Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An open letter to all Tanzanians

Dear my fellow countrymen
When Mwalimu Nyerere nationalised properties under the gist of socialistic politics, I, M. J. Sabodo, gave him and some senior officials of his government copies of a book entitled SOCIALISM THAT WORKS authored by Lee Kwang, a minister in the Singapore government for 30 years. I call upon every Tanzanian to read this book.

With no intention of humiliating former president Mzee Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamini William Mkapa, I know for sure the duo were handpicked by Mwalimu Nyerere to lead Tanzania. Thank God both of them have proved to be among good leaders of Tanzania, and even more so the ruling party – CCM. But the fact remains they were appointees of Mwalimu.

Now the big question is, who really planted the fourth phase President Hon. Jakaya Kikwete? The President has been steadfast in his five years in the office. Recalling his landslide victory, it was a show that many Tanzanians had faith in him.

Now I am so surprised to see Hon. President on political platforms campaigning for corrupt leaders. Or put it this way those accused of corruption, with some with cases in court of law. You claim that they are hardworkers. This astounding and diluting the faith Tanzanians had in their government.

Let me start with a living example.

1. Tanzania and Singapore gained independence almost the same year. During that time the US dollar was equivalent to three dollars of Singapore, which is also equivalent to Tsh 7. After 40 years now the same US dollar is equivalent to 1.6 dollars of Singapore and also equivalent to Tsh 1,100. When Kikwete assumed powers the US dollar was equivalent to Tsh 950, but now one US dollar is equivalent to Tsh 1,525. Where are we heading to?
2. The size of Singapore is not larger than Bagamoyo. It is a small country with a population of six million people compared to Tanzania’s 40 million.
3. One region in India is capable of producing food that can satisfactorily feed a billion people of India. Tanzania still imports food for domestic consumption.
4. We have about 800 square kms of seawaters,but our fishermen still use ancient means (canoes) for fishing.

Mwalimu Nyerere’s nationalisation policy and Mkapa’s trade liberalisation policy have not brought us any success. The two policies have failed us. Just compare our currency to the dollar of Singapore. Because of the past scenarios I am calling upon Hon. Jakaya Kikwete to find the best way of supporting peasants and fisherman of Tanzania so that they are not drawn into hunger.

When I told Mwalimu that he was not a king but the president of Tanzania, he laughed. I don’t know what the feelings of Hon. Kikwete would be or other presidential hopefuls if I told them the same thing. It is better to speak the truth without hiding anything, because the truth is the same as the sunlight. It is impossible to be covered by anything.
The opinions of Mzee Sabodo on this year’s October 31 general election:
· If it happens you know the formula of your opponent, then the victory will be much easier for you. If you don’t know your opponent well and you still decide to clash with him, it is like going to war without knowing who your opponent is,
· If it happens you know your opponent even without knowing his thinking, you can still fight him,
· I’m not saying nor do I not believe that the opposition parties are an enemy of our country,
· So an opposition party is not an enemy, but a good helper in contributing to the development of our nation,
· We are aware that CCM has made blunders and is still making many more blunders,
· There were shortcomings in the economic policies of the Mwalimu Nyerere during his administration,
· There were unstable policies during the Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s government,
· The third phase government of Benjamin Mkapa, on its part, out rightly ignored agriculture and the peasants of this country and instead it paid much attention to international issues, especially the North,
· When Kikwete takes control of the nation again, I don’t what mistakes he is going to make again,
· I would like to believe that he will support farmers and promote farming,
· If it happens that a party makes mistakes, it must be corrected. That is a true democracy.
· I do not mean there should not be opposition in the country. It must be there. But it must be a kind of opposition that can contribute to development and stand for the future of our nation,
· England spent almost 200 years to create the opposition as it today – Labour and Tory parties,
· India, for instance, despite 50 years of multiparty democracy, it is still unstable and does not have the desired unity. Things are still uncertain

Long life Tanzania


P. O. Box 730


Source: Business Times Friday October 15 – 21, 2010, page 4

The 2011 Election; My Personal Take.

The 2011 Election; My Personal Take.

When one read articles and analyses by most northerner commentators and writers lately they moan and loathe over the so called PDP zoning like a jilted lover who is seeing her ex with another lover.

In a country with 61 political parties why harp on PDP zoning as if the live of the nation and the other 60 political parties depend on it?

Mostly important why most the PDP zoning be exclusively at the federal level I ask for the umpteenth time? Look at the political calculation going in Gombe, Kaduna, Niger, Borno, and Kwara. Yes Kwara State or 'Saraki State' as one commentator called it.

We need zoning but let it apply across the six geo-political zones and across the three senatorial zones of each state of the federation.

Let there be justice and equity in Gombe State, Bauchi State, Kwara State, Kaduna State, Borno State and Kebbi State.

I decided to exclude Adamawa, Nasarawa and Kogi States for obvious reasons known to the indigenes of these states.

I simply can not understand why people moan over nothing.

In 1989, at the height and peak of Ibrahim Babangida's structural adjustment programme (SAP). The Nigerian people were so sapped that one day the whole country erupted in rioting and protest spear headed by the dynamic and courageous Nigerian students in what was then called the anti-SAP riot. We all knew the out come. Babangida closed down all universities and polytechnics in Nigeria for one year. Since that year, the Nigerian academic calendar has never been the same again. Babangida then was saying there is no alternative to SAP. But the foremost Nigerian economist Professor Sam Aluko had to reply Babangida that there is even alternative to death which is living. We all know the outcome of the SAP programme which lead to the total collapse of the Naira and the Nigerian economy. All institutions and infrastructures equally collapsed and there was capital flight of liquidity as the economists will say.

But that is not the gist of this discussion today. I will leave that for another day.

The gist of this article is the unnecessary moaning by northerner commentators over the PDP zoning.

I believe there is alternative to PDP amongst the other 60 political parties. The North is claiming to have the population, isn't it? Please let them all vote CPC in the 2011 election or even the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) since Nuhu Ribadu will be contesting on that platform. As it is now the middle belt have decided to go with Dr Goodluck Jonathan.

Most importantly, there is no need to beat war drum and instigating boko haram to kill the Nigeria Policemen and women. From the outcome of the operation of the Nigerian Armed Forces in Maiduguri Borno State in July 2009, they are up to the task in quelling any uprising by boko haram terrorists.

It is high time we all sit at a round table to determine the type of federalism we all want. The 1963 constitution worked well for all the regions as were then. I remember the groundnuts pyramids in Kano. But na photo I see sha wo.

It seems we are at the highest point of revisionism in the political history of Nigeria at the moment. People are running from one pole to pillar distorting facts to re-write history. People cannot sit in the comfort of their rooms and imagine theories about their perceived enemies and think it will stick.

The undoing of OBJ in his eight years of power is not even his so called third term bid. But the imposition of unpopular candidates like Murtala Nyako, Andy Uba, and Osunbor in Adamawa, Anambra and Edo respectively as state governors. I know somebody will say you did not mention Yar'adua. Please we do not talk ill of the dead in the North.

Yes Obasanjo may have been corrupt but he did not destroy the Nigerian economy. He brought back the middle class in Nigeria. He cleared the debt Nigeria owed the International community. He re-stored the glory of Nigeria on the global scene again.

IN is first coming on the scene. Here was an innocent timid General Obasanjo who played to the tune of his pipers as it were then. They stole while he watched. His second coming, he stung them fiam! OBJ shegen yaro.

Can we in all honesty compare the OBJ era to 1985 to 1993?

17 years is quite a long time. But we can still remember vividly when the slogan then was "Na where you de work na there you go chop."

"I beg settle me quick."

That was the period corruption began to walk on all fours in Nigeria. Primary school pupil will be asking you uncle settle me.

Drugs trafficking became high tech and lucrative business.

Really it is just abuse of our collective intelligence for people to compare corruption under Babangida and OBJ.

Those eight wasted years was enough an experience for us not to witness it again in our life time.

As for poverty in the North, northerners must blame themselves and nobody else. If out of 50 years they ruled Nigeria for 38 years and their so called leaders are still within their midst ruling over them and still wanting to come back whom do they blame?

Some of them that are supposed to be educated is the same people supporting and instigating boko haram on the pages of newspaper.

Boko haram simply means Book is unlawful. Boko is the equivalent of book in Hausa Language, while haram means unlawful in Arabic.

If somebody who has a PhD for example is in total support of boko haram, what then do you expect of a secondary leaver of even an illiterate? Northern Nigeria is the architect of its poverty. By the EFCC list, Saminu Turaki is the biggest thief who stole 36 billion naira from Jigawa State. Jigawa is one of the least developed.

May his soul rest in peace. Nigeria got stagnated during the Yar'adua era so tey they refused to invite him to the G-20 meeting in London.

Let the Northern commentators asked the northernes who led Nigeria in 38 years what have they done for the North? Everywhere is poverty, illiteracy and begging.

He said he cannot prosecute the thieving former governors because they were his friends. The foreign debt starting accumulating again during his time after OBJ had cleared everything.

When discussing this our country let us put some honesty and decorum into what we put on paper. History will judge us all.

