July 2012


In the course of more than ten years, through his writings and varied forms of contacts, I have come to know Dr. George B N Ayittey as the preeminent pan-Africanist who has got a finger on the pulse of what ails Africa today.

 Dr. Ayittey is not “an ultra-right wing economist”, nor has he advocated that “Africa should be re-colonized”. To foster these notions; and to argumentum ad hominem, attack the impeccable person of such a distinguished African, even if buttressed by perhaps a bogus erstwhile so-called “friend of Africa”, is as very despicable as it is devoid of enlightened culture.

 Dr. George B N Ayittey is a Distinguished Economist in Residence in the Department of Economics at American University. In 2009, Dr. Ayittey was named a “Top Global Thinker” by Foreign Policy – the global magazine of economics, politics, and ideas. He is President Obama’s Advisor on Africa. He “was one of the architects of the nonviolent democratic change in Ghana in 2000 and takes pride in the fact that Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country visited by President Barack Obama in July 2009.” He has authored many books on Africa including, Africa Unchained, Africa in Chaos, and Africa Betrayed, for which he received the H L Mencken Best Book Award.

 In his recent book, Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyrants in Africa and Around the World (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011), this “leading voice in the African political debate looks at why the continent is so prone to dictatorships and what Africans need to do to establish democracy”. “In this timely and urgent narrative” in which he takes “a hard look at the fight against dictatorships around the world, from Eastern Europe in the twentieth century to the present turmoil in the Middle East”, Dr. Ayittey can hardly be construed as “an ultra-right wing economist” or political ideologue.

 Dr. Ayittey is a world renowned scholar, internationally regarded as the foremost authority on Africa. His ideas, expertise, and advice are sought after by world leaders and governments. He has participated on many panel discussions and debates all over the world on Africa affairs. He has appeared as a panelist on a Senate of Canada Committee on CIDA, vis-à-vis, Africa.

Yes, Dr. Ayittey has written extensively, articles for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Times of London, to name but a few. He has routinely made appearances on various news media magazines like, ABC’s Nightline, PBS News Hour, and CNN. In these, no sane person would conceptualize his views and opinions as espousal of “an ultra-right wing” agenda.

 Unabashedly, I own to the fact as to the large extent Dr. Ayittey’s views, opinions, and writings instruct and affirm the trajectory of my views about what is wrong with Africa – the most richly endowed continent on the face of the earth, yet inexorably mired in steaming squalor, misery, deprivation, chaos, and in the throes of a seemingly incurable crisis.

 The problem of Africa is very well articulated in his book, Africa in Chaos, from which this quotation spoke loudly to me:

“’Government’ as it is known in the West, does not exist in much of Africa. Leaving aside the democratic requirement that a government must be by the people and for the people, one expects at a minimum a ‘government’ to be responsive to the needs of the people or, at least, to perform some services for its people. But even this most basic requirement for ‘government’ is lacking in Africa. ‘Government’ as an entity is totally divorced from the people, perceived by those running it as a vehicle not to serve but to fleece the people.”

Unless one is an ostrich that buries its head in the sand, stating this fact that is very well known to every African in the Diaspora can hardly be construed as “ultra-right wing” ideology.

 In his newest book, Defeating Dictator … , Dr. Ayittey refuted French President Jacques Chirac’s assertion that “Africa is not yet mature enough for Western style democracy”, and held “such misconceptions, resulting from mythology and false assumptions” as the principal reason why “Western policies and foreign aid programs have failed miserably after costing hundreds of billions of dollars” to their tax payers. He, Dr. Ayittey, grants that “the intentions of the policies and programs might have been laudable, but it is absurd to seek to help a people one doesn’t understand.” Now, does this stance depict the belief system of one who comes from “the conservative / right wing school of thought” that espouses a neo-colonial agenda that “Africa should be re-colonized”?

 Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwuma-Eze Obiajunwa                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

  (At issue below)

Folks:

Dr. George Ayittey is an ultra right wing economist and most of writings, be they on economics, politics, leadership, governance, foreign affairs, etc. of any African country are tilted to please the minds of the right wings in the western democracies who seldom, see anything good from or about African countries.

