Jimi O. Adesina, PhD
Professor of Sociology,
Department of Sociology,
Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa.


Many thanks for the "exposé" of the itinerant American student in the
University of Port Harcourt, but you will have to pardon me if I find
nothing but contempt for this kind of adjectifying of everything Africa and
the standard ahistoricity and lack of any analytical decency in this kind of
diatribe. Am I supposed to be amused or feel ashamed of being a Nigerian
after reading this? Cringe every time the carnage being wrought in my
homeland becomes the object of gloating by some pop-anthropologist?

I write as someone who was forced into exile by the kind of banality and
degradation that everyday life so gleefully "outted" by Mr Hoyle. It may be
an amusing reading for those who see in it the validation for their
preconception of Africa and Africans. What I find most astonishing about
this replay is how we easily descend back into the old and persisting
mythology of the dominant knowledge/power establishments of the West in this
area. Questions that are never asked include:

1. How did Nigeria end up like this? There is specific historicity to the
hobbling of Nigeria/Africa in much of the banal media-imageries like the one
by Mr Hoyle. I went to University of Ibadan in the 1970s. I was taught
predominantly by Nigerians, read books and journal articles written by
Nigerian scholars for my degree work, lived in the student residency in the
same university. I had my teaching/research career in that university until
2001 when I moved to South Africa. That was after being exhausted by 9 years
of continuous fight (with several other colleagues) to get the university
back on its feet). What happened in the period between my undergraduate
years and when I was forced into involuntary exile? To descend into the kind
of silly snide like the one below is to violate memory and history.

A lot has to do with the sheer depravity of the leadership in the country,
but it was also in an opposite trajectory to the tremendous battles for the
soul of Nigeria waged (and being waged) by brave and decent men and women
all over the country. The triumph of the depraved leadership is directly
tied to policies developed, nurtured and imposed from Washington, London,
Paris, etc. We used to call this imperialism, but everyone is so cowed now,
we seem not to dare use this most poignant of concepts. The destruction of
the soul of Nigeria under the Babangida regime was with the active support
of Bretton Woods establishments, US/UK, etc governments and scholars ranging
from Richard Joseph to Larry Diamond--scholars who spent the period, when we
were on the street fighting the dictatorship and warning of its peril for
Nigeria, adulating and providing diplomatic support for that morally
depraved regime.

From an economic/social policy point of view, we had a bunch of European and
North American scholars who spent years performing social vivisectomy on the
country and the continent. Economic and social policies that are directly at
the heart of the unimaginable tragedy that befell what was once a fine
(higher) education system. When the universities are sapped dry of funds,
when salaries of university teachers leave them unable to meet the basic
needs of their families in a month, when research and travel grants
disappear, when libraries and laboratories become empty, and teachers have
to buy their own chalk to teach and work in dilapidating environment, are we
surprised that ethical and academic standards take a nose dive? To tell us
about the descent into a moral abyss without any sense of how we moved from
where we were to where we are falls into the classical essentialist
arguments about the depravity of the natives. When graduates enter an
economy that offers little or no employment opportunity and nothing that
validates their education, are we surprised that we are going to end up with
this kind of "hustling" and moral crisis? When I graduated from UI, I
entered the civil service as an Admin Officer. That was a post into which
only those who graduated with 1st Class and 2nd Class Upper were recruited.
The job was challenging, it had prestige, the pay was adequate, etc. I had
no difficulty deciding to take the post offered to me. Twenty years later,
my wife as head of her regional office (Federal Ministry of Agriculture),
with a Howard University MA degree, was earning a salary that did not cover
the transport cost for the month, much less about the prestige of the job. I
survived as a lecturer because I could maintain external links and research

What we had in the period after 1982/85 was not so much the reform of the
public service as much as its decimation. Any idiot knows that even to
perform the minimalist role that the most ideological of the neoliberals
assign to the State, you need a competent, robust public service; a
professional civil service capable of managing state, economy and society.
The state--even a shrinking state--needs to inspire the dignity in its

2. What is more tragic about this type of journalistic diatribe (about
Nigeria and Africa as basket cases) is IT GIVES US NO SENSE OF HOW **WE**
CAN GET OUT OF THE MESS Nigeria is in. A story without a sense of origin,
process, and dynamics of what create the moment will end up essentialising
the subjects/objects of its narratives. If no redemptive project can be
found in us by us, then we give in to those who are asking for the
re-colonisation of Africa, its partitioning and parcelling out as mandate
territories for others, or simply give up on it. Unfortunately, I cannot
afford the luxury of cynicism or complacence.

The significance of hope is particularly crucial in a case like Nigeria.
While there is so much being said about social depravity and ethical
decline--corruption is becoming a catch-all phrase that protects those
deploying it from the need for analytical rigour--what we hardly hear from
these same sources are the people who represent the alternative morality and
the alternative nation. It was not outsiders who fought Babangida to a
stand-still or defeated Abacha; it was Nigerians. I was on the ground, and
know the price we paid--from the unsung heroes like one of our activists who
was killed by SNIPER bullet in Lagos in 1993 to Pa Rewane to Kudirat, and
Ken Saro-Wiwa. Ovie Kokori is still something of a cripple following the
horrendous torture he went through in prisons. In between are hundreds of
Nigerians who paid the price to stem not only the tide of political
dictatorship but the horrors of economic vivisectomy deployed from
Washington, London, etc.

3. And this is not idle historical remembering. The same complicity in our
decimation as a nation/country is going on with the cold complicity of those
who present us as nothing but corrupt and depraved. Everyone is on Mugabe
and ZANU-PF back; isn't the silence about the massive rape of democracy
under Obasanjo's government (the last election in PORT HARCOURT) being a
case in point. Can people claim they do not know that the election was
rigged on a massive scale. But the perpetrators are "our bastards"--just
like in the more naked use of violence in overthrowing Left-wing governments
and assassinating Left-wing leaders (most of whom were nothing more than
nationalists? The economic genocide continues and we are supposed to say
"Hurray" every time they tell us they are "forgiving" debt that was odious
in the first instance. The policies that make coherent economic DEVELOPMENT
an almost "mission impossible" continue. The same people who warned about
the descent into the abyss in the 1980s are still there warning today. The
Obasanjo-regime is hands-in-gloves with the same masters of the global
empire, and the silence and cold complicity continue. When a head of state
goes on television and spend an hour insulting his academics, what manner of
leadership and social mores do such behaviour represents? We hear so much
about Obasanjo's fight against corruption, is anyone blind to the extent to
which THE corruption in the country is happening within his party and around
his government? The Anambra mess is a case in point. Who was Chris Uba's
god-father and protector if not Obasanjo and his regime? Dare we forget so
easily the parallels between the Babangida regime and this one's. We fought
for democratic government (and many of us still carry the physical and
emotional scars) only to end up with ashes in our mouth; and end-product
that emerged with direct complicity of countries like the one from which Mr
Hoyle comes from. At the micro-level, in instances like the University of
Ibadan, there are still those who continue to fight the corner for decency
and hope of a new Nigeria.

I fail to be chuffed by the idle amusement of people like Dan Hoyle--who
fails to link the behaviour of his government and a global structure of
which he is a beneficiary to the everyday depravity that he so gleefully
provides for us as an account. What comes across is not a journalistic
account (much less an analysis) but the holding of a whole people in

Those people are MY people; and a complaining without any redemptive project
only helps to reinforce the victimhood of us all.