Vol. XVII, Issue 2 (Spring 2010):Nigerian Politics and Film
 

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Gloria Emeagwali
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Table of contents

  • Editorial: Dr. Gloria Emeagwali

  • 'Diran Bepo- ' Nollywood, Literary Adaptation and Film'
  • Abimbola Adelakun - 'Derided, Misrepresented Ifa Priests tell their Stories'
  • Sule Bello - 'The enemy within: the Challenges of Managing multiculturalism in Nigeria'
  • Interview with the South African Activist, Hosea Jaffe

     

    Editorial

    The Nigerian shift from celluloid to video film, drastically reduced the cost of producing and viewing films in Nigeria. Video clubs  emerged thoughout the country, and viewers began to view the numerous productions from the safety and privacy of their homes. Nigerian films in video format continue to be produced at an astonishing rate, reflecting remarkable  creativity and  productivity. The industry in its present form is not dominated by monopolies and corporations, and small scale entrepreneurs and investors have been able to establish meaningful, and often lucrative arrangements with screen writers and directors, actors and actresses. Because of the wide disparity in the quality of video films produced, some have called for greater centralization and quality control. Others have argued against any form of government intervention, which, they argue, may hurt the industry rather than help it.

    Adediran Bepo, for his part, calls for greater interaction between the video film industry and Nigeria’s literary world, and argues that writers and filmmakers must be encouraged ‘to interact, dialogue and exchange ideas on how they can use their skills to bring about a convergence of film and literature.’ Several illuminating examples are given to buttress the point. In the course of discussion, Dr. Bepo reminds us of some of the  highlights of film production  in Nigeria.

    Abimbola Adelakun has a different, but equally relevant concern, namely, the portrayal of Ifa priests, in particular, and Traditional African Religion (Orisa), in general, in many of  Nollywood’s video films. He argues that not only is the portrayal of Ifa priests often demeaning, for the most part, according to his interviewees, but also monotonous. He suggests that screen writers should become more informed about what Ifa priests really do and change their imagery. They should not succumb to the propaganda of the dominant religions.  Sule Bello argues, in his article, that  Nigeria’s  enemies from within, in collaboration with the enemies from outside Nigeria, have subverted and denied genuine independence and democracy,   and by so doing, have subverted local empowerment and  rational use of the country’s national resources. The way forward  lies in genuine democracy and  the judicious  implementation of multiculturalism  within Nigeria.

     This issue concludes with a brief interview of Hosea Jaffe, the South African activist and historian.

             We thank the contributors for  their illuminating insights.

    Return to Table of Contents

     Nollywood, Literary Adaptation and Film

    Dr. 'Diran Ademiju-Bepo

    This article is an attempt at focusing attention on the need for the much-needed synergy between writers and filmmakers in Nigeria, or by extension, between literature and film. It is still a subject of intellectual discourse, whether adapting literary works for the screen is a worthwhile venture, or, a sheer waste of time, against the backdrop of Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest. The film version of that film was produced by Francis Oladele in 1970, as Nigeria’s first indigenous feature film. There is no doubt that our film industry is at present witnessing a vibrancy. Nigeria’s home video movie industry is now pan-African, and to say the least, trans-continental, and there is a need  to consolidate the gains by injecting a new kind of freshness. Film is a unique and potent medium of    communication, education, entertainment, information, socio-cultural engineering and economic  transformation. The overall success story of our film and video industry is nevertheless incomplete, because the producers of this audio-visual heritage have largely neglected the aspect of content, which is a very vital department in the film production chain. It is therefore imperative that a new orientation should begin, from here.

    From Words to Images: Film as an Interpretation of Literature

    The relative newness of film technology, notwithstanding, moving images have quickly become the central conveyors of narrative in today’s modern world. In fact, a close relationship has existed between the novel and film, since the beginning of the industry.  Literary expression, especially in its content, no doubt, has not only informed, and expanded film, it has equally shaped it. There are striking similarities and differences between these two media. Although the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood,  is today being celebrated, we should not be carried away by the sycophancy of those who probably do not care about the content of our products.  There  is repetition, monotony and thematic imitativeness in many but of course not all of our films. Besides, and most significantly, some of the stories and images projected by our films do not reflect us as a people. Unfortunately, film especially in the matter of content, is still seen in Nigeria as a producer’s artistic prerogative rather than a national brand that can transform a people socially, economically and culturally.  It is one art form that has broken down and is still breaking down linguistic, religious and cultural barriers.

           As a writer and a film scholar- since I do not see myself as a filmmaker- I belong to a school of thought that believes that,  for our film industry to be seriously considered as art, writers and filmmakers must be encouraged to interact, dialogue and exchange ideas on how they can use their skills to bring about a convergence of film and literature- hence this on-going dialogue.

             At the global level, film and literature now complement each other more than ever before. Adaptations now proliferate and novelizations accompany a movie’s box office success. In fact, it is estimated that about 30% of  movies in the United States and Europe derive from novels, and that about 80% of the books classified as best sellers have been adapted for the cinema. For any emerging film culture to develop, it has to increasingly look at the important role that literature can play in its development.

    Popularity versus Commercial Reality: Artistic Challenge and Social Responsibility

    Popular film, as we know, is essentially the result of applying the conventions of cinematography to the conventions of fiction and drama. Sadly, and against the present global trend, the Nigerian film has largely developed along parallel lines with literature. Even where adaptations have been attempted, they have never permeated the mass cinema audience, and at best, have been restricted to a few elitist and academic film audiences, in cultural centres and art houses.

             According to Adesanya, over the last three decades, African film and television producers have tapped literary works of both local and continental writers, for feature films and television programmes. The list includes some of Segun Olusola’s efforts on WNTV, now NTA Ibadan.  The Palmwine Drinkard, Song of a Goat, and The Trials of Brother Jero are adaptations of the dramatic works of  J.P. Clark, Wole Soyinka and the late Kola Ogunmola,  respectively. Oladele adapted his second film, Bullfrog in the Sun, from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease, novels which have won world acclaim. Meja Mwangi’s Carcass for Hounds, a novel based on the Kenyan struggle for independence, gave birth to Ola Balogun’s Cry Freedom, a pan-Africanist film. Jagua Nana’s Daughter, by the late Cyprian Ekwensi, was serialised for television by Albert Egbe; the late Isola Ogunsola’s film Efunsetan Aniwura was adapted from Akinwumi Isola’s drama of the same title, while Nigeria’s only Prime Minister, the Late Sir (Hon.) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s novel,  Shehu Umar,  was adapted by the first General Manager of the Nigerian Film Corporation, Adamu Halilu. There are other examples, too numerous to enumerate here. While it is true that the novel or drama depends on individual creation and language, and has a limited audience - because it can stay on the bookshelf for years- the film on the other hand, is a moving image that speaks a universal language through the camera, and appeals to a mass audience,  immediately. It is a different question, entirely,  how commercially successful the effort may turn out to be, but, at least, there is a sense of social responsibility on the part of the author and the filmmaker.

    Adaptation: Synergy, Positive Projection and Cultural Export

    Every medium of artistic expression has always relied, to a very large extent, on the preceding medium or tradition.  Literature therefore, provides the raw material for the filmmaker. It does not require further laboratory testing before being used. Popularity and acceptability thus become two major factors for consideration, in the commercial exploitation of the synergy between film and literature.  Adaptation is simply the ability to make something suitable for a new use, situation, etc. It is how contemporary fiction and film fulfil a continuum in our never-ending search to understand how life ought to be lived. Nigeria has witnessed very remarkable and interesting positive transformation as a nation. Regrettably our films have not sufficiently captured and projected these positive developments. Our films, in their content, should, begin to promote ideas that reinforce quality of life, national pride and consciousness; and motivate and stimulate creativity,  inspired by our transition and values,  such as respect for humanity, justice, constituted  authority,  and the dignity of labour. Our films should  celebrate  the best in our cultural heritage, democratic values, discipline, enterprise and resources of social existence, and equip our people, and by extension, the world, with the story of our exploits and achievements as a nation. Since culture is the totality of a people’s way of life, film and literature are cultural products which are very influential in the shaping of the society.

    This may sound similar to the new slogan for the Re-branding Nigeria Project, Good People, Great Nation, but it is a clarion call for Nollywood - which as we all know, came about by accident, after the glorious era of Yoruba cinema, which Okome referred to   as ‘a brief spell’ - to rise up to challenges. The literary text provides  raw material which is already tested, and stories that work, and are popular, and offers the respectability conferred on literature.

    The British Film Council has invested millions of pounds sterling in the screen adaptation of  Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, a recent novel on the Nigerian civil war. Is there any law that forbids the players of  Nollywood to consider same, or, are we too egoistic to make a positive move?

    The first generation of African and Nigerian filmmakers had a robust romance with the literary tradition, perhaps because they had strong ties with academia.  Does the dearth of such relationship today mean the death of the poet among our filmmakers? Is it that the present generation of filmmakers lacks the competence and awareness to adapt published works for the screen?  Or is it suffering from what one might refer to as acquired authorial originality deficiency syndrome? One might be tempted to ask some pertinent questions: Is there a dearth of Nigerian stories with originality? If I may ask, where are the authors? Do they owe the nation and the Nigerian people a duty to tell their stories to the whole world in a positive and creative way?

