The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North

I have elected to play on the title of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's little-known political pamphlet, Warning to the West in this treatise for good reason. Solzhenitsyn, the Soviet novelist and 1970 Nobel Prize winner for Literature made famous by his gulag experience under Josef Stalin, frequently had reasons to warn the Western world in much the same way as it has now become imperative to constantly warn the Nigerian North. As religious fanatics in the North commenced their by now familiar annual yam festival of wanton bloodletting in the name of Islam, Moloch Yaddie announced that he had held meetings with his Service Chiefs who were also in contact with the governors of the affected Boko Haram states, notably Bauchi, Borno, and Kano. No one suspected that he was hinting at an orgy of indiscriminate wasting operations and purposed extra-judicial executions as alibi for a possible holocaust to be visited on the Niger Delta in the foreseeable future. Security meetings and harebrained harassment of the government and people of Lagos state over, the President fiddled away to Brazil on one of the most tragically ill-timed state visits in history.

He should have gone on a private visit to the United States instead. He should have travelled with a large retinue of northern stakeholders. He should have travelled with just about anybody from the North with the ability to study history, read things between the lines, and make the connection between things. For if there is anything the northern elite in Nigeria need more desperately than the oil of the Niger Delta at the moment, it is knowledge of the history of the American South. I am talking about the Deep South: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The leadership of northern Nigeria needs this knowledge for their own good and for the sake of Nigeria.

One could of course advise Mr. President to stay behind in Nigeria and read the novels of William Faulkner. After all, being one of the most famous writers of 20th century and having won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, Faulkner single-handedly placed the Deep South on the pedestal of global imagination by setting virtually all his blockbuster novels there. But not even the maximalist luxuriance of Faulkner's prose can replace the direct feel and touch of history, hence the necessity of a visit. You see, the Deep South is not also called the Cotton States for nothing. Cotton! The first hint of the dark historical underbelly of the Deep South. For who says cotton says plantation. And who says plantation says slavery. And who says slavery says it is at the base of an entire culture and political economy that developed on it – and around it.

I am not interested in the political economy of slavery. Eric Williams has adequately taken care of that in his classic book, Capitalism and Slavery. That leaves culture. What kind of cultural imagery does the Deep South immediately evoke? There is art as in jazz and the southern cuisine of Louisiana – with its Cajun/Acadian inflections. There is the musicality of the southern drawl when white southerners speak their dialect. And the beauty of raw, fast-paced ebonics when southern blacks speak their own dialect. That's the good news. But the good news is not relevant to us here. Then there is a culture of poverty and pervading sense of backwardness and underdevelopment in relation to other parts of the United States, especially the northern states. Here is what I had to say about poverty and backwardness after touring the Deep South of the United States by road in the summer of 2005:

"Back in Pennsylvania, I phoned a cousin who was a student in Alabama. I told him I needed a road trip in rural Alabama and Mississippi in the summer of 2005 to continue my education. He laughed and told me that what I mistook for Black poverty in the state of New York was in fact black luxury! "I will show you Black poverty when you come to the south." He was right. We spent a whole month traveling in America's black poverty belt in the south. In certain places, it felt like the plantation was still alive and healthy. Only Massa was gone. Here were Americans poorer than anybody I have ever met in Africa. American towns and neighborhoods more indigent than anything I'd seen in Africa. I traveled in those spaces where the anger that white America doesn't understand smolders."

What I have painted here is the culture of southern Black poverty. Add that to the comparative material backwardness of southern whites in relation to their cousins in the American North and a picture of the Deep South emerges: it is less prosperous than the northern part of the country. For much of the contemporary history of the United States, the Deep South has been a less-developed part playing catch-up with the rest of the country. How did this happen? The American North was far less dependent on slave labor and even came to acquire a false reputation in history textbooks as the real land of the free, never mind that they also had low-scale slavery. Once the black slave escaped the tyranny of slave life in the Deep South, the inclination was to run to the land of freedom up North. The flight up North is so brilliantly captured by Edward P. Jones in his 2003 Pulitzer-winning novel, The Known World. The lack of exclusive dependence on illegal slave labor and plantations by the North created a pluralistic conceptualization of the material base of society in that part of the United States. This in turn led to a diversification of the sources of wealth creation and a boundless spirit constantly seeking more diverse ways of societal progress and advancement that would later eventuate in manufacturing and industrialization. Theirs was a philosophy of building society yourself.

