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Hopes for peace in 2013

For many years now, the Economist has been publishing an edition that attempts to probe into the new year and second guess what it has in store for the world. The 2013 edition—entitled The World in 2013—makes compelling reading. Under Africa, the magazine editors invited our own finance minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, to tell the world where the continent is headed and not surprisingly she devoted the slot to saying that the economic prospect of Africa would be bright, and this in large part because the continent would deepen economic ties with the BRIC nations which would offer opportunities for private investments and inter—Africa trade. She also sees more roles for civil society groups and women in the continent’s bid to strengthen its institutions and improve governance.

Of course, this is a terse summary of her half page piece; still one cannot help but notice that hers was a skewed forecast totally ignoring the fact that the continent is in danger of reversing the gains of the more than a decade long democratization that the continent has enjoyed. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) seems unwilling to outlive its well established epithet as the eternal flashpoint of Africa which it took on since the 60s. Even with a semblance of democratic rule in place, the place once again dissolved into chaos as 2012 came to a close, with some rag tag militia seizing the rich mineral landmass at the eastern flank of that huge country. Right now some half hearted effort at peace making is going on with little hope that it will mean much to the wellbeing of the long suffering people of the DRC.

A similar scenario is being enacted in Central African Republic with rebels pitting their arms against the sit-tight administration of President Francois Bozize with the aim of unseating him. Somalia, for long a byword for chaos and instability, is threatening to spread its insecurity to Kenya and other countries on the east coast of Africa.  On the west coast, Mali replaced its growing and fledgling democracy with military rule when its northern half was overran by a marauding mob of overzealous Islamists over a year ago. Since, it has not been the same with the once proud country renown for being a repository of valuable artifact of a proud and glorious African past, which are now being laid to waste by the new overlords in the north of Mali and in the process obliterating Africa’s proud past, all in an attempt to impose their own brand of Islam, and going so far as to desecrate the tombs of long dead Islamic scholars complete with their valuable manuscripts.

But why is a rehash of all this necessary? It is because just when it was thought Africa would out grow its autocratic and dictatorial past that has blighted its development efforts, the old discredited mode of governance is proving difficult to be consigned to the dunghill of history. But more worrying is that if care is not taken this incipient destabilization trend might become infectious, drawing scores of the disaffected young men and women, tired of the misgovernment taking place on the continent to join and swell the ranks of those who have taken up arms against constituted authorities. Being usually young and therefore susceptible to indoctrination, they are taken in by the allure and romance, not to say the infamy that taking arms against one’s fatherland entails. They get recruited into an enterprise whose motive they hardly understand thereby becoming tools in a doomed and violent vocation that benefits no one, except to destroy the tenuous unifying fabric upon which these countries are built. Nigeria is currently experiencing such a situation.

The likely impact of a raging and violent campaign of the hordes of the disaffected whose early stages are seen in the various flashpoints on the continent can better be imagined. Indeed at the least it could weaken many of these countries, or worse spell the death knell of the democratic polities struggling to grow firm roots across the continent. This scenario makes Dr Ngozi’s starry eyed prosperity prognosis for 2013 overly hasty and a little unrealistic. And the Nigerian example would suffice to buttress this point. Over the past two years, what passes for governance has become grounded in the quagmire of uprooting the insurgency, which has continued to eat into a substantial part of budgetary allocation in order to surmount it, to the detriment of other important development needs.  By the government’s own admission,  the prolonged battle to quell the insurgency has made foreign investors to fight shy of bringing their much needed funds to Nigeria, resulting into ever increasing unemployment and generally poor economic performance.

It certainly would therefore be appropriate to envisage any rosy economic circumstance for Africa only after all these internal debilitating squabbles have been eliminated.  Africa and Nigeria must therefore work for the enthronement of peace on which every other endeavour depends. And it is for this same reason that every highly placed Nigerian has made it a mantra urging Nigerians high and low to give peace a chance in their New Year homily. When this is done then hopefully it would enable Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala’s economic El-dorado to be realized. This is my prayer too for Africa and Nigeria.

Super Eagles and Africa Nation’s Cup

This January another edition of the biennial football tournament would be on show in South Africa. Nigeria flunked out of the last edition hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Congo (Brazzaville) which Zambia won after beating the mighty elephants of Cote D’ivoire that had paraded a star studded team that included Didier Drogba and the Toure brothers. Stephen Keshi - at one time a respected captain of the team, manning majestically the centre half position- has been able to cobble together a squad made up of relative unknown young and largely untested talents, at least at this level of the tournament.

Determined to deflate the increasing negative attitude of the crop of older players who saunter to camp long past the scheduled time and play the boss even over the coach, Keshi has decided to give some of them the boot, knowing full well that by doing so he is staking his job as Super Eagles coach on some rookie and fresh players. That I say is a bold move that would yield dividend, if not now certainly in future. Now my hunch is that Stephen Keshi and his boys would do Nigeria proud and, like the unknown Zambians, bring home for the third time the Nation’s Cup. He should forget the vitriol and brine people are pouring on him and concentrate on training and strategy. Carry on coach, victory is certain!

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