    Concluding Comments

    What the late Ousmane Sembene has done to synergize film and literature is quite commendable,  and it is hoped that Nigerian filmmakers will take a cue from him. His effort remains a signpost of Africa’s foray into the realm of screen adaptation.  The Nigerian filmmaker and writer, can cleave to each other in a symbiotic relationship that will help evolve a new art form, with a universal appeal for the masses.  There is a visually captivating style, in many literary texts, that is very suitable for the film medium. Soyinka once called on the Nigerian filmmaker to engender “an inter-mutual relationship between theatre and cinema” simply because he believed the two mediums could benefit symbiotically.

    If the television industry in Africa - which started in Ibadan with the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV), could utilise the  tele-novella’ approach to nurture a healthy growth of drama on screen -  by encouraging the adaptation of the repertoire of the Yoruba Travelling theatre -  how can one wish away the robust portfolio of NTA’s literary adaptations? Were these adaptations not  the springboard for Nollywood,  through the soaps and serials such as Cockcrow at Dawn, Checkmate, Mirror in the Sun, Ripples, Supple blues, Samanja, etc.? As I conclude, I want to slightly disagree with Adesanya that screen adaptation is more likely to favour literary texts, on the school or examination syllabi, than a favourite novel, play or poem. The widely accepted and much-criticised film Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, was an adaptation of a favourite novel. Passion of Christ  was inspired by or adapted from Biblical texts. Edward  Ossai’s  Still Born was adapted  from a novel of  the same title, authored by Zainab Alkali. There is absolutely an urgent need for synergy, for better content, wider audience reach,  and  improved commercial returns on investment. A fusion of the two media of literature and film would of course make Nollywood a global household name.

    I will end with these statements, the first from Ben Tomoloju,

    who argues that:

     Literature can be very useful to screenwriting. What is important in the case of the African movie is to utilise materials sourced from Africa to make the difference... Producers should find a way for mediation between the literary and the cinematic”.

    The second, from Sam Thomas, who aptly and optimistically reflects on the interface between literature and motion picture:

    “We look forward to a time in the very near future when screenplay will become common reading, not only in university and high school film course, but in English departments as well, alongside the novel, the stage play and poetry”.

     The statement is unambiguous.

    The third statement comes  from Femi Osofisan:

     “……. Our writers are not only good storytellers, but they have proved for the most part to be storytellers, concerned,  not primarily with material gratification, but rather, with overall well-being of the community... As a dramatist, I tell stories, just as you do; but only for the stage, and not for the screen. However, already in that magical territory of fabulation, of storytelling and myth-making, you can see where we have a meeting place...”

    WORKS CITED

    Adesanya, A. “Literature and the Nigerian Film In the Twenty-first Century”. Being a paper presented at the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Annual Conference, Kano, 2005.

    Kagho, Akpor H. “A Critical Analysis of the Film and Book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald”. Being a seminar paper for BFA 210, Film and Literature, NFI. 2007.

    Ekwuazi, H. (1991): Film in Nigeria. Nigerian Film Corporation, Jos, Nigeria. 2nd edition.

    Jide Bello. “Adaptation and Film: Literature as an Alternative Source of Nigerian Film Content”. Being a seminar paper in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the B. Tech. Degree in Industrial Design (Graphics and Motion Picture Production) 2003.

    Ademiju-Bepo, ‘D. “In My Father’s House: The Poetics of Performance and the Performance of Poetics – Femi Osofisan’s Theatre as Socio-cultural Intervention: Lessons for Nollywood”. Being a paper presented at the Professor Femi Osofisan International Conference on Performance, Ibadan Nigeria. 2008.

    Osofisan, F. Keynote Address to the 6th Lagos International Forum on Cinema, Video and Motion Picture in Africa

    Thomas, S. Introduction: An Anthology of Best American Screenplays (Vol. 2). Quoted in Tomoloju.

    Tomoloju, B. “Packaging African Movies for a Global Audience”. Colloquium on African Cinema. BobTV African Film and Television Programmes Expo. Abuja, 2008.

    Return to Table of Contents

    Derided, Misrepresented, Ifa priests tell their Stories

    By Abimbola Adelakun

    Lovers of Nigerian films will be familiar with this trend: a man or a woman who wants to harm his/her neighbour goes to an Ifa priest for help. He/she is given a charm and the evil intention most likely succeeds. The victim suffers for a while and then a Christian pastor or Islamic cleric is invited to pray for him/her.

    The victim is delivered and everybody goes home rejoicing. For good effect, the 'Babalawo' who carries out the evil is sent some spiritual missiles when prayers or a Bible/Quran is hauled in his
    direction. He slumps, dies and the power of light which Christianity/Islam represents,  is seen as having triumphed over darkness and evil which the African traditional religion is seen as representing.

    It doesn't happen the other way round - a Babalawo untying the knot that Christianity/Islam has tied.

    Over the years, this mode of thinking has cultivated a stereotype in Nigerian films. However, practitioners of African traditional
    religion are not taking matters in their stride anymore. In their own little way, they are set to contend with the insidious stereotypes that have been built about the African traditional religion by practitioners of the more dominant religions.

    Babalawos who feature in films are already towing this path. One of them is Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon, the popular Ifa artist who also produces the TV drama on the Ifa corpus, Ifa Olokun Asorodayo. Elebuibon is one of the most visible Ifa practitioners and artists in Nigeria and beyond. He has taken the Ifa culture to many countries and also tried to disabuse people's minds about Ifa and African traditional religion.

    He blames the misrepresentation of Ifa in Nigerian films on ignorance. According to Chief ifayemi Elebuibon, “They do not know the difference between  the 'Babalawo',  the 'Onisegun' and the
    'Oloogun Ika'. The Babalawo is one that is rightly positioned in Ifa Olokun Asorodayo,  to solve the problems of the world. He is to repair issues about people's lives and make the world better. Rather, they make films in which they muddle everything together."

    Another of these Babalawos is Peter Fatomilola. He is a lecturer, actor, writer, producer and director of several films. He has been into the Ifa practice since the age of six and was initiated into the Ifa sacred groove, Igbodu, at 18. He says his acting talent was discovered by Prof. Ola Rotimi when the latter returned from the US
    sometime in 1967. Like Elebuibon, he blames the misrepresentation of Babalawos on ignorance.

    "People see someone with leaves in hand or chanting incantations and quickly conclude that he is a Babalawo. A Babalawo is to African traditional religion, what the Pastor and Imam is to the church and mosque respectively. As the Bible and Quran are books of knowledge, so is Ifa. They mix things up and think that Onisegun (herbalists),
    Oso(wizards) and so on are all Babalawos. Onisegun deal with roots and herbs and can decide to use it for good or evil purposes. Babalawos, too, learn about roots and herbs but that is because from time to time, Ifa might recommend a solution that they will not necessarily refer to Onisegun."

    Fatomilola has starred in films like SekeSeke, Rere Run, Afonja, Saworo Ide etc. He has close to 500 films to his credit.

    Much younger, but not in any way to be disregarded in the Ifa practice, is Fakolade Ajanaku. He was born into a family that practices Ifa and
    he seems well versed in the Odu corpus. Ajanaku responds to enquiries with first, a verse of Odu Ifa,  before going into details. He attributes his going into films to watching Elebuibon on TV while growing up.

    Getting into films, however, was not because of his Ifa knowledge. He told his father he wanted to be an actor and he was registered into a film company. He believes he has paid his dues and is today a film producer. He has starred in several films such as Bolode Oku, Ase n tedumare, Odun baku etc. He acts other roles but due to his knowledge of Ifa, he tends to be favoured when a choice needs to be made for the role of Babalawo. For instance is Ase n tedumare which he wrote and also featured as Babalawo.

    On the portrayal of Babalawos in Nollywood films, he attributes the misrepresentation to mischief.

    "What belongs to them means nothing, but it is what others show them that attract them. Ifa divination was performed for the fish who sought the friendship of the hook," he said, chanting a verse from Odu Ifa to buttress his point. "Such is the relationship between Africans and foreign religions. Why do they choose to show only the negative side of Babalawos because they want to put up their own religion?" he wondered.

    He admitted that he had been conned by filmmakers a few times, as an actor when he was given only a portion of the script to study and act. While watching the whole film later, he saw that the rest of the story didn't portray Babalawos in a good light. For that reason, he has sworn that he would never take up a role as a Babalawo without reading an entire film script.

    Chanting Ifa verses in films conjures up spiritual power, they all agree. Fakolade says that what he does is to stay at a very ordinary level, where his chant would not cause harm. For someone so versed, he says, he does not use fake chants like others who do not know about Ifa but act as Babalawo,  all the same.

    Fatomilola also uses authentic Ifa Odus in films because, according to him, there are millions of people out there who are very knowledgeable about Ifa and can tell immediately if the chant is fake - something that is capable of detracting from the integrity of the film.

    He says that for a Babalawo like him, chanting Ifa verses conjures up power in the spiritual realm. He says he feels his body moving spiritually when he is at it.

    "Unless the person is not a Babalawo and is chanting what they wrote in the script for him,  if you are one, you will feel it."

    Through their films, people have come to know them in many places all over the world. Fakolade and Fatomilola have clients all over the
    world, and they divine for people even on cell phones.

    "Even without putting out signboards," Fatomilola says, "people seek us because they have seen us in films and they know we are real Babalawos."

    Elebuibon lectures on Ifa in many universities abroad.

