Vol. XXI, Issue 2 (Spring 2014):
Olayemi Akinwumi (South Africa)
For more information on AfricaUpdate
In this issue of Africa Update, Professor R.C Njoku reflects on the various rebellions that have erupted around the world within the last few years. What does the future hold for Africa, in particular, and humanity in general? Will governments respond to street protests and popular revolts and rebellion by bringing about appropriate socio-economic reforms? How will Europe cope with its on-going sovereign debt crisis? Will dictatorship replace democracy in any of the indebted countries? Will socialism make a comeback or will anarchy be the new world order in regions across the globe? Will the nation state as we know it disappear in some areas? These are some of the questions raised by the scholar, and, in this era of mayhem and chaos in numerous regions, from Tunisia and Egypt's Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria and South Sudan, the” occupy” movements in the US, the UK and elsewhere, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Russian nationalism, secessionism and neo-Nazism in Ukraine, there is no better time to ask them. On a different note, Dr. Zacharys Gundu comments on an exhibition of newly discovered Nigerian antiquities that was held in Frankfurt, Germany in 2013, before being launched in Nigeria. Gundu argues that the premature exhibit was indeed an insult to Nigerians, who should have had a clear role in the presentation of such artifacts. He proposes guidelines with respect to Nigerian antiquities and calls for fairness and inclusivity. Nigerian archeologists should not be marginalized in their own country. Nor should the racist, supremacist and exploitative agenda underpinning archeological activity in the colonial era be allowed to rear its ugly head in this new millennium. It is interesting to note that a German archeological team in Ethiopia has also been queried for inadequate compensation for land and labor and inappropriate activity. The time has come for African countries to reconsider their association with those foreign archeological teams and their puppets that are bent on plunder, misappropriation, and marginalization of Africans.
We thank the contributors for their scholarly analyses.
Professor Gloria Emeagwali
Raphael Chijioke Njoku, PhD ,
The burden of this discourse is on the increasing global impulsion for youth rebellion and radicalism against the established state systems and what this emergent trend portends for conventional statehood in Africa, in particular, and for humanity, in general. From the most subtle to the most radical, about three subtypes of the movement could be identified worldwide. The newest is mostly evident in the diverse shades of social movements that cropped up in various parts of the world: the “Arab Spring,” “Occupy Wall Street,” “Tahrir (Martyr) Square” and so on.1 Given the circumstances from which the movements were born, it is important to add that they have been mostly well-justified. The justifications may be found with the worsening conditions of living around the world brought about by leadership failures and corruption of leaderships, downturn in the global economy and the resultant financial crisis, rising unemployment, and increasing high costs of energy, education, healthcare, housing, water, and food. Indeed, the protesters have received a sympathetic voice from Columbia University economist and Noble Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz with the comment that “protesters around the world say they are part of a generation that played by the rules but has no hope for the future.”2
Whether this generation of young people has indeed played by the rules is debatable in view of the fact that similar movements have risen in places where the socioeconomic conditions are comparably fair, and social justice remains within the reach of the ordinary man.3 This second sub-type of rebels- without- a- cause has neither a clear-cut rationale nor carefully articulated sets of demands/goals. The motivation for protesters in places like Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, countries where the standards of living remains relatively high, for example, seem to be their penchant to identify with a rising global movement portrayed daily on YouTube, cable television, emails, Facebook, twitter, chat rooms, and other social media and networks. An activist in London defended this sub-type of protestations with the logic that “At this stage, I would say that demands are not a good thing to have because the idea is to create an open space for critical conversation on a broader level in the occupations, but nationally, internationally, etc.”4
The third sub-type, the homicidal ideologues, and undoubtedly very destructive, has been around for quite a while but was popularized in a spectacular fashion on September 11, 2001 following the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. Let us not forget that the Osama Bin Laden-inspired brand of religion - political extremism was also a form of resentment at the emergent neo-capitalist system that has created a bottomless “unhappy valley” between the haves and the have-nots, the powerful and the powerless, and the North versus the South. The stunning execution of the destruction of the World Trade Center by the terrorists had all the trappings of youthful recklessness that no truly spiritual minded fellow would ever conceive. This sheer homicidal run has since spread to Yemen, Spain, Norway, Nigeria, Russia, Britain, Mali, Algeria, and Syria in what the Center for Systemic Peace has identified as “global terrorism” with serious intensity.5
The evolving phenomenon throws into relevance some critical philosophical questions over the meaning of nationhood, citizenship and nationality, dictatorships and political control, freedom, egalitarianism, human rights, liberalism, democracy, and capitalism. Is the world witnessing a probable demise of capitalism and democracy?6 Have we seen the last of fascism, Nazism and dictatorship? Will these concepts remain relevant in the coming future? If not, which of the “isms” will help make new meanings of our world today? In other words what ideals of political philosophy can both explain and accommodate the challenges presented by an emergent generation of global citizens stewed in a combustible mixture of crumbling economies, shrinking family values, Global Positioning System (GPS), cell-phones, twitters, iPods, and Facebook cultures? What sought of ideological surveillance could be deployed to maintain security while answers are sought for the continued use of pipe bombs, suicide belts, predator drones, and other gadgets that have altogether trapped human society in an unpredictable and violent dance of destiny? This is the complex and slippery task this analysis is devoted to.
