Wednesday, September 26, 2007

American Race-Relations Regressing

American Race-Relations Regressing Written by Paul I. AdujieNew York, United States

A man cannot come to your home and congratulate your mother for not being a prostitute, to do so will amount to the ultimate insult; says Boyce Watkins who is currently a Finance Professor at Syracuse University.
The above comments, were made in response to Fox Television commentator’s goof-offs Bill O’Reilly, of Fox TV‘s "The O’Reilly Factor" blundered after meeting a prominent African American leader, the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Bill O’Reilly, an ultra conservative, extreme rightwing public affairs commentator, visited Sylvia’s, the famous restaurant in Harlem, New York City in the company of Reverend Al Sharpton, a renowned African American activist; At the end of the visit, Bill O’Reilly was quoted as saying "I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship" (patronage)?

O’Reilly and persons like him just make my head spin, what with the monumental ignorance that they publicly exhibit?. His dumb comments encapsulates and exemplifies the state of affairs in race-relations in today’s America which appears to be retrogressing

Mr. O’Reilly garrulously stereotyped African Americans and generalized about African Americans as if he was talking about cavemen or persons from mars or 17th Century civilization in today’s world or as if describing animals from whom he did not expect decent human behaviors. He talked about them so inelegantly, that he betrayed a common attitude among whites like him, who seem to be shocked upon learning we too, bleed blood or that we have normal lives and actually sit to enjoy fine dining without expletives!

This week has been very difficult in race relations in America. Racism was part of America's past. Racism is still a major disease that ravages America. This week rekindles an apt question asked by a Nigerian recently. Do Africans understand racism? In this regard, I am wondering how American racially motivated incidents of the past several days is being viewed by Nigerians and other Africans!

In the past ten days, we have learnt or have been reminded of the double standard in the criminal justice system in America which appears not to have changed from Jim Crow laws of yesteryears as Jena, Louisiana prosecutors informed African American High School boys, that he could ruin their lives with a stroke of his pen and he does with the help of a judge. A young African American, Mr. Bell, is still unjustly imprisoned for participating in a school yard fight. A school yard fight that had it genesis from unequal right and unequal justice in Jena. Jena High School had a tree, under which only white students could sit and frolic.

African Americans sought the "consent" and "permission" from the school administration, to be able to also sit under the same tree, sometimes. And school administrations says, no problem! Upon exercising this innocuous right, white students or their parental cohorts hung nooses from the tree. A clear reminder of the repugnant and reprehensible practice of how white America historically terrorized and lynched and brutalized African Americans.

African American at Jena High School reported the explosively provocative nooses display to the school administration and school administration did no more than slap the white students on the wrists. Then, palpable tensions ensued and it culminated into frequent schisms and physical fights, local prosecutors attempted intimidating African American students with threats of ruining their lives with a single stroke of his pen.

Boys will be boys, especially in High School, where adolescent hormones rages over the surface often. More fights ensued and violence intensified, a white student who allegedly taunted African American students in the melee, was roughened up and severely bruised and then, all hell broke lose. 6 African American young boys were summarily charged with attempted murder! This was in December 2006. Seething complaints bubble to the open, and the hypocrisy and double standard of American criminal justice system is laid bare for the world to see. A court declares Mr. Bell, a juvenile, who ought to be tried, but not as an adult. Mr. Bell, the only one among the Jena 6, who is currently incarcerated and jailed as an adult, remains in detention despite this court order. Local prosecutors and a local judge who appears in cahoots, are adamant in keeping Mr. Bell in jail. And there Mr. Remains; despite nationwide uproar over the disparity and inequality in the criminal justice system versus comparative treatment of white with the perennial maltreatments and injustices which are visited upon African Americans.

As if in simulcast, an overlapping event occurred in Las Vegas, where there was the wide spread demonstrated and apparent desire by some to retry or even lynch O. J Simpson for an offence which he was previously acquitted, more than ten years ago, as Mr. Simpson’s laughable and foolish behavior in Las Vegas is turned into a ten count charge of armed robbery, kidnapping and what appears to have been staged, contrived and orchestrated to teach Mr. Simpson a lesson. Mr. Simpson acted foolishly and ineptly, and in all the silliness, it was clear that his white “friends” were following a script as they betrayed him. The sophomoric events in a hotel room on that fateful day, were tape-recorded and broadcast in every media. It was such a hoax and hoopla over very little, by dishonorable.