    With the films they are making, they hope to disabuse the mind of the audience about the roles of Babalawo in the society and also help them to be rightly positioned in a modern society.

    Elebuibon whose studio was gutted by fire sometime last year says that the place is being put together again. By October, he will be releasing two films he is producing in conjunction with some friends and institutions in Philadelphia, United States. They are titled Elegbara and Esentaye. Both are to espouse the values of Ifa and the roles of Babalawos.

    "Esentaye will tell the story of how knowing a child's destiny from birth will guide his/her choice in life."

    He appears not bothered about the negative things being said about Ifa and Babalawos in Nollywood.

    "People have written a lot about it. The Orisha World Congress has done a lot in that arena but some people will just never change their minds."

     First Published: Wednesday, May  12, 2010 at  Punchonthe Web

    Return to Table of Contents

    The enemy within: The challenges of managing multiculturalism in Nigeria

    Dr. Sule Bello, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria

    Introduction

    On the receipt of the title of this paper from the organizers I resisted the temptation to substitute it with a topic of my own choosing for reasons which I hope will become clearer by the end of our discussion. For one I believe it is not only topical but also very focused on a factor most critical to unity of purpose in Nigeria, in the pursuit of common national objectives. This is because it seeks to identify what could be considered “the enemy within”, i.e. those factors, interests and persons militating against national unity or multiculturalism in Nigeria. If we further look at the topic in the light of the broader theme of the conference it is obvious that the question of political instability, which is assumed to be in some ways related to the failure of multiculturalism, is here identified as a key liability responsible for the nation’s incapacity to develop itself in any orderly manner since its independence. Moreover, the broader theme further emphasizes that these problems cannot be seen, or treated, in isolation from the dynamic international environment of which the country is a part.

    There is, in the first instance, no gain-saying the fact that no examination of the political-economic or socio-cultural development of Nigeria will be in any way comprehensive, and objective, without firmly and squarely locating such developments in both the historical and international contexts of their origination, development and operations. Many studies that have tended to isolate the subject from these contexts have largely ended up professing unrealistic, ossified and abstract categories without much theoretical or historical value.

    Secondly in the study of historical development generally, but more so with reference to Africa, due and critical attention needs to be paid to the concepts, narratives and factual evidence used in order to ensure that the dominant imperial worldviews, ideologies, and stereotypes, as well as the explanations and narratives proffered on such bases, are not uncritically reproduced and rehashed. (Temu and Swai, 1981; Ake, 1979).

    The assumption that mere differences of biological or socio-cultural nature, in themselves, constitute objective sources of conflicts has been shown to be not only unfounded but basically ideological, signifying a major attempt to rationalize and justify European imperial expansion and domination of the rest of the world (Bernal, M. 1991; Barkan, E.1992; Mafeje A. 1991 Chiinweizu,1975). On the contrary it has variously been shown that differences of geographical, ecological, biological, sexual or socio-cultural nature do indeed provide, in most cases, bases for cooperation, integration and development in multiple ways. Socio-cultural diversities, in particular, provide ample range of choices in many, and different, fields of human endeavour-such as modes of social organizations, artistic skills, technical achievements, indigenous knowledge, as well as social values and traditions. (Bello S. 2000).

    The nature and explanation of social cooperation or competition, as well as peace or conflict, in any given situation, is to be sought for not in the mere ethnographical differences of the protagonists but rather in the very character of prevailing political and economic relations on which the nature of cooperation or conflict is based, defined and contextualized in the first instance.

    Only on the basis of the observations made above can we begin to seriously approach and solve the kind of problems that currently face African societies, chief among which is the problem of nation-building i.e. the possibilities of promoting the united, peaceful and integrated development of Africa’s multinational states through policies that respect and uphold multiculturalism as a primary strategy towards the construction, development and management of modern nation states. Over the last 50 years or so, since the independence of most African countries, they have been bedevilled by problems of political instability in the form of military coups, violent separatist movements, internal uprisings, sectarian and communal conflicts, civil wars, civil strife and numerous cases of foreign subversion or outright invasions. These various problems have tended to be generalized, and explained, by certain observers, as expressions or manifestations of tribal or ethnic differences. Such a perspective does not help us to identify the actual and definite causes of conflicts in each and every case. On the contrary it sweeps every thing under the carpet in a manner that makes it impossible to identify interests, actors and agencies actually involved and responsible for the crisis in favour of a blanket ethnocentric explanation which has no foundation in factual evidence or respect for scientific methodology. Contesting these views, and their various ideological representations, have been at the heart of panAfricanist, and African nationalist, struggles as well as the bulk of contemporary Africanist scholarship. On the basis of the available evidence, as well as a critical appraisal of the key perspectives involved, it is here argued that the major cause of instability in Africa has been and remains imperial intervention in, and control, of African states leading to both the internal as well as international conflicts it generates, and manipulates, to its own advantages. With  special reference to the post-independence period  this has been associated with the various attempts by the European powers, under the leadership of the United States, to roll back the independence achieved by African countries, individually as well as severally, in order to maintain them under old structures, as well as new patterns,  of multilateral colonial control. The result of this has been massive foreign intervention in Africas internal affairs which have led to the creation of many new conflicts as well as the activation of old colonial ideologies, structures and agencies designed to foster divisive conflicts and external control. It was such intervention that facilitated the deposition of many independent nationalist regimes in favour of the imposition of military and civilian dictators willing to implement foreign agendas, under the tutelage of foreign powers. These have, in turn, tended to impact on local politics in many negative ways which tend to promote division and conflicts in many forms. This is not to imply that Africa’s power elites, in particular, and its population in general, do not play any original and significant role in this process but rather to emphasize that the pervasive and dominant position of foreign powers, so far, constitutes a very important factor influencing such developments.

    In discussing the various challenges to the independence, unity and development of Africa a broad perspective of the various factors involved-political, economic as well as socio-cultural  need to be brought into focus in order to properly overview, and comprehensively evaluate, the subject matter. In addition these issues need to be examined in the light of different stand points, signifying the various interests involved, in order to properly appraise developments from varied dimensions-internal and external, as well as the various levels at which they intersect, and are managed, in favour of independence rather than dependency; cooperation rather than conflicts; democracy rather than dictatorship and progress rather than retrogression.

     In this essay, Africa is presented as a single whole, a unit of multicultural dimensions. This is because Africa’s cultures are, in their various manifestations, constituted, developed and transformed collectively through the general impact of the physical environment and external influences on the various local, popular and socio-historical creations that are shaped, conditioned and changed through their mutual integration at various levels – demographic, socio-cultural, economic and political. This is clearly illustrated in the early and ancient histories of most African societies (Dioph, 1955; Dike and Felicia, 1990; Mafeje, A.1991). Africa’s more modern history, signifying the common impact of Trans Atlantic Slave Trafficking of the 15th – 19th, as well as the European colonization of the continent in the late 19th and early 20thc,, in addition to the prevailing and dominant influences of NATO countries through a variety of bilateral, multilateral, transnational, multinational and international organizations, as well as undercover agencies, signify its common and historic relations, as well as enemies from without. It also spells its global status, resulting from such a relationship. For any policy of multiculturalism to be successful it must be informed by a pan-African vision because this is the general context, and destiny, underlying and defining the development of its local constituents. It is in terms of Africa’s contemporary trials, tribulations and prospects that the validity, continuity or desirability of any of Africa’s local cultures exists, functions and is to be judged, and not vice-versa. It is in particular the substantive issues of Africa’s liberation, independence, integration and development which inform the visions and practices of panAfricanism, as well as the nationalist movements it bred and supported, that give general validity to this observation.

    Methodological Issues

    A clarification of the methodological issues involved in this study is important especially due to the nature of the subject. For example there is the need to ensure that science prevails over, and explains, ideology in the first instance. Secondly there is the need for a rational and objective validation of our discussion of the very subjective issue of nation-building in terms of its historical and political legitimacy, as a necessary tool human for development.

    The issues under discussion greatly provide evidence of the dominant influence of colonialism on African reality and, in particular, its ideological expressions in both the academic and political fields. Where due and critical attention is not paid to the continuing predominance of imperial perspectives, structures and institutions in the organization, control, execution and perpetuation of its general objectives we run the risk of taking them for granted, or presuming them to constitute no more than neutral, accepted and objective “reality” rather than the consistently contested, and relentlessly imposed, conditions that they are. Where a critical examination of the perspectives, structures, and activities prevailing in so called post-colonial societies is not undertaken there is a great risk that the scientific quality of the work might be impaired at the very important levels of data collection, evaluation and interpretation. It is important to stress that the act of imperial domination is not exactly an exercise in ideological or scientific persuasion. It is more of an exercise in the assertion and perpetuation of predatory and forceful control over its subject population. For this reason any comprehensive assessment of its operations, in relation to its ideology, must be mindful of the two levels at which it operates-overtly and covertly, in keeping with its actual practices (Stockwell, 1978).

    Firstly stated imperial ideological rationalizations and justifications have been widely, and correctly, criticized as racist, unfounded and ahistorical. It is also however significant to view imperial ideologies, of the “White Man’s Burden” variety, also as strategic devices. As devices for imperial domination they did not only justify and rationalize such a domination but also actually created, in a veiled manner, the necessary conditions for the realization of the imperial venture in three major ways. The essence of such strategies is to facilitate the domination of the subject peoples. In this regard the venture of imperialism is political control for the organization, and further facilitation, of exploitative relations between the colony and the mother country as well as its dominant and dominated classes. It is towards the ordering, perpetuation and management of this political-economic establishment that the colonial regimes designed, established and operated a number of strategic policies, structures and institutions whose combined functions need to be seen, and understood, as a single and common whole.