The white elite (the Tuckahoes) of the Deep South, on the contrary, fought a war to prevent the pluralization and diversification of the sources of wealth creation and the material base of society. Theirs was an insipid society that could not and did not want to think beyond slaves and slavery. They also couldn't think beyond cotton. One of the least talked about consequences of slavery in the Deep South is the emergence of a thoroughly lazy, indolent, and unimaginative southern white plantocratic elite that had grown so used to slaves doing everything for them they couldn't even wipe their own behinds after shitting. Theirs was a philosophy of using unwilling slaves to build society. This laziness of the Tuckahoes, induced by over-reliance on slaves and cotton, is the beginning of the wealth and development gap between the Deep South and the more industrious and diversified North. This was bound to happen. The march of history caught the white elite of the Deep South pants down. Slavery ended and Massa was suddenly naked. Emancipation of blacks meant that those who had never learnt to do anything on their own had to suddenly begin to imagine other ways of progress and societal advancement. They have been playing catch up ever since.

By now, the elite in northern Nigeria should be in familiar territory if they are reading this. Replace slaves with oil and southern white elite with Hausa-Fulani elite and our plot shifts seamlessly from the American Deep South to northern Nigeria. Without oil, the elite of northern Nigeria cannot wipe its own behind. In essence, the kind of white elite that slavery created in the Deep South is precisely what oil has created in northern Nigeria: indolent, lazy, unimaginative, and irredeemably greedy. The white elite of the Deep South even had some redeeming values: they took care of their own. Not so our friends in northern Nigeria. In more than thirty years of deranged looting of national wealth (with regular equal-opportunity windows of massive looting by southern quislings such as Olusegun Obasanjo, Andy Uba, and James Ibori), these crazy elite have turned their own people in the North into one of Africa's most poverty-beaten people. Northern Nigeria is that country's synonym for backwardness, underdevelopment, and poverty. I should know: I lived in Sokoto and Kaduna, the hearts of the Caliphate.

If the white elite in the American Deep South went to war to be able to cling to slavery as the only source of wealth generation, their copycats in northern Nigeria have clung to that plot since oil was struck in the Niger Delta. They have been at war to remain unimaginatively addicted to oil and have even ordered air raids in the Niger Delta to maintain their iron grip on things. Worse, they even destroyed the pre-existing diversified base of wealth generation (from cloth dyeing to agriculture: the groundnut pyramids!) in that part of Nigeria just to concentrate on oil loot. This addiction to an unimaginative monocultural philosophy of wealth generation accounts for their maniacal determination to maintain the Stone Age federalism Nigeria operates, which over-concentrates the power to loot and mismanage oil wealth at the centre. In the process, they have created a thoroughly underdeveloped and backward northern Nigeria that is perpetually playing catch-up with the rest of the country, never mind the numerous official measures (quota) they have foolishly adopted over the years to retard the progress of the South and close the gap.

The culture of poverty and ignorance they groom among their own people in order to sustain this scenario accounts for tragedies like Boko Haram: the northern elite must be held squarely responsible. Like the more talented white oppressors who wrote their script in the American Deep South, history is bound to catch up with the Oligarchy in northern Nigeria. The history of the Deep South teaches us that the addiction gets worse as things hustle towards an inevitable end. As slavery was winding down, the vocabulary of Massa was tied even more to slaves. Take a look at the diction of Nigeria's northern elite even as the world marches inexorably towards the end of the era of oil. Although I have long lost the capacity to be shocked or scandalized by Abuja, I can't help wincing at the thought that all you hear from them now is talk of oil blocks, petroleum industry bill, petroleum training institute, petroleum university, petroleum this and petroleum that, all signals from an elite that is totally tone deaf to the message from the rest of the civilized world that the end of oil is nigh. As I write, the leadership of northern Nigeria is still desperately prospecting for oil in the North.