We were both on the same floor of the building (Fletcher Argue Building) that housed our Departments in the early eighties at the University of Manitoba. He, a Ph.D. student and me, doing my first Master⒠s Degree. Dr. Ayittey is a very bright fellow. But his ultra right wings views did not seat well with his doctoral thesis supervisor in the University of Manitoba. The supervisor himself being of the liberal economics school of thought and a sympathiser for Africa who sees its economic and political woes as originated from western colonialism and imperialism. George came close to not successfully finishing his Ph.D. Degree in economics because of that lack in the meeting of minds between him and his supervisor, Dr. Loxley, a friend of Africa. But George being the tough minded man he is, he weathered the odds and problems and got his Ph.D.

Each time I have read him lambast African leaders and or African socio-political and economic systems, I feel not surprised. If you look at most of the Foundations he has worked for in the USA, all are of the conservative/right wing school of thoughts; some that believe perhaps, African should be re-colonized. But in most of his writings on lack of effective political and economic leadership and mismanagement of resources in Africa, if you read him very objectively, he does make sense most of the time.

Don⒠t see his ⒠Get Rid of Jonathan Now⒠ as an act of a meddlesome Ghanaian interloper who should mind his business or that of Ghana. He is not in the good books of past and present political and business leaders in Ghana, either. There was a time visiting Ghana was not in his best interest, safety wise because of his writings that embarrassed the political leadership in his country. He sees other African countries and leaders from the same purview. Left alone and empowered, he will use his ⒠Machete aka Cutlass⒠ and chase away all former and present crop of political leaders in Africa.

In my view Dr. George Ayittey is an ultra right wing scholar; albeit, a brilliant one. You don⒠t have to agree with his views to respect him.

Cheers.

Mazi KC Prince Asagwara

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I couldn’t agree with you more. Sir Richard Branson’s indictment of the prevailing business culture in Nigeria, taken together with the pervading insecurities, mock the Government’s much-talked-about drive to attract “foreign direct investment”, and from the Diaspora.

 

It goes without saying that a business culture such as Nigeria’s, as experienced by Sir Richard in his eleven years of failed business sojourn in Nigeria, will only continue to be attractive to “the crooked (foreign investors)” mostly from China and India; and the callously rapacious multi-national oil companies.

 

Apart from the fact that these two groups of foreign investors “don’t care about corporate responsibility” as they voraciously line their corporate pockets “off of the sweat (and natural resources) of hapless Nigerians; the one group routinely denies employment to Nigerians in preference to own nationals; the other wantonly and devastatingly degrade the environment and decimate livelihood of the people, with the government’s tacit acquiescence.

 

Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwuma-Eze Obiajunwa       

 

“dAme jOo”

Branson’s negative business experience in Nigeria is rather unfortunate.
It appears the only foreigners thriving in the Nigerian business
environment are mostly the crooked ones; who don’t care about corporate
responsibility and who simply want to make a quick buck off of the sweat of
hapless Nigerians. Some of the Chinese and Indian “investors” in the
Country take the lead in this regard.

Our officials lack the patience for the typical gestational period of a
business investment. Instead, they prefer money-doubling (quick return on
investment- at 100% ROI), the kind they get through oil blocks or
embezzling the common wealth.
Instead of creating a more viable business environment for corporate
Nigeria and foreign investors, the government continues with the ‘business
as usual” mentality. And the same government claims to spend a lot of time
and resources seeking foreign direct investment, while failing to encourage
local/diaspora investors and small business owners in the Country.
Nigeria has a long way to go with the culture of greed firmly practiced by
the (s)elected officials and their acolytes.

Saludos,
jOo

RICHARD BRANSON VERDICT ON DOING BUSINESS IN NIGERIA

Richard Branson the chairman of Virgin Atlantic alluded to a number of issue
bordering on doing business in Nigeria:
“…we have virgin’s ill-fated footsteps by setting up a new airline in
Africa in conjunction with Nigerian government…the details of the doomed
attempts to crack the Nigerian market in the 2000s is better imagined…we
put …together a very good airline-the first airline in West Africa that
was ever IOSA/IATA operational safety audit accredited but unfortunately it
got tied down to the politics of the country…we led the airlines for
11years…we fought daily battle against government agents who wanted to
daily make fortune from us, politicians who saw the government 49% as a meal
to seek for all kinds of favour…watchdogs(regulatory body) that didn’t
know what to do and persistently asking for bribes at any point…Nigeria
people are generally nice but the politicians are very insane…that may be
irony because the people make up the politicians…but those politicians are
selfish…we did make N3billion for the federal government of Nigeria during
the joint venture…realising that the government didn’t bring nothing to
the table/partnership except dubious debts by the previous carrier, Nigeria
Airways…The joint venture should have been the biggest African carrier by
now if the partnership was allowed to grow, but the politicians KILLED it..
Nigeria is a country we SHALL NEVER consider to doing business again..”.

