For Africa to move forward, our institutions must reflect our originality – Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu
For Africa to move forward, our institutions must reflect our originality – Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu
iwriteafrica.com engages Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu, Director-General of the International Law, Diplomacy and Economy Research Center (ILDERC) Abuja, Nigeria, in this insightful, EXCLUSIVE interview with Lilian Chudey Pride. Our Guest is an articulate, young Nigerian, well-educated, widely-traveled, perceptive African and a believer in the prowess of the African woman. Enjoy this conversation.
Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu
“Every region and people have an originality in their political and market systems. What does Africa have as its own political originality? Africa continues experimenting endlessly trying to copy either the American, British, French and now Chinese system without any success…”
iwriteafrica.com: Thanks for the opportunity of this interview with iwriteafrica.com. Please share your profile with us. Let our readers and subscribers know who you are.
Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu: I am Nigerian, son of teachers – mom was a nursery and primary school teacher, father a meteorologist who went on to become a professor of meteorology and diplomat. My father was the first Igbo professor of meteorology. I studied engineering, artificial intelligence and international relations. I am currently a researcher in the history and philosophy of international relations and transdisciplinary studies, and relating this to explaining the imbalance in relations between post-colonial states and their former colonial sovereigns. My work in the Master-Slave Psychology Syndrome which explains how the underdevelopment of Africa is intricately linked to our colonial past and the continued extractive influence of our former colonial sovereigns in our affairs is receiving keen attention in faculties of international relations and international law in universities across Europe namely: University of Porto, Portugal; Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia; Charles University, Prague Czech Republic; Kadir Has University, Turkey; University of Debrecen, Hungary and Middlesex University, UK. I am a recipient of numerous awards which include the Crans Montana Forum Switzerland New Leader for Tomorrow Award, Academy of Young Diplomats Award of the European Academy of Diplomacy, Warsaw, Poland, Executive Member of the Nigeria Emerging Leaders Forum (NELF), Country Representative (Nigeria) of the Africa Economic Leadership Council and author of the book, Strategy. I speak Igbo, English and German fluently.
Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu
iwriteafrica.com: How have your background and training prepared you for your devotion to the African cause?
Idejiora-Kalu: My research in understanding the effects of our colonial past to our present developmental problems provides me with a better understanding to solutions needed for solving what we in Africa and the rest of the world term “wicked problems”.
The problems we face today in Africa are termed “wicked” not from a moral derivative but from the fact that these problems seem unsolvable with efforts meant at eradicating them proving abortive. And going by what Albert Einstein said about the folly of the mindset of wanting to solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them, my approach has always been looking for solutions outside the normal prism we have been looking through since the early 1960s when most African states began experimenting with self-realization and nationhood. This has led to looking inward into discovering who we were before colonialism, what we did and what is ours as an originality. This transdisciplinary-centric thinking revealed a whole lot of damage done during the time of colonialism which continues to have awful impact on our developmental envisions today and even continues to blur our vision for tomorrow. This is not to say that we must be in any way antagonistic against Europe, but we must know the source of our problems, speak about them and cause our solutions to emanate from the source areas of these problems. An Igbo proverb says, “if you do not know when and where the rain began beating you, you will not know when it stopped”.
For instance, I have started publicizing the need to reform the institutions we inherited from our former colonial sovereigns (“colonial masters” a term I dislike), bring back our own original institutions (pre-colonial institutions) and conform them with modern methods as the single most workable way of truly realizing ourselves and taking Africa away from the underdevelopment quagmire we find ourselves in today that seem wicked and insurmountable. I will use a simple analysis for explaining the process.