Nigeria's northern elite are clinging to a vocabulary of oil at a time when the national budgets of the oil states in the Arabian Gulf are evolving towards oil independence; at a time when Moloch Yaddie is in Brazil, a country that has left oil behind and now runs on ethanol; at a time when President Obama's main agenda in office is to secure America's independence from oil; at a time when China and India have also joined the race to a future without oil. Definitely, these elite are entombed in the prison-house of oil. Things wouldn't be this frustrating if the northern elite had shown themselves capable even of stealing intelligently. Intelligent stealing happens when, after looting over 200 billion US dollars in thirty years, we see a Dubai-like northern Nigeria with massive high-tech agricultural infrastructure that could make it the food basket of Africa. Northern Nigeria could conveniently feed the African continent. With its tomatoes, onions, potatoes, maize, guinea corn, beans and so many other products, this part of Nigeria has the capacity to make Canadian agriculture look like boy scouts agriculture had the loot of the Northern elite been massively invested in it in the last three decades. And they had cotton too before they got drunk on oil. Yes, cotton! Like their teachers in the American Deep South!

Here then is the warning: unless a brand new generation of sufficiently dissatisfied Northerners forty-years-old and below rises up to take radical stock of things; unless they categorically reject a dependency mentality that ties the fate of the North to the Niger Delta's oil at the expense of developing the vast agricultural and mineral potentials of Arewa land; unless they understand that our envisioned Nigeria of the future will not tolerate the retrogressive born-to-rule mentality of their elders; unless they understand that northern leadership, as currently constituted, is too moribund to think beyond oil and too wicked to think beyond narrow class interests; unless they study how scrupulously the old and current guard of the northern elite have applied the strategies of the white slavers in the Deep South of the United States to make a total mess of the North and Nigeria; and, most importantly, unless they understand why the Deep South has had to play catch up with the rest of America for so long, the North will continue to lag behind and play catch up for another foreseeable century even with its stranglehold on the centre, quota, federal character, and other foolish strategies designed to slow down the pace of development in the rest of Nigeria. Let's hope that the odious rulers of Nigeria will let her have another century.



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Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
Docokwy posted on 08-02-2009, 01:11:33 AM
This article is good when viewed from the surface. But in life, things are much deeper than they seem. The North is obviously hell bent on perpetuating an oil economy, but please pray, tell, what is the west (and also the east and ND) producing that can sustain it if the oil dries up today? Please do not tell me about the companies in Lagos: many of those are multinationals who can move their ware anywhere other than Nigeria. Infact some are already moving to Ghana. Many more are owned by non-Yoruba Nigerian investors. States in the west where the author comes from collect allocations from the FGN as do other states elsewhere. So were the oil to dry up today, what will the west do to sustain itself? Was Cocoa not being produced in the west? What is the situation today? Were Coal, oil palm and rubber not being produced in the east (including parts of the east that are now in ND)? What is the situation today?

Lagos claims to be getting 14 billion monthly in IGR (mainly taxes); how much of that comes from core-Yoruba investments; and how will the end of oil rub off on non-Yoruba who contribute significantly in generating the said 14 billion? Will SHELL, AGIP, CHEVRON, MOBIL, ADDAX, etc, who stay in Lagos (instead of in their areas of primary operation) and swell her (Lagos) coffers with tax from oil money generated from the ND remain in Lagos when the oil is dry? Will the Igbo importer in Alaba who contributes to the 14 billion remain in Lagos when there is no more oil to power his generator (since NEPA is disfunctional)?

Bottomline: there will be a lot of repositioning, rejiggling, and outright relocation and things will certainly not be the same again for Lagos.

Plus, talking about corruption, the north, no doubt, is champion, overall, but the west follows closely on its heels. One cannot talk about corruption in the last 10 years without putting the west in the fore front. So, again, in which agricultural enterprise did the likes of Tafa Balogun, Ehindero, Bode George, Kenny Martins, Borishade, Fani Kayode, Madam Etteh and of course ObJ (to mention a few) invest their billions in loot? As one of your fingers points to the North, the rest sure point back at you.
Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
Docokwy posted on 08-02-2009, 02:40:48 AM
British Gas Divests from Olokola LNG
By Festus Akanbi, 08.02.2009