    In the second place it needs to be understood that the most significant political character of colonialism is the extent to which it denies the communities, and polities, it dominates their sovereign independence through an initial conquest, as well as continued acts of forceful suppression of all forms of uprisings against this condition. This is, in turn, greatly manifested in the manner it denies any form of political freedom, justice or liberties to the subject peoples who are ruled through the most coercive, discriminatory and despotic regimes given only to various forms of punitive and oppressive measures, as strategies for both exploitative and repressive undertakings. These defining political characteristics of colonialism have two very important implications that are relevant to our investigations. The first is that it defines all forms of political expressions, or agitations, against colonialism as essentially struggles for national independence, popular sovereignty and democracy. The measure to which such is achieved also greatly define the extent to which the colony is liberated. In the second place a standing denial of political interests, expressions and rights in favour of colonial administrative activities on the basis of designated geo-cultural constituencies  have tended to constitute the key survival, and self-perpetuating, strategies of colonial powers. This is why, implicit in the ideology of colonial imperialism, is the complete absence of issues bordering on political or socio-economic rights, justice or independence. That is also why its strategy is rather on administrative and socio-cultural management of society as opposed to the question of rights, justice or independence in any political, social or economic sense of the word. It is as if by enthroning culturally defined administrative set-ups it has banished political interests, and conflicts, only for such to feature through cultural institutions and organizations

    In the third place, and further to the observations made above, imperialism entailed the integration of the whole world, as well as its division into oppressed and oppressor geo-political entities, classes and races. The attempt to rationalize and justify this process along racial and cultural lines, between white rulers and native subjects, in turn meant the systematic degradation of the human worth of the conquered peoples. This exercise, in turn, laid the foundations for the primary division that informs and defines the double standard that pervades international, as well as national, politics at every level. Appreciating these factors is essential to understanding the kind of important issues underlying the nature of our contemporary world.

    As noted above it is significant to note that not all forms of relations or activities, at national and international levels, are amenable to open and unfettered data collection or investigation. This is particularly so in cases of conflicts in general, and those that are organized and managed through conspiracies and cover-ups, in particular. There are certain conflicts, involving powerful organizations and interests, that are not only operated under cover but also have the capacity to break laws and subvert, or  compromise, any process of investigation and adjucation. Examples of these are to be found in conflicts involving powerful national political forces, usually in control of the state, that have the capacity to organize and conduct the provocation, execution as well as cover-up of ethnocentric conflicts designed to serve some political purposes.  In addition powerful imperial states operate in various other countries, particularly weaker nations, through covert agencies that are so designated precisely because their functions entail the creation of political instability in many ways- provoking ‘ethnic’ conflicts, civil wars, military coups, political assassinations, instigating civil unrests etc. It is for these reasons that our methodological approaches need to assess the relevant scientific procedures required to ensure broad, and adequate, sourcing of all relevant data, as well as applying the necessary principles required for their evaluation and interpretation. In this regard even where we are not likely to do away with the issue of ideology all together, we should ensure that the latters evaluation, assessment and interpretation is done on the basis of sound scientific principles, reflecting the use of diverse and relevant data, on the basis of sound theoretical propositions.

    There is a need to draw attention to the actual political and strategic factors that are in many ways relevant to this conference. Sound understanding and propositions arising from various contributions will greatly assist towards the articulation of relevant policies, as well as the adoption of the required strategies, necessary for containing such conflicts and promoting peaceful coexistence. In this regard the quality of factual data on the causes, conduct and consequences of such conflicts is critical to solving the various questions on the criminal dimensions, root causes and state failures associated with such conflicts. At another level however, the quality of our appraisal of the topic from different angles, should greatly help us to appreciate the strategic significance of how to better approach the issue of cultural and religious diversities as important assets towards forging national unity, and social progress, by using the various important techniques and principles they teach us to serve the cause of justice, peace and progress rather than promoting fissiparous, regressive and disintegrative activities in our communities.         

    In the discussion that follows three very important themes underlie our presentation. The first is the need to, at the theoretical level, look critically at the concepts and  methodologies applied in the study of multiculturalism. Our submission here is that multiculturalism is the major process through which human societies are founded, developed and transformed even if at times they tend to exhibit the dominant influence of one particular language, custom or traditions. This is because various processes of human interaction leading to intermingling and fusion, as well as the conditions under which these occur and change, constitute the most important variable influencing the development of social formations, or evolution of cultures, and the eventual as well as  continuous aggregation of human civilization. If history teaches anything it is the fact that all cultures are formed from a variety of influences and, despite their tendency to a certain degree of homogeneity, they also differentiate into many subcultures and influence, as well as become influenced by, other social formations. It is this continuous process of coming and unbecoming that makes the notion of mono-cultural development more of an ideological expression rather than a scientific proposition. The second important theme informing the general thrust of the essay is the need to base our discourses on informed and accurate knowledge as well as profiles of societies concerned at various stages of their historical evolution. This is very important in view of the need to overcome the problem of projecting our ideological wishes and biases on to some assumed ‘past societies’ without any bases. This is particularly relevant because misleading projection of certain abstract ‘tribal’ social categories, under the impression that these constitute the state of social organization in Africa’s past, has become as widespread as it is baseless. It is therefore imperative to draw up a historical profile of African societies before, during and subsequent to the colonial conquest and domination of the continent. Finally a critical appreciation of the politics, and rhetoric’s, of colonial domination is very important if we are to be able to establish some limits between imperial propaganda and colonial realities through some acceptable scientific methodology. This concern has been one of the most important issues defining the evolution of African historiography since independence and its contributions to the study of contemporary African history has been enormous, as the consideration of the key concepts underlining the study of community and nation building, as well as independence and democracy, in Africa tends to suggest. (Dike, 1990; Mafeje, 1991; Ake, 2001; Zeleza, 1977; Rodney, 1976)

    Part of the problem in the conceptualization of multiculturalism in Nigeria and other African countries is the perception that this is new to the historical experiences of African societies. Nothing can be further from the truth.  In fact African history, in its totality, is the demonstration of various processes of the formation of communities, and polities, of multicultural denomination whose successes and failures were greatly related to their capacity to promote peace and the well being of the community through the purposive utilization of available resources in response to a variety of environmental, demographic, economic, political and cultural challenges. It was only in the global imperial context of transatlantic slave trafficking, and formal colonization of the continent, that the racial profiling and tribal’ ordering of society became rampant. It was used as a convenient strategy for the emasculation, or containment, of the conflicts and contradictions generated as a result of colonial conquest and the numerous changes it introduced thereafter, centred on colonial exploitation through the expropriation of land and mines; forced labour; exploitation of agricultural producers, mine labourers and control of local extractive economic services in the interests of foreign companies. These changes in turn greatly promoted multicultural, as well as multiracial, migrations and social intercourse. These were, however, administered through a policy of global racial discrimination and geopolitical restrictions as well as local ethnocentric social divisions, designed to foster political control and economic exclusion as well as historical ossification. The unjust and oppressive legacy of colonialism, through its policies of divisive exclusion along ‘tribal’ lines designed to undo the positive and free processes of migrations, local processes of assimilation and wider forms of socio-economic integration, as well as the attainment of political unity, are the principal factors that have served as the Achilles heel of development in Africa. What is generally and widely accepted today, as the outcome of a variety of researches in different disciplines, is that the invention of tribal categories to serve as instruments for the colonial social policy of divide-and-rule was the handiwork of the colonial powers. Their role in the promotion of civil strife in post-independent Africa is also not divorced from the increasing ascendancy of subordinate prebendal elites, who also share the interest of keeping Africa under one form of colonial control or another. Before we look more closely at the intricate web of relations between the continuing legacy of colonialism and the practice of multiculturalism in Africa, it is important for us to clarify issues relating to the formation, typology and functions of nation-states as basic political and economic units, as well as principal actors, in the modern world.

    Imperialism, Nation-States, Nation-building and Contemporary International Relations.

    What we refer to as modern nations, and ‘nationalities’, as well as nation-states or modern political entities, are very current developments in world history and have not existed for all times. On the whole their history is largely tied up with the evolution of West European societies over the last five centuries as well as their associated imperial expansion into other parts of the world.

    It is important to also emphasize that the evolution of nation-states is more of a reflection of a process of political formation than an isolated, and exclusive, development of any specific racial, linguistic or ethnographic character.

    It is generally agreed that the development of modern nation-states can be traced back to the disintegration of the feudal order in Western Europe that was then dominated by the Holy Roman Empire. The process of this disintegration was greatly and actively promoted by the rising economic and political classes in Europe who fought to curve out their own political entities in the form of the then emerging nation-states of Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy etc. The most important factors, and distinguishing characteristics, of these nation states was not in their languages, cultures or ethnic composition but rather in the new, relatively freer, economic and political systems that developed to define them. These countries also greatly benefited from the cultural influences exerted on them by the societies of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East in many ways thereby emphasizing an important multicultural dimension of their development. Similarly in the development of these nations, as well as all the societies and cultures they catered for, even though monoculturalism might have here and there been used as an ideological rallying cry against the Roman Papacy, it cannot be denied that one of their major achievements was to manage an already existing multiplicity of cultures in each of, as well as all, the European countries and more importantly, to create and manage an overarching, all-inclusive, creative, productive and democratic national culture that respected individual, as well as group, political, economic and cultural rights.

