ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
I agree with Chinweizu when like him, I designated imperialism
as the metaphysics of exploitation, which never gets its fangs off
the bleeding flesh of its victim. Chinweizu and Walter Rodney
(How Europe Underdeveloped Africa) were right
Books by Chinweizu
* * * * *
Explaining the African Predicament
A Letter to Chinweizu and Rudy
By Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh
Dear Chinweizu and Dear Rudy,
I am humbled that my work excites commentary from both of you; an authority I revere and a genius I admire. Chinweizu awoke me from my intellectual childhood with his seminal work and what I characterize as his Opus Magnus; The West and the Rest of Us. He went further to purchase my eternal respect with Anatomy of Female Power. Both of which are Vade mecum for me till today. Rudy caught my admiration with the variety of authorities he is able to bring together under one umbrella. ChickenBones is a conception native to genius. I salute both of you! You have earned my respects and that of all right thinking men of goodwill! May your inkwells and fountain of ideas never run dry!
Your debate and the seemingly radically opposed positions that both of you are towing is simply a testament to the genius of the participants. I cannot lay claim to your kind of genius or competence, but I wish to intervene in your debate with a mediation. I am an Emmanuel but not a Kant. Igbo lingual metaphysics has it that when two elephants fight, the grasses suffer! But if I am in the company of the grasses that hosts your fight, I would apply to debate this proverb. As both of you examine the positions I took in my last article Nigeria: The Making of a Failed State? in order to buttress your stands, against each other, I am not suffering like the grasses would. I am rather humbled.
Borrowing from Patrick Henry, I wish to say that No man thinks more highly than I do of the abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who are debating the causes of the Nigerian, nay African predicament in forum. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope that it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.
In the light of this, and with profoundest respects, I wish to state that both of you are taking extreme positions. And extreme positions have this uncanny character of evolving into some narrow insularity, which blinds itself to other equally potent forces at play in the evolution and sustenance of the African predicament as made manifest in Nigeria. But we must always bear in mind that reality is a very complex thing. And attempts at explaining a reality like the African predicament from a mono-factoral angle, embezzles a whole range of other equally potent factors at play in the evolution and/consolidation of the African predicament, which Nigeria is a terrible example.
I am of the opinion that no mono-factoral explanation can adequately suffice as the explanation of the Nigerian political predicament. Nigeria and Africa the way it is today is a product of a conglomeration of retrogressive factors. This implies that both of you are right in your contentions, and wrong at the same time by holding that as the only explanation. Both of your ideas and standpoints are right in that they constitute a part of what causes the Nigerian problematic. But since a part cannot be the whole, your assumption of your points as the only explanations to the problems is notoriously inadequate to account for a wide variety of issues that faces one, when the Nigerian predicament is on the table of discourse. It is like blind men of Hindustan, who went to visit an elephant and each ended up thinking that the part of the elephant he is able to touch or feel is the whole elephant.
This multi-factoral explanation is what my body of work has essayed to show. I essayed in the following works to address the causes of the African and Nigerian predicament:
1. The Scandal of African Poverty (http://www.globalpolitician.com/2966-africa-poverty)
2. Africa: The Ontology of Failed States (http://www.dawodu.com/ogbunwezeh1);
3. The Evolution of Hoax (http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2004/feb/271l)
4. African Poverty as failure of leadership (http://www.globalpolitician.com/21748-africa-poverty)
I agree with Chinweizu when like him, I designated imperialism as the metaphysics of exploitation, which never gets its fangs off the bleeding flesh of its victim. Chinweizu and Walter Rodney (How Europe Underdeveloped Africa) were right here on the money that neo-colonial power centres never granted Africa independence. Contemporary works like Jeffrey Sachs The End of Poverty, Joseph Stiglitz Globalization and its Discontents, John Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hit-man, Noam Chomskys classic pieces, and Karl Maiers This House Has Fallen all lend credence to this. They are all testaments to the fact that neo-colonial power centres are not sleeping in their avid desire to exploit Africa unto extinction.
The war over Coltan in Congo today financed by Western trans-national companies and their surrogates is a direct instance of where the voice was Jacobs and the hand Esaus in explaining the African predicament. Chinua Achebe in The trouble with Nigeria laid the origin of Nigerias political problems at the door steps of the colonial masters, whose neo-colonial designs ensured that at the pre-independence elections of 1959, that the elections were rigged as to engineer and concentrate power in the hands of the conservative elements, who would ensure that Nigeria would remain perpetually a colony in everything but name. Odumegwu Ojukwu in Because I am involved equally towed the same line, when he saw Nigeria as replacing white imperialism, with white imperialism in black skin at independence.
