areas that have been liberated from such contemporary Hybrid War forces.

The next order of business is to help the many victims of that country’s humanitarian crisis. Russia’s experience with assisting Syria in this respect, which suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, can be of use to Ethiopia. This is especially the case when it comes to aiding its internally displaced people. Their immediate needs must be met and maintained, which might require urgent support from that country’s trusted partners such as Russia. Provisioning such in an effective and timely manner can also improve Russia’s international reputation too, especially among Africans.

Northern Ethiopia’s post-war rehabilitation must be comprehensive and sustainable. The country’s Medemer philosophy — which has been translated as “coming together” – will form the basis of these efforts. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched upon this in his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize speech and his book of the same name that was released earlier that year. Its English translation hasn’t yet been published but Medemer was explained at length by high-level Ethiopian officials during an early 2020 US Institute of Peace panel talk and in Ethiopian writer Linda Yohannes’ insightful book review.

An oversimplification of it in the economic context is that Medemer preaches the need for comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable growth through public-private and other partnerships that bring prosperity to all of its people, which in turn strengthens socio-political relations between them. It seeks to apply positive aspects of foreign models while avoiding the bad ones. The Medemer mentality aspires to balance cooperation with competition, constantly improving itself as needed, in order to synchronize and synergize Ethiopia’s natural economic advantages in people, location, and resources.

In practice, this could see Russian public and private companies partnering with Ethiopia’s primarily public ones to rehabilitate the northern regions’ damaged infrastructure. Since sustainable growth is one of Medemer’s key concepts, the country’s Russian partners could also train more laborers, social workers, teachers, and doctors throughout the course of these projects while offering scholarships to some internally displaced youth for example. In that way, Russia and Ethiopia could truly embody the Medemer spirit by literally bringing their people closer together as a result of these noble efforts.

All the while, Russia’s international media flagships of RT and Sputnik should be active on the ground documenting the entire experience. The immense influence that Moscow has in shaping global perceptions can be put to positive use in exposing the foreign-backed TPLF’s countless crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia. This can powerfully counteract the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against its government, which misportrays the TPLF as innocent victims of the “genocidal” ENDF, exactly as similar Russian media efforts have done in debunking Western lies against Syria.

The world wouldn’t only benefit by learning more about the US-led West’s lies against Ethiopia, but also in seeing how effectively Russia is working to reverse the damage that their TPLF proxies inflicted in the northern part of that country. Russia is also a victim of their information warfare campaign, which misportrays the Kremlin as a dangerous and irresponsible international actor. The truth, however, is that Russia is a peaceful and responsible international actor that has a documented track record of cleaning up the West’s Hybrid War messes in Syria, the CAR, and prospectively soon even Ethiopia too.

Upon taking the lead in rehabilitating northern Ethiopia, Russia should diversify the stakeholders in that country’s prosperity in coordination with its hosts. It’s in Ethiopia’s interests as well to receive assistance from as many responsible and trusted partners as possible. Russia can help by requesting that relevant aid and multilateral rehabilitation efforts be placed on the agenda of the proposed heads of state meeting between the Russian, Indian, and Chinese (RIC) leaders that presidential aide Yury Ushakov said was discussed for early 2022 during President Putin’s latest video call with President Xi in December.

The RIC countries stood with in solidarity with Ethiopia at the United Nations in the face of the US-led West’s subversive attempts to weaponize international law against it. They’re strong economies in their own right, not to mention through their cooperation via BRICS and the SCO, the latter organization of which also has anti-terrorist and other security dimensions. These two multipolar platforms could potentially be used to extend economic, financial, humanitarian, and security cooperation to their Ethiopian partner to complement bilateral and trilateral efforts in this respect.

Russia’s increasingly strategic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also lead to Moscow working more closely with Abu Dhabi on related rehabilitation matters with their shared partners in Addis Ababa. Observers shouldn’t forget that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) played a crucial role in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018. He even awarded their leaders his country’s highest civil honor when they both visited the UAE that summer. Furthermore, Al Jazeera alleges that the UAE has maintained a humanitarian (and possibly even military) air bridge to Ethiopia.

Regardless of whether or not the military aspect of this reported bridge is true or not, there’s no denying that the UAE has emerged as a major stakeholder in Ethiopia’s success. It deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s central bank in summer 2018 as part of its $3 billion aid and investment pledge at the time. The UAE also plans to build an Eritrean-Ethiopian oil pipeline in order to help the latter export its newly tapped reserves in the southeast. Additionally, DP World signed a memorandum with Ethiopia in May 2021 to build a $1 billion trade and logistics corridor to separatist Somaliland’s Berbera port.

Considering the closeness of Emirati-Ethiopian relations, it would therefore be fitting for RIC to incorporate the UAE as an equal partner into any potential multilateral plan that those countries might come up with during their proposed heads of state summit sometime in early 2022. It enjoys excellent relations with all three of them so it’s a perfect fit for complementing their shared efforts. Plus, the UAE has the available capital needed to invest in high-quality, long-term, but sometimes very expensive infrastructure projects, which can ensure northern Ethiopia’s sustainable rehabilitation.

