A Comment on the Politics of Zoning in Nigeria

In every family there must be a head. In every village or community, the eldest of elders automatically assumes leadership as the head. In every public function or occasion, there must be a chairman. There is practically no association, organization, or society that exists in this present age which does not have a leader or head. This clearly indicates the importance of a leader in a group. It therefore means that, the people in a country can not co-exist successfully without a leader or president. Neither can the resources of a nation be managed and effectively distributed when there is no leader to see to running of government affairs. Therefore, leadership is central to every human group.

However, the manner in which humans compete for leadership positions some times left much to be desired and in order to ensure fairness in assuming leadership, there exist processes of choosing leaders in different groups. Such processes are generally accepted and written down in documents guiding the running/operations of that group or society. While in situations leaders chosen based on seniority, other societies or groups make use of election in choosing their leaders.

In politically developed societies, the ethics and conducts as well as the regulations guiding elections are well enhanced to avoid complications after elections. This helps in reducing the untold hardships which sometimes befall members of a given society when elections end in crisis. In Nigeria however, considering the fact that it is a multi-ethnic country, most elections are always threatened by divisive tendencies which sometimes come outside the main frame of plan or purpose of the electoral body. Given this understanding, most political parties zone their key positions on the major ethnics/regions (called geo-political zones) to ensure a fair representation of the nature of the country. This has being the nature of Nigerian politics since independence. Even when military took over and run the affairs of the country for over thirty years, although leadership at the apex level was held firmly by northerners, most key positions were somehow being shared politically among the ethnic groups/regions.

This sharing of positions was being done as way to encourage the unity and peace of the heterogeneous nature of Nigeria as ‘one nation’. The coming of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 led to the formation of new political groups/parties. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as a political party ushered Nigeria a leader in the person of President Olusegun Aremu Obansajo who picked Atiku Abubakar as his vice. After eight years, Musa Yar’adua came in president while Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was taken as vice. Fate redesigned that political arrangement by taken away the president through death and eventually Goodluck E. Jonathan became the president and hand picked Arch. Namadi Sambo (a former governor of Kaduna state) as his vice amidst top politicians eyeing the position.

All these while, there have being a silent tradition of power shift between the north and the south which has been criticized but carried out in some ways. On the death of the president who happens to be a northerner, it was expected that the country’s leadership arrow points to the north, following constitution of the ruling party which recognizes zoning of leadership given a number of terms. In order to make that section of the PDP’s constitution inactively numb, the nation’s constitution was used against it, given Jonathan more ground to run the presidency in 2011 elections.

This by implication means that the bond of zoning in Nigerian politics especially in the PDP has been broken and history has registered it inevitably. It also means that from now hence forth, leadership of the nation (Nigeria) can come from one state, ethnic group or region for five consecutive times. If so Nigeria will experience hitches in the progress of her democracy. This is because Nigeria as a heterogeneous nation can only tolerate this system of leadership in military regimes not a democratic political system.

Almost all ethnic groups in Nigeria had a rotational way of choosing leadership against all other advantages present in therein. In Tiv land, for example, the Tiv people coined a special name for zoning in politics as “Ya na agbian” which means ‘eat and give a brother’. From the stand point of Nigeria politics today, no one can actually predict the future of this nation given the trend of democracy being practiced. If we (Nigerians) agree that it is game of the majority, then we are saying that the minorities have no part to play in the leadership game of a particular state or the nation. It was pure act of zoning that Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as vice which by fate becomes the president of this nation.

Above all, the consistent change of government means that there is progress in Nigeria’s democracy. However, Nigeria really needs to assess her political systems and the type of her democratic game and make possible adjustments for the future to avoid dangers ahead.

Problems and Solutions to National Cohesion in Africa – A Perspective of Uganda

‘An African solution to African problems’ has been the slogan and way of expressing the truly pan-African spirit. It is always unlikely for one to comment about Africa’s lost glory without mentioning the word ‘colonialism.’ It is associated with a devil who took away with him what was African, including minerals, most strong and intelligent Africans, and African symbols of civilization as was civilization.

Africans had pride, endowments, peace with nature, peace with their God, employment for all, systematic transfer of knowledge or education for all, undisputed position of the elderly and adults in society, community duty to love and care for the young ones, peaceful families and clans, collective responsibility and democracy, happiness and contentment in their places of birth, strong-therapeutic unity and ready support for one another, greater sense of humanism and respect for one another, most beautiful and nurturing ecosystem, and far well-organized system to preserve those attributes. These assured them of holistic peace, moreover sustainable.