Most of the problems we face in multi-diverse ethno-religious societies like Africa indeed stem from the institutional design put in place by our former colonial sovereigns or our colonial past. These institutions were “extractive” and not meant to see to our development and wellbeing but were meant to nourish the interests of the colonial powers that designed and instituted them. Nobody leaves their country million miles away and comes to another country to recreate it if not for their own interest. So all the systems put in place by colonialists were meant to serve their strategic interests – the schools built were either built to conform the people they met with their worldview and by this control them, or have a place for their children to attend schools during the time they would remain in the land; the hospitals were meant to deprive the people of their indigenous medical scientific knowledge and instill theirs, showing and instilling superiority and providing a mechanism for treating themselves when they fell ill as they remained in the land, while the train lines were built to enable the transportation of the stolen natural resources to their distant lands or simply gain control of the colonized lands. The post offices were meant to create a structured communication interface between their governments and family.
So the incursion of the colonialists from the distant lands and the much celebrated infrastructure they put in place in the colonized lands were meant to serve their strategic interests and not the strategic interests of the colonized. Depriving the colonized of their indigenous systems, structures and institutions and replacing them with their own was depriving the colonized of their “individual consciousness” (and their right to this), a hallowed tenet in matters of sovereignty and a matter which naturally should not be tampered or interfered with is the understanding of “ius cogens”, a fundamental principle of international law that is accepted by the international community of states as a norm from which no derogation is permitted. The non-interference tenet of states in the affairs of another sovereign state in international relations and international law is predicated on this rule. Therefore, the coming into Africa by the colonialists and the systems, institutions, social and cultural modifications they put in place that seemed good or bad were mere intrusions and infringements on the sovereignties of the African people.
The most destructive realism is that we gained independence and continued with the same extractive institutions which the colonialists left behind. Our educational, political and even bureaucratic governmental and policy management and delivery never survived these institutions and are still run with the design of these extractive institutions. A common-sense solution (especially at the turn of independence) would have been for us to develop our own bespoke and indigenous systems and institutions to replace the extractive colonial institutions. But this was not done. What this would entail would be to aggressively reform these institutions to suit our culture, philosophies and environments and this is a cause I am championing for our policy makers to begin to see and implement.
iwriteafrica.com: What is your informed assessment of Africa’s progress in today’s world?
Idejiora-Kalu: Perusing through the state and pace of development in Africa from the early 1960s when most African states gained their independence till present day shows a huge and embarrassing report card of a candidate that has failed woefully in all credit units and courses she has been made subject to take and pass. This is the truth about Africa and we should be the first to tell ourselves this truth. Africa is currently not yet on the trajectory of sustainable development. Africa has not gotten to that stage yet because for sustainable development to take root, there are certain criteria (fundamentals if you may), that must be met, prerequisites that must be available, seen and sustained before sustainable development can become a reality. These criteria and prerequisites have still not been birthed in the Africa of today.
This is the truth about Africa and we should be the first to tell ourselves this truth. Africa is currently not yet on the trajectory of sustainable development. Africa has not gotten to that stage yet because for sustainable development to take root, there are certain criteria (fundamentals if you may), that must be met, prerequisites that must be available, seen and sustained before sustainable development can become a reality. These criteria and prerequisites have still not been birthed in the Africa of today.
Speaking more on what these prerequisites should be is beautifully captured in a theory by Walt Rostow. W. Rostow (as he was fondly called) was an American economist and political theorist, former foreign policy advisor to John F. Kennedy, served as National Security Advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1966 to 1969 and professor in Oxford, Cambridge and MIT. After carefully understudying the process of economic development in several societies and regions, he came up with his theory of five (5) stages of economic growth – certain criteria and prerequisites which must be fulfilled by any society (or country or region) before they can ever experience or would experience any form of sustainable development. So, his findings were not some Western-preached, dominance process, but one proven in various lands and by various peoples and held to be true and effective. He identified an initial process as “the traditional society” (the first stage where discovery is made), the second as “the preconditions for take-off” (where this discovery is harvested and worked on), the third stage being “take-off” where the economy begins a structured, sustained drive to sustainable development, and the “drive to maturity” (the fourth stage) where that society, region or country begins to experience a type of great prosperity that it becomes capable of carrying other deprived nations and replicating in these societies, the successes and prosperity it has. The final and fifth stage is what he described as the “age of high mass consumption” where the society, country or region attains a certain level of prosperity and stability with systems in place that it would not have to worry about underdevelopment.