    The second set of nation-states are those that arose, and developed, as European settler colonies in other parts of the world. The most successful of such are the U.S.A, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, to some extent, South Africa and Israel. From the point of view of multiculturalism these countries have a history of a dominant racial or ‘monocultural’ development policy which was imposed on the existing indigenous and other non-European cultures.  It is important to stress that these polities did not in themselves deny multiculturalism, as an essential factor in the development of European nation states, or their own nations for that matter. Mono-culturalism is used by them, essentially, as an ideological justification for discriminatory practices against non-European peoples and their cultures. Pluralism or multiculturalism which developed subsequently, in Europe and the America’s, is therefore principally associated with the efforts to liberate and assert the rights of the non-European population as well as other dominated endemic social sub-identities like racial minorities, feminists, the poor and migrants as is evident in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the USA (especially since the explosion of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s). An important, and underlying, feature of this contemporary development in multiculturalism is thus the level of inequality, racial discrimination and global double standards implied in the formation of nation states, and international relations, as well as the efforts to confront same. (Reed, 1997; Barkan , 1992; Said, 1993; Appiah & Gates, 1995)

    The third set of nation-states arose out of the nationalist struggles of the peoples of the various colonies, and semi-colonies, that were subordinated to the imperial powers identified above. These comprise virtually all of today’s countries of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East generally referred to as Third World, Non-alligned nations or developing countries. Some of them, along with Russia and Japan, have been able to build themselves into viable nation-states not simply because they have been able to manage multicultural states but, precisely, because they have been able to pursue a path of independent, self-reliant and self-generated process of economic development on the basis of nationalist informed policies, and explicit political ideologies, as well as related programmes and plans, consistently implemented towards achieving a common goal. Whether these states were capitalist, nationalist, socialist and/or communist is not the essential issue. In fact all successful nations will be found to accommodate most, if not all, of these ideologies in varying degrees accounting for the ‘welfare’ oriented economies of U.S. and Britain, as well as ‘market’/ socialist economies of China, and Russia. What is at issue is whether such nations are sovereign, and independent enough to pursue their own course of popularly determined development drive, and thus  allow for the relative freedom of expression of different ideologies in their countries.

    This explains Africa’s incapacity to unite and solve existing problems leading to conflicts along divisive lines, reinforced by the scramble for local subdivision and control of spoils along colonially inherited modes of organization, rationalization and justification rather than the pursuit of a popularly demanded path towards soverign, united, integrated and self-generated development. African countries have tended to fail basically because they have not been able to chart their own path of independent development due to their incapacity to defend and utilize their independence towards asserting a common, united and concerted capability to define, and pursue, their common interests at home as well as abroad. As a consequence not only were their initial and successful attempts at national independence and economic development, typified in various nationalist informed initiatives in Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt, Zambia, Nigeria etc. defeated and reversed, by the combined force of the imperial powers, but the continual reproduction of imperial relations under more adverse local and international conditions have tended to reproduce, and exacerbate, the poverty and social conflicts characteristic of the colonial order under a more expanded and irresponsible local robber elite. This has promoted the management of individual post-independence African countries as isolated spoils systems serving the interests of their local ruling elites, as well as Euro-American states and multinational corporations, rather than being reconstructed along the path of a united, creative, productive and prosperous region, accountable to its sovereign population.

    Our discussion, so far, suggests that multiculturalism has always constituted an important dimension in the development of all human societies. Conversely no human society has existed as an isolated, static and inert unit in history. This is partly why the fact of the multicultural nature of social processes of development, is in itself, not the critical issue. It is rather the actual policies needed to ensure the development of independent, integrated and viable nation-states in Africa, presently, that is the issue. The effort towards promoting functional multiculturalism or united, independent and developed African societies and polities, has always been at the heart of what sovereign African societies had striven for, as well as what most Africans have been fighting for in their efforts to liberate the continent from foreign domination and exploitation. In this regard the quest to divide Africa,  by the imperial powers, as an essential condition for sharing it amongst themselves, as well as incapacitating it against any possible  united threat, have always informed all the strategies of engagement in the relationships between Europe and Africa even before the European partition of the continent in 1884. This approach has also, simultaneously, informed the political strategies of those of Africa’s power elite whose primary preoccupation is to serve foreign interests, for their own self-enrichment, by ensuring the curbing out of their own local turfs, as well as undermining the possibilities of the formation of any truly sovereign and united local force that might threaten same. On the other hand the forces of resistance against foreign domination, in Nigeria and Africa, have sought to cultivate and promote African unity at different levels in order to organize its defenses against foreign intrigues, subversion and domination as well as marshall its resources for its own independent development. The question of unity in Africa is therefore not only a matter of theoretical or academic interest but something that has been intrinsic to its own historical struggles for development at various stages. This fact is reflected at the contentious nature in which the ideology, practice and functions of tribalism have been, and continue to be, combatted as imperial   designs for the control of African societies.

    The Colonial Origins of the Ideology, Policies and Politics of Ethno Centrism.

    An important issue informing the conduct or the constitution of modern nation-states, as well as their external relations, is the extent to which racial and ethnocentric views have been deployed as ideological, policy and administrative tools in the articulation, structuring and engineering of the European imperial world as a whole. This led to a racial division into ruling (white) races and (non-white) subject or native races. Native races are, in turn, sub-divided into several ethnic or ‘tribal’ groups and administered according to certain appropriate doctrines, supposedly defining the nature of their realities and therefore their development processes. So powerful did the ideology of tribalism become that many African peoples actually came to believe, in line with imperial propositions, that such ‘tribes’ actually constituted not only a natural order of social being in Africa, but also an eternal one. This has to do with the power of the European imperial rulers over colonial societies where they acted as participants, leaders, transformers as well as judges of the historical process under way. This is why a study of the politics of imperial relations is vital to a better appreciation of the actual nature of colonialism.

    A very significant methodological problem significant to the evaluation of colonial societies is therefore not only the uncritical acceptance of the issues raised by the imperial powers but, indeed, also an appreciation of those relevant ones that have not even been raised at all. The fact that colonialism is an imposition through brutal military conquest as well as continuing acts of repression, and suppression, are down-played in favour of such propagandists claims as civilizing mission, pacification or law and order. The inherent tendency of imperial domination to exclusionary, discriminatory and conspiratorial schemes, towards the domination and control of its subjects, are greatly emphasized in the fact that imperial powers operate large secret services whose covert activities are not only, primarily, limited to foreign countries but are also known to be critical in carrying out under-cover operations designed to subvert, and undermine, the efforts of many post-indepent African regimes. (Pincher, 1978; Stock well 1978; Zeleza, 1977)

    In general the question of foreign intervention, in various disguises, and the manner it supports and promotes puppet dictators and related servile rulers on the continent, ought to be considered in assessing the stability and effectiveness, or otherwise, of African states. This is particularly so if the preponderant and controlling power of foreign states (USA, Britain, France & Germany) multilateral organizations, (EU, NATO, Common Wealth etc.) multinational companies, UN multilateral agencies (IMF, World Bank etc.) as well as international NGOs and organizations, on isolated and powerless individual African countries, is taken into account.

     It is difficult to fully and truly analyse and explain the conduct of affairs in such countries without reference to these powerful interests. This indeed also signifies a key methodological problem of access to data, as well as related perspectives, where the roles of the imperial mother countries are overlooked in explaining the conduct of colonial societies. The major effect of the act of overlooking the dominant role of imperial powers in the conduct of colonial societies is to focus investigation on abstract expressions of African cultures in a manner that completely leaves out the actual and historical role of the imperial powers in the political and economic conduct of their colonies, except with reference to their own ideological claims. For example where the oppressive, discriminatory, non-inclusive and exploitative nature of the colonial system in Africa is hardly stated, and analyzed, as a distinct spoil system, as was the case in all other parts of the world, it will not be possible to see how any programme of national reconstruction towards an independent, democratic and integrated society can be successful. On the contrary undue and misleading focus on ethnocentric issues serves to sideline the actual political and economic problems, as well as the definite political and economic imperatives of nation-building. This is not to presume that cultural factors do not constitute significant factors in political and economic development but rather to caution that they should not be regarded as exclusive of the latter.

    The effort to divide and rule conquered territories is at the heart of the creation of tribal homelands, or Bantustans, by the imperial powers through various policies of territorial reorganization, ‘ethnic’ segregation, demographic control as well as geopolitical insulation and isolation. Colonial territories were, for both administrative and financial reasons, centralized and amalgamated in their administrative functions in the form of colonies and protectorates that were usually subdivided into regions, provinces, divisions and districts. Near exclusive focus on colonial administration tend to lead to an under-appreciation of the extent to which the denial of political rights, and the imposition of heavy penalties against their assertion, constituted the most basic colonial policy. As a result any attempt at the collective assertion of sovereignty or individual rights is met with repression. This also accounts for the extreme form of ideological censorship against any expression of dissent, whether in the form of religious, or secular, views or in the form of an individual opinion. Indeed such censorship is currently expressed in most African countries at several levels-outright censorship or hostile condemnation in opposition to any non-conformist literature, as well as what Fanon referred to as “conspiracy of silence” against truly nationalist politicians and their points of views. In short the expressions or assertion of political rights, in any way, were criminalized. The management of the colonial society was thus conducted through divisive social principles based on the creation of ‘ethnic’ communities that were constructed around a number of policies of exclusion and discrimination. Thus the colonial urban centers were administered in a manner that promoted divisions and created conflicts. The so-called rural and indigenous populations, on the other hand, were administrated through a Traditional Native Authority system that was constituted into powerful local despots in order to facilitate the maximum and unfettered control, as well as exploitation, of the ‘native’ population (Mamdani, 2002).                              