Before the penetration of influence from outside Africa in 1600, Africans lived complete life, true ‘Africanism’ existed. Africans were well-organized, with interesting governance, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual structures. These manifested in all aspects of their lives so much that distinction among them could hardly be found. The personality of the individual dissolved into society and society back into the individual. In every structure there were agreeable, well understood, expected behaviours to govern relationships among them.

God was understood to exist as one for all, not only for a few people; no one had jurisdiction over him (or her); he (or she) was independent from minds, individual powers, and none of the subjects considered taking custodianship of him (or her), and no one misused his (or her) name for selfish motives. The consequences of misbehaviour were well anticipated and self-justifying to culprits, witnesses, community.

An African’s relationship with God was personal, though, in many ways linked to social, political, economic, or cultural expectations of other people. The relationship added humanistic flavour to all other structures of human interactions a person found himself (or herself) in.

Consequently, individual Africans made expressions that were full of compassion, and accomplished tasks together without having to hurt each other, be it in leadership, business, and family affairs. Godly values got nurtured over time to form social, economic, and political systems. There was a tendency of Africans to import aspects of God during interactions with any of those systemic elements.

Africans had two basic political systems: segmentary and centralized systems of administration. Spiritual and religious influences did not spare the leaders of the day as perceived by the leaders and their people featured very prominently. Leaders took on positions of authority, not by their own making, but an effect of the will of the most superior-being (God).

The enthronement process of the community leaders involved acknowledgement of the greater powers, and they as much as the subjects pursued them to support the long life of the leader and prosperity of the kingdom.

Reciprocally, the kings saw themselves as most powerful people because of the godly recognition. It was a spiritual position, which prompted subjects not to object, but to obey any orders from them.

On their part, leaders ensured that spiritual values were nurtured and made to work in society. In return society took on those values as acceptable truth and feared to go against them as the consequences to doing so were severe.

Going against established ‘don’ts’ was fierce; it called for greatest courage of an individual to risk going against them. The obligation to follow established values became the future bases of behaviour, even for generations that came. They were shared values, which got strengthened over the years.

Social values and responsibilities were handed-on at family level, where children got instructed. Families were critical learning centres for children and adolescents (a kind of junior and high school) while the community was the university. A person was identified as belonging to a given family and clan. The high reputation of a given family was attractive: every one wanted to socialize, and pick a married partner from it.

From childhood, as early as baby years, families as much as community members knew their job descriptions, which were intuitively acquired and developed over time until they got manifested as skills known and recognizable by the family and community. It was on the bases of developing an orientation to a given but positive behaviour, powerful creativity, and exhibition of amazing works that practicing members got elevated to the fore.

A person’s fame for exhibiting highly desirably qualities and skills elevated him, his family and clan members to prestigious positions for many years while only tasked to preserve values of their ancestors, who began the walk to prosperity they now share as it might always be.

The opening up to new ideas from near and far areas of Africa influenced greatly indigenous beliefs, languages, foods, and practices held by the different tribal groups. It was ‘new’ knowledge the agents of change found justifiable to spread in order ‘civilize’ the new world.

The unfolding years came with new technologies of war and communication. Societies and nations with highest levels of technological advancement tended to influence more those that were technologically ‘dwarfs.’ ‘Dwarfism’ characterized ‘primitivism’ and preoccupation with war among African societies, tribes, and clans.
The population did not find time to question the challenges of the day in the area of administration, economic production, and communication among each other as with new immigrants they got in touch with.

Those made them vulnerability to any outside attacks and shocks, especially from nations or societies, which wanted to benefit from the economic and natural attributes of their communities for survival and prosperity.

As the invaders took positions in their newly found ‘homes’ and work-places in Uganda, like elsewhere in Africa, they practiced their beliefs and cultures, and shared them with the people they cared to interact with. But also part of their strength as new ‘owners’ of the land and all that took place on it made any other sort of influence from them equally stronger.

By the very nature of survival for the fittest slogan, Africans had already found themselves weaker under series of immigrants and invading tribal groups from within and outside Africa. Their old administrative arrangements were disrupted to give way to new structures, featuring intruders as new leaders of the indigenous societies. They went on to usurp ownership of the means of productions, dictated social expectations, and eroded cultural attributes of those societies.

Speaking, food choices, killing machines, and dressing were some of the easiest attributes to erode in favour of what the invaders carried along. Learning from the powerful groups was one way of creating a compromise, winning favour, and surviving alongside them.