Looking at Africa today, only a few cases like South Africa and Egypt show some glimmer of having what it takes to place themselves on anything closer to the developmental plane defined by W. Rostow. The African Union Vision 2063 plan at the moment does not even have what it takes to make this possible in Africa because the systems we operate that produce and run institutions meant for making the new Africa realization are still foreign and not indigenously African. Therefore, sustainable development in Africa is still a utopia. A child born in 1960 that still crawls in 2022 as an adult does not have a clean bill of health. When your doctor says you have a “clean bill of health”, what he means is that you are healthy or that something is working correctly. If Africa were to be a human being, would a doctor give her such clean bill of health? Can you say that to the Africa you see today? Unless you would not tell the truth, the answer cannot be in the affirmative.
The African Union must take it upon itself to create a commission for reforming institutions in Africa with the plan and hope of integrating African originality, and replacing our institutions with what reflects who we are and what we want, modernizing these institutions, thus, to making them function with the same structural efficiency (even better) as the Western and former systems and institutions. Because of the non-interference factor of the sovereignty of these states in international relations and international law, the states (the African nation states) would have to have it within their jurisdictions to adopt such proposals from the African Union, by this I mean, the African Union would not have to “impose” it on them.
iwriteafrica.com: What indices or parameters do you think and know inform this assessment?
Idejiora-Kalu: A close look at critical macroeconomic indices that indicate growth or decline in modern human, capitalist societies as evident in African countries such as employment rates, Debt-to-GDP ratio which compares a country’s public debt to its gross domestic product (GDP) which is also tied to the development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) sector, the state of infrastructure for production, export and sustenance of life (when you can sustain life you can think of the future and self-fulfillment), the ability of the society to look at its problems and manage it (be it health, other forms of regional securities, etc). All these indices are all in the red today in all African countries with the slight exception of South Africa and Egypt. The worst macroeconomic criteria acting as a foundation of the most piercing problems of all in Africa today and expanding at an unbelievable rate is the realism of the Gini-coefficient or the Gini-Index which explains the disparity between the rich and the poor, measuring the statistical dispersion intended to represent the income inequality or the wealth inequality within a nation or a social group. This growing expansion and great divide between the unbelievable rich and the super poor in Africa is the foundation of the continued expansion of unbelievable strife and competition over scarce resources and the source of social imbalance stagnating efforts for achieving sustainable development.
iwriteafrica.com: How have today’s Africans fared in promoting genuine African unity beyond platitudes and lip service?
Idejiora-Kalu: Before one talks about unity in any society one must first talk about peace, before one talks about peace one must first talk about how the stomach can be fed and the behemoth of extreme hunger eradicated, before one can talk of all these one must talk about knowing who they are and what they have been brought by the creator God to do as a nation and a people in their generation and why, like the case of the US that believes the creator, God, brought them here to bring about freedoms for all peoples of the world; from these, one can now begin enquiring where their problems stem from.
This self-introspection of a people and a nation is what triggers the self-consciousness of the people and the nation and this is what reveals a national identity, the national identity of a nation. It is at this stage that a nation begins its long but realistic walk to freedom and sustainable development upon which after-effects such as unity is birthed. They are indeed perquisites of unity. Our colonial past brought together regions and peoples who were formally not meant to be together, never were together, but forced today to become one people.
These peoples in the past interacted diplomatically and in trade but kept distances knowing full well that the socio-cultural intricacies that existed between them were so fierce that it was better they remained apart. Colonialism, through the recommendation and templates from the 1884-85 Berlin Conference overlooked this, never invited any representation of sovereign peoples and fused these peoples, creating a massive, immiscible diversity frame that has refused to mix. Africa has overlooked the need for this “reorganization” to pre-colonial designs by shadowing and sugar-coating it with terms such “unity in diversity”, neglecting the need for first diversity management, these have compounded our problems. So what you see is a factor, a seeming endless wave of, for instance ethno-religious crises threatening both existence and the territorial space of Africa and its peoples. Because we have not understood this colonial instigated socio-cultural reorganization that is threatening our existence and stagnating development, we have not taken diversity management serious and we have paid dearly for this oversight.
iwriteafrica.com: A lot of discrimination and dichotomy currently exist in the perception, attitude, relationships and behaviours towards citizens of nations in Africa (Africans) at political, economic and social levels in many African countries? Why is this so? What can be done to ease these?