Goodluck Jonathan has done in Four months what some could not do in eight years and even in three years. The critics of Goodluck Jonathan cannot help but acknowledge the fact that under his administration fuel supply has stabilised in Nigeria. Under his administration power supply has improved tremendously.

Under his administration, the International community has welcomed Nigeria back again as is seen in the glorious outing at the Commonwealth games in India.

Please let us give honour to whom honour is do.

People shouldn't want power for the sake of wanting it.

Compared to previous leaders, Jonathan is a performer. Shikenan!

Ndiameeh Babrik.

ndiame_2005@yahoo.co.ukThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Haiti, 2 Million Persons Still Homeless 10 Months After Earthquake!

Haiti, 2 Million Persons Still Homeless 10 Months After Earthquake!

Written by Paul I. Adujie

Searing images have been burned into our collective memories from the earthquake calamities and catastrophes which befell Haiti on January 12, 2010. Ten months has since passed, the passage of time has not reduced the grief and desperation on ground in Haiti.

Only recently, 5 persons in the many tent camps Haiti were killed by rainstorms, rainstorms which also rendered 210 tents useless. Thankfully and luckily, the hurricane season this year has been less severe and this has meant some sorts of respite for the already beleaguered nation and people of Haiti.

The television cameras are long gone and public sympathy has elapsed. Complacency have seemingly set in. The plights and predicaments of our people worldwide is exemplified by the current precarious limbo in which, and to which Haitians have been seemingly consigned. The human condition of our people remain, are best described by recent public statements by former American Secretary of State Colin Powell, a retired US Army General, when he stated that “So many rocks in our sack, and so, we have trouble carrying it”

Haiti, in the earthquake aftermath, is a toxic mix of poverty, adversities, calamities, catastrophes, tragedies which is multiplied by a factor 2 million people. Two million people who are currently homeless and remain in direst of straits. These two million Haitians are part of the approximately 2 billion continental Africans and peoples of African descent on earth, whose plights and predicaments are not much different. Man made disasters and Acts of God tragedies conspire and combine to make our lives toughest than any other groups people in the world. Our people remain beset by too many challenges piled on, exacerbated by newer ones.

Where are the loud and ostentatious pledges and promises of relief and reconstructions or where is divine interventions from the heavens? How does anyone reassure 2 million Haitians who are homeless for almost a whole year now? This, even after the world made a great show on television, insisting to frazzled Haitians that help was on the way? Great expectations are now forlorn? What is it about geopolitics and or human psyche in which Foreign Aid is not steered to where the need is greatest? Where is Bill Clinton?

Haiti, though a poor nation, she does have a population of the most courageous people on the face of the earth! Haitians have faced and confronted sundry adversities and have always tethered through, weathering the storms, almost with equanimity. It is important to make this point and mention the tenacity of the people of Haiti, even in the midst of the most severe earthquake in human memory. Haitians, despite the extraordinary toll in terms of human lives lost, are managing to carry on, as close to a semblance of normalcy as possible.

It is sadly the case that tents wearing thin from wear and tear , rain, sun and other natural from the elements. Haitian people have become understandably weary. This was illustrated recently by The New York Times feature article, in which so many Haitians were crying out for help in letters to the entire world which described the very pathetic and abject human conditions which persist in Haiti, over ten months since the earthquake in January.

Planners had hoped by now that 130,000 tent dwellers would have been resettled, but so far, after almost a whole year since the earthquake, only 10% resettlement have been achieved .The fragile and flimsy temporary accommodations are disintegrating. Tarpaulin tents are fraying under the elements, formerly white tents now grey, and torn, exposing two million inhabitants to more sufferings and hardships

There is still no water, no electricity available to all regularly and on steady, or reliable basis, there are continuing concerns for disease outbreaks of epidemic proportions, such as cholera and other diseases which are exacerbated by unsanitary conditions. The congested tents camps environment in which Haitians displaced by the earthquake now live, is said to be suffused and reek with raw sewage and rain water flowing in the camp being a common sight

It is really sad that 2 million Haitian are still homeless more than 10 months after earthquake which killed 230,ooo people. It is so disconcerting that our microwave culture with short attention span, have forgotten or at least, have allowed the plights and predicaments of Haitians, victims of the worst earthquake, are abandoned and their abject conditions have receded to the back burner and recesses of our consciousness.

We spend two trillion dollars tangling with real and imagined enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet, we do not have the will and courage to provide basic human needs to the two million persons still homeless in the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti?

It will be recalled that in the aftermath of the cataclysmic earthquake in January, there were almost a sense of eagerness by and between nations to openly compete and be seen as the largest donor and the best helper of the hapless people and nation of Haiti, but, almost a year has passed and only three nations, namely, Sweden, Norway and Brazil, have followed through and keep their promised and delivered on the monies pledged to Haiti relief and reconstruction efforts.

Almost a year after the earthquake almost unhinged Haiti and thrust upon her, extreme and extraordinarily dire circumstances, transitional shelters remains how two million Haitians live and, these transitional housing are even grossly inadequate, unavailable, while the existing ones are deteriorating and are now in tattered conditions.

The reconstructions which were much heralded, has not come to be or come to pass. Land ownership uncertainties remains a major problem, an obstacle and impediment to redevelopment. AID organizations have publicly stated that they wont put structures on land without knowing or ascertaining title holders

The presence of debris and rubbles from the earthquake is still pervasive and predominant in the landscape of earthquake ravaged areas of Haiti.

More than ten months after of the January 12, 2010 earthquake and 2 million Haitians still live on the streets in full public view, subject to the elements, heat, the rains, mudslides and hurricanes.

2 million Haitians are still subject to disease outbreaks such as cholera, dysentery and diseases from poor living conditions, poor sanitation and impure drinking source.

During the blitzkrieg in the aftermath of the earthquake in January, more than sixty nations promised money and material aid in excess of five billion dollars, but, six more later, only Brazil, Norway and Sweden has fulfilled and redeemed their pledges; but why is this the case? But where are the nations who made loud promises and thereby deceived all of us, while giving Haitians false hope, and now, disappointment?

It will be recalled that in the aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake on January 12 in Haiti, there were what appeared at the time, as quite extraordinary volumes of pledges and promises of financial and material support for the beleaguered people and nation of Haiti. There was what most thought and saw as an unprecedented outpouring of support. Where is everybody? Where is the press and media coverage? There were 24 hours and seven days a week coverage by journalists everywhere, soon after January 12.

That was then! But ten months after the cataclysmic earthquake and the deaths of more than 230,000 persons in Haiti, and the simultaneous displacements of millions of others in Haiti, the loud promises and pledges have not been fulfilled. It is certainly the case that more than 65 nations pledge what at the time appeared to a record amount of money, but, it is sadly now the case that only a microcosm among those nations have kept their promises and on camera pledges. As at this writing, only Brazil, Sweden and Norway have fulfilled their national pledges to the people and nation of Haiti.

The romance has worn off, the television cameras have moved away from Haiti and pledges are unfulfilled. My favorite journalists at CNN, the socially responsible Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta aired a prescient, profound and yet heart wrenching on the ground report from Haiti, reports which clearly indicates that the situation in Haiti has deteriorated since the departure of the klieg lights which were beamed on Haiti 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake disaster on January 12, 2010. Journalists across the world need to be asking questions again.

There is a need to keep the focus on Haiti, just so we all ensure that promises and pledges which were made, supposedly in good faith, are redeemed and there is accountability and transparency on the part of donors and recipients alike. It is too often the case, that donors make loud announcements without following through, and too often, the local populations are misled into believing that the billions of dollars promised were in actuality delivered, except that such gargantuan monies were mismanaged, misused or looted by local authorities through corruption

It will be quite nice to hold donors to account, audit them, just as we would demand auditing the recipient to ensure that reasonable expectations on the part of recipient nation and prospective beneficiaries are not misled. It is the case that social disenchantment and upheaval often arises from this sorts of expectation versus. It is such a shame that there remain this huge gap between very public ostentatious promises-pledges, and actual fulfillments of these genuine expectations.

We should spare thoughts for Haiti and Haitians. There are unfinished business and there are certainly many matters which have arisen and still arising. We concede there is a global economic downturn, but, that makes lives of Haitians even much worse.

We should spare thoughts for and about Haiti and Haitians, our people, in this great time of relief and reconstruction... the work in rebuilding Haiti, has only just begun in the most meager terms, we should keep the focus and attention on the progress on ground in Haiti. Haiti is the First Black Nation on earth. Haiti started the ball rolling toward political freedom and emancipation for continental Africans and all peoples of African descent...

Haiti and Haitians are still being punished for that singular audacity and temerity? Or what else explains this neglect of the human needs which remain unmet in Haiti? Haitians are a generous and a resilient people... they will not be broken... We should do EVERYTHING through engagement, and participation in the relief, reconstruction and rebuilding of Haiti.. Haiti and Haitians need our support for physical and metaphorical complete recovery. We should all do our part. Keeping Haiti and Haitians in our minds is a part of that.