Those who resisted new cultures easily got in trouble through execution, getting marginalized, and being forced to flee from their customary land, which was communally owned.

To further their influence the intruders went formal when they organized classes to swiftly transfer knowledge, cultures, and create new administrative hierarchies in new societies as old ones were perceived primitive and unacceptable. From here, Africans began to hate their own way of life, and looked forward to whatever was alien as best for them and their own as either satanic or ‘primitive.’

The reformist Africans faced-off with strong traditionalists, who retained their faith in what was African or indigenous. It is at this point that antagonisms and in-fighting started.

It was obvious that African groups, representing the powerful immigrant forces took their day, and were subsequently rewarded for all onslaughts successfully conducted against fellow Africans with land and prestigious social positions.

Today Africans measure themselves up to what they have achieved in terms of education and professional fields as indicators of success. There are tremendous investments in those areas. But the rising population makes it difficult for everyone to be weighed by the same scale.

Increasingly fewer people are able to get through the same sieve to attain success while, overtime, even those who get through it cannot easily obtain a share of the limited national resources and development opportunities, including land and jobs.

Looking forward to corporate jobs and good education is what society is up to. It is an attitude that most people have, without which life is ‘no more.’ But those who continue demanding to live it are forced choose unconventional ways, involving stealing, bribing, and killing while the shy ones go for destructive strategies to life, involving substance abuse, violence, and suicide.

For the modernists, there is no other way of living life to its fullest other than spending costly years of studying and finding excellent jobs. Contrary to that, they hold perceptions of failure, something again, is debilitating.

In Uganda, the population is doing less agricultural production than 20 years ago. There has been a steady decline in the sector performance, formally thought to employ 80% of its nationals. In his budget speech, the country’s president put the figures at 70%. The question is: if all Ugandans dream of heaven on earth, and are anxious to receive higher education and white-collar jobs, who will be entrusted with tilling the land for food?

Because less attention is put on agriculture, there is a lot of carelessness when relating with nature, including humans; modernist fail to link life or food production with it, and soon fall prey to their ‘stupid’ actions of degrading the environment, in the forms of mudslides, long drought seasons, famine, malnutrition, wars, and outbreak of fatal diseases.

The rising food insecurities and costs give no notice for the need to rethink the trend, which some elitists call positive development or prosperity and modernization, arguing that, so many people now sit in offices, never in gardens. Going in that direction only worsens the situation of food scarcity and food prices as much as insecurities and uncertainties about the future.

Conflicts today occur between people nursing religiously and ideologically extremist views they only inherited from determined immigrant forces. Each religion fights for superiority and honour by generating conflicting arguments and life-taking violent situations.

Modern terrorism has been attributed greatly to strong religious ideologies inherited from the immigrant forces. The social and political expectations introduced by those forces championed discriminative development enterprises.

Those who were inherently rich by the end of the colonial era are still so. They own large proportions of land more than for those whose ancestors were not rewarded, and are still many times wealthy.

Development strategies have since that time been leaned to ideals of the latest immigrant forces yet none of them have granted indigenous communities peace at any stage of national ‘advancement’ other than the causation of uncertainties, physical insecurities, and worries about new disasters that are artificial and natural in nature as survival strains linger.

The daily strives for survival gives families no time and space to visit one another and nurture love and care. This has accelerated stress-living, heightened vulnerabilities, and created grounds for children to grow without acceptable and life-building values. Victims to that often fall prey to world’s wrath when they are caught on wrong ‘footings.’

However, some voices today are championing entrepreneurship and talent development as not only a new way to cope with human-triggered challenges but a rediscovery of ‘Africanism’.

The African system made leadership and wealth available for whoever had the talent and natural strength to develop and exhibit them among fellow Africans were soon granted privileged positions in society.

While society in the African setting had its own challenges like being unable to protect themselves from foreign influences, and getting caught up into tribal wars most of the time, it had noble ways of managing society, predicting the future and dealing with uncertainties, so that at the end of the day, peace prevailed.

In their settings, everyone not only had rights, but were given and respected in the most practical sense of the word. For example, African education system was not discriminatory: everyone had a right to it and received it; everyone participated in production processes and development; exceptional talents were highly rewarded and became a source of political and social power, and without a fight, got respected by all; protected the environment through naming of natural species and linking them to their lineage not only as way of life, but a highly spiritual subject; respected differences and diversity, and used it to benefit from each other through what came to be known as barter trade; respected sex as a subject for only the married, and respected marriage itself, the only place for sex.