Colonialism, Cold War, and the Beginning of History
The present order of things in Africa and other regions did not suddenly appear from nowhere. Historically it has been in the making since 1492 (the pivotal year Christopher Columbus first sailed to the New World) but picked a fierce momentum following European colonial encompassing and emasculation of the Americas, Asia, Oceania/Australasia, and Africa. Over the colonial centuries, the Europeans sowed the twin seeds of Western notions of development and underdevelopment.7 As a result, the progression of human society became synonymous with reshaping non-Western societies after Western ones or what some scholars have branded “global neoliberalism.”8 The cultures that tried to question or reject the neo - capitalist system hoisted by the Europeans were branded communist and therefore dangerous.9 In Africa, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and for a while, Siad Barre of Somalia were singled out for destruction. Their crime was their publicly expressed opinion that Communism—whether the Africa genre or its Western brand –was the best option for African development. The West led by the U.S. imposed iron curtains of isolation around the nonconformists and sustained the Cold War from 1945 to 1989 against “enemies” of capitalism. The struggle was wedged with high-tech espionage, satellite launches, spacecraft, assassinations, coup d'états, economic sanctions, sabotage, proxy wars, propaganda, videos, germs, and other biological agents.
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the key players in the East-West ideological struggle (U.S. Russia, Britain, France, Germany) began to aggressively commercialize and civilianize Cold War era hi-tech inventions—GPS, cell-phones, internet access, emails, and others. These gadgets radically altered the speed with which humans and information travel. In the academia, students of international studies and social science theorists responded with new paradigms extrapolating the emergence of a new world order. Among other things, these scholars foresaw an evolving world in which global citizens and consumerism would become nationality-less with an imminent breakdown in traditional statehood.10 Although this optimism was founded mainly on the difficult-to-police swiftness with which hitherto privileged information was now accessed via the internet, the economists were more interested in the expansion of multinational businesses like AT&T, Nike, Wal-Mart, Toyota, Chevron, Puma, Exxon, Shell BP, to mention but a few.
In the light of this, the phrase “global village” gained currency in popular usage. In 1999, Thomas L. Friedman titillated the minds of readers of The Lexus and the Olive Tree with the argument that "globalization is not simply a trend or fad but is, rather, an international system. It is the system that has replaced the old Cold War system, and, like that Cold War System, globalization has its own rules and logic that today directly or indirectly influences the politics, environment, geopolitics and economics of virtually every country in the world."11 Despite the way academics responded to Friedman's thesis, there is no denying the fact that perhaps only a handful of countries—namely Canada, China and Norway were adequately prepared to meet the demands of the new world order. While China applied heavy doses of disciplinary policies to contain the excesses of its youths, it also invested heavily around the world, particularly in Africa in order to ensure the future of its teaming population. Canada and Norway used enormous resources to cushion the rough edges of needs by guaranteeing social welfare for their citizens, while extracting their abundant natural resources piecemeal.