It’s pivotal for Russia to prioritize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia ahead of the second triennial Russia-Africa Summit that’s expected to take place in October or November after fall 2019’s first-ever summit saw Russia return to Africa following a nearly three-decade-long hiatus. Coincidentally, Ethiopia requested last April to hold the next event in Addis Ababa. That would be a sensible choice since its capital city hosts the African Union headquarters, has sufficient infrastructure, and can serve most of the continent through its Ethiopian Airlines, which regularly wins awards as Africa’s best airline.

The interest that Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegunu recently expressed in courting more Russian investment ahead of the next summit goes perfectly well with Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Terekhin’s vow to heighten cooperation between those countries’ ruling parties. This in turn raises the chances that the present piece’s proposals could hopefully serve as the blueprint for beginning relevant discussions as soon as possible on Russia’s pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia with a view towards achieving tangible successes ahead of the next Russia-Africa Summit.

That timing is so important since Russia mustn’t miss the opportunity to showcase its bespoke “Democratic Security” model in Ethiopia. This emerging concept refers to the comprehensive thwarting of Hybrid War threats through economic, informational, military, and other tactics and strategies such as the action plan that was proposed in the present piece. “Democratic Security” approaches vary by country as evidenced from the differing ones that Russia’s practicing in Syria and the CAR, but the concept could attract many more African partners if it’s successful in Ethiopia by next fall’s summit.

Russia must therefore do everything in its power to bring this best-case scenario about. Rehabilitating Ethiopia won’t just improve millions of lives, expose the war crimes committed by the US-led West’s TPLF proxies, and enable Russia to showcase its “Democratic Security” model to other African countries, but ensure that the continent’s historical fountainhead of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism survives its existential struggle. Upon that happening, Ethiopia can then serve to inspire a revival of these ideas all across Africa through its complementary Medemer concept and thus strengthen multipolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced

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Two displaced women sit at a camp in Awaradi, Niger. © UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.

The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.

Increase in one year

Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).

According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. 

This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.

In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.

In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.

Climate, humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.

Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”

He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”

Bold response

UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.

In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.

UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.

In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.

This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.

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SADC extends its joint military mission in Mozambique

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has collectively decided to extend its force mission mandate in Mozambique for three months to provide military support in fighting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, the northern seaside provincial district that suffered frequent militant attacks displacing thousands out of their homes.

The South African Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), according to the final communiqué released after the leaders of the southern African countries gathered to review significant issues, among them the operations of the joint military force dispatched last year as attacks reached its greater heights to Mozambique.

Chairperson of the SADC’s Organ on Politics, Defense and Security and South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa told the gathering in Lilongwe, capital of Malawi, where the regional bloc held its extraordinary summit and reviewed progress in Mozambique, described SAMIM as highly successful in defeating the militant groups particularly in Cabo Delgado.

“I would like to express my appreciation and commend SAMIM for its work on the ground, as well as recognize the member states that have supported this work financially and in the deployment of military personnel and equipment,” the final report quoted Ramaphosa.

SADC cannot allow terrorism to spread to other provinces in Mozambique and to the region, and it is imperative to promote a spirit of unity among member countries as terrorism and violent extremism threaten the stability and development that the region has achieved over the past four decades, says the report.

The communiqué also approved the framework for support to Mozambique in addressing terrorism outlines, among others, comprehensive strategic actions for consolidating peace, security, and the socio-economic recovery of Cabo Delgado.

The Maputo daily Noticias wrote after the SADC summit that a budgetary allocation of US$29.5 million has been set aside for the three-month extension, after several years of high-level consultations and this would mean until at least mid-April. The SAMIM extension set from mid-January.

Addressing the opening session of the summit, the current SADC Chairperson, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, urged regional bloc member states to stick together and ensure that SAMIM remains multidimensional and comprehensive. He entreated SADC member countries not to relent, regress or even retreat on their commitments.

“What remains now is for us to stay the course and stick together. We cannot relent. We cannot regress. We cannot retreat. Our approach to this mission must continue to be multidimensional and comprehensive. It must not only focus on neutralizing the threat, but also have post-conflict plans to rebuild,” said Chakwera, added that the collective mission is paramount and the stakes for all the Member States are high because what they are fighting for is regional stability, and the sustainability of the quest for the bloc’s integration and socio-economic development.

Chakwera welcomed the comprehensive Cabo Delgado Reconstruction Plan launched by his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi, and his government, which, among other issues, seeks to provide humanitarian support to the affected population, including internally displaced persons, and uplift their living standards.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi however expressed high optimism about the current military situation in Cabo Delgado. He said that all the bases from which the terrorists used to plan their actions are now in the hands of the Mozambican forces, and 2022 would be a decisive year to support the regional standby force in the final fight against terrorism in Mozambique.

For the Mozambican President Nyusi the extension of the SAMIM mission demonstrates the spirit of unity and solidarity that the Southern African Development Community members have readily and warmheartedly shown with the people of Mozambique.

Mozambique has grappled with an insurgency in its northernmost province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, but currently fast improving after the deployment of joint military force with the primary responsibility of ensuring peace and stability, and for restoring normalcy in Mozambique.

Mozambique has consistently maintained that all problems especially relating to conflicts and crises should be resolved largely based on the approaches of Africans, and of course with moral, political and material support from regional blocs such as SADC and the continental organization – African Union, and the involvement of United Nations with its UN Security Council.

With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. Mozambique is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

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