Even the war tools used were not as fatal as today’s. The injured had opportunities to live another life. Interestingly, though, the most thriving sector (tourism) now relies on interesting aspects of the ancient Africa.

Africans failed to stand up for their political, cultural, economic, and spiritual rights when they were invaded by new tribes and forceful immigrants from outside the continent. They fell prey to the invading parties by adopting new cultures and other aspects of life, and got mixed-up or confused.

The new structures accelerated internal conflict, have until now persisted, worsened by globalization effects. Any problems in Africa traceable before internal and external invasions were tribal wars, aimed at shaping the power of individuals and societies, and establishment of individual or social identities from the rest of the communities.

Aggression was employed and exercised to create a measurable impact, mindful of the need to prevent unnecessary damage or destruction to themselves. When their intentions got visible enough to give society and individuals’ new social, economic and political outlook or structures, very quickly agreements were reached. In other words, war could not be endless.

The situation was only worsened by elitism created by the powerful invaders, when they labelled their ideals as ‘better,’ and demonized what they found (indigenous). The demonized and ridiculed parties continued to fight for their rights to exist as historically and naturally predisposed.

The elite class soon got themselves in a single position to call their great-grand father’s customs satanic. It is true that satanic people exist everywhere, especially where the social and cultural fabric no longer exist, from which to nurture new generations. It can be noted however that, in any practice, whichever area on the planet it started, practitioners do error or misuse it for other motives, which turn out to be really devilish.

While in the traditional structure had ways through which to reconcile wrongful people and be reintegrated back into society for sustainable peace, today, there is no formula for abusers of African knowledge and practices as for modern day ethics and moral expectations. They are often arrested and tried in courts of laws, which maintain the crime within the minds of individuals (criminals) as society waits to continue to ostracize them.

Today’s challenges are victimizing to the new generation. It lives without leadership from childhood. If there is any such leadership, it is irresponsible and neglectful.

As such, society is met by sections of unruly, destabilizing, and life-threatening section of its own members, so hard to deal with; in the category of robbers, corrupt leaders, greedy individuals, prostitutes, street-beggars, lazy people, poor people, unmarried people, unemployed youths, rapists, diseased, and agitated and violent people.

The present troubles like food insecurity, unemployment, lack of medicine, crime, unmarried living, risky sexual behaviours, and problem-children and youth were well addressed in the African setting. Therefore, as we look for solutions to Ugandan (or African) problems, even for the search of national cohesion, we should not look any further than Uganda (or Africa).

Debating National Identity – French Culture Custody Battle

The French Government has officially open a national debate on France cultural identity, in hope of better defining what it means to be French. While most Pundits and 64% of the population know it is a political stunt to garner votes away from the anti-immigration far-right National Front party of Jean-Marie Lepen during March 2010 regional elections coming up. Critics warned that it is a dangerous thing to do because will bring a climate of xenophobia and single out non-white French. French President Nicolas Sarkozy defends the National debate, and contends that “Debating the national identity is not dangerous, it’s necessary.” 60% of French agree that it is necessary, but I doubt they agree on the dangerous part.

This debate will give France neither the answers it seeks nor the outcome it hoped for. What it will do however, is confirm the death of their good old “douce France”, and legitimize the face of the New France.

When in 1998, France won the football World cup, at home with a team heavily composed of immigrants, the team was dubbed Blanc, Black, Beur (White, Black, Brown), and became for all a symbol of hope, integration, equality, freedom, Fraternity. 1998 was for French the culmination of its republican ideals: Rejecting the US model of the “melting pot” and British tolerance of the customs of ethnic minorities, France officially dismisses any consideration of race, creed or color that could undermine national unity. Indeed ethnic minority is not a recognized concept, where the theoretically color-blind state does not distinguish between categories of citizens.

For Jean-Marie Lepen, however, the team was not French enough, because it had too many non-whites. So much for color-blind; this is when the debate should have taken place.