The animation following the emergent global order was so big in the 1990s that Francis Fukuyama authoritatively declared that it was the End of History.12 A more cautious opinion was offered by Samuel Huntington who looked at the horoscope contrasting the view of Fukuyama (his former student) with a prediction that the lines of future conflicts have been drawn along culture zones—for instance Asian versus Western cultures; Christianity versus Islamic cultures, and so on.13 But as some of these avowals are now unfolding on the global stage, it is clear that the thaw in the Cold War was not by any means the end of history. Rather, it was a momentous process of transition to a new era in human society. An era in which the youth, particularly young people in Africa and the Middle East were in a hurry to enjoy positions previously reserved for those with superior chronological age.
There is therefore an urgent demand for a critical reexamination of the concepts of political liberalism, neoliberalism, and global governance in order to reposition their implicit idioms as youth culture and rebellion masked in revolutionary garb threaten established governmental systems and sociopolitical norms. From the suburbs of Paris Communes through Oslo and London; and from the dictatorship mélanges of Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Libya, and Yemen; the resilient terror cells in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, Mali, Pakistan and India; and from the decomposition of the state in Somalia to the cell-phone vices in West Africa, every corner of the world has quickly embraced a man-made epidemic that has left political philosophers in a deficit position. The evolving phenomenon necessitates a number of relevant questions: Is this the end of modernity or the beginning of the postmodernism eminent French philosophers, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida began to articulate as ideological concepts in the 1980s?14 Where will this emergent culture take the African continent in the coming decade?
Knowledge and the End of History
The root causes of the emergent global movement underbellies the evolutionary nature of human history. Georg Hegel and Karl Marx were the first European thinkers to write about the evolutionary nature of history. Despite his deprived knowledge of African history in particular and the history of non-Western societies in general, Hegel however noted that human history is about the unfolding of human reasoning, which gradually but eventually culminates in the expansion of human freedom. Karl Marx, in his classic mastery of the dialectics of politics, economy, and conflicts, observed that human society transformed from the pre- human society to hunter-gatherer society through agricultural, preindustrial, and then industrial and postindustrial orders as the economy also progressed.
The Hegel-Marx praxis provides us with a couple of interrelated clues that can be underlined. The first is the expansion of reasoning and human freedom in the Hegelian tradition. In the past three decades or more, the African youth have welcomed the rise of postmodernism as a handy tool to explain new logic—especially as they relate to power, human rights, women's rights, and gay/lesbian lifestyles. In fact the Igbo grey-haired elders did not need to read Hegel to denote that “new perceptions are gained every hour”—meaning that indeed human reasoning grows with age and experience.
While Africa is still waiting for the industrial breakthrough, industrial manufactures have successfully permeated and transformed all localities of the world with exotic cultures in forms of new and ‘sophisticated' tastes and lifestyles that are difficult to sustain as new generations of “modernized” or rather culturally rootless people emerge. In light of this, Fukuyama has revisited his 1989 book, strongly defending and solidifying his controversial thesis with the point that “The end of history was thus, a theory of modernization that raised the question of where that modernization process would ultimately lead.”15 Therefore what is confronting mankind today is a highly combustible mixture of three ideologies: postmodernist thinking, over indulgence in opulent and greedy consumerism, and increasing reckless resource depletion. As things are going, it is almost as if there is no tomorrow. The human locusts eat up available resources today.
Perhaps the answer to the question as to where the new pace of modernization would ultimately end has come upon us even though the nature of things to come is still unfolding and unclear. It is ironic that the final stage of the implosion was set for the global majority or the 99 percent of the world population (here identified as the 99ners) right from the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which marked the momentous triumph of capitalism over socialism. The West celebrated victory with the Reaganite neoliberal agenda—including the imposition of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) on developing countries, particularly in Africa where the program wreaked havoc on Africa's mono- economies and acerbated the cadence of political crisis. While the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club and other Western Credit institutions pressed on with liberalization and marketization programs, the great awakening it brought allowed the impoverished majority the opportunity to start questioning the rights of the privileged elite to dominate every sphere of economic and political systems. Indeed, the last two to three decades are a watershed, a point when humans crossed a threshold to attain an epiphany—a realization that similar problems of the rich versus the poor; the powerful versus the powerless—are issues that cut across boundaries of ideology, culture, creed, race, and ethnicity.16 It is one of the consequences of a modern capitalist system - that has no human face and was energized by European colonialism- and the height of an insatiable penchant for material acquisition and consumerism.