Saudi Arabia just ordered weapons of war. The Saudi Kingdom is billions of dollars on arms and the government of the United States is facilitating these arms purchases which will lead to obvious arms race. And today, two million Haitians can use 1 percent of these monies for relief, reconstruction and rebuilding and even retrofit Haiti, but instead, they are thinking of food and shelter, basic survival needs which are still absent almost a year later. And the band plays on, monies by squandered worldwide.

We should all do our parts. Keeping Haiti and Haitians in our minds is a part of that. Haitians are not thinking. Haitian victims of abject conditions are left to wallow in squalor, even as they still need the mere basics of human existence; Haitians are thinking of food and shelter, the basic human survival needs, and necessity

The rain season is on, full steam and our people in Haiti are still under flimsy shelters. Ten whole months after the earthquake devastation and what at the time appeared to be an outpouring of supports and donations!

It now obvious why we must keep our attention on what is happening and the eventual outcomes. Would many of the promises and pledges made on camera by the world be kept?

Please help Haitians and Haiti, would you, please?

Mission Accomplished In Chile And The Lessons

I am a living witness to the incredible, outstanding, remarkable, and unbelievable human story the whole world saw in Chile which lasted for 69 days. 33 miners, 32 Chileans and one Bolivian were trapped for 69 days 700 metres below the earth and on October 13 2010 all of them were rescued alive in a seamless but well planned and well executed operation that kept the world gripped with fear, emotions and sense of awe. Never has the world witnessed this kind of heart-broken but remarkable human story that shook the entire world and made it to pay attention. I guess that about 2 billion people watched the rescue operations all over the world.

I followed this miraculous story from the beginning to the end. I saw the President of Chile, Sebastine Piñera at work, being presidential in every sense and providing leadership. I saw the Mining Minister, Laurence Golborne at work and huge lessons were sent across the world that leaders can make the difference even in most difficult situations. The President of Chile did not blame anybody for the miners’ predicament. He accepted responsibility and went to work as the peoples’ President. He sought help all over the world to deal with the big problem. He looked for and searched for the best hands in the world in rescue operations. He brought the United States National Aeronautic Space Administration, (NASA) he brought in German Engineers to construct the lift, and imported experts from more than 10 countries to assist. He picked the bills also.

These experts went to work and for nearly two months they put their ingenuity to test and it paid off handsomely to the admiration of the world. Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel. Solutions to the problems are all over the world. You just have to look and search for it.

I give credit to the Chilean President, the Mining Minister, their wives and other Government Officials for being humane and being there for the 33 Miners. I saw how determined they were, I saw the preparations, the execution, the encouragement, the support. They were there for the families of the trapped miners when the need was greatest. They were practical leaders, so natural, so patriotic, so sensible, so caring, and so committed. No wonder, the President approval rating moved from 30% to 80%. For the first time in history, Chile became the number one issue in the world, more in focus than they would have been even in a World Cup tournament. Chile became a destination via all the world’s television stations. I give a million thanks to CNN and others for bringing this unprecedented story to the world.

The huge lesson is that leadership goes with responsibility. I do not know how many days the President of Chile slept with 33 Miners, breadwinners, fathers 700metres under the earth. You do not bemoan problems, you address it. The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales was in Chile to give hope to the only Bolivian among the miners, Carlos Mamani. He was full of thanks to President Sebastine Piñera for rescuing one of his subjects.

Emotions, family reunions, jubilations and cries of joy reverberated all over the world and millions if not billions shed tears of joy. It was sweet victory for Chile and the world. What seems impossible may be possible after all with right thinking and careful planning. I believe that our leaders have one or two things to learn from this great Chilean story, a powerful, awesome, formidable and astonishing human story that will take time to clear from the minds and souls of billions all over the world. There were tears, there were cheers. God is wonderful!

Joe Igbokwe


Emerging Leaders - By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

The Crisis of Leadership
Societies make progress when visionary leaders emerge to organize and direct collective actions for peaceful coexistence, with sensible rules, clear incentives and sanctions that enable individuals realize their full potentials. The Nigerian nation first elected its leaders at both national and regional levels in 1960. Around that period, Malaysia, Singapore Botswana and Indonesia had their first set of elected post-colonial leaders going into offices as well. The Japanese had elected the first LDP government five years earlier in the aftermath of the American Occupation. Forty years later, these five nations in Asia and Africa have enjoyed democratic continuity, protection of freedoms and basic rights, rapid economic development and improvement in the quality of life for its citizens. Nigeria has not. What went wrong?
A little over five years into Nigeria's Independence and First Republic, a group of young, misguided and naive military officers wiped out nearly all of the nation's political leadership. The bulk of those murdered on January 15, 1966 were leaders from regions and ethnic groups other than those where the coup plotters hailed from.
This coincidence or design, by what I will refer to as the "Class of 1966" laid the foundations for Nigeria's unfortunate political, economic and social trajectory for the ensuing forty plus years. And Nigeria's story is typical of most of Africa such that by 2004, five years into our nation's fourth republic, the leading African politics professor at the Harvard Kennedy School published a scathing summary of the leadership failure in Africa in an article published in "Foreign Affairs"[1]:

"Africa has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military-installed autocrats, economic illiterates, and puffed-up posturers. By far the most egregious examples come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe -- countries that have been run into the ground despite their abundant natural resources. But these cases are by no means unrepresentative: by some measures, 90 percent of sub-Saharan African nations have experienced despotic rule in the last three decades.
In what is an accurate description of these despotic and progressively appalling ‘leaders’ that foisted themselves on Africa usually through military coups or rigged elections, Rothberg continued:
“Such leaders use power as an end in itself, rather than for the public good; they are indifferent to the progress of their citizens (although anxious to receive their adulation); they are un-swayed by reason and employ poisonous social or racial ideologies; and they are hypocrites, always shifting blame for their countries' distress."
Rotberg went further describing the consequences of this continent-wide failure of leadership as these leaders replaced the colonialists without doing more – but did everything to destroy the bases for economic growth, social equity and fairness in the nations they ruled and ruined:

"Under the stewardship of these leaders, infrastructure in many African countries has fallen into disrepair, currencies have depreciated, and real prices have inflated dramatically, while job availability, health care, education standards, and life expectancy have declined. Ordinary life has become beleaguered: general security has deteriorated, crime and corruption have increased, much-needed public funds have flowed into hidden bank accounts, and officially sanctioned ethnic discrimination -- sometimes resulting in civil war -- has become prevalent"
Long before Rotberg, and approximately 25 years ago, Chinua Achebe observed in his book "The Trouble with Nigeria", that the problem of our nation was fully and squarely the failure of leadership. This remains true today in Nigeria and indeed as Rotberg summarized so succinctly in most of Africa. As observed earlier, leadership is important in any social grouping, but far more central in Africa to the overall success and wealth of nations than anywhere else in the world because we happen to have weak institutions in the continent.
Coming back to Nigeria, I am of the view that the fledgling but somewhat sound institutions we inherited at Independence were weakened by the succession of military and civilian graduates and students of the Class of 1966. The destruction wrought by this group of barely-educated and short-sighted power elite with continued links to the coup plotters of 1966 is responsible for Nigeria's continuing crisis of leadership.
I will summarize herein the extent of this destruction and how it occurred, amidst the claims of good intention in some cases and complete malevolence in some. The purpose of this is not to apportion blame but to learn from past errors and move our nation forward. I will also argue that Nigeria will not make much progress unless the umbilical cord linking our nation's governance to the remnants of this Class of 1966 is severed and a fresh leadership class with new attitudes, orientation and competencies emerges. I will conclude with some thoughts about the issues to look out for in these emerging leaders for Nigeria (and Africa) in the twenty-first century.

The Tragedy of Post-Colonial Governance
Thanks to malaria, the British never intended to remain in Nigeria for long, investing only in the minimal but necessary institutions and infrastructure to extract, transport and export natural resources to Europe. Contrast our situation with the Caribbean nations, Namibia, South Africa and Kenya for instance, where the more friendly weather and lower malaria intensity persuaded the British colonialists to plan for long-term settlement, and Nigeria’s colonial legacy is more clearly comprehensible.
At independence, our “Founding Fathers” inherited relatively weak institutions, confusing property rights and minimal infrastructure. The new rulers merely supplanted the colonialists and adopted in totality the defective governance structures suited to colonial exploitation, and nothing more. A simple example was (and still remains) the total absence of a mortgage system - which the colonial administrators did not need as they have their mortgages set up in Britain! None of our founding fathers thought it fit to think of designing and entrenching one with the attendant need to clarify and codify formal property rights! Needless to add that the easiest way of creating a virile middle class is through widespread home ownership, and until we created a pilot mortgage system in the FCT in 2005-2007 to enable public servants and the general public to purchase over 30,000 houses in Abuja, no one bothered to try. Sadly, our successors failed to convert the inchoate pilot into a complete national program of home ownership financing, as envisaged.
In the 1960s and the 1970s, our best and brightest university graduates joined the public service. The honest and those with educational, integrity and leadership pedigree and skills went into politics. Public servants were well paid and assured of their security of tenure. Politics attracted those willing to serve. Elections were relatively clean and reflected the will of the voters. The Class of 1966 ended these positive trends that would have truly built a democratic, merit-driven nation in the long run.