Failing to capitalize on the euphoria of 1998, and returning to business as usual, France reaped the first fruits of its policies in 2001, during the friendly football game between France and Algeria. As soon as the Marseillaise (French National anthem) started, fans started to boo loudly. While the action sparked outrage, most were quick to mention that the booing was not made by Algerian fans whose resentment toward France is historically based, but by French-born second and third-generation immigrants with French nationality. Strike 1

During the 2002 presidential election, Jean-Marie Lepen managed to make it to round 2, raising national concern over growing racism, and anti-Semitism in France. That election did not only reveal the complacency of the government toward social issues, but the hidden face of the French society. Strike 2

In 2005, already frustrated by their condition of life, and their constant harassment at the hand of the police, the youth in the banlieues (ghetto, project) went on a rioting spree that made International Headlines, lasted for 4 weeks, causing roughly 200 euros of damages. Strike 3

The malaise that exists in the Banlieues is real, and mainly affects French-born minorities with French nationality, immigrants with French citizenship, and both legal and illegal immigrants struggling to make a living. Most of them are from African origin, and usually referred as Blacks and Arabs. They are marginalized by the society regardless of their legal status or citizenship. They are blamed for the social ills in France, and at the exception of a few sports stars, the rest of the minority are not really French to the general white population.

Then interior minister Sarkozy response to the civil unrest was to blame the “Rascals”, and clean up the Banlieues with Karcher (a high pressure detergent made in Germany). Many have also blamed the civil unrest on Polygamy, since many African immigrants are from West Africa, and Muslim Arabs. As a matter of fact, Sarkozy based part of his presidential campaign on promising tough laws on immigration, reaffirming the French national identity, and giving more rights to the police. As soon as he became president, Sarkozy appointed Eric Besson minister to a newly formed Immigration, Integration, and National identity and Solidarity development ministry.

Today, Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, and Besson, who was born in Morocco from a Lebanese mother, and lived there until he was 17, are setting a National debate with the undertone that Immigrants have a hard time integrating the French society because they do not understand what it means to be French. They are also trying to sell the speech that this is for a national unity, and to facilitate the assimilation of immigrants. Indeed, when they say Immigrants, really, what they are implying is African immigrants, notably Arabs and blacks. How can one not recall the national debate on allowing Muslim women to wear their head scarf in school? During a recent speech, Sarkozy took new aim at the face-covering, all-enveloping Islamic robe worn by a very small minority of Muslim women, saying there is “no place for the subservience of women” in France.” Yes, it is all about subservience, just like Canada has recently announced in its immigration policies that it will not tolerate “Foreign Barbaric Practices” in Canada. Riecently, Sarkozy voiced his support to the Swiss government over their decision to ban the construction of minaret in their country.

It is obviously very clear that Sarkozy who has an acute understanding of Islam can make such claims, naturally the appearance of Half naked women in buses stops and billboard has nothing subservient, or maybe the thriving porn industry that is anything but taboo in France, is a call for the glorification of women.

Among the questions Besson has suggested for the debates: Should France implement “integration contracts,” which would set minimal levels of language and cultural knowledge for citizenship; and should students be required to sing the national anthem “La Marseillaise” at least once a year?

Some fear that these types of questions – even the debates themselves – invite assumptions that generations of immigrants have already undermined France’s identity and may provoke nationalist sentiments long championed by Le Pen. “When you put immigration and national identity side by side, it creates the notion that immigration poses a threat to national identity – which can inspire racism,” Mouloud Aounit, president of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples, told the daily l’Humanité on Nov. 2. “But this debate also reveals an identity crisis of a part of French society… and the failure of its model of integration, which doesn’t allow people to do just that.”

The question is how will that bring forth a different or modified setup than the one that already exists? Can France really answer those questions? If France is going through an identity crisis, it is probably because it failed to look from within to see among its immigrants what the modern French people should look like. Blaming generations of immigrants as undermining the French Culture is like blaming your reflections for the changes you made to yourself. When France decided to colonize Africa, it took upon itself to spread the French language and the French Culture. It did its best to educate African people about the way it functions so they could serve its “empire” better. France was proud to see its loyal subjects mimic all that was French. When Africans started to immigrate in France, it was important that they be able to speak French, understand the French system and evolve in a French community. France set up schools all across Africa, where they would teach French language, French culture, French values, and yes, even “la Marseillaise”. The only characteristic that was left out is that in spite of all that, THEY WOULD NOT BE FRENCH.

Amilcar Cabral said that “the ideal for foreign domination, whether imperialist or not, would be to choose 1) either to liquidate practically all the population of the dominated country, thereby eliminating the possibilities for cultural resistance; or

2) succeed in imposing itself without damage to the culture of the dominated people-that is to harmonize economic and political domination of these people with their cultural personality.