Idejiora-Kalu: My answer above lays the foundation for the reason for this sort of discrimination and dichotomy. The aim is to eradicate the hate factor by reorganizing regions. Former regions and their peoples that were distant apart must be readjusted to be the way they were in pre-colonial times. Diversity management must be seen as a state-instituted and supervised norm which should be deliberate to fuse those societies and cultures considered too intricate and unable to be reorganized. A balancing in the development of all regions (like a federal character type of thing) where all regions and peoples are treated equal would help eradicate the immiscibility factor causing most of the crisis. Diversity management has to be taught from the early stages of kindergarten in our schools up to the tertiary level, even to other cadres where the uneducated are found. Success stories on how diversities can become strengths should be presented and encouraged.
iwriteafrica.com:How can Africa’s leaders be persuaded to genuinely work for Africans and promote African Cause and Unity?
“Let Africans nurture their leaders and not simply allow them evolve. Like in the simple analogy of a blunt knife sliced-out of the production line and not ready (or unreliable) for use until the edge is sharpened, African leaders though born leaders must have to be groomed and taught in the art of not just leadership but “good leadership”. This is because good and bad leadership are tenable, realizable and sustainable”.
Idejiora-Kalu: Let African leaders understand who they are, who they were in pre-colonial times and not who the former colonial sovereigns told them they were. This may sound simple but this will call back the individual consciousness of the African and give him a clearer direction of what he has been called to do. Again, let Africans nurture their leaders and not simply allow them evolve. Like in the simple analogy of a blunt knife sliced-out of the production line and not ready (or unreliable) for use until the edge is sharpened, African leaders though born leaders must have to be groomed and taught in the art of not just leadership but “good leadership”. This is because good and bad leadership are tenable, realizable and sustainable.
Like I said earlier nurturing leaders from the kindergarten stage has a powerful means of preparing leaders that would work for Africans and promoting African cause. A system for reaching out to young leaders at the incubational, educational level of the African educational system, identifying these leaders, and acquainting them from an early stage with the best tenets of good leadership will produce a generation of good leaders. The philosophical basis of this is that being a leader is not enough to becoming a good leader, as an unguided leader may end-up a bad leader. The good guidance process will simply involve administering the thought patterns (or ideology) of good leadership into young minds. The entire structure of this “good leadership knowledge impartation system” would incorporate new and original thinking and a systems-enablement mechanism that is also expected to deliberately launch these young leaders into powerful and influential positions of leadership from their point in the schools, up to their adult lives in other parts of society. This, when done, will help build a firm leadership structure that would instill and also sustain sound leadership in Africa and place Africa on a more realistic pedestal for suitable social, economic and political development. African leaders produced using these criteria would definitely promote African cause and unity. It will be in them naturally and they would be selfless, free from corruption and willing to see to the good of Africa.
Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu
iwriteafrica.com: You are keenly interested in radical reforms of institutions in Africa. What kind of institutions do you have in mind? Political, economic or social institutions?
Idejiora-Kalu: The institutional reforms must span all areas – political, educational, economic, social, scientific even metaphysical. The individual consciousness of the African society which is part of its sovereignty, their feelings and worldview, what they hold as indigenous solutions for medicine and curing diseases in their environmental space, for science and infrastructure, how they understand their universe and interact with their spiritual beings and sovereigns, their methodology of transferring tacit knowledge, the type of indigenous political systems they practised in the time of old and wish to practise again, all must be brought back and integrated into the modern (made modern) and allowed to develop with the same structure and skill seen in Westernized systems.