Democratic Truncation, Militarization and the Legacy of the Class of 1966
The murder of political leaders in 1966 without trying them and finding them guilty of any offence, and affording the assassins immunity and protection from court martial by the indecision of the Ironsi administration ensured that coups would remain a recurring decimal in our polity. The coups of 1966 made political assassination a crime without sanctions in Nigeria. It also made politics the vocation of the bold power seeker rather than the honest public servant. The purges of 1975 however well-intentioned were executed in a way that destroyed security of tenure in the public service, and made the best and brightest look for other options to live well, and safely. Illegitimacy and poor economic management gave rise to the endless bribing of public servants and the public using salary reviews (Adebo and Udoji by the Gowon Administration alone) and incessant creation of non-viable states destroyed the basis of our federalism.
The military regimes – all remnants of the Class of 1966 - got progressively venal after the Buhari/Idiagbon administration. While Buhari only clamped on freedom of speech, tried persons for offences based on retroactive legislation and abused human rights, the Babangida administration relaxed on these but wiped out the middle class when the nation’s currency lost 90 per cent of its value over an eight-year period. Civil servants then began to demand a share of profits in procurement contracts, and now execute the contracts themselves through dummy companies. No private companies now can exist except if they are either huge and well-connected like Julius Berger, or front companies for the decision makers – the public servants themselves.
Public services and infrastructure provisioning were politicized and thousands hired without regard to quality and standards – and Nigeria became a real rentier state in which those connected to military regimes became rich overnight without ant abilities, hard work, innovation or rational basis. Our traditional system which supplemented the weak formal governance structures were converted into the tools of the military by compromising them through systematic corruption. Independent voices – from civil society, the media and conscientious people like Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory - were similarly purchased and converted, and failing that repeatedly imprisoned.
Our human capital infrastructure – schools and hospitals suffered irreparable damage under the rule of the Class of 1966. Systematic under-funding, capricious appointments, poor pay and frequent killing of university students led to the collapse of our tertiary educational and health institutions. The Class of 1966 and its successors had no interest in developing the Nigerian state. Their wealth is in Switzerland, France, Germany, Lebanon and Dubai. They began the practice of sending their children abroad for education and healthcare and therefore had no interest in the deteriorating quality of our schools and hospitals. Their holidays are spent in Europe, America and Asia, so felt no need to develop our urban areas or our immense tourism potentials.
These ‘prestigious’ practices of depending on foreign schools and clinics then assumed the status of national culture of the successful so virtually every middle class family now strives to copy these ‘standard operating procedures’ of the Class of 1966. I was alarmed recently when I learnt that one of the Northern states spent N900 million in 2009 for “overseas medical treatment” for the well-connected, while the general hospital – once the best hospital in the state did not attract that much in funding in the same period! Suffice it to add that the state governor was a student of the remnants of the Class of 1966 and perhaps saw nothing wrong with this clear contradiction. On the positive side, the Class of 1966 kept our nation united after plunging us into a needless civil war. The Murtala/Obasanjo administration gave us a presidential constitution, a local government system and the new capital of Abuja. The other military regimes and their civilian surrogates mostly wreaked more havoc than provide much public good!
The sum total of these is a country that is not yet a nation at the age of 50. We have a generation of Nigerians who have never known when the Nigerian state functioned, and served the people. We have young people – about 4 million achieve the voting age of 18 every year – that think they can only pass exams through cheating, paying or sleeping with their teachers. And even if they are qualified and passed the job interview, they can only get a job when they have a godfather to intervene. Merit, performance or hard work as ingredients of success, are totally unknown to them.
The Class of 1966 and its successors have given birth not to Generation Next but one of “Anything Goes” – a generation without hope, with bewildered parents unable to understand them and give them succor. And only a courageous, focused and inspiring leadership can change them and give back hope to the nation.

Restoring Hope - Transformational Leadership as the Answer
It is not easy to restore hope once lost but transformational leadership for Nigeria can begin the long process. From my modest experience spanning 9 years in public service, I am persuaded that almost any human can behave well when the example of a visionary, disciplined and goal oriented leader exists – a transformational leader. And conversely almost anyone however competent or well-meaning can be a failure under an unfocused, corrupt and immoral leader – a transactional leader. It all boils down to quality of leadership. As Nigerian proverb goes, ‘fish starts to get rotten from the head’. So if the top of the pyramid is good, the bottom will also more likely to be good.
This principle is called the law of the Lid. A people can never grow beyond the level of their leader and if you have a leader who is not fully developed mentally, spiritually and emotionally, such a leader will be a lid on the people much like a lid over as pot and the country will not progress beyond his ability to govern. A recent example was President Umaru Yar’Adua who was unable to grow beyond his Katsina circle, his spiritual addiction to marabouts and limited development vision. Nigeria became the worse for it, losing our foreign reserves, wiping out the over $20 billion excess crude account with nothing to show for it and putting on hold all investment decisions in electricity, rail transportation and petroleum refining for three years.
It also boils down to the fact that human beings are by nature strategic and just like a thermometer they will adjust their behavior to suit the leadership and their environment. So to change their behavior we have to change the quality and style of our nation’s leadership, and put in place a clear regime of rewards (for merit and good behavior) and sanctions (for poor performance and misconduct). There is simply no other way to develop a well-ordered, rules-driven and progressive society.
The symptoms of Nigeria’s problems are many but the cure is just one thing. The cure is good leadership by example which gives the people vision, hope and exemplary behavior with which to model themselves and their institutions after.

Emerging Leaders for the Twenty-First Century Nigeria
Coming back to the present, what Nigeria needs to do is to study history and learn from our past. From our history we see that when Nigeria begins to make progress at good governance, human progress, justice and enthroning a disciplined leadership that drives the delayed gratification without which there cannot be any long term growth, suddenly, from nowhere comes a false Messiah to offer the people relief and immediate gratification which stifles national growth. Since those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, our task is to learn and make sure we are not deceived into recycling failed leaders who will repeat their actions of making Nigeria poorer even where we have the natural and human resources to attain a reasonable standard of living for all – not just a select few – of our people.
Such false messiahs are easy to identify - they have no profession, business employing people or any known source of income to justify their riches, opulence and high standards of living other than being in public service all their working lives!
These are the sort of “leaders” we must never have in the future. The leadership taxonomy of the Class of 1966 (and its successor generation) that created the problem of failed leadership the least qualified to solve it. We need a paradigm shift in leadership identification, nurturing and selection - something new, something different, throwing up Nigerians with the knowledge, skills and proven record of performance and integrity in public affairs to transform our nation. It is my humble view that we should scrutinize all those that offer themselves for leadership bearing in mind at least the following parameters:

(1) Education, Experience and Pedigree are Necessary but not Sufficient
Even though our first University graduate president disappointed all except his family and close friends, we must not write off educational attainment as a necessary indicator of leadership effectiveness. Experience that is relevance to governance –in managing resources, in administering large, complex organizations, and mobilizing our nation’s diversity into inclusive strength and focus also matter. The schools a prospective leader attended, the alumni network he can tap on demand, his elders, family and friends that can look him in the eye and say “do not let us down because you represent us” all contribute to the pressure needed to make a leader perform with integrity. When these are absent as we have seen in recent times with some of our rulers, the results can be fatal to the leader and the nation!

(2) Look for Team Players not Lone Rangers
The burden of governance in a diverse, ‘post-conflict’ nation like Nigeria requires more than one good person, however intelligent, competent and well-meaning. A strong, competent and cohesive team, not a single “strongman” is needed to transform a nation not in one or two election cycles but several. Only a team with clear succession planning can implement a long term vision that transforms nations. It takes a generation to move any country from Third World to First like Japan (LDP, 50 years), Malaysia (Mahathir and UMNO - 25 years) Singapore (Lee Kwan Yew, 33 years, Botswana (Seretse Khama and BPP, 35 years) and China (Deng Xiao Ping, CCP, 32 years and counting), and only a dedicated team sharing a common vision across parties and platforms can do it. Beware of one-person parties and always look beyond the person and at the circle around the Presidential or Gubernatorial candidate. Team maketh the Leader.

(3) Bold, Courageous Leaders with Clear Vision
Transformational leaders are bold and courageous. The transformational leader envisions and sees what appears impossible to others, and persuades the followers that it is not only possible but attainable, outlining practical steps to realize the vision. His intellectual curiosity, persuasive skills and inspirational qualities galvanize followers to perform at unexpected levels, thus achieving what once seemed impossible.
Imagine meeting the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum 30 years ago and he outlined his vision for converting his desert city wasteland of 100,000 fishermen and women into a modern city with over 50,000 three to seven star hotel rooms, an airport that would transit 20 million passengers in 2008 and would house global icons - the largest man-made aquarium, the tallest building on the planet and the biggest artificial island in the world, you would probably laugh and tag him unrealistic at best, or insane at worst – but Al-Maktoum persuaded his followers to believe and achieve this vision in less than a generation. That is the power of visionary leadership – bold, courageous but realistic and realizable.

