Saturday, October 11, 2008

One Eye on Politics, One Eye on African Development

It's been a while since I last wrote - months, in fact. That's OK - the biggest mistake bloggers make is writing with no endgame, no value to the reader, no arrival point... you get the picture :-) - this wasn't meant to be a diary, no offence to those who make it such. Which is not to suggest that leaving a blog unattended to is a great idea, either. Needless to say, I'm back.

During my self-imposed hiatus, I spent time thinking about what my long-term life goals were. I've always been interested in issues surrounding politics (and perhaps more precisely, policies) of governments, development of so-called 3rd world economies and other sundry international affairs. It goes without saying that my thought train ran in these areas, so I guess you could say that I am interested in making the oft-quoted (read, cliche) "difference". More on that when my political soliloquy is completed.

A lot has been happening in the political arena since my last blog entry on May 7th.
Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination; had a whirlwind tour of Europe and the Middle East to "boost his international credentials"; got criticized for being a rock star because 200,000 people showed up to hear him speak in Berlin (perhaps we should have asked the Berliners if they had nothing else to do on a Friday night, lol); selected a Washington insider as his running mate of "change"; had a so-so post-Convention bump in the polls; and now seems to be running away with this election as the US (and indeed, global) economy melts. Busy times in the life of the Kenyan-American.
John McCain selected a Hilary Clinton clone as his VP of "change" and has been slipping in the polls as folks come to grips with his senility, inability to formulate coherent ideas and general fogginess. Nothing else, really - which tells you all you need to know about this man, who has parlayed his Vietnam vet experience into more than he deserves.

Frankly folks, if Obama was a white man, his margin of victory in November would exceed even that of Bill Clinton over Bob Dole in 1996, i.e. a clear-cut victory. However, Mr. Obama is a black man (forget the "mixed" tag - that is no longer valid), and as the election winds down, we will begin to see more overt racist tones from any or all of McCain ("that one"), Sarah Palin (the redneck, hockey mom BS has gone too far, lady) and the Republican base. By playing on the fears of so-called mainstream Americans, I firmly believe that McCain and Palin will carry the day (perhaps by as much as 20-25 electoral college votes). Watch this space.

Canada is also going to the polls (on Tuesday, in fact). It's basically a choice between an non-charismatic Conservative Prime Minister; an even more non-charismatic and frankly, timid, Liberal leader who offers no good ideas; a charismatic but slick and salesman-like New Democratic leader, who will likely bankrupt this country with his multi-billion dollar spending plans and his aversion to Big Oil; a separatist Bloc Quebecois leader who should not even be considered as a future Prime Minister (I doubt he wants to be); and the Green Party, whose platform outside of defending the very flawed Kyoto Protocol and other supposedly pro-environmental issues is virtually non-existent.

I will probably vote for the Conservatives for 3 reasons -

1. They share my opposition to same-sex marriage and will probably bring it back to the table to debate and hopefully cancel it, if they get a majority (unlikely now, with the Canadian economy slowing down).

2. I'm in a tax bracket that is already high enough - I support universal education and healthcare, and I'm in favor of assisting those who through circumstances beyond their control, are destitute, BUT I do not support the use of my considerable tax dollars to fund the very wasteful and frankly, disgraceful, welfare program we have in this country where any Tom, Dick and Harry who has wasted the many opportunities this country has afforded him can eat, drink and be sheltered through my efforts and sweat. No Sir. Until our welfare system is reformed, I will never vote for any government that increases its funding.

3. I work for Big Oil. Enough said.

In Nigeria, we (I know, despite my many utterances, Nigeria is still "home") have a President who has no interest in tackling corruption, diversifying our economy or providing the basic amenities the citizenry of every country should have - security, good roads, electricity and running water. In a country of 140 million people where the power production is equivalent to that produced for about a quarter of the city of Toronto (The city of Toronto's population is under 3 million people, for comparison), those who siphoned billions of dollars worth of contracts have not been brought to book. Instead they receive honorary doctorates, commission "white elephant" (i.e. phony) projects and are acclaimed as elder statesmen/women. Some are even holding political office in this dispensation, and by extension, can be said to be investigating themselves!
To compound matters, this President has health issues (something with his liver and/or kidneys) and probably spends 4 months of every year in a hospital bed, or hooked up to a dialysis machine, which is probably not best for political stability, not with the aggrieved (and rightfully so) people of the Niger Delta agitating for resource control and causing disruptions to the country's oil production, although these militants should be asking why the Niger Delta politicians are probably the most corrupt in the country.
The whole situation beggars belief - meanwhile the wealthy 1% get wealthier and the VERY poor 70% get poorer. Well, as the area boys in Lagos would say, God dey.

Which brings me to the thoughts and ideas that have been floating through my mind for a long time. I've often been the first one, when the discussion comes up among friends, to aver that I have no interest in going back to Nigeria to live and "contribute to the development of the country". This is because most of the time, that simply means "go back and join in the game", which as we all know is Corruption (yes, with a capital C). Some of the biggest crooks and malevolents in Nigerian society are folks who were acclaimed technocrats overseas, but who couldn't resist the temptation of the honey pot when they returned to Nigeria. A few exceptions do exist - the current Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, is a prime example of what all foreign-based technocrats should aspire to - but the majority have been bad apples.
As a result, I still hold on to my views about settling down in Nigeria (not ever), and I thank God everyday that he opened the doors for my family to gain international exposure over the years - from Japan (my Dad) to France (my Mom) to Italy to Canada and the USA - so I truly consider myself a global citizen. However, there will always be a soft spot for Nigeria and the 15 years I spent there.

My interest therefore, is to focus my efforts on global development issues, and in particular, sub-Sarahan African development. The ideas are slowly clarifying in my head, but as someone who has always believed that what Africa really needs are people who can come up with feasible, cost-effective blueprints and designs for innovative systems, while utilizing local labor and materials; I've realized that perhaps it is up to me and like-minded people to serve the motherland in this regard. We've been trained at the best schools in the world, we make a living using these abilities and we can harness them in new and different ways. I probably won't ever have a permanent address in Nigeria or anywhere else in Africa, but I truly believe I can serve the African people better with the implementation of technologies and systems that actually improve their lives - even it's from the comfort of an office suite in downtown Toronto.

The corollary is that this blog will be shifting its priorities from time to time to expand on issues not just related to politics, but global (particularly African) issues which beg our audience.

1 comment:

  1. interesting blog naz, i don't agree with all your opinions, however good, strong opinions are worthwhile. glad you are doing well, but at the same time being critical. i may just read a few more articles.. so long as you don't write about those arsenal bastards.