With the hindsight of anti-colonial and liberation movements in Africa and Latin America, Franz Fanon and Chinua Achebe are right in their separate observations that colonized people dreamt to occupy the positions of the former colonialists as soon they ejected them.17 Human freedom, in its true appreciation, both as a concept and a political reality, is an inherent part of life, a universal condition for harmony.
If this psychology of colonial domination and liberation is accepted, then scholars can critically interpret the difference between Fukuyama and Huntington as academic soothsayers. Both scholars, from their vantage epistemological standpoints, tried to predict the future of human history in light of the evolutionary nature of things. They quite understood that human society is dynamic. In an interesting admittance, Fukuyama agrees with Huntington, and more importantly Max Weber before them, that culture is a critical factor in human society, the organizing force that shapes the direction and velocity of modernization in both the political and economic sense of the word. The points of contrast remains that where Fukuyama stated the imperative, Huntington rejects the fact that the Enlightenment values and institutions—freedom, popular government, freedom of speech, human rights, justice and equity, are universal values. Rather Huntington claimed that these are solely Western.18
The truth, however, is that long before the Enlightenment which blossomed in the eighteenth century, the Igbo, Akan, Berber, Somali, Dimka, Efe, Kikuyu, and several other precolonial Africans understood the incorrigible value of democracy and lived by its principles.19 In Europe after the so-called Enlightenment, what happened was that oligarchies continued in their old ways using propaganda and subterfuge to entrench power and privileges. As Michael Vickers has aptly observed, it is daily more and more obvious “that autocratic and oligarchic governance world-wide, whether in overt or camouflaged form, is losing traction at an accelerating rate. Everywhere, the common man is making it very clear that oligarchs posing as democrats have pushed their luck to the limit.”20
Under the unfolding order, China remains an interesting chapter in political and economic study. Vickers has observed that on the economic front, the swing of mass production and industrial goods has changed all of a sudden with the big twist. According to Vickers, China's powerful grasp on the “economies of America and the West, is like a great boa constrictor. Mortally wounded and wallowing in unbridled greed, massive debt and moral bemusement/ decay, the days of America and the West as dominant players are numbered.”21 On the political front, China has refused to democratize in the Western sense of the word, but a billionaire like the Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, has scored a point of controversy in stating that he left America and denounced his U.S. citizenship because “Americans everywhere are restricted.”22 More surprising and curious is the fact that the Facebook guru is now doing his business investments in China. If everything we read from the news media is true, one would have thought that China is not the best place to seek the freedom and liberty Saverin craves for.
Undoubtedly, internet based social networks will increase the pace and range of the youth culture in Africa and more old-fashioned rulers across the globe will face open challenges from the people. One can therefore begin to imagine what governments will do to stave off the impact of the movement that is beginning to manifest in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, and Mali are some of the major battlefields with Islamists trying to carve out separate statehoods in the northern regions of both countries, while in eastern Nigeria, organized crime in the form of kidnapping, and armed robbery have been serving as the forerunner of things to come.