Mr. High Commissioner Designate:

Suffice it to say that “the taste of the pudding is in the eating”. I am nonetheless heartened that “under” your “watch”, “a Fortress Mission” will be a thing of the past.

In my 37 years of sojourn in Canada, I have seen many Missions come and go. Invariably, my personal experience has been one of frustration with Missions nonchalant and unresponsive to the needs of Nigerians; Missions that hitherto have been impervious to acculturation, but have been bent on the old “Dominant Nigerian Narrative”. I am earnestly looking forward to the “paradigm shift in favour of a New Dominant Nigerian Narrative that” here-to-with you have promised.

Canada is a very vast country with the second largest land mass in the world after Russia. The East is very far removed from the West by a distance in excess of four thousand kilometers. With the perennial and perpetual economic boom in the West, the population of Canada is preponderantly moving west, and so are Nigerian-Canadians, as well as Nigerians migrating newly and daily into Canada. In your bid to serve Nigerians in the Diaspora better, would it be in the realms of possibility for you to make a representation to the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to set up a Consulate in either Edmonton, or Calgary, Alberta?

Mr. High Commissioner Designate, you sound like a breath of fresh air; and I wish you the very best in your Mission to Canada.

Dr. Chukwuemeka Chukwuma-Eze Obiajunwa

(The text of his letter to Nigerians in Canada)

“Ojo Maduekwe, CFR”

While I sincerely respect the concerns of Professor Abba and hereby use this opportunity to congratulate and wish all our Muslim brothers and sisters Happy Ramadan I couldn’t agree more with Professor Ed Onyebuchi on the encouraging intervention on the issue of my Deputy High Commissioner who has gone ahead of me to prepare for my arrival next week.Let me assure Prof Abba and the wonderful fascinating Nigerian community in Canada that building on the excellent foundations which our worthy predecessors have established my team in Ottawa are determined to serve and serve our people.That is President Jonathan’s mandate to us.Speaking personally it would be much better if I ended my long public career as Foreign Minister of my country than to accept any further role especially a foreign posting if I did not see an extraordinary opportunity to make a big difference in a measurable way especially in respect of our current assignment in Canada .Let me also be on public record to say as former boss of Ambassador Onianwa at Headquarters when I was Minister ,by cross posting the new DHC from the much coveted position of Deputy Permanent Representative at Nigerian Mission to UN in Geneva ,the current Foreign Minister made a very profound strategic decision to deploy to Ottawa one of Nigeria’s finest career diplomats .I ought to know ,because I headed that Ministry for 3 eventful years.Let me also add in the spirit of Ramadan that our nation is privileged to have within its borders the witness of two of the world’s greatest historical religions that are distinguished by a common trajectory of faith traceable to Abraham ,the father of all who believe.Even modern science has come up with irrefutable evidence that we become what we believe .And so ,as we understandably deal with the pain of our past failures as a nation especially that of we the elite(both political and non political )it will be more consistent with our faith traditions to see Nigeria with the eyes of faith as more of a glass half full than half empty..My team are in Ottawa to serve you through honest and creative leadership that will amount to a paradigm shift in favour of a New Dominant Nigerian Narrative that routinely affirms and reaffirms our infinite possibilities .What better Diaspora to use as the take off for this new vista than those of the “True North Strong and Free! ” Can’t wait to see you guys in Ottawa next week! In the meantime give my highly talented Deputy and the entire team in Ottawa awaiting my arrival all the support.They deserve it ,just as you deserve their unrelenting and unconditional dedication. Under my watch we will not be a Fortress Mission.We will be a Mission for all Nigerians.The only justification for being there at cost to the Nigerian Taxpayer is to serve you!Take the risk of believing us!