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British Gas Group Plc, the United Kingdom’s third-largest natural gas producer, said it is reducing funding of its Nigerian liquefied natural gas export project and switching investment to develop newly acquired assets in Australia.
BG, Chevron Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and NNPC are building a liquefied natural gas plant at Olokola, Ogun State. While that has been delayed amid surging costs and government plans to divert gas to the domestic market, BG’s focus has shifted.
According to agency reports, the explorer, based in Reading, England, completed the acquisition of coal-seam gas producer Pure Energy Resources Ltd in May as part of a $700 million takeover after last year’s buying of Queensland Gas Company. It is seeking fuel for the 6.6 billion Queensland Curtis LNG ventures, which will boost BG’s global fuel-making capacity 59 per cent to 20 million tons a year by the middle of the next decade.
“We are switching priorities to development of projects elsewhere, most notably the expansion of our new assets in Australia,” Chief Executive Officer, Frank Chapman told reporters on a conference call at the weekend. “The growth targets that we have for LNG are still there, they are intact,” he said.
BG also delayed its average 680,000 barrel-a-day production target for this year into the first quarter of 2010 on lower demand for fuels, and posted a 31 per cent decline in second- quarter profit as gas prices fell.
BG declined 29 pence, or 2.7 percent, to 1,053 pence on Friday in London time. It has climbed 10 per cent so far this year.
Net income dropped to 513 million pounds ($842 million) from 747 million pounds a year earlier and sales sank 28 per cent to 2.3 billion pounds.
Nigeria, which holds 184 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves, the world’s eighth largest, plans to invest at least $10 billion to expand its gas pipeline network and produce more gas for domestic customers and for export.
“At the appropriate time there will be further opportunities” in Nigeria, Chapman said. “For today, it’s a low priority.”
The U.K. company this year plans to start commercial gas production in Tunisia, BG production will be between 656,000 barrels and 662,000 barrels of oil a day this year, he estimated.
“The key area of weakness was gas pricing” indicating that “BG remains exposed to soggy gas markets where it has equity upstream exposure,” wrote David equivalent Thomas, a London-based analyst at Citigroup Global Markets Inc., on Friday in an e-mailed report. Earnings were “slightly tarnished by a weak exploration and production result.”
Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
Machiavelli posted on 08-02-2009, 04:13:59 AM
@FSU
QUOTE:

but please pray, tell, what is the west (and also the east and ND) producing that can sustain it if the oil dries up today


Sir, have you heard of a country called Japan? It is the second largest economy in the world, ok? Chairman, the country's TOTAL OIL reserve is a paltry 40 million barrels (Oil and Gas Journals) and depends completely on importation.

How about Jamaica? Ever heard of it? No drop of oil, ok? The country is sustaining itself with tourism. Should I continue? Ever heard of Sweden? The country has an insignificant amount of oil reserve and relies completely on importation. Armenia? No oil, ok?

Ever heard of Estonia? It is in Europe. Its only mineral resource is called oil shale. I am sure you have NEVER heard of it, or have you? Please google it. It is not crude oil. The country has an annual GDP growth rate of 12% before the recession and NO CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE oil.

So, oga there are too many countries all over the world that are working without YOUR ALMIGHTY OIL. Get real chairman and stop living in total ignorance.

QUOTE:

Lagos claims to be getting 14 billion monthly in IGR (mainly taxes); how much of that comes from core-Yoruba investments; and how will the end of oil rub off on non-Yoruba who contribute significantly in generating the said 14 billion? Will SHELL, AGIP, CHEVRON, MOBIL, ADDAX, etc, who stay in Lagos (instead of in their areas of primary operation) and swell her (Lagos) coffers with tax from oil money generated from the ND remain in Lagos when the oil is dry? Will the Igbo importer in Alaba who contributes to the 14 billion remain in Lagos when there is no more oil to power his generator (since NEPA is disfunctional)?


So, Lagos will collapse and hunger will kill off all the YORUBAS, right?
Your analysis is pathetic. And your reasoning is closer to that of a five year old.

QUOTE:

Plus, talking about corruption, the north, no doubt, is champion, overall, but the west follows closely on its heels. One cannot talk about corruption in the last 10 years without putting the west in the fore front


Can you even read what you have written without vomitting?

And the Igbos are the corruptless saints in Nigeria, abi? I will nominate the Igbos for canonization by the pope. It is the Yorubas and Hausas that are stealing the monthly allocations of Imo, Enugu, Abia and the entire Eastern staes?
Is it only me or something, I am getting a bit irritated by all these Igbo cyberwarriors who seem to enjoy blaming everybody except themselves for their misfortune. Please they should grow up. Abeg.
Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
Ndboy posted on 08-02-2009, 06:22:57 AM
Naija sef.Unu too sabi fight over nothing.
Mr Pius has penned a beautiful article,instead of to read and imbibe the lessons therein,una don start.Rofo-rofo warriors.
With all these arguements,how are we going to unite and save Papa's land?
Thing is the north is sacrificing the future of their youths today.I've been to faraway places like Kontagora,Zuru etc,and i tell you what,this Boko Haram can happen a hundred times over.The poverty/illiteracy rates there are frigthening and their elites believe it's the only to hold them down(while marrying off their daugthers to each other as 3rd and 4th wives0.
This is not the place to hate/argue about Yoruba and igbo elites,which are the bigger theives.In my lil'book,the 2 sets of elites only care about themselves and their narrow interests.The size of their loot is only equivalent to the opportunities that have come their way.
I have said my piece.

