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The truth about being African versus dressing African

In the age of hypersensitive social media wokeness, we are quick to shout “cultural appropriation” every time an international fashion house reimagines African aesthetics and bill it as “a modern high-fashion interpretation of ABC”



In the age of hypersensitive social media wokeness, we are quick to shout “cultural appropriation” every time an international fashion house reimagines African aesthetics and bill it as “a modern high-fashion interpretation of ABC”.

Artists from various fields have since the beginning of time been inspired by someone else’s work. “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” renowned painter Pablo Picasso once said.

At the other end of the table, someone is screaming stop making narrow-minded views about Africa and trivialising sacred parts of our culture.

This is a multiplex debate that needs a roundtable discussion with industry pundits and perhaps moderated by social activist Lebo Mashile.

Landing me to my next pit stop. In rocking African traditional clothing there is a blurry line between fashion and costume.

Fashion is about freedom of self expression, thought-provoking drama and nodding your uniqueness. Society doesn’t always have to agree with it, because sometimes bold fashion statements can shock the eye.

Costume, on the other hand is monotonous, lacks imagination and is boring.

Two South African rappers proudly showed off their South African stripes last weekend at the BET Awards in Hollywood and created polarising views on fashion.

One kept it all the way African (Sjava), while the other tried a more modern approach (Cassper Nyovest).

Whether you cringed or ululated with joy as a barefooted Sjava accepted his gong in his Zulu regalia, we can all agree the moment was an unapologetic blast of African pride. Without opening his mouth, he had told a story with his look.

You cannot accuse Sjava of being gimmicky in order to hog headlines. He simply kept it real, the world just happened to have its eyes on him.

Fashion commentator Felipe Mazibuko reiterates why this was a historic fashion moment. “We get different inspirations from different places depending on where our mind is.

“If you feel like tapping into your own culture and making that your career path, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. As long as it’s done in a proper way,” he adds.

“[Sjava] has always dressed in that kind of regalia and we are used to him representing his aesthetic that way. When I saw him he looked like himself and didn’t get lost in regalia. Kudos to him.”

But if there is anyone who had us lost in translation, it was Nyovest in his monochrome leopard print layers. If fashion is about making a bold statement, then what statement was he uttering? I’m a cartoonish version of Eddie Murphy’s character in 1988 urban cult film Coming to America.

He completely lost many and fashion designer Paledi Segapo paints a picture of why it’s so. “With Cassper I feel like it’s an attempt that almost worked, but it was kind of missing an element that made it outstanding.

“As a creative I looked at it and I saw where the concept was going, but I think it failed to reach there,” he said.

“It kind of translated into a hurried costume made at the eleventh hour. I suppose they were trying to reference Africa.”

TV personality Nandi Madida is a perfect example of how when given a fashion theme such as Wakanda Forever, you can interpret it without looking like you just stepped off the set of Black Panther.

At the awards, Madida donned a midriff-baring ensemble from her label Colour inspired by African beadwork. Ahead of her appearance, we had an insightful chat on keeping it simple.

“It’s always great to see people’s take on a theme like Wakanda, but hopefully they don’t take it literal. So I’m hoping to see more than tribal prints,” Madida said.

Commentator….Emmanuel Tjiya

Strictly Personal

Tobi Amusan, Ozuah And Buhari’s N1.14bn Vehicles For Niger by Festus Adebayo



To understand the profligacy, indiscretion and misplaced priority in the purchase of N1.14bn ($2.7m)-worth 10 luxury vehicles by the MuhammaduBuhari government for neighbouring Niger Republic, ostensibly to shore up that country’s security, at a time when there is excruciating hunger in the land and terrorists are probably a mile away from the Aso Villa seat of government, you have to go way back to the year 1972 or so, to the reply of the late President of Niger Republic, AhmaduDiori, when asked why Niger supported Nigeria as against the secessionist Biafrain the Nigerian Civil War. According to Diori, as quoted by Temitope Ola in ‘Nigeria’s assistance to African states: What are the benefits?’ in International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Niger depended on Nigeria for her economic survival. In his direct words, made in French, Diori had said “when Nigeria sneezes, Niger not only catches cold, it is already on admission in the hospital.”

