USA: Thoughts from the heart of empire

November 13, 2014
4 mins read

I arrived in Los Angeles, California, on the 15-hour Emirate Airline flight from Dubai, last Saturday. This is the second leg of my four-week holiday, out of Nigeria. I spent last week in Dubai; and I think a conversation I had with a mother and daughter from Norway, just summed up the city.

They had been visiting every year, since 2005, and they never stop marveling at the constant improvement in the infrastructure of Dubai. The buzz last week was about Dubai’s new tram system, which was expected to commence operation by November 11. I did several trips on the Dubai metro, commissioned five years ago: clean, convenient and modern.

Very modern! And each time, I couldn’t help think about Nigeria; the arrested development and unrealised potentials. Dubai expresses the triumph of thinking, commitment and action, even when there might be underlining currents of efforts to retain the legitimacy of a feudal order that has latched on to capitalist modernity and made a huge success of it.

Ruling classes all through history have been obliged to invent methods to achieve legitimacy and shore up hegemony. Even Abdulkareem Al-Maghili, in his treatise for the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa, “OBLIGATION OF PRINCES”, had emphasized the importance of legitimising hegemony through winning of subjects’ consent.

Subjects’ consent

As our country lurches from one crisis to the other, I was wondering just how incompetent our ruling elite has increasingly become in the forging of processes that can assist their class project. The country is being killed by installment by its current set of rulers; they on the contrary, think they are the best to ever have had the opportunity to husband its welfare in recent years.

And the fanfare, which enveloped the declaration this week, by President Goodluck Jonathan, just underlines the fearful reality that confronts Nigeria today. The backdrop of the killing of 47 students in a Potiskum secondary school was poignant in telling the country’s tale of woes, as much as the report I read online, in one of the Nigerian newspapers.

It had stated that some supporters of the President, headed by Senator Aniete Okon, told a press conference that President Jonathan could no longer wait for the 219 Chibok girls to return home. Life must go on without them because there is the politics of re-election and it is the only thing that matters; just as much as a sense of urgency can no longer be devoted to the struggle against the Boko Haram insurgency.

Nigeria has lost a huge swathe of territory to the insurgents but party hacks in Abuja ensured a lockout of the city, in order to do the “Power Show” appropriate for the President’s acceptance of the challenge to run in 2015. The BBC was surprised that most Nigerian newspapers were sucked into the occasion, with the “wrap around” advertisements that graced most of them on this week’s Tuesday. A newspaper editor posted on an online chat site, that newspapers were paid the handsome sum of N15 million by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, to wear the Jonathan toga around them. And who would dare to reject such tidy sum?

So we are poised for the mother of all electoral battles, if Jega’s INEC can pull through a credibly free and transparent electoral process next year. There must be a reasonable dose of apprehension in presidential circles, despite the public expression of bravado, given the manner that the insurgency has been badly handled by the government.

And how will the elections be held in the states consumed by the insurgency? If President Jonathan can be remorseful, won’t he honestly now publicly apologise to Kashim Shettima, the Borno State governor, who all those months ago, forewarned Nigeria about the different levels of equipment and morale between our troops and the insurgents? Was the governor not abused and called all kinds of names by presidential handlers?

Didn’t President Jonathan threaten on national television, to pull out troops from Borno, in order to see if the governor would be able to stay in Maiduguri Government House, for daring to tell the uncomfortable truth? How will the response to the insurgency condition the President’s electoral fortune?

Electoral fortune

Will Nigerians be easily manipulated into ethno-religious laagers that make the exploitation of emotions easier? Or shall we for once use our ballots and patriotic indignation to construct an electoral architecture very much in tune with what the present and future of Nigeria demands of all of us? The questions are legion!

I am writing these lines from the city of Buena Park in California’s Orange County. And as I had said earlier, I am very much in holiday mode. It was a really long flight from Dubai and because I am an almost incurable insomniac, I got the opportunity to indulge myself. I was finally able to watch Biyi Bandele’s HALF OF A YELLOW SUN, based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I wondered why the censors had stopped the showing of the film in the first place. There might be reservations about its perspective on Nigeria’s tragic Civil War, but there can never be one definitive narrative on any aspect of Nigeria’s history. And the film ought to be seen by all Nigerians, to help us have a greater appreciation of that phase of our history. We need a re-engagement with history, in my view, as a vital element of building national consciousness. The lessons of the Civil War, the triggers and consequences should become better known by our young people as much as all other phases of our national life.

Ours is a young country today and they have been or are being educated at a period when history has literally disappeared from our schools’ curricular. I was also able to watch the old Second World War classic, CASABLANCA and the comedy, GOOD MORNING VIETNAM.

I was pleasantly surprised that Emirates Airways had 15 classic songs by Fela Anikulapo Kuti; I tucked into them with relish as much as I had time to also read a couple of chapters from Mary Gabriel’s LOVE AND CAPITAL, the remarkable book which told the story of the love life of Karl Marx and his wife, Jenny. They were a wonderful way to break the boredom of the long-distance flights.

The time difference between California and Dubai is 12 hours and with Nigeria, nine hours. That should give you a peek into the kind of turmoil my body is going through this week. Next week, I will be in Dallas, Texas. I will definitely try to reflect on Nigeria and the world of travel, ensconced in the belly of the whale of empire, the most powerful imperialist system in human history, the United States of America.

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