     Imperial divisions in the colonies, subsumed under the general category of ‘tribes’, in fact includes all forms of social groups that are supposed to, in some ways, be linked by language, dialect, culture, territory, religion, occupation or biology. Most of the inconstencies, confusion, flaws, contradictions, errors and falsehoods that tend to characterize ethnocentric categories arise from the desperate need to create divisions in the colonies, irrespective of whether they are justified or not, as necessary tools for ethnocentric management of the society. Thus the taxonomy or the principles of classification of ethnic groups is based on abstractions derived from a motley of indefinite bio-physical, as well as transient cultural characteristics none of which, in itself, is capable of constituting a definite basis for a comprehensive social, political or economic identity and all of which, taken together, constitute mainly a stereotype that is completely oblivious of the plural, fluid, dynamic and inter-related socio-historical characteristics of the identities concerned. For this reason, the ethnocentric identities the colonialists configured and projected as Africa eternal differ remarkably from the pre-colonial African societies they attempted to fake, mainly on the basis of linguistic similarities and exotic fetish.

     Explanations that seek to avoid examining the actual nature, and structure, of colonialism in the evolution and development of colonial or ‘post colonial’ societies, as well as all the evidence and relations they signify, constitute ideological blind folds that seek to focus almost exclusively on ethnocentric stereotypes. In consequence they, thus, only promote ethnocentric ideologies leading to uninformed policies whose focal concerns, and recommendations, do not address the operative factors and relations serving to generate conflict in the society.

    It is very important to note that divisive and discriminatory policies imposed by the colonizers worked to disaggregate, and contain as well as maintain, the society under subjugation rather than allow it to aggregate in favour of self- determination and independence. It therefore distorted, and abused, social principles and practices designed to promote social integrity, harmony, integration and over- all development.

    The problems associated with ethnocentrism can be summarily discussed at three levels. Firstly as conceptual categories applied to the scientific investigation and analysis of society. Secondly, as a social policy applied by imperial powers in the organization of colonial societies. Finally it is operated as a political strategy which mobilizes ethnic support for, or provokes, violent ethnocentric conflicts, in favour of certain powerful interests in the society.

    Various studies have drawn attention to the flaws, inconsistencies and prejudices underlying ethnic categories and therefore their unsuitability as conceptual and analytical tools in any scientific study (Kwanashie, 2006, Mafeje, 1991; Nnoli, 2008). Indeed many studies have come to the conclusion that African societies were neither organized, nor operated, on ethnocentric principles or ideology. Ethnocentrism was more of a colonial phenomenon than a pre-colonial one (Hobsbawm, 1983; Nnoli, 2008). This is very well brought out by Dike and Felicia, among many other scholars. In their contributions on the pre-colonial history of the “Igbo” they observe that the term is an ethnic category which originated in the colonial times. They draw attention to the fact that “many of the constituent groups” generally referred to as Igbo’s “have only recently and often reluctantly accepted (it) as their ethnic identity, often on political and administrative grounds” (p.6). They refer to the dominant historical community in the area as Aro socio-economic formation which, they stress, did not only have a “multi-ethnic base” but should also;

                 

    …be seen as an experiment in poly-ethnic state formation, a precursor of the cotemporary incorporation of many multi-ethnic groups into one political unit. A central problem of the Aro history must therefore focus on the process through which diverse groups and individuals have been welded together into a people with a sense of common identity and commitment to being Aro (p.5.).

    It is important to note that the arbitrariness, noted above, at the level of the classification of “tribes”, in imperial scholarship, derive from a desperate attempt to reduce superficial physical appearances, and isolated socio-cultural expressions, into a basis for the modelling of an abstract, static, inert and biologically determined community. Such a model was what colonial policy makers, administrators and anthropologists tried to articulate, construct and impose in most of their colonies, with devastating consequences.

    The colonial social policy developed on the basis of above stated principles ensured division, exclusion, discrimination and conflicts within the colonies at several levels such as between colonizers and colonized; at the level of  races, indigenes/non-indigenes”, tribes”, social classes  and regions as well as in the form of nations-in-making vs. oppressive imperial powers. At the local levels the despotic roles of the N.As at imposing oppressive policies, on the one hand, and suppressing dissent on the other, as well as their organization in a manner that also promoted division and conflict along various lines serve as a perpetual, as well as universal, source of conflicts in the colony. In the first place free social processes of migration, settlement and trade, leading to both economic integration and social assimilation at several levels, were disjunctured in favour of constraints at the levels of free movement, migrations, settlement and general processes of local administration. Further to this the colonialist adopted a policy of using religious structures, personell and institutions towards the achievement of their mission of domination, division and exploitation.

    Finally it is important to emphasize that many studies indicate that violent conflicts of the colonial and post-colonial periods tend to occur only where suitable conditions created for their possible occurrences obtain. These include the existence of competing local colonial elites whose ideology and strategy, in the local scramble for power, is self-serving and divisive, and therefore ethnocentric rather than nationalistic. Secondly it requires the recruitment, deployment and protection of local agent provocateurs in the form of organized armed gangs to initiate acts of violence as well as provoke possible counter-reaction from the targeted community. Further to this there is also, in many instances, the involvement of the local mass media controlled and operated by special interests, towards inciting, instigating, agitating or provoking conflict in many ways. (Douglas, 2002; Joseph, 1999; Imobighe 2002; Yorom, 2009). Thirdly there also usually has to exist a situation whereby local forces of law and order, either out of acts of commission or omission, simply fail to bring such criminal violence under control allowing, or supporting, them to degenerate into social strife. Local African states, and UN peace keeping forces in Africa, are particularly notorious in this regard.

    The colonial regimes institutionalized laws against normal and beneficial social processes of assimilation in all populated centres, thereby institutionalizing social exclusion and discrimination along divisive lines. Native communities so organized, ossified and secluded are usually referred to as indigenous or autochthonous communities under the unwarranted assumption of some, ‘traditional’ or ‘ancestral’, rather than current and economic, ties to the land.  On the whole the role of residency  and assimilation towards  new, and more multiple, citizenship identities was denied by the double sword of local despotism, in the form of N.A.’S in the “indigenous” communities, as well as the country wide system of mutual social exclusion, along “indigene” lines, which ensured subjects were  nowhere at home away from their indigenous ‘homelands’, Bantustans or tribal areas.

    In order to properly appreciate the issues raised above we need to also cast a glance at the ways, and manner, in which Africans resisted the various colonial efforts at dividing them through proactive processes of unification at several levels.

    In the first place it is important to draw attention to the fact that promoting and defending African unity as a basis for its independence and development was at the roots of the founding of panAfricanism by the first African Christian missionaries of freed slaves origin, and its subsequent spread to the America’s. This was largely initiated and spearheaded by leading figures like Rev. E.W. Blyden, John Johnson etc. (Kaptejins, 1977, Omosini, 1980). They initiated the process of defending relevant indigenous African heritages and traditions against their whole-sale condemnation by European conquerors, adventurers and missionaries. They similarly confronted the racist and discriminatory teachings of European colonial apologists centred on the assumptions of the Hamitic hypothesis, through the distortion of the teachings of the Bible, where attempts were made to reduce black people to the status of lesser human beings (Blyden, 1871). They did not only fight such racial theories and discrimination in the church but also drew attention to the fact that both Christianity and Islam, in Africa, are a great and noble blessing, because they worked to unite humanity as a whole, under a just and moral order, which promotes the well being, independence, dignity and development of the African rather than their willful division, exploitation and oppression (Blyden, 1971)

    It is important to stress that the teachings of these early, and latter, Pan- Africanists, along with the achievements of pre-colonial African statesmen, greatly laid the basis for united opposition to racism and colonialism, across various sub-cultural divides in Africa culminating in the independence of African countries and the establishment of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) with its head quarters at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. If today we have the preponderance of conflicts associated with certain religious or sectarian differences it is because those people who exploit such minor differences for mischievous purposes are proving more successful than those who should, as a matter of responsibility, cultivate and deploy the common, positive and universal values of such religious teachings for the security, well being and development of Africa.

     

    The Enemy Within

    Who are the enemies within? Clearly this calls for some elaboration in order to clarify what is meant by “enemies” and to what extent they are constituted as “enemies” within.

    The essential task facing the former colonial territories of Africa, singularly as well as collectively, is to successfully liberate themselves from the imperial powers and, simultaneously as well as consequentially, assert their national independence through the popular rights, and sovereignty, of their citizens. Such political independence is seen as a necessary precondition by nationalist for the eventual process of self-determination based on locally formulated decisions about development, as well as their consistent implementation. This is the nationalist perspective of nation-building and it constitutes the principal, and ultimate, objective in the struggle against colonial domination. It is on the basis of this that we can talk of allies and enemies. Those whose interests, affiliations and activities coincide with, and promote this primary objective are seen as friends while those opposed to it are seen as enemies. Secondly the term “within” in reference to enemies of nation-building, can be understood in geopolitical terms (i.e. within or outside Nigeria and Africa) or from the perspective of a social formation e.g. a colonial/imperial system structured on definite political-economic relations, entailing various socio-economic interests, classes and affiliations whose conflicts, and alliances, define both internal politics and the politics of international relations. In most cases these perspectives are used in a combined manner.