While government justifies the vehicle purchase as continuation of Nigeria’s national foreign policy, with its central focus on Africa, this has afforded Nigerians the opportunity to dig into the details of the so-called foreign policy. In the process, we found out that, as irresponsibly profligate as that Buhari government’s vehicle purchase is, at this time of national economic pains at home, profligacy and irresponsible spending have, since independence, hallmarked successive Nigerian governments’ national and foreign policies. This recklessness confirms the flipside of that popular aphorism that though Rome was not built in a day, Rome was also not destroyed in a day as well. Not only didn’t the prostrate and lamentable state that Nigeria currently finds herself begin today, Buhari, a known defender of his Fulani ethnicity, at the expense of Nigeria, was led into taking such a reprehensible action based on a Nigerian governmental pedigree of wastage.

According to a January 30, 1970 edition of The New York Times, even after a ruinous, brutal and destructive civil war, Nigeria’s economic structure and promise remained almost unscathed. Put at about $1billion spent on prosecuting the needless civil war, Nigeria must have been one of the few countries in the world which fought an intra-national war for three years without any known record of indebtedness. With an economy managed by Chief ObafemiAwolowo, an astute manager of men and resources, Times reported that Nigeria adopted the “cash and carry” method for her arms and ammunition procurement. More astoundingly, she didn’t have to draw down on her foreign currency reserves which, pre-war, stood at $400 million.

Armed with a hugely humongous oil wealth, a vast population and the mantra that a Nigerian was in five blacks gathered anywhere in the world, as the street lingo says, these soon “entered Nigeria’s head,” and the thought that the country could be an African superpower became a near-national ideological obsession. Between 1967 and 1977, federal government revenue was said to have soared by 2,200 per cent. Nigeria’s economy was so strong that, on January 1, 1973, the country abandoned its pound sterling currency, a colonial relic, and created a Naira currency. Nigeria was managed by an exuberant crop of unaccountable military leaders who had scant leadership and economic training. The height of it was Gowon’s infamous statement abroad in 1973 that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it.  The huge oil wealth was soon quashed on the altar of naivety, arrogance and knavery.

Going on foreign junkets became a pastime of the nouveau riche military elite and a consumerist pattern driven by obsession for foreign goods. This grossly contradicted a budding ideology of a people who professed African superpower. General Gowon, like MuhammaduBuhari, publicly known for his terse thirst for personal corruption, became a breeding pond for blood-of-the-country-sucking sharks dressed in military epaulettes. The governors began a mania of infrastructure driven more by opportunistic crave to collect kickback from contractors than need for development. It became so bad that in 1975, the Gowon government had placed accumulated order for 20 million tonnes of cement, paid for by Nigeria’s buoyant petro-dollars. The cost of the mind-boggling cement orders was put at about $2 billion, an amount which was a quarter of Nigeria’s oil revenue in 1975. This order was at the time more than the cement capacity of Europe and USSR combined. Apapa was thoroughly overwhelmed and shipping lines all over the world scurried to Nigeria to take a bite of the raw, mindless orgy of profligacy. Most of the shipments entered demurrage in what was infamously dubbed the Cement Armada.

The petro-dollar El-Dorado was so hugely provoked that every rural dweller in Nigerian villages wanted to migrate to the city. Prostitution statistics rose tremendously, so did crimes. Girls became willing liaisons to soldiers in whose hands hid the famous dollars from oil exploration and their civil servant accomplices. Between 1970 and 1976, statistics revealed an upsurge in criminal activities due to the craze to take a bite of petro-dollars. An approximate 900-percent increase in incidences of armed robbery was recorded, with 12,153 reported cases in 1970. This figure soared to 105,859 in 1976. Executions of robbers, codified in federal and state laws, went on the upswing. The capital punishment for armed robbery could however not deter the spate of robberies because the petro-dollar gains accruable from the crime outweighed the risk of being caught.

It was easy for the exuberant military leaders, many of them in their 20s and 30s, some of whom were bachelors, like General Jack, the Head of State himself, to extend the spatial control mentality of military psychology into governance. They easily keyed into the African superpower near-national ideological obsession and began to spend like Father Christmas, in the service of a foreign policy they devised, which was woven round Africa as centre-piece. This cost Nigeria heavily.

Thus, in 1972, as reported by Ola, Nigeria signed a pact with Niger Republic to supply her 30,000 kilowatts of electricity, from the Kanji Dam hydroelectricity, even when local electricity needs were not met. Again in 1974, Nigeria donated millions of Naira-worth relief materials to same Niger when it was ravaged by drought. After the widespread Soweto massacre riots of 1976, Nigeria brought into the country hundreds of “Soweto kids” and several other South African Black youths and offered them scholarship to study in Nigerian universities. This continued to the end of apartheid. Nigeria also established a South Africa Relief Fund (SARF) in 1978 where Nigerians poured about $20 million of their hard-earned money into. In June 1976, according to Ola, Gen Obasanjo presented a cheque of $250,000 to the liberation forces of Rhodesia through Mozambiquan Foreign Minister, Joaquim Chissano in Mauritius during the OAU summit. Quoting General Joe Garba, Ola also reported that, on April 25, 1976, Obasanjo handed over to President Samora Machel of the newly independent state of Mozambique the sum of $1.6 million as development assistance.