Clearly, it is obvious to even a fleeting observer that a majority in white America, including high profile trial and defense lawyers who ought to know better, are still seeking Mr. Simpson’s blood, in the murder, by unknown persons, of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman over ten years ago. It will be recalled, that Mr. Simpson was tried and duly acquitted by a jury of his peers. This is how it is supposed to work in America. Unless you are an African American accused, rightly or wrongly, of murdering of a white?

During this week as well, I have been glued to Public Broadcasting Service, as I watched Ken Burns’ PBS series documentary on War, the Second World War in which the American government and people famously claimed righteous defense of freedom and liberty, while simultaneously, it was fashionable to deny African Americans freedoms and individual liberty at home, while African Americans were segregated at home. And While African Americans were segregated in fighting units in the American Armed Forces.

African Americans were frontally attacked by White American soldiers, African Americans were attacked, terrorized and brutalized by White Americans civilians as well, all these, during the Second World War, when America was fighting wars in Europe supposedly for freedom and liberty, to which African Americans were not entitled or accorded in America from fellow Americans who are white. African American civilians working in military industrial complexes were segregated, after they were repeatedly terrorized and mauled by white Americans.

In plain English, there was a raging war in America in which white Americans brutalized African Americans and it was viewed as God ordained pecking order and divine and a given. Why did America have to travel thousands of miles to Europe to fight one Adolph Hitler, where there were millions of Adolph Hitler’s minis on US soil?

This week also marked 50 years of the forced racial integration of an Arkansas High School, which led to the Army National Guard leading 9 African Americans into a High School, that was all-white population. Can anyone imagine a child any where in the world being escorted by soldiers to attend High School classes? An event that is supposed to be so mundane and taken for granted in every part of the world, but for the African Americans, platoons and brigades upon brigades of military protective escorted were a necessity.

African Americans High School students at the time recounted this week, how were nevertheless, spat on, humiliated and demeaned, but the African American youngsters preserved and we witnessed the enduring raw emotions a couple of days ago, as the 9 African Americans recounted their unsavory experiences of fifty years ago… even as President Bush’s administration have sought to dismantle Affirmative Action programs, and efforts that were geared toward addressing historical injustices meted out to African Americans. President Bush with his Republican Party, have enacted legislations that seek to dismantle individual freedoms and liberty even as it continues to stack the US Supreme Court with neo-conservative justices with a view of entrenching ultra conservative social policies

It is against this backdrop, that Bill O’Reilly’s ignorant comments, in which he generalized and stereotyped African Americans, should not be viewed as an isolated misperception.
There is a pervasive double standard and hypocrisy in the way white America treat African Americans. Some were beginning to assume that these racist actions, utterances and attitudes are merely in the past. Fredrick Douglass was right about racism hydra-headed issue of our time. Unfortunately, this week is proof that racism remains an American pandemic!
Sources and

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Servant-Leader President Yar’Adua’s Nigeria Meets the World

Servant-Leader President Yar’Adua’s Nigeria Meets the World
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States

Nigeria is virgin business destination with abundant and boundless opportunities for Nigerian and foreign investors alike. This was the central theme and message of an all day conference and seminar on Monday.

Chief Nduka Obaigbena the ThisDay journalistic marvel and business guru, presented Nigeria to the world in New York on Monday and it was wildly successful and over-subscribed event. Nduka, as his Nigerian and American friends simply called him all day, accomplished what he set out to do.

President YarAdua our newly minted chief executive attended the conference-workshop’s grand finale. President YarAdua who is primarily in New York to attend the United Nations’ General Assembly annual gathering here in New York gave an impassioned speech, extempore, with full grasps of all issues Nigerian. He addressed all of Nigeria’s current challenges and prospects.

He repeated his vision of Nigeria, a developed and advanced nation where national prosperity is shared by all citizens. He used the occasion to invite Nigerians, Americans and others to invest in Nigeria. He repeated his administration desire to ensure that everyone adhere to set rules.