(4) Persuasive Democrats in Words, Actions and Practices
It is one thing for aspiring leaders to talk repeatedly about democracy (but as a general once remarked in the White House – “we are here to protect democracy, not to practice it”), than to act and practice it. We should scrutinize our leaders’ words, actions and practices to ensure that there are no disconnects between all three.
Latter day, born-again and pretentious democrats, that include all the graduates, students and the successors of the Class of 1966 neither believe in democracy nor capable of practicing it in governance. They are by nature capricious and exercise power for private accumulation, not for general welfare, service and public good. They therefore have no regard for independent thought, merit and performance elevating blind loyalty to persons in power as more important than allegiance to the Constitution. The Class of 1966 have displayed utter disregard to any person’s ability to deliver on national assignments but their narrow and short-sighted world view of wealth without work.

(5) Public Service Skills and Performance
Public service experience particularly at Federal level is in my view essential for future effective public leadership at that level. Similarly, any person aspiring to leadership at state or local government level ought to show some understanding of, experience in and exposure to, that level of governance. Private sector success helps but is not a conclusive indicator of public sector performance. And in any case, there is a huge difference between the skill sets of politics and governance because often persons that get a government elected are not the best persons to help it govern. In public leadership, education, relevant experience, skills and record of performance are the best indicators of future transformational leadership.

(6) Strong, Dedicated Advisers and Inner Circle
There is a Nigerian proverb which translated is “there is no wicked ruler without wicked advisers” and this is eternally true. An effective leader usually has a team of advisers that are ideally brighter, more experienced and exposed than him. A self-confident leader identifies his personal skills and experience gap and chooses staff to furnish what is missing. A leader however brilliant that is surrounded by an inner circle of insecure, incompetent and mediocre people often comes to grief.
A leader, whose family is unable to keep away from affairs of state, and thereby fail to keep him grounded to the realities of leadership, often goes astray. There are too many examples in our recent history for Nigerians not to appreciate the destructive impact of a clueless and greedy inner circle of family and advisers!

(7) Bridge Builders Across Regions and Religions
Nigeria’s diversity, history and recent experiences require leaders that build bridges across our genders, ethnic groups, regions and religions. No one should aspire to national leadership unless by expressions, actions and practices has shown this capacity not to discriminate, but to unite, integrate and include every Nigerian of whatever background in his inner circle comfortably. Careful scrutiny of the track record of any prospective leader in his past public and private lives would show how diversely he had recruited his staff, picked his advisers and made decisions on siting of projects and programs. This principle can be applied to aspirants even seeking office at state and local government levels in a careful and discerning manner.

(8) Recognition for the Imbalance in our Federalism
Nigeria’s federal structure exists only in the official name of our nation. Years of maladministration by the Class of 1966 and its progeny with the military tendency towards centralization has created an imbalance in our federalism. This is crying for correction which can only begin if recognized by our prospective leaders. We must raise this debate on federal imbalance to put on hold the senseless quest for the creation of more states, demand the legislation of state and Federal crimes and cause the amendment of our Constitution to enable States and Local Government establish police forces to address our disparate internal security needs. We must encourage inter-state competition by devolving more powers and responsibilities to lower tiers of government and reducing the scope and scale of Federal intervention in the daily lives of our citizens.

Conclusion – Our Fate to Succeed or Our Destiny to Fail?
The foregoing leadership parameters are derived from my limited experience and detached observation and therefore neither exhaustive nor silver bullets. As in everything in human affairs, there will be exceptional persons that may not meet all the requirements listed above and still turn out to be effective leaders. However, assuming that will be relying on chance – those ‘divine interventions’ that Nigerians pray and wait for instead of taking our destiny in our hands. I am a firm believer of the saying that “fate is what God gives you, and destiny is what you do with it.”
It is time for Nigerians to stop passing the buck to God, or waste energy on the needless blaming of everyone other than ourselves or those we like. God has given Nigeria the human and natural resources to be successful - conquer poverty and provide the basic needs of our people. We either chose our leaders or tolerated them when foisted on us via military coups or civilian “elections”. God has given us the wherewithal to scrutinize them, protest their imposition and resist their rule of ruin, and we have not done that ever – so far. By failing to stand up, we abdicated our destinies to the shameless criminals that permeate our political space and the public service. Our elites have chosen to be selfish and lacking in the enlightened self-interest of collaborating to create a functioning society if not a good one.
Our fate is the endowment that God gave us. It cannot be our destiny to continue to have bad leaders, all derivatives of the Class of 1966. It is time to say ‘enough is enough’ and choose right – promoting public interest, enlightened self-interest even, rather than the primitive accumulation and resultant social inequalities that would destroy everything and everyone.
As the world moves firmly into the digital age, electing Blackberry users, - young people like Obama and Cameron in their 40s and the likes of Sarkozy in their 50s - communicating with friends and constituents via Twitter and Facebook, we must firmly reject those that want Nigeria to remain in the 20th century – and move forward to restore dignity and hope in our young generation. They must see a country that can work in their lifetimes - where electricity is stable, crimes are solved and criminals brought to justice, and capability and hard work are the primary tools for success in life. Failing to do that within the next decade will lead to the total failure of Nigerian state as we will not be able to handle the influx of 4 million hopeless and angry 18 year olds added every year during the period to our army of under-educated and under-employed. And in this avoidable scenario, none of our great grand-children will be opportune to see a Nigeria celebrating its century of Independence, and that will be a sad testimony to us all, those born just before or around the end of colonization.

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR was born just before Nigeria’s independence. He was the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises – the Federal privatization agency (1999-2003), Minister in charge of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and member of the Presidential Economic Team (2003-2007).

[1] Robert I. Rotberg (2004): Strengthening African Leadership, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2004, New York, Council on Foreign Relations. See http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/59914/robert-i-rotberg/strengthening-african-leadership, accessed on March 23, 2010.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two Insults And A Pile Of Medals

Two insults and a pile of medals

In September 2000, a day after Australian athlete Cathy Freeman (an Aborigine) won the women’s 400 metres race at the Sydney Olympic Games, Australia’s national newspaper – The Australian – screamed on its front page: “Catherine the Great”. The Sydney Morning Herald, another Australian newspaper, toasted Freeman’s victory in its front-page headline cast in bold typeface: “Pride of the land”. In a similar tone, Brisbane’s only daily newspaper, The Courier-Mail, proclaimed rather triumphantly: “The Olympian”.

In light of the scandals over positive drug tests recorded by two Nigerian athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, do we have the moral right to celebrate in a similar manner the noble achievements of our own sportspeople now tarnished by the ignoble conduct of two athletes at the Games? The 2010 Commonwealth Games has produced mixed outcomes for Nigeria. The latest sporting disgrace constitutes a sad end to what arguably could have been described as Nigeria’s best performance in any Commonwealth Games. In 2006, Nigeria won a total of 17 medals. As at the time of writing this article, Nigeria had doubled that effort by winning a total of 33 medals: 10 gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze.

By a stroke of evil coincidence or deliberate mischief, two athletes of contrasting reputations have brought shame and international condemnation to their country and their fellow sportsmen and women. As the only two athletes so far to test positive for the banned stimulant – methylhexaneamine (an energy boosting drug) -- the Nigerian athletes have tarred their names and their country’s name with the brush of infamy, scandal, and a perpetually damaged reputation, if at all they had any before they attended the games.

When news broke that Damola Osayemi had tested positive for a banned stimulant, the Nigerian camp rose to her defence, claiming she took a prescription medicine for a troublesome tooth. Osayemi was first suspended from further participation following the positive result of her “A” sample. As soon as the result of the “B” sample was confirmed to be positive, the Commonwealth Games organisers immediately stripped her of the gold medal she won in the women’s 100 metres race in controversial circumstances.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on its online site that the president of Nigeria’s Athletics Federation, Solomon Ogba, claimed Osayemi was given prescription medicine to fight a toothache. “She took medication for her toothache and we strongly suspect that it was that, which led to her failed drug test,” Ogba was quoted as saying. The BBC also reported that no fewer than 11 Indian sportspeople had, prior to the start of the Games, tested positive for the same stimulant last month. “Methylhexaneamine is the same drug several Indian athletes…, were found to have used in September.”

While this might be the case, it is not a valid ground on which anyone could defend Osayemi’s behaviour or the conduct of her colleague, Samuel Okon, a hurdler who also tested positive for the same stimulant and has been disqualified from participation in the games. As professional athletes, Osayemi and Okon ought to know what drugs were on the prohibition list. Their trainers and indeed Nigerian athletics officials have an obligation to inform all athletes about banned drugs. Now, the damage has been done and sadly all medal winners in the Nigerian team are being depicted in the Western news media as possible cheats who got away because they were not caught.

It’s amazing how popular sportsmen and women construct unbelievable stories to mask unlawful conduct, to avoid punishment, and to evade reprimand by the public. I have heard sportsmen and women who were embroiled in scandal over drugs and alcohol say unbelievable things such as: “My mum gave me the anti-cold and flu medication but I didn’t know it contained some banned stimulants.” What about this? “Oh, I wasn’t aware the drug was in my pocket. My mum mistakenly left it there when she washed my clothes”.