What the entire Occupy drama and youthful revolutionary zeal will result in and how it will end is anybody's guess. The truth of the matter is that similar mass movements in the past did not always end on a peaceful note both for the protesters and their intended targets. For instance the French, Haitian, and Latin American revolutions ended up destroying both the ancient regimes and the revolutionary leaders, despite the fact that each of these revolutions ushered in new beginnings. One may foresee a similar outcome in Africa if those in the corridors of power fail to devise potent strategies to calm down nerves and deflate the increasing threats from the masses' discontents. An acclaimed prophet of God in the person of Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Nigeria, has expressed serious concerns about the rupture in the making. He proffers the simple solution that governments, particularly African leaders, must create jobs for the youth and try to accommodate them in positions of power.23 Friedman was right in his declaration that planning ahead is the most potent solution to peace for every nation to be able to weather the new challenges: “you need a strategy for how to choose prosperity for your country or company.”24
While African leaders have appeared oblivious of the interests of the young people, it is equally bothersome to observe that in most cases, the Western governments have also been slow (or even indifferent) to respond positively to the legitimate demands of the masses. For instance, in the United States, the Congress politicized the grievances tabled by the 99ners: “We demand immediate reforms to end government corruption and curtail the harmful impact of corporate greed.” The U.S. protesters charged congress to “reduce the harmful economic impact of Wall Street speculators;” to “prosecute the criminals who brought about the global financial crisis,” and “pass the ‘Buffet Rule' which enjoins the rich to pay just fair tax as the poor do.”25
Rather than acknowledging and addressing grievances, government officials in Africa, like their counterparts in Britain, U.S. and Spain have used legal charges to thwart the cohesion of the movements, arrest and stop protesters. The moral dilemma of these crackdowns was contested on a poster at the Occupy Wall Street Zuccotti Park in New York in 2011 with the slogan: “Break curfew get Arrested. Break Economy get Bonus.”26 Such charges of double standards will neither make world leaders look good before the court of public opinion nor help resolve the rising problem of social unrest. In the light of this, Stiglitz has noted that social protests everywhere give “a sense that the system has failed….. the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process could not set things right—at least not without strong pressure from the street.”27 This is corroborated by a view held by protesters in Australia who claimed that “Occupy Adelaide was an ongoing community protest to peacefully demonstrate the urgency of rebuilding democracy from the grassroots and to challenge the all-powerful and privileged minority elite who perpetuate social injustice in the interests of corporate profits.”28
What Does the Future Hold for Africa and the World?
The task at hand is to try to project the likely consequence of the ongoing movements in Africa and elsewhere. Individual governments around the world have two or three basic choices to make. One is to respond positively to popular demands for change by implementing social reforms that will bring about “a democracy where people, not dollars matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do.”30 As Stiglitz further states, “this includes providing the masses an opportunity to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay and a fairer economy and society. The hope is evolutionary not revolutionary.”31 In other words, complying with these demands or hopes may or may not extinguish the flame of radicalism and anger in the streets but at least, it will take off some pressures from political leaders and buy some cooling off period for state leaders to take a proactive measure that may blunt the speed and sharpness of the movement. Temporary solutions have not quite succeeded in solving social ills. Where one may rest the danger is that this generation of people glued to cybernetics already knows too much and their tastes and lifestyles are difficult to meet. As the popular Nollywood actor dramatized recently in his new movie “Osuafia's Wedding,” the African youth also want to marry on the internet while expecting cultural compliance from their spouses.32 Such expectations are naïve, if not unreasonable.
The second scenario is the likelihood of return of autocratic and totalitarian regimes as seen in the period before the 1980s. A current example is Egypt since the July 3, 2013 military coup that sacked the elected Islamist government of Mr. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood Party. As the events continue to unfold, no one can say for sure what the next order will be. In the recent past, China, Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran violently subdued similar movements against their governments. Meanwhile governments in the U.S. France, Spain, and Britain have employed arbitrary uses of power to disorganize protesters. In Greece, Italy, and Spain the Occupy Movement cashed in on the rising debt crisis to greatly rattle their governments but did not achieve more. It might not come as a surprise if one of the established Western democracies relapsed into a dictatorship in order to crush rising violent mass protests.
The third scenario is to expand the welfare state system or enable true Marxism—that is the quest to actualize the rule of workers of the world by way of seizing control of means of production as envisaged in classical Marxism. It is often usually assumed among the leaders of postcolonial nation states in Africa and Latin America that Marxism is a recipe for radicalism. Contrarily, a closer look at the classical Marxist doctrine reveals that it is indeed a humanist ideology of state organization and socialist economic existentialism. The original vision of Marx and Engels was articulated on the expectation that a more humane society would materialize and exploitation of the means of production by a few privileged elite would give way for a socialist worker's republic. In this system, the expectation has been that those whose labor produced the wealth would enjoy the fruits of their hard work. This doctrine first tested in Russia following the October Revolution of 1917, achieved limited success in the classical sense. It is important to know that the version of socialism that was instituted in the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) and to which most Marxist governments around the world identified with was quite different from the original principles of the ideology. Lenin and Stalin like Mao Zedong in China, and Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, corrupted Marxism to suit their respective brands of local politics and societal organizations. Perhaps the only brand of communism that came close to the aspirations of Marx and Engels was Julius Nyerere's Ujamaa as applied in Tanzania.33
Fourthly, if none of these three scenarios materializes, the world must brace up for a possible dissolution of the state systems, and reigns of anarchy in many countries. In its most refined form, there could be a break down in central governments and strengthening of regional governments as has been witnessed in Belgium since 2008. But the most likely scenario, particularly in Africa, could be the breakup of state systems in the manner seen in Somalia since the 1990s following the fall of the Siad Barre dictatorship.