That neo-colonial power centres would never let Africa and the rest of the world become truly independent is exemplified in the brutal death of Patrice Lumumba at the hands of the CIA and their Belgian surrogates, using Mobutu as the hatchet man. They couldnt endure Africa escaping their exploitative grips; which Lumumbas ascent to power would have signified. In Lumumbas stead, they propped Mobutu up, as he auctioned off his land to the combination of his greed and American strategic interests. Most of the coups in Africa are thanks to the result of these guys not comfortable with any semblance of the rise of progressive elements on African power centres. They prefer their own stooges to any progressive movement that threatens the inglorious status quo sustained by neo-colonial intrigues and military and economic arm-twisting.
On this score Chinweizu is correct.
Rudy is correct in that African leadership and politicians are major furniture of the African predicament. This is because they have raped their lands in obeisance to their vaulting greed. They are to blame to the greatest extent of that construction because no amount of bribery or intimidation can make a child rape his mother in good conscience. But African politicians are incestuous kids, who are willing to rape their nations for fun and for the lewd enjoyment of their avarice. African politicians qualify to bear that vulgar slang that pedestrian America reserves for ner-do wells. That word is MOTHER-FUCKER. This word is so lewd that I have never used it in print save for now. Anybody who rapes his mother is qualified for the appellation: motherfucker! And this is what African politicians are. They have raped their lands in obedience to the various gods in the amphitheatres of their greed and cowardice.
Leaders are those who should look intimidations and bribery in eyes and refuse to betray their convictions. This is the mould that men like Nelson Mandela are cast in. Years of threats, intimidation, blackmail, bribery could not break his spirit or make him abandon his struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. He held firm and was ready to die instead of living in slavery. Leaders are men like Patrick Henry who would ask and say: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death! And Africa has had a few of those leaders who are able to choose death instead of betraying the liberty of their lands and people.
On this score in relation to Nigeria, I agree with Rudy.
But I crave that none of these positions on its own is potent enough as an explanation of the African predicament. I anticipated and reconciled both viewpoints in Africa: The Ontology of Failed States, where I wrote as follows:
The African continent is littered with failed states. Most of these states are economic backwaters, social apologies and political ruins. This landscape runs from the Casablanca to the Cape Town and from The Horn of Africa in the East to the Island of No Return in the West Atlantic. Most of these states true to type were the creatures of imperial convenience. To that end, they were meant to serve a purpose after which their ontological legitimacy or raison d’ etre would then expire. At this expiration; the states, naturally not designed for self-propulsion; were condemned to tether on the brink, and finally implode upon the inglorious weight of their inherent contradictions. Colonialism designed and inspired the problems.
But the decadence was then driven along by a horde of native pirates; trained in the fine art of piracy. These set of political actors were rogues personalities, weaned on selfishness. They were brilliant students of kleptocracy and political perversity. In about four decades they completely outclassed colonial perfidy and bested them in thievery. They did an inglorious job of mismanaging Africa, so much so that she is today the laughing stock of the world. The advent of the White man was tsunamic for Africa. Chinua Achebe captured this well: Things fell apart! Africa and her centre could no longer hold. She became embroiled in a dynamic, which would change her structure, her culture and her future forever. The former league of tribes coagulated into pseudo-states, at the instance of colonialism. Strange bedfellows became fellow citizens over night. Consanguinal relatives find themselves facing each other as citizens of different countries. The African psyche was ripped apart. The changes were too radical, as his culture was demonized and labelled as inferior. He had to forfeit his language in so many cases. He was equated to dogs, when he seeks admittance into drinking parlours because dogs are not admitted. There arose a miseducation on the socio-cultural level, which as was well articulated by Chinweizu, deformed the collective African psyche from which it is yet to recover. To carve up Africa, drawing boards were built in 1885 Berlin. Africa was scrambled up among the occupying powers. The aim was to ensure each power an unimpeded and unmonitored freedom to loot as much as they could in their area of influence. The Belgian-Congo became an abattoir, where King Leopold’s polymorphous perversity, sought and obtained unrestrained ventilation. For the sake of rubber, Leopold’s men sacked villages, decimated cultures, and harvested a pyramid of chopped hands, in an orgy of brutality, unmatched even by Hitler’s men. Congo bled, and haemorrhaged her resources into Belgian coffers. The Germans tried the annihilation tactics on the Herero