In the history of cheating in international sports, many excuses seem authentic but highly improbable. How can experienced and professional sportsmen and women claim ignorance of the contents of the medication, food or drinks they take before or during major sports events? These guys are always in denial, even after their deceptive conduct has been exposed. Consider the outlandish conspiracy theory advanced by Canadian athlete Ben Johnson after he was found to have been propelled by drugs to win the men’s 100 metres race at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

When Ben Johnson crossed the finish line in a world record time of 9.79 seconds as the winner of the much anticipated race between him and Carl Lewis, his United States’ sprint rival, in September 1988, Johnson had no idea what awaited him. It was the doping test result that shattered Johnson’s invincibility. He failed the drug test and was immediately disqualified and stripped of his gold medal.

Soon after the positive test result emerged, Johnson told journalists it was all an American conspiracy. His mother and father tended to agree with him. As Jeff Powell of the UK’s Daily Mail online reported, Johnson said: “The Americans can’t allow themselves to come second. That’s their mentality and I’d beaten Carl three times on the run-up to the Games. So they spiked my drink with enough stuff to kill a cow. Unlucky to test positive? I was lucky to get out of Seoul alive.” Jeff Powell also reported that, “Later that day Johnson dialled his mother, who told him: “Just come home, Ben. They could have murdered you.”

In the past decades, Nigeria’s participation in international sports has been smeared with scandals of sorts involving sexual harassments or gratifications, illegal withholding or misappropriation of foreign exchange allowances meant for feeding, transportation and sustenance of sportsmen and women, improper training and selection of athletes, and the inclusion of a large number of sports administrators as members of Nigeria’s official delegation to international sports events. These are just a handful of the numerous and accumulated acts of inappropriate behaviour involving Nigerian sports officials, as well as sportsmen and women.

Let’s be clear here. Nigeria is not the only country whose athletes have been caught cheating in international sports competitions. Countries such as the United States, Canada, Britain, China (the much chastised swim team), Russia, Australia and France, to mention just a few, have had to contend with problems with their own sportsmen and women. If Canada’s high achievements in sports have been tarnished by the Ben Johnson scandal, the UK has also suffered from its own nightmares (e.g. Dwain Chambers), just as the United States has had its image discredited repeatedly by scandals involving athletes such as Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery.

There is one manifest lesson to be learnt from all these persistent cases of sportspeople taking performance enhancing drugs in order to excel in international competitions. Despite strict testing rules set up by national sports federations, criminally minded athletes who want to cheat will always make an attempt on the assumption that they won’t be caught. It is doubtful whether testing at the national or international level would ever eliminate or reduce the incidence of cheating in sports. It doesn’t look like it would happen in our generation.

The increasing involvement of Nigerian sports officials, sportsmen and women in shameful behaviour at major international sports events has now reached epidemic proportion. It suggests that Nigerian leaders are not the only ones who are guilty of damaging the country’s international image. As the scandal in Delhi has shown, sports people and indeed other classes of Nigerians have also been doing their best to trivialise the positive achievements of other hardworking citizens.

If you subscribe to the notion that things have to get really bad in Nigeria before they get better, you may wonder whether Nigeria has not yet reached the zenith of bad behaviour from where the citizens could start to mend their ways. Since independence, Nigeria has been going through testing circumstances, something akin to a crucible. The country has fallen into economic and political cesspit. As economic hardships bite harder, as crime and political violence surge, many citizens now seek illegal pathways to solve their problems. It looks like we are all struggling to beat a rush hour deadline to achieve notoriety for ourselves and our country. At times like these, you wish you were not a Nigerian.


Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country

by Frederick Douglass

September 24, 1847

I like radical measures, whether adopted by Abolitionists or slaveholders. I do not know but I like them better when adopted by the latter. Hence I look with pleasure upon the movements of Mr. Calhoun and his party. I rejoice at any movement in the slave States with reference to this system of Slavery. Any movement there will attract attention to the system — a system, as Junius once said to Lord Granby, "which can only pass without condemnation as it passes without observation." I am anxious to have it seen of all men: hence I am delighted to see any effort to prop up the system on the part of the slaveholders. It serves to bring up the subject before the people; and hasten the day of deliverance. It is meant otherwise. I am sorry that it is so. Yet the wrath of man may be made to praise God. He will confound the wisdom of the crafty, and bring to naught the counsels of the ungodly. The slaveholders are now marshalling their hosts for the propagation and extension of the institution — Abolitionists, on the other hand, are marshalling their forces not only against its propagation and extension, but against its very existence. Two large classes of the community, hitherto unassociated with the Abolitionists, have come up so far towards the right as to become opposed to the farther extension of the crime. I am glad to hear it. I like to gaze upon these two contending armies, for I believer it will hasten the dissolution of the present unholy Union, which has been justly stigmatized as "a covenant with death, an agreement with hell." I welcome the bolt, either from the North or the South, which shall shatter this Union; for under this Union lie the prostrate forms of three millions with whom I am identified. In consideration of their wrongs, of their sufferings, of their groans, I welcome this bolt, either from the celestial or from the infernal regions, which shall sever this union in twain. Slaveholders are promoting it — Abolitionists are doing so. Let it come, and when it does, our land will rise up from an incubus; her brightness shall reflect against the sky, and shall become the beacon light of liberty in the Western world. She shall then, indeed, become "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

For sixteen years, Wm. Lloyd Garrison and a noble army of the friends of emancipation have been labouring in season and out of season, amid smiles and frowns, sunshine and clouds, striving to establish the conviction through this land, that to hold and traffic in human flesh is a sin against God. They have been somewhat successful; but they have been in no wise so successful as they might have been, had the men an women at the North rallied around them as they had a right to hope from their profession. They have had to contend not only with skillful politicians, with a deeply prejudiced and pro-slavery community, but with eminent Divines, Doctors of Divinity, and Bishops. Instead of encouraging them as friends, they have acted as enemies. For many days did Garrison go the rounds of the city of Boston to ask of the ministers for the poor privilege of entering their chapels and lifting up his voice for the dumb. But their doors were bolted, their gates barred, and their pulpits hermetically sealed. It was not till an infidel hall was thrown open, that the voice of dumb millions could be heard in Boston.

I take it that all who have heard at all on this subject, are well convinced that the stronghold of Slavery is in the pulpit. Say what we may of politicians and political parties, the power that holds the keys of the dungeon in which the bondman is confined, is the pulpit. It is that power which is dropping, dropping, constantly dropping on the ear of this people, creating and moulding the moral sentiment of the land. This they have sufficiently under their control that they can change it from the spirit of hatred to that of to love mankind. The men who wield the blood-clotted cow-skin come from our Sabbath Schools in the Southern States. Who act as slave drivers? The men who go forth from our own congregations here. Why, if the Gospel were truly preached among us, a man would as soon think of going into downright piracy as to offer himself as a slave-driver.

In Farmington, two sons of members of the Society of Friends are coolly proposing to go the South and engage in the honourable office of slave-driving for a thousand dollars a year. People at the North talk coolly of uncles, cousins, and brothers who are slaveholders, and of their coming to visit them. If the Gospel were truly preached here, you would as soon talk of having an uncle or brother a brothel keeper as a slaveholder; for I hold that every slaveholder, no matter how pure he may be, is a keeper of a house of ill-fame. Every kitchen is a brothel, from that of Dr. Fuller’s to that of James K. Polk’s (Applause). I presume I am addressing a virtuous audience — I presume I speak to virtuous females — and I ask you to consider this one feature of Slavery. Think of a million of females absolutely delivered up into the hands of persons in any way they see fit. And so entirely are they at the disposal of their masters, that if they raise their hands against them, they may be put to death for daring to resist their infernal aggression.

We have been trying to make this thing appear sinful. We have not been able to do so yet. It is not admitted, and I hardly know how to argue against it. I confess that the time for the argument seems almost gone by. What do the people want? Affirmation upon affirmation,—denunciation upon denunciation,—rebuke upon rebuke? We have men in this land now advising evangelical flogging. I hold in my hand a sermon recently published by Rev. Bishop Meade, of Virginia. Before I read that part in favour of evangelical flogging, let me read a few extracts from another part, relating to the duties of the slave. The sermon, by the way, was published with a view of its being read by Christian masters to their slaves. White black birds! (Laughter.)

(Mr. Douglass here assumed a most grotesque look, and with a canting tone of voice, read as follows.)

"Having thus shown you the chief duties you owe to your great Master in Heaven, I now come to lay before you the duties you owe to your masters and mistresses on earth. And for this you have one general rule that you ought always carry in your minds, and that is, to do all services for them, as if you did it for God himself. Poor creatures! you little consider when you are idle, and neglectful of your master’s business; when you steal, waste, and hurt any of their substance; when you are saucy and impudent; when you are telling them lies and deceiving them; or when you prove stubborn and sullen, and will not do the work you are set about, without stripes and vexation; you do not consider, I say, that what faults you are guilty of towards your masters and mistresses, are faults done against God himself, who hath set your masters and mistresses over you in his own stead, and expects that you will do for them just as you would do for him. And pray, do not think that I want to deceive you, when I tell you that your masters and mistresses are God’s overseers; and that if you are faulty towards them, God himself will punish you severely for it."