France certainly applied both methods at some point and to a certain degree, but if they have succeed in imposing themselves to the African culture, and enjoying a period of time where for too many Africans, France was what Israel is to Jewish people, things have changed. By marginalizing the second, third generation of immigrants, and denying them full-fledged French patriotism, they have reversed their cultural advantage. Unable to claim France has their homeland; many French-born immigrants resorted in identifying with their newly arrived brothers and sisters. It is therefore not surprising that the booing of the Marseillaise was not an isolated incident.

The same thing happened during a France-Morocco game in 2007, and again in 2009 during France-Tunisia that really showed that France does not learn anything, as the summoned a singer of Tunisian origin called Laam to sing the French national Anthem. Laam was loudly booed, while Amina who is from Tunisia was cheered for singing the Tunisian National Anthem. In 1998 when France won the World cup, people danced in the street in Brazzaville, Congo, to my dismay of course, but that’s not the point. On November 18, 2009, France finally qualified for the world Cup in South Africa. People, mostly of Arab-decent walked out in the street, danced on top of cars and celebrated all night. One may assume that they were happy for France until…the abundance of Algerian flags revealed that they were actually celebrating Algeria’s qualification to the world cup at the hand of Egypt, which happened the same day.

France conundrum is easy to assess, on one side it has an aging population, hard to replace due to slow birth rate, on the other, it has a bunch of young people mostly out of immigration who still have a strong attachment with their ancestral home, and finally, its youth is more in tune with Coupe decale than Francis Cabrel. This National debate has more to do with rekindling or implanting French Patriotism in a generation that has finally reconnected with its roots. This debate is secretly generated by the fear that what France has done to others is finally happening to them. The debate has absolutely nothing to do with National unity, integration or assimilation. To justify the debate, Sarkozy said a few things that are equally offensive than they are ignorant:

The peoples of Europe are welcoming and tolerant: it’s in their nature and in their culture. But they don’t want their way of life, their mode of thinking and their social relations distorted.

I assume Mr. Sarkozy that the people of Africa were so intolerant and unwelcoming that they saw the eve of Colonization coming to them. Maybe you think that the peoples of Africa absolutely do not care about their way of life and mode of thinking, which is why you claim in Dakar that they have yet to enter modernity. Naturally you must think that we were eager to learn French, embrace a culture that rejects family values, desecrate marriage, and has to put everything in writing because its word cannot be trusted, lie to gain, tortures other human beings, and has no problem disrupting the social structure of others for the sake of a few gallons of oil. Yes, Sarko, we don’t mind having our way of life, mode of thinking and social relations distorted, it however did happen and still does, and you are a player in it; So unless you are willing to repair those wrongs, please do not complain, it is fair game.

“France is a nation of tolerance and respect, but it also asks to be respected,” Sarkozy told farmers in southeastern France earlier this month. One cannot reap the advantages of living in France “without respecting any of its laws, any of its values, any of its principles.”

I suppose Mr. Sarkozy that France respected the people of Africa when it established Françafrique, I assume it tolerated them when it set up massive deportations where Airplanes were a modern version of slave boats. I suppose we, Africans never asked to be respected, which is why you had no problem interfering in our affairs, corrupting our leaders, abusing our natural resources and forcing our people to live in unbearable condition while on your soil, when yours live like emperors on ours. Maybe it is OK for French mercenaries and politicians to bend national rules to reap the benefits of our natural resources without respecting our laws. I concur that you are in favor of your many perverted citizens who find it principled and valuable to sexually abuse, and traffic our youth, fostering prostitution and disseminating diseases with the knowledge that medical care are not always available. Maybe this is what you call advantages.

How would Sarkozy dare to compare our values when Lilian Thuram and Patrick Viera were criticized by Sarkozy and his colleagues for finding human enough for them to offer Football tickets to undocumented immigrants who had endured so much in their journey for a better life; No, Sarkozy thinks it is much better to travel to Chad and free some nurses who were smuggling African kids by hundred outside of their home country. I guess child Trafficking is one of the value Sarkozy does not want to see distorted.

Of course Mr. Sarkozy is not alone, since other members of his cabal are willing to follow in his missteps: In future an immigrant arriving in Germany and wishing to stay may have to sign an “integration contract”. That is the idea of the Integration Minister, Maria Boehmer. The contract would set out basic German “values,” including “freedom of speech” and “equal rights for women”. The idea behind this is the club: if you join you have to accept the rules. “Anyone who wants to live here for a long time,” says the minister, “and who wants to work has to say ‘yes’ to our country”.