The Igbo People of Eastern Nigeria, for instance, practised a form of democracy that had the Eze (the Chief or King) sit in the midst of a representation of the clans and families and never adjudicated matters alone. This entirely democratic political system was practised over 700 years before the inception or practice of democracy in Europe. There is evidence that the democratic political system practised in Europe was copied from the olden day African democratic political system as there is proof of social interactions between peoples of both continents at that time. Democracy and politics have indigeneity. When considering the differences in the democratic and political system of Britain, Germany, US, Russia and Asian countries, one spots a difference. The British do not have a binding constitution while the US has. The German system seems partly socialist in nature while the US equivalent looks drawn-out republican and capitalist. The Asian system juggles between socialism, coated with capitalism while the Russian system is purely Marxist and enamored with capitalism. So, you see, every region and people have an originality in their political and market systems. What does Africa have as its own political originality? Africa continues experimenting endlessly trying to copy either the American, British, French and now Chinese system without any success. One laughable example is in the legal system of Nigeria, which is predicated solely on English Common Law. So, for Africa to move forward, our institutions must reflect our originality.
“The absence of African women in the front line of development is one major reason why the African society is still stagnant and underdeveloped. Any society that does not integrate women in its leadership and policy making and delivery circles is bound to fail! That society is usually dry and lame. A cursory look at societies both in history and present day where women were given the opportunity to steering affairs, recorded tremendous success and sustainable development.”.
iwriteafrica.com: African women are known to have been in the forefront of political emancipation in many nations of Africa. How can the role and prowess of Africa women drive needful reforms in various African nations?
Idejiora-Kalu:True! But in today’s Africa, they have not been given the opportunity of midwifing Africa’s developmental affairs. This has become bad for Africa because women, naturally, are creators and sustainers. The absence of African women in the front line of development is one major reason why the African society is still stagnant and underdeveloped. Any society that does not integrate women in its leadership and policy making and delivery circles is bound to fail! That society is usually dry and lame. A cursory look at societies both in history and present day where women were given the opportunity to steering affairs, recorded tremendous success and sustainable development. So, if Africa wishes its development to be sustainable (whenever it begins with such development), it must “deliberately” bring women in the helm of its affairs, in science, engineering, politics and diplomacy, management, security, sports, economy and trade. It will interest you to know that our olden day fathers knew these and gave women their place in the state of affairs. Researchers like us quickly remind people that against presently held beliefs, olden day Africa was not misogynist.
Misogyny in Africa was created by colonialists because in their voracious quest to control the African society, they did not understand the intricate communal design they met here, and thought the men placed the women as second class. The relieving of certain tasks or building separate houses for the women was a form of honour and not social stratification. The colonialists not understanding this design ceded the entire social management system to men and never integrated women into the leadership. When this happened, the divide and disenfranchising of women from leadership positions and critical affairs of the state began. Other generally practised cultural forms such as the respect in the Umuada system where the first born woman in the family is given a central position in determining affairs in the Igbo cultural system that nothing can be adjudicated if “Umuada or Nwada” (The first daughter/s) do(es) not agree and the respect of children from the mother’s town in the “Nwadiana” and “Ikwunne” (child from the mother’s side), which draws lineage from the mother’s side (all cultural tenets still revered and practised today and evident as beginning pre-colonial times) could not have been instituted by a misogynist system. So the negationist and historical revisionist rhetoric that posits that olden day African society was misogynist is not true. The question lies in the scientific empirical fact, at what stage was data gathered to support the misogynist claims, was it pre-colonial, colonial or post-colonial times”?
The ascendency of women in Africa affairs must have to come with a role on their own part, constantly reminding themselves that they presently live in an overly misogynist society made worse in the reality that the patriarchal cultural and religious stands present a great challenge. African women therefore must not be revolutionary in nature hence the men become intimidated, their ego ignited and they clamp down on their quest to come up to where they are. African women, therefore, should be strategic and diplomatic, constantly urging the men to carry them along. A recent research in psychosocial studies at the International Law, Diplomacy and Economy Research Center (ILDERC) Nigeria is explaining how this ego factor in men is restricting and preventing women in rural communities in Nigeria from going into entrepreneurial practice where the men think that if the women become more financially stable than them they would lose their positions as head in the society. So any approach by women to come up by revolution in today’s overly patriarchal African society would be silenced by the men. There are no laws to support them if they take this approach, how many women judges are in our courts and upon which cultural or religious basis would the laws that would give them fair hearing be predicated upon?
