“Latitudinal” and “Longitudinal” Balderdash

by Abiodun Ladepo

Whenever my article is published on this or other fora, I receive several responses from readers, sent directly to my E-mail inbox. Regardless of the number of responses, I make an effort to send an acknowledgement back to the sender, either to engage him or her in further debates of the issues, or just to thank them for taking the time to read the usually long articles. Most of the time, the responses I receive are polite and positive, and are affirmations or expatiations of the points of views that I have expressed. Sometimes though, I receive virulent, rude and tempestuous remarks. Either way, I send a response to the author paying all due respect to his/her divergent views.

My last article – “Lawlessness Unlimited” – elicited quite an avalanche of responses, well over 300, most of which demonstrated an understanding – a simple understanding – of the fact that I did not share the condescending view of Negroes as espoused by the fictional character, Dr. Goodenough, quoted in the work of fiction – “By Sheer Pluck” – written in 1884 by George Alfred Henty.

Because of my limited writing prowess, I have to write for the many, not the few. And I do so by employing a very simple style devoid of any bombastic language, flowery diction or complex syntax. Yet, out of the hundreds of readers that responded to that article, two of them – Messrs Tajin Olusegun Taire and Yomi Akintobi were conspicuous in their total misunderstanding of the entire point of the Henty quotation. Without graphically sharing the manifestation of their ignorance with the World Wide Web, let me just say that they assumed that I adopted Henty’s views of the Negro! How could any reasonable mind miss the mark by so much? I have gone back to read the piece again and again and I am convinced that a 5th grader would know, by the fourth paragraph, that I share in the outrage against Henty, not support his views. In fact, I made my disappointment very unambiguous in the article with phrases like “…I felt the same outrage…my blood pressure rises…” etc.

The crux of Taire and Akintobi’s criticism is that I neglected to mention the ills that abound in the Western world and only dwelt on those in Africa. One of them wondered if there were no criminals in the US; if the Germans did not commit genocide against the Jews; if Europeans did not engage in slavery; if Americans did not drop the atomic bomb on Japan and if the Arabs were not committing horrendous acts with their suicide bombs in Iraq and Israel. He wondered why I neglected to highlight those “savage” acts, but chose to expose and wash the Nigerian dirty linen in public, further contributing to the humiliation of Nigerians in the eyes of the Westerner.

In the blind, ultra- nationalistic fervor displayed in his E-mail, Tajin Taire asked me to purchase and read “Guns, Germs and Steel”, a book written in 1997 by Jared Diamond. Incidentally, the Pulitzer prize-winning book was on my bookshelf collecting dust. I dusted it up and refreshed my memory about its subject-matter. The book does nothing other than shift the blame for our various inadequacies onto other factors. If it is not geography, it is agriculture. If it is not ecology, it is the environment. If you believe Diamond, you would believe that “savagery” is an innate and ingrained characteristic of Africans, foisted upon us by the “Latitudinal,” not “longitudinal” location of our continent (!). And because we are stuck on the African continent with its attendant geo-economic disadvantages, we should accept our “Third World” stigma.

But just as Tajin Taire completely misunderstood my “Lawlessness Unlimited” article, he also misunderstood and misused Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel.” Diamond’s book is basically a research work. Researches, by their very nature, are subjective. In them, theories are skewed and tilted to support predetermined assumptions. And if you are gullible enough to swallow hook, line and sinker “facts”, (presented in a thesis) that are subject to queries by future researchers, you do so at your own peril. And that is exactly what Tajin Taire has done with “Guns, Germs and Steel.”

Scientists, before and after Diamond, have posited convincingly that humans are victims more of their “nurture,” than of their “nature.” The overwhelming consensus is that humans of diverse culture, race, creed gender and geographical locations share unique characteristics (nature) that make them recognizable as humans. They understand the need for reproduction and the need to nurse and protect their new babies. They understand the need for self-development, be it through formal education or the learning of trade skills in order to fend for their families. They live in familial arrangements, whether it is nuclear or extended types. They react to the loss of loved ones, especially young ones almost the same way. They react to good news the same way and strive for new heights everyday. This is not to say that there are no exceptions to these general rules. But normal human beings do share all of the above characteristics. The sequence of the 3.1 billion letters of the human DNA has been determined to be generally the same in all humans. Of course, there are sometimes variations found in some gene sites, these variations account for the different kinds of people we have – gay, lesbians etc. But the fact that some humans go to church, go to jail or go to the moon, while others do not, is a function of their different upbringing – their nurturing.

In an. interview with the National Geographic News, Diamond continued his justification for why Africans are the way they are: Africa today, paradoxically, is the poorest continent. I say paradoxically because this is where humans evolved, so [humans] had a huge head start in Africa. Tropical diseases kept the Europeans out at first, but those tropical diseases nonetheless pose a big public health and economic burden on Africa today. That is linked with colonialism. Europeans could not settle in large numbers. But what they still could do was to extract wealth from Africans, initially slaves, then rubber, diamonds, and copper. Basically that means robbing Africans and setting up legalized institutions for corruption. Colonialism also changed the Africans’ traditional way of life. They moved to cities next to the mines where their immunities no longer provided protection against tropical diseases.”