of Namibia. British piratical treachery blossomed in Nigeria and her other territories. All in Europe, Africa bled, so that Europe could have a river of wealth flowing through her. To effectively continue this when their various suns must have set, they created states; which were simply neo-colonial dependencies. And to run these states, they mass-produced a semi-literate, middle-class of yes-men, to complement the paucity of men they have on the ground. This crop of creatures became the collaborative vehicle of colonial exploitation. Hatred for them, which was a rampant phenomenon, sometimes took deadly proportions, as was mirrored in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, where Okonkwo had to kill a court messenger, to vent his anger on an invading establishment that has despoiled the land of his fathers, and insulted his culture. Almost all the Modern states in Africa today were built on political ontologies, oozing from this engineered political metaphysic. The people never dialogued their differences as a basis for federating. They never talked to each other about a political union. They woke up one morning, and saw themselves conscripted into geopolitical constructs they neither chose nor bargained for. For the natives, it was a bazaar of unfunny jokes, and for the colonial officers; a duty for country and queen. African states were created to facilitate and ease the efficiency of rapid colonial exploitation. That was their raison d’etre. They were never designed to be independent, or cease being a source of cheap raw materials, and slave labour for colonial industries. They were equally meant to be a cheap market to cushion the inflationary effects of mechanised mass production. The colony was a laboratory of caprice. Every socio-economic, geopolitical or cultural hypothesis was subjected to clinical trials on the hapless colonies. This accounts for the fact, that every discredited socio-political, economic or eugenic theory was once tried out in Africa.
Every failed social edifice translates into a jungle. The core operative principle across its embrace perfectly mimics that native to the forest of unreason. For us to appreciate the dangers posed by a failed social construct, we must apprise ourselves of the transactions obtainable in the markets of a jungle. A jungle is an amorphous piece of territory governed by anarchy. In this arena, survival is of the fittest, while the operative principle anchors on the currency of “Might” is “Right”. In every jungle, law and order are alien concepts. The Orwellian principle of “some animals, being more equal than others” abundantly holds sway in this dark world of inchoate randomness. In a jungle, nothing is predictable. The only constant in this huge stew pot of irreconcilable variables is lawlessness.
Any participant in this concourse of crudity who is able to carve out a territory for his whims by the agency of raw and naked might, positions himself to intimidate the lesser mortals within his vicinity, with threats and abundance of fear. Peace here is only a calm pond with a subterranean current of turbulence and dissensions boiling like volcanic lava underneath. It is no peace, as the least excuse is utilized to ventilate the suppressed angst of the oppressed powerless. Stability is absent as anybody who has the power is allowed to prey on those who are unfortunate to be powerless around him.
He is obliged to feed on them without qualms. Violent death is a norm as fear rules. The only semblance of order is that predicated on a balance of terror. Every one here by necessity sleeps with one eye open, if not for anything to be conscious enough as to take flight before the predator floors him or to be a conscious witness to the onslaught on him; or to be in a position to negotiate an escape from the grip of those who have the power to do him in. This was the Hobessian state of nature where the fear of violent death paralysed development, rendered life nasty, brutish and short. In the jungle there exists no common weal, public good, or social service. Every animal in this arrangement strives to survive. Survival is the word. The weak are crushed and eaten out of existence by the stronger predators. Every one consults the instincts of survival in all transactional situations. Joy here is of the instinctual order, while Love is fundamentally absent. Self survival commands procreation, and the offspring commences his own independent struggle for survival the moment it arrives. In a society that has degenerated into a jungle, all these features are activated, enabled and are abundantly obtainable.
In Nigeria for example, law and order exists only in the statute books; reminiscent of the jungle. The only law is survival. The stronger individuals swallow up the weaker ones. The rich get richer by gobbling up what belongs to all, while the poor are further impoverished into powerlessness. In this kind of social situation, individuals make their own laws, interpret and implement them according to the dictates of their caprice. This is a situation where a man for example could get up, equip a private army drawn from the National Police, and kidnap a democratically elected Governor, in a brazen contravention of the ground norms of the country; and yet he is feted by the powers that be. This is a situation where anyone who dares criticize the President, is framed-up, disgraced and sacked from office, without due process; and beaten up by armed robbers in his house.