This is some of the Southern religion. Do you not think you would "grow in grace in the knowledge of the truth." (Applause.)

I come now to evangelical flogging. There is nothing said about flogging—that word is not used. It is called correction; and that word as it is understood at the North, is some sort of medicine. (Laughter.) Slavery has always sought to hide itself under different names. The mass of the people call it "our peculiar institution." There is no harm in that. Others call it (they are the more pious sort), "our Patriarchal institution." (Laughter.) Politicians have called it "our social system"; and people in social life have called it "our domestic institution." Abbot Lawrence has recently discovered a new name for it—he calls it "unenlightened labour" (Laughter.) The Methodists in their last General Conference, have invented a new name— "the impediment." (Laughter.) To give you some idea of evangelical flogging, under the name of correction, there are laws of this description,— "any white man killing a slave shall be punished as though he shall have killed a white person, unless such a slave die under moderate correction." It commences with a plain proposition.

"Now when correction is given to you, you either deserve it, or you do not deserve it." (Laughter.)

That is very plain, almost as plain as that of a certain orator:— "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is in my opinion, my deliberate opinion, after along consideration of the whole matter, that as a general thing, all other things being equal, that there are fewer people to be found in towns sparsely populated, than in larger towns more thickly settled." (Laughter.) The Bishop goes on to say—

"Whether you really deserve it or not," (one would think that would make a difference, "it is your duty, and Almighty God requires that you bear it patiently. You may perhaps think that it is a hard doctrine," (and it admits of little doubt), "buy if you consider it right you must needs think otherwise of it." (It is clear as mud. I suppose he is now going to reason into them the propriety of being flogged evangelically.) "Suppose you deserve correction; you cannot but see that it is just an right you should meet wit h it. Suppose you do not, or at least so much or so severe; you perhaps have escaped a great many more, and are at last paid for all. Suppose you are quite innocent; is it not possible you may have done some other bad thing which was never discovered, and Almighty God would not let you escape without punishment one time or another? Ought you not in such cases to give glory to Him?" (Glory!) (Much laughter.)

I am glad you have got to the point that you can laugh at the religion of such fellows as this Doctor. There is nothing that will facilitate our cause more than getting the people to laugh at that religion which brings its influence to support traffic in human flesh. It has deceived us so long that it has overawed us. For a long time when I was a slave, I was let to think from hearing such passages as "servants obey, &c." that if I dared to escape, the wrath of God would follow me. All are willing to acknowledge my right to be free; but after this acknowledgement, the good man goes to the Bible and says "after all I see some difficulty about this thing. You know, after the deluge, there was Shem, Ham, and Japhet; and you know that Ham was black and had a curse put upon him; and I know not but it would be an attempt to thwart the purposes of Jehovah if these men were set at liberty." It is this kind of religion I wish to have you laugh at—it breaks the charm there is about it. If I could have the men at this meeting who hold such sentiments and could hold up the mirror to let them see themselves as others see them, we would soon make head against this pro-slavery religion.

I dwell mostly upon the religious aspect, because I believe it is the religious people who are to be relied on in this Anti-Slavery movement. Do not misunderstand my railing—do not class me with those who despise religion—do not identify me with the infidel. I love the religion of Christianity—which cometh from above—which is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of good fruits, and without hypocrisy. I love that religion which sends its votaries to bind up the wounds of those who have fallen among thieves. By all the love I bear to such a Christianity as this, I hate that of the Priest and Levite, that with long-faced Phariseeism goes up to Jerusalem and worships, and leaves the bruised and wounded to die. I despise the religion that can carry Bibles to the heathen on the other side of the globe and withhold them from [the] heathen on this side—which can talk about human rights yonder and traffic in human flesh here. I love that which makes its votaries do to others as they would that others should do to them. I hope to see a revival of it—thank God it is revived. I see revivals in the absence of the other sort of revivals. I believe it to be confessed now, that there has not been a sensible man converted after the old sort of way in the last five years. Le Roy Sunderland, the mesmerizer, has explained all this away, so that Knapp and others who have converted men after that sort have failed.

There is another religion. It is that which takes off fetters instead of binding them on—that which breaks every yoke—that lifts up the bowed down. The Anti-Slavery platform is based on this kind of religion. It spreads its table to the lame, the halt, and the blind. It goes down after a long neglected race. It passes, link by link till it finds the lowest link in humanity’s chain—humanity’s most degraded form in the most abject position. It reaches down its arm and tells them to stand up. This is Anti-Slavery—This is Christianity. It is reviving gloriously among the various denominations. It is threatening to supercede those old forms of religion having all of the love of God and none of the man in it. (Applause.)

I now leave this aspect of the subject and proceed to inquire into that which probably must be the inquiry of every honest mind present. I trust I do not misjudge the character of m audience when I say they are anxious to know in every way they’re contributing to uphold Slavery.

The question may be answered in various ways. I leave the outworks of political parties and social arrangements, and come at once to the Constitution which I believe all present are devotedly attached—I will not say all, for I believe I know some, who, however they may be disposed to admire some of the beautiful truths set forth in that instrument, recognize its pro-slavery features, and are ready to form a republic in which there shall be neither tyrant or slave. The Constitution I hold to be radically and essentially slave-holding, in that it gives the physical and numeric power of the nation to keep the slave in his chains, by promising that the power shall in any emergency be brought to bear upon the slave, to crush him in obedience to his master. The language of the constitution is you shall be a slave or die. We know it is such, and knowing it we are not disposed to have part nor lot with that Constitution. For my part I had rather that my right hand should wither by my side than cast a ballot under the Constitution of the United States. Then, again, in the clause concerning fugitives—in this case you are implicated. Your country is one vast hunting ground from Texas to main.

Ours is a glorious land; and from across the Atlantic we welcome those who are stricken by the storms of despotism. Yet the damning facts remain, there is not a rood of earth under the stars and the eagle of your flag, where a man of my complexion can stand fre. There is no mountain so high, no plain so extensive, no spot so sacred, that it can secure to me the right of liberty. Wherever waves the star-spangled banner there the bondman may be arrested and hurried back to the jaws of Slavery. This is your "land of the free," your "home of the brave." From Lexington, from Ticonderoga, from Bunker Hill, where rises that grand shaft with its capstone in the clouds, asks in the name of the first blood that spurted in behalf of freedom, to protect the slave from the infernal clutches of his master. That petition would be denied and he bid to go back to the tyrant.

I never knew what freedom was till I got beyond the limits of the American eagle. When I first rested my head on a British Island I felt that the eagle might scream, but from its talons and beak I was free, at least for a time. No slave-holder can clutch me on British soil. There I could gaze the tyrant in the face and with the indignation of a tyrant in my look, wither him before me. But republican, Christian America will bid the tyrant in catching his victim.

I know this kind of talk is not agreeable to what are called patriots. Indeed, some have called me a traitor. That profanely religious Journal "The Olive Branch," edited by the Rev. Mr. Norris, recommended that I be hung as a traitor. Two things are necessary to make a traitor. One is, he shall have a country. (Laughter and applause.) I believe that if I had a country I should be a patriot. I think I have all the feelings necessary—all the moral material, to say nothing about the intellectual. I do not know that I ever felt the emotion, but sometimes thought I had a glimpse of it. When I have been delighted with the little brook that passes by the cottage in which I was born,—with the woods and the fertile fields, I felt a great sort of glow which I suspect resembles a little what they call patriotism. I can look with some admiration on your wide lakes, your fertile fields, your enterprise, your industry, and your many lovely institutions. I can read with pleasure your Constitution to establish justice, and secure the blessings of liberty to posterity. Those are precious sayings to my mind. But when I remember the blood of four sisters and one brother, is making fat the soil of Maryland and Virginia,—when I remember that an aged grandmother who has reared twelve children for the Southern market, and these one after another as they arrived at the most interesting age, were torn from her bosom,—when I remember that she became to much racked for toil, she was turned out by a professed Christian master to grope her way in the darkness of old age, literally to die with none to help her, and the institutions of this country sanctioning and sanctifying this crime, I have no words of eulogy, I have no patriotism. How can I love a country where the blood of my own blood, flesh of my own flesh is now toiling under the lash?—America’s soil reddened by the stain from woman’s shrinking flesh.

No, I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.

But to the idea of what you at the North have to do with Slavery. You furnish the bulwark of protection, and promise to put the slaves in bondage. As the American Anti-Slavery Society says, If you will go on branding, scourging, sundering family ties, trampling in the dust your down trodden victims, you must do it at your own peril." But if you say, "we of the North will render you no assistance: if you still continue to trample on the slave, you must take the consequences," I tell you the matter will soon be settled.