    Unity is seen, by community and nation-builders, as the most critical and essential condition for the successful achievement of their task. This is because it emphasizes working through a common approach towards the achievement of common purposes, as well as the combination, and broadening, of resources, capabilities, opportunities and frontiers in the pursuit of common development objectives. The correctness of this position is reflected in the extent to which, as a principle, it has been the basis for the development of all nations, and regions, that have achieved full, independent and progressive development at all levels. Failure, at this level, cannot be divorced from the travails of African states today.

    If we look at Nigeria on the basis of the above we can credit the First Republic with having achieved a lot, despite various problems in this respect. The nationalist politicians and political parties, of the 1st Republic, were able to, primarily, mobilize the country to fight for and win formal independence from the British. In this regard the achievement of independence in 1960; the declaration of Nigeria as an independent Republic un-beholden to any foreign power in 1963; the enthronement of democracy as the defining feature of politics and governance in the society; as well as the practice of federalism which, among other things, ensured each region the capacity to run its own affairs and organize its economic development in agriculture, industry, commerce etc. constituted respectable progress. Further to this Nigeria along with various other African countries were able to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as an independent organ for their own local development, as well as their international diplomacy.

    Similarly, in large measure, the politics of the Second Republic (1979-1983), dominated to a great extent by surviving nationalist politicians and parties of the First Republic, retained and indeed expanded, in some areas, the achievements of the 1st Republic.

    Military rule in Nigeria greatly undermined its democratic and federal features. Despite this it is necessary to observe that most, if not all, of the military regimes, exhibited in line with their military traditions, some nationalistic tendencies. Some of these, by way of examples, include the efforts at achieving Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation by Yakubu Gowon after the Civil War and the various measures he promoted to achieve national unity through the initiation of national cultural activities, National Youth Service Corps and Unity Colleges. The Murtala/Obasanjo regime, in 1975 in particular, claimed that return to civil rule, opposition to corruption and commitment to the liberation of Africa were some of their key concerns. The subsequent military regimes of Buhari/Idiagbon, as well as the Abacha regime, inclined more in the direction of nationalist policies geared towards local infrastructural development, opposition to corruption as well as some measure of authoritarian discipline geared to the achievement of national objectives. IBB, on the other hand, inclined towards a more libertarian political regime with inclination to foreign tutelage, resulting in the imposition of Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP) on the country by “the international community”.

    It is in the light of the above that we need to examine the general opposition to military rule in Nigeria in the form of its authoritarianism, unconstitutionalism and corruption as well as the introduction, and devastating impact of IMF and World Bank policies that underlie the agitation for democracy, as well as the quest for a return to civil rule in Nigeria.

    With the installation of the Fourth Republic in Nigeria on 29th May 1999 the objective of the return to civil rule was achieved, but hardly that of democracy. In fact the Fourth Republic exhibits a great deal of difference from both the 1st and 2nd Republics, especially in terms of its non-nationalist orientations or ideology. It seems to be more inclined to, and influenced by, foreign powers. Secondly it is driven by an almost new set of politicians who, in the main, comprise ex-military rulers and the many civilian associates they have cultivated, and sponsored into politics, during the various transitions to civil rule programmes numerously sponsored by different military regimes over the 36 years, or so, of military rule in the country. In many ways the politics of the 4th Republic greatly differs from, and might be said to indeed be opposed to, that of the 1st and 2nd Republics, especially from the point of view of democracy, national independence, national development and national unity. These differences are most clearly illustrated at the level of the practical impact registered on Nigerian society, and politics, over the last ten years. All available evidence, on the conduct and performance of the 4th Republic politicians and regimes, indicate that they have deviated from the various chequered attempts at democracy, independence, republicanism, federalism and national unity which characterized the former republics. The Fourth Republic politicians do not also seem particularly disposed to the nationalist orientations of the former military regimes towards the promotion of national unity or enhancing the republican status of the country.

    In the first place, over the last 10 years the dominant political party of the Fourth Republic, under the leadership of former President, Obasanjo, has worked towards institutionalizing civil dictatorship rather than promoting genuine democracy in the country. This has led to the muzzling of all forms of opposition whether of a popular or political party nature. It has also led to the subordination of most of the members in the dominant political party to the will of its leader only. In so doing, democratic procedures, checks and balances as well as the rule of law within, as well as between, the political parties, in addition to the society at large, have been trampled upon with impunity. It took the combined efforts of local civil societies, international organizations and foreign powers to force the then former president from transforming himself into a constitutional dictator in 2005. Since then efforts to rig all possible elections, install cronies in all possible national offices and rule the country by proxy, in order to despoil its resources, have come to define the nature of politics in Nigeria as well as the travails of the nation.  Present efforts founded on popular agitations, to ensure the supremacy of the rule of law, electoral reforms, separation of powers and transparency need to succeed if the country is to realize its national objectives.

    In the second place it is important to note that achieving a basic level of united front by way of bringing together various organized sections of the country, and the African region generally, has always been the essential method and basis for the progress registered in the efforts to liberate and develop both Nigeria and Africa. The ability to unify any country, or region, is a basic measure of its capacity to articulate, and consistently pursue, its most basic interests. These are generally articulated in the form of nationalist and other political ideologies; constitutional provisions; democratic procedures under the rule of law, as well as related national policies, programmes and plans procedurally derived from same. Where these are neglected, or disregarded, not only is the basis for common and united action subverted but the grounds for widespread disunity, and possibly anarchy, is also laid. It is therefore little wonder that a distinguishing feature of the Fourth Republic in Nigeria is the explosion of communal and sectionalist conflicts in ways, scope and intensity never witnessed in the country before (Imobighe, 2003 p. 10ff; Alubo, 2006 p. 8 ff). This is, as the various studies indicate, due to the fact that without any definite and positive nationalist or socio-economic ideology the political elite of the 4th Republic have basically resorted to tribal, sectarian and related divisive ideologies, as well as associated strategies, as mechanisms for conducting their own political and economic exploits. In this regard support for and sponsorship of sectionalist organizations in politics, as well as civil society organizations and violent outfits, has greatly increased (Imobighe, 2003 p.9). It is also important to note that increased, and nearly unchallenged, propensity to rig elections and impose cronies at every level of government, as well as within political parties, has greatly undermined the rule of law, fairness and justice, in addition to respect for due process in favour of self-justifying, divisive and destructive practices designed to facilitate continuous and illegitimate hold on power.

    In the third place, with respect to national development, the country has witnessed only the most intensive development of corruption ever in its history, alongside the collapse of the nations’ key infrastructural facilities, especially electricity and water supply, as well as security and transportation. The most glaring fact is that the country did not execute any national economic development agenda over the one decade of the Fourth Republic either in agriculture, industry or the commercial sector. Their total neglect, and consequent decline, is aggravated by the fact that not a single discernible and beneficial foreign development agenda, of the IMF, World Bank or the United Nations has, either, been executed to any appreciable extent. On the other hand, over the same period, the country earned the highest amount of revenue, from crude oil, ever recorded in its history. Similarly the Obasanjo regime “sold” off or “privatized” virtually every known asset of significance ever earned, or accumulated, by successive Nigerian governments since the founding of the country. These include most of its economically viable parastatals, government owned landed properties in its capital cities of Abuja and Lagos, as well as many other towns in addition to its massive controlling shares in virtually all other major national private sector industrial, financial and service establishments. Further to this the country was subjected to massive and continual fuel price increases even as the nation’s refineries, industries and educational establishments were experiencing phenomenal mismanagement and collapse. This situation greatly aggravated poverty, on the one hand, while greatly concentrating wealth in the hands of a few political elites who, in the main, repatriated such wealth abroad where they usually acquire the benefits of foreign national citizenship, and the functional facilities available there, even as they undermine their own country’s capacity to develop and operate same at home. An important dimension to the role of the state in poverty generation in the polity is, among many others, indicated in the extent to which private, self-employed small scale businesses in agriculture, industry, commerce and transportation are discriminated against, harassed and criminalized rather than encouraged and properly regulated in  some states as well as the Federal capital. 

    The quest by politicians to remain in power, as a basis for the unmolested perpetration and promotion of criminal and corrupt practices, is a distinguishing characteristic of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. This fact in itself, in many ways, leads to violent and sectional conflicts, either in the form of direct state repression or through the use of surrogate, partisan and sectionalist fifth columnists either by the state, leading politicians or associated money bags. 