Nigeria also did this Father Christmas in her negotiation with and sale of a concessionary 90-day crude oil to South Africa, Namibia, Ghana, Niger and other Africa countries. Ghana and Togo owed the country over $30million from the exercise. The Big Father Xmas also constructed an expressway from Lagos to the outskirts of Cotonou with several millions of dollars, while spearheading the integration project of a regional gas pipeline for the sub-regional economic development. Nigeria equally established the Technical Aid Programme and created a Trust Fund at AfDB for Africans with a soft loan of $100 million it left in the bank to be lent to Least Developing African Countries.

In 1989, upon the paralysis of Beninoise government by a bludgeoning workers’ strike occasioned by its inability to pay salaries, Nigeria, under Babangida, offset the salaries while also donating 12,000 tonnes of petroleum products to the government. The year before, Babangida’s Nigeria funded the Ibrahim Babangida School of International Studies in Liberia and donated seven Nigerian academics to its institution while Nigeria constructed the Trans-African Highway and bought over Liberia’s debt valued at $30 million.

There have been several arguments from international relations scholars who aver that, not being an island unto herself, Nigeria cannot but assist other nations, especially the ones that surround her. This argument is further bolstered by the fact that Nigeria herself receives huge assistances from developed countries of the world. However, Nigeria’s foreign policy has been left so much to the whims of the executive arm of government which then drives it according to the personal mindset of the head of the arm. It is why a cronyist like Buhari will capitalize on this unwholesome pedigree of Nigerian leadership to fritter money abroad in building a road into his Niger ancestral home, spend billions of Nigerian money on the tiny African country and legitimize it by citing Nigeria’s national foreign policy. President Obasanjo and General Babangida, for instance, squandered Nigeria’s national wealth so unconscionably during their stay in office on what will appear a mythical brotherhood relations policy, without corresponding benefits accruable to the country. Many of those countries on whom Nigeria squandered her national resources that could have been saved to build a today for her children demonize Nigeria and Nigerians today on account of the social and economic calamities that result, partly from such mindless donations and investments in their countries that were made decades ago. Nigerians today face xenophobic attacks from South Africans, for whose today we cleaned our treasury yesterday.

Almost as if it was perforating the thesis I have been sermonizing about since the beginning of this piece, on the scene emerged an alumnus of the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, MBBS Class of 1985, Dr Philip Ozuah who donated the sum of $1,000,000 to a hostel building fund project of the college last week. The news nearly blocked the social media airwave. In an earlier discussion of Nigeria’s Father Christmas role in Africa that I had with some persons, I was asked that, put beside Ozuah’s gesture, what difference exists between Nigeria and Dr. Ozuah, both having helped their needy ecosystem?

In some way, you could also throw into this mix Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, the 25-year old athlete who made history last week by winningthe 100 metres hurdles gold at the World Athletics Championship.

Rather than counterpoise or equalize Nigeria, I think what both Ozuah and Amusan did for Nigeria is what Leo Tolstoy called Loss as the elder brother of Gain. At a time, we thought our Loss was the national morale that had sagged badly in Nigeria, both in individual Nigerians’ willingness to intervene in the affairs of the other person or intervention in matters that affect the collective. Also, at a time that we thought that the name of Nigeria could never inspire anything good in the world, Amusan and Ozuah dismantled this mindset by coming as our Gain. In the words of Bob Marley, in his Trenchtowntrack, Ozuah and Amusan both made Nigeria/Nigerians to find “our (national) bread in desolate places,” among a world that asked, “can anything good come out Of (Nigeria) Trench Town?”

However, Ozuah and Amusan haven’t totally erased the fact that Nigeria is still a desolate place. If you listened to the maiden Channels TV interview granted by Festus Keyamo, National Publicity Secretary of the APC and his haughty pee on the graves of Nigerians who died and are still dying as a result of Buhari’s effeminate fight of terrorists, or his cavalier dismissal as inconsequential and the over-simplification of the almost half a year stay at home by our university children, you cannot but conclude that though brains similar to Keyamo’s, since 1960, have profligately driven Nigeria back, the Amusan and Ozuahs demonstrate that even inside the tunnel, we can have the light shine.