Nigeria Meets the World conference initiated, engineered and choreographed by Chief Nduka Obaigbena and his ThisDay Newspapers. The events were jointly sponsored by Oceanic Bank, Diamond Bank, UBA etc. There was a general session in which panelists detailed their positions on Nigerian issues and thereafter, the events were broken into several sessions in sections. My favorite and apparently, everybody’s favorite section session, was “Fighting Corruption” in which the indomitable Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the EFCC, the unruffled Mr. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola of the ICPC presented papers to standing ovations and endless thunderous applauses. They were joined by the very eloquent Dr. Oby Ezekwesili of the World Bank, as well as, Senator Victor Ndoma of our National Assembly.

On the matter of rules and President Yar’Adua’s administration continued insistence, adamant and repeated shrill-shouting of the importance of rule of law, due process and rule obedience, issues came to fore in some of the sections; and in particular, the “Fighting Corruption” seminar. There were notable and under stable criticism directed at Mr. Michael Andoakaa SAN, the attorney general of our federation for engaging in very public fights with heads of agencies of government, in particular, the EFCC.

The concerns expressed were particular strong, in view of the apparent appearance on the part of the attorney general’s public utterances and admonitions that tended to undermine, undercut and emasculate the EFCC. The attorney general’s comments had led some to wonder whether there were efforts, unexplained, to strangulate and stifle the EFFC’s vigorous pursuits of corrupt public officers, especially, ex-governors. The worry and complains of Nigerians were directed at the AG, as he seemed to have been sending conflicting messages regarding what Nigerians had assumed as a national resolve to tackle corruption and decimate or eliminate corruption from Nigeria. Nigerians at home and those of us in the Diaspora are insisting that there be no get-out-of-jail cards for corrupt ex-governor.

Ex-governors and some other former public officials have been engaging in desperate efforts to escape punishments and legal consequences of their looting and corruption, by obtaining frivolous and barely legal court orders. The former governor of Abia state, Mr. Orji Uzor Kalu was said to have obtained an exparte motion in order to truncate his schedule continued trial. Exparte motions and orders as such, are like orders to show cause, they are not necessarily definite or determinative, they are a precursor to further actions and more over, they are time sensitive embedded with expiration dates.

Hiding under these sorts of questionable or even spurious and frivolously issued exparte orders, while there is a subsisting federal court order, is what has led to the false cover and camouflage under which Mr. Kalu sought to escape punishment for 107 counts charge of corrupt enrichment. Mr. Kalu, has so far, “successfully” accused the EFFC of violating due process and the much touted rule of law!

The rule of law should not be used as a ruse, as a shield or as a cloak by those who are charged with heinous crimes against Nigerian people. It is just so painful to be watching from the sidelines, how corrupt ex-governors and other public officials are seeking to benefit from their impunity, twice. First, by looting unimpeded without regard to Nigerian laws which prohibits looting and corruption and second, by now seeking protection from our constitution and laws, for which they had not the slightest regard, in the first place!

In this regard, the current attorney general of the Nigerian federation, appears to be constituting himself to an obstacle, impediment and bane to fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s resolve to eradicate corruption should be unmistakable. There should be no succor or respite for those who plunder and pillage Nigeria of sorely needed resources for our national development. For our collective memory upgrade, the dearth of infrastructure in Nigeria is a consequence of corruption. A bad or impassable road is a result or outcome of budget diversion, money budgeted for good, new or repair of road are diverted to the personal use of corrupt officials. Hospitals are deprived of equipment? Ah yes! Money budgeted has been diverted. Epileptic power supply or no power supply at all, why? You guessed it, money budgeted has been diverted to some public official’s private use.

Crime and insecurity in the land? Money budgeted for crime fighting and for protection of lives and properties in Nigeria, is in the private pockets and bank accounts of Tafa Balogun the disgraced inspector general of police. It is against this background that the average Nigerians are tired and truly frustrated with these preachment of the rule of law and due process that is elitist and never extended to the more than 100,000 prisoners and detainees in Nigerian prisons and detention centers, detainees and prisoners, who have not stolen billions of Naira. Prisoners and detainees, clearly, Nigerians in prisons and detentions who have not had their day in court, who have not benefited from due process and rule of law mantras!