    Under the Fourth Republic Nigeria’s republican character, as well as its independent status, have become greatly compromised. Its earlier efforts at controlling the commanding heights of its economy have been sacrificed on the alter of World Bank/IMF sponsored privatization campaign which, contrary to the logic of the Constitution, and previous policies of indigenization and employment-generation, designed to enhance  local economic self-reliance and prosperity,  have only led to increased foreign control  and dependency. There is instead a failure to overcome colonial economic structures representing foreign ownership of major resources and mines; a repressed industrial sector as well as an undeveloped agricultural sector, resulting in massive unemployment and underemployment. This shrunken, and subordinate, economic edifice is in turn further reduced by the high rate of both disinvestment and repatriation of capital occasioned by corruption, violent conflicts, lack of infrastructural services and the tendency of the elite to transfer ill-gotten wealth abroad. This situation, at the national level, is compounded by the extent to which regional and sub-regional efforts towards the creation of common markets, which could greatly expand economic opportunities and create jobs, have become stalled. One of the reasons responsible for this state affairs is the fact that under the chairmanship of Nigeria’s former president, Obasanjo, the old independent OAU has been transformed into a New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) which, now, ensures that African countries no longer operate as an independent regional group but rather as the usual subordinate “partners” to the USA and Europe. This has greatly subverted the unity and common strategy of African countries in their local as well as international affairs. This situation is further greatly reinforced with the establishment of American military command in Africa despite protests by the African Union and, unfortunately, with the connivance of the Nigerian government.

    With respect to the question of national unity, it is important to note that in addition to the various divisive conflicts characterizing the Fourth Republic, there is  also no new initiative towards addressing the need for national unity. In fact even the old policies, inherited from previous regimes, were largely neglected. For example there was the talk of selling off the Unity Schools as well as discussions on the possibility of scrapping the NYSC.

    It is the self-serving Úlites whose interests, and political practices, work against the genuine practice of nation-building, independence, unity, democracy, self-reliant economic development and overall regional integration that constitute the real enemies within. They are perpetual allies to the enemies from without. They reinforce, activate and deploy the ideologies, structures and mechanisms of socio-political control in the service of oppression, economic exploitation and national despoliation.

     

    Conclusion

    Contemporary multiculturalism, as a precept for community and nation-building, arose in opposition to European imperialism  in general and to its racist/tribalist ideologies of monoculturalism in particular. In Africa it has to contend with European racial discrimination as well as locally divisive ideology, and pervasive social policy, centered on the promotion of tribalism. The pervasive, deep and destructive influence of this ideology on political ideas, and practice, in Africa reflect the continuing lethal predominance of colonialism in the affairs of the continent in general and in the sphere of its cultural and ideological independence, in particular. It is only recently that major break throughs, in both the scientific and philosophical fields, are being made towards its comprehensive assessment and deconstruction by leading African scholars and their supporters. Although the ideology of tribalism has played and continues to play an important role in subverting the unification of individual African nations, and the region in general, it is the practical political, military, diplomatic and cultural designs pursued by imperial powers, in alliance with local political elites, that play the key role of sustaining it, as well as keeping the continent, its various nations and peoples, divided and disempowered enough to ensure its overall control.

    Significant as multiculturalism is to the promotion of unity, as well as the creative use and adaptation of diverse forms of socio-cultural resources, its ultimate mission cannot be the enthronement of cultural uniformity or mono-culturalism in any sense of the word. Its key contribution is to enable unity in diversity-in other words development sourced from diverse sources, through various programs of diversification which are also designed to satisfy diverse interests, goals and purposes. In this sense multiculturalism ought to facilitate diverse forms of expressions in diverse ways, towards the achievement of diverse ends. It cannot afford to be anything less than democratic in the pursuit of both individual and group rights. It cannot afford to subordinate, suffocate and strangulate the political and economic rights of citizens, the toiling masses or its creative, as well as productive, social classes under the dubious notion of an abstract, mythical and trans-historical culture, traditions or customs as the colonialists have done in Africa, to the detriment of its peoples. It must allow for the full expression, protection and pursuit of the political rights of all citizens. As we have seen it is the termination of human, political and democratic rights that is concealed under the rhetoric, and practice, of “native” or “traditional” cultures. It was through these policies of containment and control that despotism was effectively implemented. It was the reduction of colonial subjects from the level of independent human beings to racially abused natives, anchored in the denial of sovereignty, political rights and democracy that constituted the primary flanks of imperial domination. That is why the independence of African countries cannot be divorced from genuine practice of democracy which guarantees national independence through popular sovereignty, full citizenship rights and equality before, as well as under, the law. These will not be possible where national and regional unity is not also pursued as a necessary basis for empowering both the nation and the region to achieve, and sustain, their political and economic imperatives.

    The on-going, unified, agitation for political reform in Nigeria that would ensure democracy under the rule of law, needs to be seriously focused on, and addressed, by the government. The government ought to be seen to be committed to ensuring that elections are truly fair and democratic, reflecting the wish of the people rather than the illegitimate designs of some political elites. It is, finally, important to emphasize that democracy without the rule of law, separation of powers as well as checks and balances, symbolized in accountability, is but only dictatorship under a different name. As we have seen it has been in the character of the enemies from within, in collaboration with the enemies from without, to subvert and deny genuine independence, unity, democracy, and development in favour of foreign tutelage, and local disempowerment as well as the exploitation and despoliation of the national resources. 

     

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    Return to Table of Contents

    Interview with  the  South African activist scholar,

    Hosea Jaffe

     

    This is an excerpt from a  recent interview of  the South African activist Hosea Jaffe by Gloria Emeagwali.  Mr. Jaffe has published numerous  books, including nine  books in English. He was born in Cape Town in 1921. In 1943 he was a co-founder of the anti-imperialist Non-European Unity Movement, in whose activity he participated directly, until forced by the Suppression of Communism Act of 1952 to leave South Africa, in 1959. He addressed national conferences of the New Unity Movement in Cape Town and Johannesburg after first returning to South Africa in 1989. His most recent works deal with the conceptual category of race, missing from Marx’s work and what he considers the quiet racism of ‘first world’ Marxism.

     

     

    GE:   Mr . Hosea Jaffe can you please introduce yourself.

     

    Jaffe:     I was born in a segregated hospital  at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

    I  left university in 1959. At UCT I was introduced to the Communist Party. They wanted to condone the Moscow Trials in the late 1930s. I refused. I became one of the founders of Trotskyism in South Africa. I was not interested in the pro-segregation position taken by the White South African Party at that time, and became the only  non -European  member of the Unity Movement. Mandela was a member of  the Unity Movement for several years in the 1950s but we could not get him to remain. We had a policy of non-segregation, a big movement in the 1940s, with membership consisting of African peoples in the church, trade unions, peasant groups and a wide range of people. We wanted to overcome divide and rule policies.

     

    GE: You mention trade unions. Do you have any information about  Clement Kadalie?

     

    Jaffe: He was a big figure. He  formed the ICU in 1919 and was an active member  of the African National Congress. He was probably controlled by the Labor Party in the United Kingdom. He was from Malawi and was a  very fine speaker.

    GE: How did the Non-European Unity Movement differ from the  Communist party and the ANC?

     

    Jaffe: Well first of all the South African Communist Party was a racist organization with no Black members. It supported the strike of the White Miners against Black skilled workers. It was founded by Whites and became in the 1940s and 1950s - until 1960 - White controlled. Daidoo, became the leader of the Communist Party after the ‘Suppresion of Communism Act.’ He tried his best, but had no way of controlling the organization.

     

    GE: How about Joe Slovo?

     

    Jaffe: He wanted to work with the African National Congress. He was against the policy of non-collaboration. His wife Ruth First was killed by the apartheid regime. We  of the Unity Movement were not going to support  pseudo independence. The Whites finally made an agreement with Mandela to have economic power in exchange for political power. Our policy was always for non-collaboration. Reconciliation was a cover up.

     

    GE:    You have written several books,  including 300 Years. Can you tell me about it?

     

    Jaffe: I spent my time preparing the text. It became famous. They were celebrating three hundred years of  White oppression,  so I decided to write a book against it. The Soweto students published it. It is a history of South Africa based on two processes including the long process of racial discrimination. The genesis of capitalism was colonialism. Today the profit is from Third World countries. They globalized to make workers more directly accessible to capitalism.

     

       GE:   What about your new book, Was Capitalism Necessary?

     

    Jaffe: The book has been published in several languages. I decided to do it  because I found that, looking at my own writings,  I was always critical of Marx and Engels, their thoughts, and the organizations that they formed.  So I went further and looked into the matter and I came to the view expressed in this book. Marx’ idea was categorical. Yes capitalism was necessary. Without it we could not have socialism.  If you look closely at his ideas, and analyse Das Capital, a book  based on sound Ricardian principles, as well as the Grundrisse,  he really was concerned only with the Western World. He went to form a Western proletariat organization which he called the First International, and that organization, led by the Western working class, was to bring about socialism.  On page 81 of Was Capitalism Necessary,  there is a discussion of what Marx and Engels said about independence,  namely, that all the colonies that were White such as Canada, Australia and so on,  were to become independent, but countries with ‘Native’ populations would be taken over and guided to independence. In the last ten years or so Engels became a very upright English imperialist. His policy was eurocentric. Both Engels and Marx were against the Algerian struggle of 1830, and were on the side of France.

     

     

     

    Selected Writings of Hosea Jaffe

     

    Fascism in South Africa. Cape Town, 1946

    300 Years, A History of South Africa. Cape Town: New Era Fellowship, 1952

    Razzismo e Capitalismo in Rhodesia, Zambia e Malawi. Milan: Jacabook, 1971

    Africa, Movimiento di Liberazione.  Milan: Mondadori, 1968

    A History of Africa. London: Zed Books, 1988

    Sud Africa  Storia  Politica.     Milan: Jacabook, 1997

    Was Capitalism Necessary?  Milan: Jacabook, 2008