Although the process of disintegration is difficult to imagine at this point, what is not in doubt is that a new order is emerging that no ideology in practice may be able to define. Where the danger resides for everyone is that the list of religious fanatics, aggrieved politicians, business failures, anarchists and mischief makers is growing. Anyone or group of people could take advantage of the emerging order of things under the cover of the popular “liberal democratic” movement to cause huge damage to life and property in Africa or elsewhere.
This article focused on the increasing tendency for youth revolt and radicalism against the established state systems across the world. It attempted to describe what this emergent trend portends for traditional systems of government in particular and for humanity in general. The immediate cause of the rising social discontent has been identified with the recent economic deterioration. Poverty is aggravating anger at a time when human society is ripe with high expectations and unbridled tastes and affluent lifestyles.
The world may be heading towards the evolution of either an expanded welfare state, true socialism or a complete resort to anarchy and lawlessness. The choice taken by global leaders today will determine which of the “isms” will eventually triumph—democracy/capitalism, dictatorship/centralized economy; true communism/socialism or something new to our world.
The Nok Frankfurt Exhibition: An Interrogatory Comment
An exhibition on the Nok Culture of Nigeria, titled ‘Nok. Origin of African Sculpture' opened in Frankfurt, Germany on 30th October, 2013. This is coming after close to 10 years of controversial archaeological investigations in the Nok valley by a German archaeological team led by Professor Peter Breunig of the Goethe University, Frankfurt. The Germans started their investigation of the Nok valley in 2005. Without a proper memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), the German team embarked on a suite of unethical activities involving wholesale exportation of excavated materials to Germany. Local communities in the Nok valley including community leaders and traditional chiefs were treated with contempt while the local archaeological community in the country was deliberately shut out of the project (see Gundu and Idoko 2012). Following sustained pressure and criticism of the project championed by the Archaeological Association of Nigeria (AAN), a MoU was signed between the Germans and the NCMM five years into the project. The AAN rejected this because it was badly skewed in favor of the Germans leading to a review by 2012. The extant MoU allows for the participation of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Jos as project collaborators. Both universities have departments of Archaeology. While the University of Jos offers archaeology at the undergraduate level, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria has an archaeology program up to the postgraduate level.
The Frankfurt exhibition is a sad commentary on the management of archaeological and heritage resources in the country. As pointed out by the AAN in a statement against the exhibition (a full text of the AAN statement can be seen at http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/89621), the Nok terracotta represent a strategic heritage resource in the country. They are the earliest of their type in sub Saharan Africa (see Jemkur 1992). This is the main reason why they ought to have been exhibited in Nigeria where the public has a direct connection with them before taking them to Germany. Starting the exhibition in Germany undermines international best practice and shows that, Nigerians are yet to win the right to interpret their heritage and patrimony through preservation and display.
By starting the exhibition in Frankfurt, the European audience has been effectively privileged over Nigerians whose forefathers were directly responsible for the Nok culture. German scholars have also been effectively given a first opportunity to skew the interpretation of the Nok finds to reinforce European historiography. The organizers of the exhibition have done this by exhibiting the Nok materials in dialogue with contemporary Egyptian and Greco Roman sculptures. (See press release on the exhibition by Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung at www.liebieghaus.de/admin/imageServer.php ) In the despicable philosophy of ‘universal museums', the Nok materials are deemed incompetent to stand alone before a European audience, hence the attempt to compare them as primitive art against figurative European art.(Opoku 2013b)
The exhibition is predicated on a skewed reading of the African past and it is clear, Nigeria had no input into the exhibition concept. This is unfortunate because the extant MoU with the Germans is particular on the fact that the Germans were only to fund the exhibition and assist in the design of the exhibition concept. The 292 page exhibition catalog is also skewed. Not only is the catalog written in German but out of the 20 chapters in the catalog, only three of them are written by Nigerians, underscoring the exclusion of Nigerian scholars in the project. In a clever way to legitimize the exhibition and give the impression of approval by the Nigerian authorities, the Germans got the Nigerian Minister for Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke to write the Preface to the Catalog while Mr. Abdallah Usman, the DG of the NCMM wrote the Foreword. Curiously, the Preface and Foreword are the only pages of the Catalog that are in English.