Meanwhile, audacious criminals, the looters, the plunderers and pillagers ex-governors, public officials in Nigeria, are able to hire tons of lawyers and tens of Senior Advocates and generate tomes of spurious defenses based tenuously, fine principles and tenets of law, such as, the rule law and due process! Talk of notorious criminals wrapping themselves with our constitution when it is time to pay for their desecration of the same constitution!
Teachable moments!

There were a great many Americans among the attendees of Nigeria Meets the world. The was Larry Summers, formerly of Harvard, and formerly a member of the President Clinton administration. There was Mr. Paul Begalia of CNN and formerly of the Clinton White House. Ambassador Carrington, formerly US ambassador to Nigeria. Those were the prominent Democrats present. Not to be outdone, the Republicans was represented by Dr. Henry Kissinger who is not known or remember for even one favorable policy towards Nigeria or Africa. Kissinger’s US foreign policy did not have Africa on its radar, the US in his time completely ignored Africa and or, actively undermined Nigeria and Africa.

And yet, Nigerians, some Nigerians seem to adore Dr. Kissinger and hold him in awe, adoration and appear to be completely enamored by this beefy old man. At this event on Monday, he talked generalities about Nigeria resources and potentials, aka oil energy.
He alluded to contests resources all through history which lead to incidents and will lead to more such dire incidents (I thought of slavery and colonization for raw materials for the powering of industrialization of America and Europe) and invasion, occupation and re-colonization in the future for oil energy for the continued industrialization and progress of, you guessed it, America and Europe.

As Kissinger engaged in these generalized ambiguities, the secretary to our federal government, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe diplomatically and eloquently stated Nigeria’s position and outlook. Chief Nduka Obaigbena asked pointed questions, including the issue of a so-called Africom or US African Command on the Gulf of Guinea where the US is said to be increasingly active militarily. A member of the audience, Mr. Max Gbanite also asked questions in line with Nduka. In the audience with me was Eric Ula-Lisa Esquire, the Bishop, Mr. Ade Animashaun aka MyHotBriain Mr. Mbonu all, regular commentators on Nigerian public policy issues at I also met and interacted with a former ThisDay journalist, Mr. Segun Adeniyi, who is now, Special Adviser to Nigerian president on media. I urged him to market Nigeria aggressively and often.

I take the view that President Obasanjo was not well served by his media handlers, as Obasanjo critics always were ahead of the game. They defined him and the issues. My hope is that President YarAdua’s handlers do not permit such scrambling, reactive and always being on the defensive, become a standard rule or mode of operation. I invited Mr. Segun Adeniyi to become an active participant with us at which he accepted, he told me he was braced for our critical appraisals which he takes inoffensively in good sportsmanlike manner, knowing full well, it for the soul of Nigeria.

Dr. Kissinger engaged once again in platitudes and generalities about Niger Delta and what Nigerian government ought to do about such internal matter about elections and democracy. He betrayed such ignorance, upon which Ambassador Kingibe exhibited and demonstrated his astute diplomatic skills. He promptly lectured Dr. Kissinger about where the Gulf of Guinea is on the world map and Kissinger scrambled and tried hard to wiggle out of the his major gaffe that he made as “the” dinner guest speaker. Ambassador Kingibe was gracious, diplomatic and polite even as he was pointedly precise about the ignorance and what Kissinger who does not know.

Kissinger is a man, who does not shy away from his reputation as a very conceited intellectual-diplomat. There is something we can perhaps learn from Dr. Kissinger, he was born in Germany, came to America, he saw and conquered. He is now an authority on American foreign policy and diplomacy, an icon; And yet, he conveniently extolled Germany in conspicuous mentions in his very short speech. This is a world where some Nigerians are too quick to deny their Nigerian origins.

Adolf Hitler is not an Hausa-Igbo-Yoruba man. Nazi is not a Kanuri-Ijaw or Esan word.
Nigerians must learn to take pride in Nigeria, advocate Nigeria’s worthy causes and take a cue from Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the EFCC, who repeatedly and emphatically told the audience at the Fighting Corruption seminar, that he and the EFCC staff are so determined to serve and protect and preserve Nigeria’s national interests and that Nigeria is worth dying for. Nigerians, arise to serve Nigeria and protect Nigeria.