This is a situation, where an auditor-general would sack for auditing government accounts and revealing that unrestrained corruption thrives in the presidency. And this same presidency that has lost every moral authority to talk about justice empowers a bulldog of an agency to track down his opponents, both real and imaginary and blacklist them so good, as to sabotage and compromise their political careers. Some instances later will bring these from the pinnacle of arid theorizing to the tables of normal discourse. Man engineered an escape from this primeval broth of unreason, when he hewed society and developed law and order out of this assured destructive tendencies. Reason and experience taught man that there needs to be a guarantee for the sustenance of this order. It bid him invent government as a safe bastion for the sustenance of these ideals. Government to that end arose as the last line of defence of the society from its primeval tendency to destroy itself. It equally rose to guarantee rights and responsibilities of all participants. It rose equally to foreclose forever, the possibility or the ease with which violent death lurks around every social nook and cranny. It became the bulwark against retrogressive and anti-social forces that seek to overthrow the social order by the forces of might. That was the raison d’etre of government; the common good of its subjects. In a situation, where a government fails to live up to its ontological raison d’etre, that government has really failed. That government cannot lay claims on its being overwhelmed by social forces as an excuse for its failure. This is consequent upon the fact, that it remains the Leviathan, to whom we leased some of our powers and rights; to whom we gave up most of our privileges, to enable him agglomerate and wield an influence unparalleled or unequalled by any constituent of the social order.
To this end, no excuse is admissible for any failure to act in defense of the social embrace left in its charge.
I salute you all. May the debate continue with mutual respect for each others viewpoints and in the recognition that a part cannot be the whole, but is necessary in the understanding of the whole.
* * * * *
Emmanuel Franklyne Ogbunwezeh was born in Nigeria and currently lives in Germany. He had his Bachelors in Philosophy from the Pontificial Urban University Rome. Mr. Ogbunwezeh is currently working on a Ph.D. in Social Ethics and Economics at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His book The Tragedy of a Tribe: The Grand Conspiracy Against Ndigbo and the Igbo Quest for Integration in Nigeria was published in 2004. “Shots at Immortality: Immortalizing Igbo Excellence” and “The Scandal of Poverty in Africa: Reinventing a Role for Social Ethics in Confronting the Socio-economic and Political Challenges of Africa of the Third Millennium” will be published in 2005. Additionally, Mr. Ogbunwezeh published dozens of articles in newspapers, magazines, internet sites, and trade journals.
* * * * *
Missing words have been restored and the entire novel has been repunctuated in accordance with Conrads style. The result is the first published version of Heart of Darkness that allows readers to hear Marlows voice as Conrad heard it when he wrote the story. “Backgrounds and Contexts” provides readers with a generous collection of maps and photographs that bring the Belgian Congo to life. Textual materials, topically arranged, address nineteenth-century views of imperialism and racism and include autobiographical writings by Conrad on his life in the Congo.
New to the Fourth Edition is an excerpt from Adam Hochschilds recent book, King Leopolds Ghost, as well as writings on race by Hegel, Darwin, and Galton. “Criticism” includes a wealth of new materials, including nine contemporary reviews and assessments of Conrad and Heart of Darkness [Contents] and twelve recent essays by Chinua Achebe, Peter Brooks, Daphne Erdinast-Vulcan, Edward Said, and Paul B. Armstrong, among others. Also new to this edition is a section of writings on the connections between Heart of Darkness and the film Apocalypse Now by Louis K. Greiff, Margot Norris, and Lynda J. Dryden. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.
* * * * *
By Adam Hochschild
King Leopold of Belgium, writes historian Adam Hochschild in this grim history, did not much care for his native land or his subjects, all of which he dismissed as “small country, small people.” Even so, he searched the globe to find a colony for Belgium, frantic that the scramble of other European powers for overseas dominions in Africa and Asia would leave nothing for himself or his people. When he eventually found a suitable location in what would become the Belgian Congo, later known as Zaire and now simply as Congo, Leopold set about establishing a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people, “a death toll,” Hochschild writes, “of Holocaust dimensions.”
Those who survived went to work mining ore or harvesting rubber, yielding a fortune for the Belgian king, who salted away billions of dollars in hidden bank accounts throughout the world. Hochschild’s fine book of historical inquiry, which draws heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists’ savagery, brings this little-studied episode in European and African history into new light.Gregory McNamee
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
posted 13 March 2008