I have been taunted frequently with the want of valour: so has my race, because we have not risen upon our masters. It is adding insult to injury to say this. You belong to 17,000,000, with arms, with means of locomotion, with telegraphs. We are kept in ignorance three millions to seventeen. You taunt us with not being able to rescue ourselves from your clutch. Shame on you! Stand aside—give us fair play—leave us with the tyrants, and then if we do not take care of ourselves, you may taunt us. I do not men by this to advocate war and bloodshed. I am not a man of war. The time was when I was. I was then a slave: I had dreams, horrid dreams of freedom through a sea of blood. But when I heard of the Anti-Slavery movement, light broke in my dark mind. Bloody visions fled away, and I saw the star of liberty peering above the horizon. Hope then took the place of desperation, and I was led to repose in the arms of Slavery. I said, I would suffer rather than do any act of violence—rather than that the glorious day of liberty might be postponed.

Since the light of God’s truth beamed upon my mind, I have become a friend of that religion which teaches us so pray for our enemies—which, instead of shooting balls into their hearts, loves them. I would not hurt a hair on a slaveholder’s head. I will tell you what else I would not do. I would not stand around the slave with my bayonet pointed at his breast in order to keep him in the power of the slaveholder.

I am aware that there are many who think the slaves are very well off, and that they are very well treated, as if it were possible that such a thing could be, A man happy in chains! Even the eagle loves liberty.

    Go, let a cage, with the grates of gold.     And pearly roof, the eagles hold;     Let dainty viands be his fare,     And give the captive tenderest care;     But say, in luxury’s limits pent,     Find you the king of the birds content?     No, oft he’ll sound the startling shriek,     And dash the grates with an angry beak.     Precarious freedom’s far more dear,     Than all the prison’s pampering cheer!     He longs to see his eyrie’s seat, 
    Some cliff on ocean’s lonely shore,     Whose old bare top the tempests beat,     And round whose base the billows roar,     When tossed by gales, they yawn like graves,—     He longs for joy to skim the waves;     Or rise through tempest-shrouded air,     And thick and dark, with wild winds swelling,     To brave the lightning’s lurid glare,     And talk with thunders in their dwelling.  

As with the eagle, so with man. Mo amount of attention of finery, no dainty dishes can be a substitute for liberty. Slaveholders know this, and knowing it they exclaim,—"The South are surrounded by a dangerous population, degraded, stupid savages, and if they could but entertain the idea that immediate, unconditional death would not be their portion, they would rise at once and enact the St. Domingo tragedy. But they are held in their subordination by the consciousness that the whole nation would rise and crush them." Thus they live in constant dread from day to day.

Friends, Slavery must be abolished, and that can only be done by enforcing the great principles of justice. Vainly you talk about voting it down. When you have cast your millions of ballots, you have not reached the evil. It has fastened its root deep into the heart of the nation, and nothing but God’s truth and love can cleanse the land. We must change the moral sentiment. Hence we ask you to support the Anti-Slavery Society. It is not an organization to build up political parties, or churches, nor to pull them down, but to stamp the image of Anti-Slavery truth upon the community. Here we may all do something.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,     In the bivouac of life,     Be not like dumb driven cattle—     Be a hero in the strife.  
Source: Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs - Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country by Frederick Douglass

Read more: Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country http://www.infoplease.com/t/hist/love-of-god-man-country/#ixzz12SH2wO00

Banneker — Jefferson Letters

Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Banneker

Aug. 30. 1791

Philadelphia, Aug. 30. 1791


I thank you sincerely for your letter of the 19th instant and for the Almanac it contained. No body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa & America. I can add with truth, that no body wishes more ardently to see a good system commended for raising the condition both of their body & mind to what it ought to be, as fast as the imbecility of their present existence, and other circumstances which cannot be neglected, will admit.

I have taken the liberty of sending your Almanac to Monsieur de Condorcet, Secretary of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, and member of the Philanthropic society, because I considered it as a document to which your whole colour had a right for their justification against the doubts which have been entertained of them.

I am with great esteem, Sir your most obedt humble servt.

Thomas Jefferson.

Mr. Benjamin Banneker,

Near Ellicott’s Lower Mills, Baltimore Co.

Source: The Benjamin Banneker Association, Inc. - Jefferson's Response Letter to Banneker

Read more: Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Banneker http://www.infoplease.com/t/hist/banneker-jefferson/2.html#ixzz12SGgA09z

What Does American Democracy Mean to Me?

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)

"What Does American Democracy Mean to Me?"

America's Town Meeting of the Air, New York City - November 23, 1939

Mary McLeod Bethune, April 6, 1949
(Carl Van Vechten Collection, Library of Congress American Memory Collection)

In the New Deal era, educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune was called the "First Lady of the Struggle" for her influence on the Roosevelt administration on civil rights issues. In 1904, Bethune founded a small school for black girls in Florida that she quickly built into a thriving college-prep and vocational training program. In 1923, she merged the school with Cookman College to create the first fully accredited black institution of higher learning in the state.

Bethune was born to former slaves in 1875. One of seventeen children, she grew up picking cotton in Sumter County, South Carolina. Her parents owned a five-acre parcel of land, and her mother continued to work for the family that once owned her. Though her parents and siblings were illiterate, Bethune knew as a child that she wanted to escape "the dense darkness and ignorance" in which she found herself.1 Her ambition to read was only fueled by a white girl who once commanded her to put down a book, saying, "You can't read."2

Bethune was one of the first youngsters to sign up for a new mission school for black children built near her home. She recalled, "That first morning on my way to school I kept the thought uppermost, 'put that down - you can't read,' and I felt that I was on my way to read."3 Bethune was not only on her way to read, she was on her way to a lifelong career devoted to educating a people only a generation or two away from slavery.

As an adult, Bethune's influence soon extended far beyond the South. She was a gifted organizer and became a leader in the effort to build coalitions among black women fighting for equal rights, better education, jobs, and political power. After leading numerous local, regional, and national women's clubs, Bethune founded a new umbrella organization in 1935, the National Council of Negro Women. Through this work Bethune became close friends with Eleanor Roosevelt, who encouraged Franklin D. Roosevelt to name Bethune director of the Office of Minority Affairs in the National Youth Administration in 1935. Bethune lunched regularly with Mrs. Roosevelt in the White House.4

As a member of FDR's "black cabinet," Bethune was the only African American woman to hold an influential post in the administration. She met every Friday night at home with her black colleagues and civil rights leaders such as Charles H. Houston, Walter White, and A. Philip Randolph. She called the men together to stay apprised of their work and to use her influence to improve the lives of African Americans and fight inequality.5

Bethune's position gave her access not only to the president but, on occasion, to a radio audience of millions. On the eve of America's entrance into World War II, she joined a panel discussion on NBC radio's weekly public affairs broadcast of "America's Town Meeting of the Air." The panelists addressed the question, What does American democracy mean to me? With her Victorian elocution and a thunderous tone, Bethune reminded her listeners that African Americans had always been willing to die for American democracy but were still shut out from its promise of freedom.

Listen to the speech

Democracy is for me, and for 12 million black Americans, a goal towards which our nation is marching. It is a dream and an ideal in whose ultimate realization we have a deep and abiding faith. For me, it is based on Christianity, in which we confidently entrust our destiny as a people. Under God's guidance in this great democracy, we are rising out of the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom. Here my race has been afforded [the] opportunity to advance from a people 80 percent illiterate to a people 80 percent literate; from abject poverty to the ownership and operation of a million farms and 750,000 homes; from total disfranchisement to participation in government; from the status of chattels to recognized contributors to the American culture.

As we have been extended a measure of democracy, we have brought to the nation rich gifts. We have helped to build America with our labor, strengthened it with our faith and enriched it with our song. We have given you Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Booker T. Washington, Marian Anderson and George Washington Carver. But even these are only the first fruits of a rich harvest, which will be reaped when new and wider fields are opened to us.

The democratic doors of equal opportunity have not been opened wide to Negroes. In the Deep South, Negro youth is offered only one-fifteenth of the educational opportunity of the average American child. The great masses of Negro workers are depressed and unprotected in the lowest levels of agriculture and domestic service, while the black workers in industry are barred from certain unions and generally assigned to the more laborious and poorly paid work. Their housing and living conditions are sordid and unhealthy. They live too often in terror of the lynch mob; are deprived too often of the Constitutional right of suffrage; and are humiliated too often by the denial of civil liberties. We do not believe that justice and common decency will allow these conditions to continue.

Our faith envisions a fundamental change as mutual respect and understanding between our races come in the path of spiritual awakening. Certainly there have been times when we may have delayed this mutual understanding by being slow to assume a fuller share of our national responsibility because of the denial of full equality. And yet, we have always been loyal when the ideals of American democracy have been attacked. We have given our blood in its defense-from Crispus Attucks on Boston Commons to the battlefields of France. We have fought for the democratic principles of equality under the law, equality of opportunity, equality at the ballot box, for the guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have fought to preserve one nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Yes, we have fought for America with all her imperfections, not so much for what she is, but for what we know she can be.

Perhaps the greatest battle is before us, the fight for a new America: fearless, free, united, morally re-armed, in which 12 million Negroes, shoulder to shoulder with their fellow Americans, will strive that this nation under God will have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, for the people and by the people shall not perish from the earth. This dream, this idea, this aspiration, this is what American democracy means to me.