"A short man is not a boy'-Ghanain proverb.
Client-;How should i plead Sir?
Lawyer-;On your knees!(source-Daily humour page on facebook.
Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
S. Njokede posted on 08-02-2009, 06:29:57 AM
This thing is real. Northern elites have always fooled their followers and citizens by saying that their problems are caused by southerners. In the event that oil dries up and differing regions depend on creating their personal wealth, or say Nigeria divids, that reason would no longer hold water. The resultant effect between the ruled and rulers in north would be like Al Queda taking on the House of Saud militant-wise: making them feel hellfire and brimstone, we'd also see Talibanlike activities of Afghanistan taking place in northern Nigeria should this would-be scenario materialise. The amazing grace of northern ruler is that the south is their ready-made scapegoat of choice for now, take that away, the north would become another Taliban enclave, with their Mahamadian conservative religion making it possible for them.

Should oil dry up, and the scenario painted by Mr. Pius ushered in - in Nigeria, my guess is that the Igbos would be the ones to far better than the rest of Nigeria's regions judging by their venturesome manner, their love for trade and manufacturing. I'm not an Ibgo person should you be wondering whether my recommendation has been ethnically flavoured.
Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
RAHIM posted on 08-02-2009, 07:11:57 AM
Great piece. It illustrates the problem for what it is. The Northern elite vs Northern masses whom for all intents and purposes are also victims. Poverty and ignorance does not discriminate and for all the stolen wealth acquired by these elite, there are millions of disenfranchised youth all over the place.

The difference between this piece and most written by so called ''intellects''(without understanding of the North) is that Mr. Pius (having lived in the Sokoto and Kaduna)seems to capture and understand the core problems that stare at the masses in the North while others like a certain Dr. don't seem to discern the gap between the oppressors and the oppressed.
Re: The American South As Warning To The Nigerian North
Katampe posted on 08-02-2009, 09:07:37 AM
Very instructive essay. It illuminates and addresses the problem that the North faces and hangs the problem on the northern elite to solve.I think that is fair, and for once, I see an honest attempt on the part of the author to zero in on the problem.

I have always, at the risk of being labeled, called for no holds barred kind of approach to dealing with the problem Nigeria faces in the attitude of the northern elite.The reason is so simple: it has been because they hold the electoral number, hence they decide the fate of government and the direction of the country. The understanding can be somehow gleaned from the idea of the tyranny of the majority.

While the northern elite has been sensitized, we must also realize that the issue has been delineated for the under 40's to address.But the problem then arises, how do they go about sensitizing their people and who are the people that would constitute the membership of this group (the northern elite) ?

Nigeria must get pass the arrested development. If the leadership in the north can put its act together, then they should be willing to agree to restructure the country in a fashion that allows others to have control and self determination.The south must not be seen as a means to and end but rather considered as an end in itself. It's people are human and have the rights to desire liberty and its ensuing wealth and happiness. It is something they must recognize and not toy with.


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Nigeria has a huge problem on its hands.

It would take careful leadership and understanding of ways to prioritize the needs of the members (rich and poor) of the society.Leadership would need to understand that the poor have basic needs, immediate needs and to make a successful impact leaders must understand these in the choice of policies and programs, and it has to be factored into the planning.

Yet, feudal culture, corruption, ignorance, tribalism distorts and denies the whole planning and implementation process of any serious mission.We can't continue to have folks that have no clue lead us or determine our fate , we can't continue with ethnic balancing for instance when we know that what is needed is the best person for a job, when what is needed is putting our best foot forward.These are some of the things that complicates and distorts the real benefits of governments.

So, why don't we embark on a pragmatic approach to solving our problems? Allow the south its liberty. Allow constituent units the opportunity to chart their path under a loose federation. Allow people to start prospecting for ideas and resources that form the bedrock and upshoot of economies.
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