The exhibition underscores the urgent need for Nigeria (and other African countries) to safeguard national patrimony and appropriate the right to interpret it. The European interest in African studies must be recognized for what it is, to take control of the African past and validate the different ways of knowing it and to use Africa as a laboratory to breed European specialists in order to direct the direction of African studies and deploy knowledge on Africa in furtherance of European interests (see Andah 1995). Since 2005 when the Nok project started, the Germans have trained up to eight postgraduate students of European extraction at the Masters level using the Nok valley as a laboratory. At least two of these have started the PhD program on different aspects of Nok (see Breunig and Neumann 2011). Interestingly, no Nigerian is yet to be trained from this project at the postgraduate level. The Commission which is the ‘supervisory authority' of the Nok project has been unable to coordinate properly for the training. In a recent reaction to the position of the AAN against the Frankfurt exhibition, the Director General of the NCMM, claims the Commission ‘has in mind' the training of three Nigerian postgraduate students on the project at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.(see page 35 of The Nigerian Guardian Newspaper of 15th, November, 2013). That this is coming close to ten years of the project after the Germans have trained eight of their own is lost on the Director General of the NCMM, Mr. Abdallah Usman. Nigeria seems to be unprepared in effectively collaborating in this project. With the huge competence gaps in the NCMM (see Folorunso 2011) and lack of vigilance by the leadership of the NCMM, it is not clear how Nigeria will ensure that the Germans meet all their obligations in the project under the extant MoU. It is this fear that prompted the Archaeological Association of Nigeria to sponsor a resolution at the plenary of the 7th World Archaeological Congress (WAC) in Jordan calling on the Germans to respect the MoU and abide by its terms as part of international good practice.
The status of the Nok materials exhibited in Frankfurt is also not clear. Also obscured is how the materials even got to Germany. According to the press release by the organizers (Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung) of the exhibition, the materials comprise both original terracotta pieces and copies. In their words ‘Original terracotta will be presented next to faked pieces and copies' The organizers claim that ‘countless forgeries and copies have found their way into the art market and into museum collections'. The organizers are silent on how the ‘original terracotta' and ‘copies' on exhibition here were collected or acquired. Did all these come from the efforts of Professor Breunig and his team? Were some of these bought on the illicit art market? What exactly did the organizers receive on loan from the NCMM to supplement the exhibition? Answers to these questions are important not only because they will help Nigeria hold Germany accountable when returning these materials, the answers will also clear the German team of charges of involvement in illicit trade in antiquities in the Nok valley.
In the past, both the Germans and the NCMM have denied the wholesale export of the Nok materials from Nigeria, claiming only small samples and broken terracotta were taken out for analysis and restoration. The sheer number of Nok materials on display at Frankfurt and the fact that even fakes and copies were on display means that both the Germans and the NCMM were economical with the truth about what was in reality being exported from the Nok valley. Considering the fact that the Germans were not always accompanied by Nigerian archaeologists in their excavation of some sites in the Nok valley and they have not deposited any good records of what they have so far recovered in the Nok valley with the NCMM as required by law, it is any body's guess whether Nigerians will ever know what was taken out of the Nok valley by Professor Breunig and his team. It is also not clear if we will be able to hold the Germans to account when these materials are returned to the country. In at least one case highlighted by the Archaeological Association of Nigeria, the Germans were permitted to export a sealed deposit of Nok materials in POP from the site of Garaje in 2011. This was opened at the Romisch-Germanishches Zentral Museum in Mainz where the so called restoration of the Nok terracotta pieces took place in the absence of Nigerian scholars, even though the export permit gave this as a condition. Nigeria does not know what the Germans recovered from this cast.