Did Africans said yes when you forced millions of them to relocate in Europe? Did African said yes when you destroyed their economies forcing them to go in foreign places so they could make a living? Did Africans said yes to a relationship with the West that is one-sided? Did Europe say Yes when we asked for equal trade? Did you say yes when we attempted to set the prices of our own products? Dumping, globalization, Tariffs, did we say yes to all that as well?

For generations, France and others have meddled in African affairs, disrupting societies, values and structure. They have imposed their way of life, and government. They have created the conditions that triggered a massive brain drain they benefited from. They have compelled immigrants to live in Europe yet, still retain their African culture. Now that they witness the strength and the resolve of that culture, they are afraid; now that they see that young immigrant’s heroes are issued from their own neighbourhood, they are concerned. Andre Valentin, mayor of a little city in France said during the national debate that took place in what some may refer as a town hall: We have to be very careful, and act, because if we don’t, we are going to be swallowed.

The truth is that they are going to be swallowed, but it is the French culture of old that is going to be swallowed. It is the French culture that was keen to penetrate other cultures, and stupidly believed that it would not have a counter-effect that will be swallowed. As Hama Tuma said:

France does not know itself really. There was a time it considered itself an Empire, an era that ended after Vietnam and Algeria, though someone has forgotten to tell France that, and thus it continues to strut as a big Empire with tin pot dictators of small countries in Africa fawning over or under it in a Françafrique that is as laughable as the British Commonwealth.

The Empire syndrome gives an obsession with History and the need to mould others into one’s will or under one’s rule and diktat. Furthermore, France has suffered many humiliations (1870, 1940, etc) but it has refused to accept or acknowledge this heavy weight of history and pretends all is well in its pursuit of grandeur.

Arguably, the distance that existed between Francophone and Anglophone in Africa, and was often attributed to a language barrier, was equally inherited by the petty rivalry between France and England, and was passed on when imposed to us. Those distances are being broken everyday, as Africans understand that they have more in common between themselves than with France or England.

There is only one concern the Africans must have, and that is if the struggle for equality generates a greater interest than it should in this debate from African immigrants in France. If immigrants see in this debate their last chance to be full fledged French; some may jump into it too fast and with both feet. If that happens, France would reach its goal, and as Jean-Marie Lepen’s daughter Marine advocates, “Forcing the immigrant to choose a nationality.” For their sake, African immigrants should resist the urge to place too greater value on their French nationality at the expense of their African origin, because France banks on that to recreate the petit-Bourgeois who once roamed African Colonial elite protectorates. Chinweizu recalls in his classic book “the west and the Rest of us”, that the British have already played with those technical distinctions that are reminiscent of what is at stake with this national debate:

“The colonies were technically British territory; the protectorates were technically African territories under British protection.(…)The people in the colonies could demand the rights of British citizens, whereas the people of protectorates could not…obligations of British citizenship could be imposed upon the colonials but not on the protected persons (…)The impact of Colonization of the protectorates was to force African nationalists to choose between an Anti-colonialism aimed at liberation from imperialism and at the restoration of sovereignty to African protectorates, and an alternative anti-colonialism aimed at reforming the despotic manners of foreign rule and at winning civil liberties for African subjects of the European empires (…) By demanding civil liberties available in the empires, African would be tacitly accepting their forced inclusion within them. They would be acquiescing in their assimilation by European empires, cultures, histories and Traditions. And the most they could expect to attain, as people or a territory, would be dominion or local autonomy within the empires, not sovereignty outside them. Those who rightly saw the goals of African anti-colonialism as the overthrow of alien rule, the return of political sovereignty to the peoples of the continent, and a return of Africa to her own cultural and historical stream, were disturbed at such an insidious opportunities opened up by the colonization of the protectorates. Legal adoption and cultural assimilation by Europe was not the proper goal of African anti-colonialism. An ameliorated but indefinite colonization was not a prospect to choose over initiatives of restored sovereignty.”

If we substitute Territory with Identity, and sovereignty with dignity, we have a clearer picture of what this national debate can do; it can back into a corner African immigrants, and require them to “assimilate” or embrace French culture as the government sees it fit. By doing so, as assimilated French they may be under the pressure to adhere to France’s policies, and action in Africa. In the same process, they will be forced to choose between their new home and their roots. France would love more than anything to see African immigrants reject their culture and fully embrace a French identity; this is politically logical and helpful, thus dangerous. Hama Tuma again reminds us that:

The identity crisis that has struck France has thrown it into a contradiction in which it considers islands inhabited by dark skinned fellows as its overseas territories and the people as French at the same time, as it yearns feverishly to keep its basically white identity.