So the African women must let the men understand that they are not coming to compete with them but should request for a working together and opportunity to assist them just as they have continually done well in running the families when they were not there, by this they will get to the level of the men. Women who thought they have become educated and even more emancipated than the men who have tried the revolutionist process, all failed. This explains why even movements championed in the past have not brought women to the fore in African affairs, it is still a case of a trickle here and there.
Education is an entry for any society and generation of any class of people and for women to attain the helm, they must see to the education of the girl child and be deliberate about this, even women must support this and not wait for the men to allow this happen, “women, support your own, there is life and reward in it!” African governments must be encouraged to invest heavily in educating girls and women in all spheres of the African society including rural communities.
iwriteafrica.com: What is the present state/condition of Africa Leadership? What and who constitutes leadership in Africa?
Idejiora-Kalu: Leadership in Africa is still being dominated by the elite and stooges of the elite. Marxist criminologists would always tell you that no society led by elites can succeed. Africa would have to eradicate elitist domination of its political leadership cadre and make sure leadership springs up from the class that are from the grassroots of the African society, where those who feel and know what the problems on the continent are found.
iwriteafrica.com: Can you recommend useful development template that has worked for other continents to Africa’s leaders? What will that development template be (from where) and why?
Idejiora-Kanu: Africa has to come up with its own indigenous developmental template, one that suits her. There is no harm coming up with one that has never been seen or tried before, or one tried pre-colonial times. Every concept we have today that is being emulated was once new. Thus, we should not be scared of coming up with our own, because Africa is in need of a welfare state system that should first take its people out of extreme poverty. The idea of the European welfare state model is one we can consider integrating into our original developmental template. But it is not to entirely copy the European welfare state system hook, line and sinker, No!, we should, first look inwards and derive one that suits our society, it is at this stage that it would be safe to consider the European welfare state model and see how it can be integrated into what we have. Self-discovery first!
iwriteafrica.com: What are the contributions of International Law, Diplomacy and Economy Research Center (ILDERC) to your vision of a new Africa?
Idejiora-Kanu: One thing with ILDERC is that it does not follow the traditional way of doing research, and outlook on researching, especially problems facing Africa. ILDERC understands that most of the wicked problems we face in Africa today stem from our colonial past and the mode of interface between the former colonial sovereigns and our now independent post-colonial states. We believe that our problems are transdisciplinary in nature. We must, therefore bring together people from different spheres of life, sit them together and provide them with facilities and the enabling environment for conducting research and devising new interdisciplinary concepts that are original.
So at ILDERC, even those not educated by the Western system are taught how to do research and encouraged to present to us their aboriginal and indigenous ideas. We pair this with the modernized, Western scientific research process and expose these findings to policy makers and the international community for consideration and implementation. Another thing ILDERC does is that it interfaces with policy makers to see that its recommendations are considered and implemented, carefully guiding resource persons and policy makers as well as other researchers in shaping Africa and putting her on a more realistic trajectory for sustainable development which I still believe can be possible in this generation if we work towards its actualization.
iwriteafrica.com: Thank you.
Idejiora-Kalu: You are welcome.
*Dr. Ndubuisi Idejiora-Kalu can be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello, I am Lilian Chudey Pride. Good to welcome you to my online world. I am a Writer, Teacher, Encourager, Author of Life Beyond Motherhood, Dignity of Womanhood and Publisher, iwriteafrica.com online Magazine. I love Africa so much and I derive joy in telling the world about her beauty and strength. I share the challenges of the childless African community, providing Support, Encouragement and Empowerment. While guiding the childless African woman to trust God, I help her to understand her peculiarity, grieve properly, heal and embrace purpose. See my book: Life Beyond Motherhood on Amazon. Welcome to Africa.