The NCMM which has statutory stewardship responsibility over the country's heritage resources is sadly nonchalant about securing these resources for the benefit of Nigerians. In 2007, the Commission approved the export of rare funerary materials from the site of Durbi Takusheyi in Katsina State to Mainz in Germany, ostentatiously for restoration. After the restoration, the Germans retained the objects and put them on display in 2011 with the promise that the materials will return to Nigeria in 2012. These materials are still on display in Germany and no one knows whether they will ever return to Nigeria.
German scholarship is extremely dubious with the national patrimonies of other nation states. The German, Leo Frobenius is still fingered in the disappearance and replacement of the Olokun head in Ife with a copy (see Eyo and Willet 1980). The export of the bust of Nerfertiti from Egypt in 1913 by Ludwig Borcherdt also underscores German underhand dealings. The bust has remained in Germany all these years with the German Government contesting its ownership with Egypt. Yet in another development, German scholars exported the Bogazkov sphinx and other archaeological materials from Turkey for restoration after which they refused to return the items to Turkey. It was only in 2011 that international pressure compelled Germany to agree to return these treasures to Turkey (see Opoku 2012). Nigeria and other African countries dealing with countries like Germany and rogue ‘universal' museums must be very careful. At the moment, Germany is holding 1,038 Benin stolen artifacts between five of their museums in Berlin, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Dresden and Leipzig.(see Opoku 2013a) The Leo Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt alone has 5,670 Nigerian antiquities in its collections(see Kuba 2010 and Hambolu 2010). Many of these, were collected and exported under dubious circumstances by Leo Frobenius during his infamous expedition to Nigeria between 1910-1912. If the NCMM were genuinely concerned with safeguarding Nigeria heritage, they would have been exploring how to engage Germany in order to ensure the repatriation of some of these treasures. What we see instead is the continued support and legitimization of exhibitions of Nigerian treasures outside the country by rogue museums and other institutions who are totally unwilling to sit down to discuss the repatriation of Nigerian antiquities illegally held in their storerooms.
In the case of the Frankfurt exhibition (and others), the Commission has continued to argue that exhibiting Nigerian treasures outside the country brings ‘good will to Nigeria' and is a window of opportunity to ‘sell the country outside oil'. This is warped thinking striving only because of the misunderstanding of the value of heritage in development. Exhibitions of Nigerian treasures originating in the west cannot bring good will to the country precisely because, they are predicated on exhibition concepts that are skewed against Nigeria. For rogue universal museums, such exhibitions do not only flaunt stolen Nigerian heritage treasures, they portray Nigeria and Nigerians as foolish when the country's officials are invited to legitimize such exhibitions through attendance and contributions to exhibition catalogs. We accept the portrayer when we not only loan artifacts to supplement such exhibitions but also present ourselves at the opening of such exhibitions and endorse their catalogs. Nigeria is certainly in need of good will and must aspire to sell itself outside oil. Yet, doing this requires the cultural sub sector to come to the knowledge that foreign exhibitions of our treasures are not the first way to go. The way to go is to first elevate our patrimony to premium status in the country before seeking to sell ourselves outside oil.
Nigeria must use the unfortunate Frankfurt exhibition to review modalities for international collaboration in the study of the country's patrimony. As custodians of our heritage, the NCMM must support Nigerian scholars to take control of the study of our past and appropriate the right to interpret it. The Frankfurt exhibition must be the last of its kind. Nigerian heritage treasures must debut in Nigeria before going for exhibition outside Nigeria. When that happens, Nigeria must insist on writing the exhibition concept as a way of ensuring the country has a voice in the interpretation and presentation of its heritage to the world. The NCMM and Nigerian Government should also stop legitimizing the exhibition of illicit Nigerian treasures held by rogue museums in Europe and America. Time has come to put in all we can to engage countries and institutions laying claims to our antiquities.
* Associate Professor of Archaeology and African Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. He is also the current President of the Archaeological Association of Nigeria and the Editor of the Journal of Nigerian Field Archaeology. Contact: email@example.com