The Kenyans had an attorney general called Charles Njonjo who believed he was British and looked down upon his countrymen. For a while, Idi Amin imagined he was a Scot. Emperor Bokassa called De Gaulle Papa and took himself as French. Some Arabs think they are white and discriminate against Black Africans while in Ethiopia, the birthplace of human kind, the people think they are the one and only chosen people. Delusions and illusions over identity, a mess into which the argument seeking French want to wade in.

I can empathize with France, losing one identity is not a jolly experience, and seeing one’s culture erode is a painful experience, but instead of blaming the immigrants, shouldn’t France learn from them? After all, they have done the same thing to them.

When someone kills another human being, it is called homicide; when it is an entire nation that is killed, it is called genocide. When one country is taken by force, plundered and abused, it used to be called an Invasion, now it is called Intervention. When it is half a continent that is taken by force, abused and plundered, it used to be called Colonization, now it is just called Françafrique.

Things change, and France has to deal with it. This national debate will not produce any fruits because its timing is poor, its intention are wrong, and its ambition is plain dangerous.

France claim that this debate is to fight discrimination; discrimination is fought by exchange and understanding, not by forced integration. France also claim that the debate is to help immigrants assimilate, they already did, they have assimilated the French Culture into their African background; now it is time for the French to assimilate the African culture into the French background. When two nations meet, a cultural exchange is bound to happen. France is the one who forced the meeting, now if they want to understand the exchange; they are the one who need to review their history, not the immigrants. A look at the contribution of Immigrants to France history is in order to understand not what it means to be French, but what France has become. Emmanuelle Saada, a sociologist and historian at Columbia University and France’s Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales said ” I am amazed at this debate. It’s a political event (and) doesn’t represent any deep need in society; National identity is not up to us to establish as a norm for us to conform to. National identity just happens…. In a big sense, it is outside our control.” And, she adds, “It’s not for any government to decide.”

For many French citizen who were either born in France or were naturalized France, this debate is bitter sweet, because on one side, it may offer an opportunity to revindicate their rights to be french, but on the other side, it seems to penalize them for a part of their history they had no control in; as many of them are quick to defend their African ancestry and the circumstances that forces them and their descendant, both Africans and French to seek a better life in France. They will remind France that they did not ask to be colonized by France, France, came to them. France imposed its languages, values and morals to Africans.

At some point it was even forbidden for Africans to speak their national languages. They (France) used Africans in their different wars ( W1,WW2,Indochina…). The current immigrants parents, grandparents died for “LA PATRIE”.

France even requisitioned cows,chickens, eggs, rice and what not for what they called “effort de guerre”; furthermore, Some of the survivors, in the case of the 2nd world war, were even killed by the same French army they fought for just for asking their money after the war (CAMP THIAROYE). The survivors of WW2 are only receiving a quarter of their pension compared to their french counterpart. President Chirac was supposed to repair that injustice but did not,we do not know if Sarkozy did…

After the 2nd World War, France is the One who called on Africans to rebuild Paris…This is how the first big waves of Africans whether from the West, Center or North arrived in France. Once again they took Africans, used them, and parked them in those ghettos that they call “cites”. They never thought about the future, they never thought that those people to whom they gave permission to bring their wives would have kids that could or would stay in France… All of the sudden they want all of them to disappear from the French soil.

As long as those people would not feel integrated, meaning respected and non discriminated, things like booing the national anthems are nothing compared to what could happen in the coming years.

You can not expect for somebody who was born from foreign parents or in a country other than France to fully embrace the French culture and totally reject his or her values and cultures. Integration is a two-way process you give and receive at the same time.

That is one thing American people understood and why this nation is what it is. English, Italians, Irish, Mexicans, Caribbean,Africans, Asians all contributed to this country because they felt fully integrated. At the same time they embraced for most of them the “American way of life”.

The French governing elite has to be very careful with this kind of identity debate because it is very dangerous. We all know what the policy of “Ivoirite” led to in Cote d’Ivoire for example. That is the same kind of mentality that – when pushed to the extreme – led to Nazism and other fascism in Europe.
We have no choice but to live together so it would better for everybody to take, learn and share cultures with the “other”.

That fear of being “swamped” by the “other” is a nonsense nowadays as the world is now a small village as we are so mixed and interconnected.

For any country that has a strong culture, this conclusion is not hard to understand. If France understands what a National Identity is, they will realize that they do not need a National Debate…au contraire.