But as if he knew that the Tajin Taires of Africa would latch onto this assertion and demand “affirmative actions” for the injustice meted out to them by Europeans, Diamond, in the same interview cautioned: “If you make a complex argument, there will be people out there who will simplify and misuse it. I recognize that there are people who will say geography deals out these immutable cards and there’s nothing we can do about it. But one can show the evidence and say there is something we can do about it. Look at Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. They recognized that their biggest disadvantage was public health. They didn’t say, we got these tropical diseases—it’s inevitable. Instead they said, we have these tropical diseases and they are curable and all it takes is money so let’s invest in curing the diseases. Today they are rich, virtually First World countries. That shows that poverty is something you can do something about.”

He then contradicted his own book: “People have a misunderstanding that geography means environmental determinism, and that poor countries are doomed to be poor and they should just shut up and lie down and play dead. But in fact, knowledge is power. Once you know what it is that’s making you poor, you can use that knowledge to make

you rich.”

But Taire who seems to have read “Guns, Germs and Steel” does not believe that you can “use what you’ve got, to get what you want.” For him, I should accept the deplorable condition in which my people live and work in Nigeria. I should cross my hands (and legs) and blame it all on the “Latitudinal” or “Longitudinal” positioning of Nigeria. And if I do not, I have been “brainwashed” by the White man who wants to continue the mortification of my people.

Let us consider a few of our “savage” acts that were the results, according to Tajin Taire’s warped logic, of the Nigerian weather and topography:

Our Attorney-General – the chief law enforcement agent of the Federation – (Bola Ige), was shot to death in his bedroom. Ige had round-the-clock armed guards. Chief Iyiola Omisore and others were suspected of the murder. They were arrested. Today, Omisore is a sitting Senator and nobody has been convicted of that murder. Between 1979 and 1983, Umaru Dikko supervised the importation of rice into Nigeria. All of a sudden, he became stupendously wealthy. Even the deaf heard that Dikko made his money by skimming profits off the rice importation. Dikko was never arraigned before any court. During the same period, Olusola Saraki spent money as if he had a minting machine in his house. He bought his way into the hearts of all Kwarans. Soon, it was discovered that Saraki was spending Societe Generale Bank’s money – “using Abu’s money to entertain Abu,” as the Yoruba people would say. That bank has now gone belly-up and Saraki remains the grand kingmaker in Kwara State politics. Dele Giwa, the founding editor of Newswatch magazine was assassinated with a letter bomb in 1986. Again, even the deaf heard that Ibrahim Babangida knew something about it. Where is Babangida now? He just recently dropped his bid for the presidency. He is enjoying his enormous wealth uninterrupted. Muhammadu Buhari presided over the government that unleashed the infamous Decree 2 on Nigerians. That decree allowed his government to hold Nigerians in detention for an indefinite length of time, without charging them to court. Ask Messrs. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian how palatable Buhari’s gulag was. It was the same Buhari’s government that executed two Nigerians, using a law with a retroactive effective date – a law that was not in existence when they committed the crime of drug peddling. Where is Buhari now? He is running for President again, and some people are actually going to vote for him! In Ibadan, Baba Adedibu routinely lets loose his rabid dogs, chief of which was Alhaji Akinsola, a.k.a Tokyo. They beat up political opponents, torture, maim and kill them with impunity. About a month ago, voting machines belonging to the government were found in Adedibu’s residence. He has not been charged with any crime. Adedibu has stated publicly, repeatedly and unequivocally that he received huge sums of money from then governor Alao-Akala. Where is Alao-Akala now? He is the sitting deputy-governor of Oyo State and the gubernatorial candidate of Adedibu’s PDP in next April’s elections. Governors Ayodele Fayose and Chris Dariye (of Ekiti and Plateau States respectively) are hiding away in Nigeria, sheltered by their own people, sheltered from justice for the “savage” and unconscionable pillaging of their treasuries. And in spite of the mountain of evidence compiled by the EFCC against the likes of Bola Tinubu and Abubakar Atiku, Nigerians are still flocking around them. Rather than bury his head in shame, Atiku, in particular, is traversing the length and breadth of Nigeria, canvassing for votes in his bid to become President.

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Oluseye Bassir September 10, 2007 - 4:16 pm

I find you have expended a lot of text and little insight. The use of the word savage is savage. It is proof that you have internalised the worst self image possible.

I am sure I am not savage but you have admitted to be. you are the ignorant savage by your own admission.

Anonymous March 10, 2007 - 11:49 am

I am a little disappointed that you will waste precious time answering charges by two individuals who show lack of understanding of a basic essay. There will always be people like Taire and Akintobi who cannot put things into context.

I do not always agree with your view point but I think you do a fantastic job of articulating and putting the issues out there in the public square. You are one of the very few whose essays I read on this medium. Keep up the good work.


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