Tobi Amusan, Ozuah and Buhari’sN1.14bn vehicles for Niger

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Strictly Personal

Algeria Turns 60, Hopefully the Age of Reason by Aziz Boucetta



In July 1962, after a 132-year-long occupation by France and a fierce 8-year-long national liberation war against the French, Algeria obtained its independence and became a country, a new state on the world stage. It took the name of “The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria,” before letting itself be more or less ruled by the military since then.

The country’s sixty years of existence  have been erratic, alternating between militaristic presidents and recurring periods of power vacuums under the ever-tightening tutelage of the army.

An army with a State

Coup d’Etats, president assassinations; a “Black Decade” with 250,000 deaths; a president who was bedridden following a stroke, “re-elected” in 2014 and hardly a “candidate” in 2019, before a wave of unprecedented protests in the country’s history.

All of this has evidently resulted in an unstructured economy, in which industry is not founded on any strategy or perspective, the public sector is bloated, and which relies almost exclusively on manna from the energy sector.

Hydrocarbons still represent 95% of the country’s exports, and contribute more than 50% of the state budget. As for agriculture, tourism, and many other sectors, they never properly started, and the result is that the Algerian economy remained a cash economy where foreign currency served to buy social peace.

In reality, to borrow Mirabeau’s description of Prussia in the 18th century, “Algeria is an army which possesses a state.” Everything is good, everything is permitted, while nothing is good enough for the Algerian People’s National Army (ANP), whose generals have more or less taken the country’s political power hostage.

The ANP vigorously buys equipment, even if useless, such as the six diesel powered submarines it recently acquired from Russia. The army and its chiefs, in a permanent (mental) state of war, impose this mentality of the besieged on the entire country where their psychotic culture of secrecy leads to the opacity of the Algerian regime.

According to former French ambassador to Algeria Xavier Driencourt, a fine connoisseur of the country’s political mysteries and author of “The Algerian Enigma” (Editions de l’Observatoire, 2022), the Algerian regime lives permanently with two eternal enemies: France and Morocco.

To France, Algeria never forgave the 124 years of colonization and the 8 years of a bloody independence war; and to Morocco, Algeria does not forgive the simple fact that it exists. Algeria’s obsession with these two countries is the source of the siege mentality of the Algerian generals and the presidents they put in place.

Deep-seated Hatred of Morocco

And it is precisely this mentality that leads the Algerian regime to ludicrous, even kafkaesque diplomatic moves (on the Sahara dispute, for  instance), and even sometimes to dangerous acts (the latest attack on Melilla by migrants from Algeria).

Behind the current situation of the country is the coming to power, at the end of 2019, of the Abdelmajid Tebboune-General Said Chengriha duo. Tebboune serves in a figurative role as the Head of State, where he is tightly controlled by General Chengriha, who himself is well-documented to have been responsible for a great many deaths in the country during the “Black Decade.” The duo replaced two much more prestigious figures, who were more aware of emerging international trends and challenges than their successors.

Tebboune and Chengriha are permanently engaged  in unending rounds of upmanship  against Paris and Rabat, and especially Rabat. Accusing Morocco of all Algeria’s ills, rupturing diplomatic relations, and even childish decisions and measures such as refusing to refer to the kingdom by its name, but by the amusing expression “North African country.” The very “North African country” that saw its map retracted and its national anthem butchered during the 2022 Mediterranean Games

In the end, the Algerian people bears the biggest responsibility in the stagnation of a country that could have been great otherwise than by geography.

The reason is that, after initiating a promising Hirak in 2019, the Algerian people has interrupted its movement and seems to have gotten accustomed to the mediocrity of its leaders, who in turn drive the country to its doom — economically, politically, diplomatically, or geopolitically. And the generals of the country’s army maintain their hatred of “Marrok,” a hatred or at least a rejection which, despite denials, is found in a large section of the population.

Meanwhile, despite its problems and vicissitudes, its shortcomings and failures, Morocco is moving forward, ignoring its neighbor’s Moroccan obsession. All of which is really regrettable, because the Maghreb could have existed and been stronger together. And imagine what a changed place the Mediterranean region would have been with this unity!

We must wait then, for wisdom to enter the hearts and spirits of the Algerian leaders. In principle, celebrating the 60th anniversary is celebrating wisdom… let’s hope, but in the meantime, let’s groan!



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