Race still overshadow South African politics 25 years after end of apartheid

It would be surprising if race played no part in South African elections.

The country’s colonial and apartheid past ranked alongside the America’s Deep South as among the most racist social orders in the world. If religious polarisation is also considered, South Africa often compared with Northern Ireland and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The slogan “rainbow nation” seems to have retired along with Anglican archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu. Personal racist incidents still make the headlines and class remains hued by colour at the structural level. Although slightly over half of the country’s middle class is now black, deep poverty is an almost exclusively a black experience.

Race continues to divide. Take just the best-known parties among the four dozen contesting the country’s general election this month. They all represent radically different perspectives on the race issue. And – at the extremes – there is no crossing the colour line.

For example, almost no black Africans will vote for the minority Freedom Front Plus. Almost no whites will vote for the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the third-largest party. Strident racial rhetoric from some EFF leaders. And its election manifesto envisages for massive tax rises, a proviso that’s alienated white voters. For its part, the Freedom Front Plus’s campaign to defend minorities against affirmative action and black economic empowerment doesn’t attract many black voters.

But, when moving towards the leading parties of the centre, the governing African National Congress (ANC), and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), are making serious efforts to reign in racial rhetoric among their leaders and members. They also have manifestos that promote non-racialism.


The ANC and DA documents and speeches have repeated their long-held goals of non-racialism. Both try to ensure that people of all colours are represented in their executive structures.

Recently, ANC veterans condemned a statement by their powerful secretary-general urging a vote against “whites” and for “blacks”. And the party’s election campaign, particularly in Gauteng and the Western Cape, chooses issues and rhetoric which include white voters.

The DA too has more than once disciplined leaders, or got members to resign, because of racial comments on twitter or elsewhere

At a deeper level, the DA is attempting a strategy so difficult that it has only been accomplished twice before in South Africa’s history. The party seeks to change from an overwhelmingly white party to a predominantly black party. The South African Communist Party achieved this during the 1920s. The Liberal Party followed a similar path during the 1960s.

Historically, the ANC’s Freedom Charter affirmed that

South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

The ANC’s alliances from the 1950s included organisations centred on coloured – people of both European (white) and African (black) ancestry – , Indian, and white members. It incrementally opened its own membership to supporters of all colours before 1990.

At times, a few commentators have criticised the ANC as being dominated by either isiXhosa speakers or Nguni language speakers, but these complaints found little traction. The ANC’s membership embraced a nation-wide representivity among black Africans, and included activists from all of the race-based definitions entrenched during apartheid.

Strategically, the ANC is the only African nationalist party that has had to accommodate – in policy and rhetoric – a significant white minority.

More than nine-tenths of white settlers fled Algeria after independence in 1962; the same in Angola and Mozambique following independence in 1974. This also happened in Zimbabwe between the 1980s-1990s. White Algerians had the right to French citizenship; white Angolans and Mozambicans had the right to Portuguese citizenship. Over half White Zimbabweans had the right to either South African or British citizenship.

By contrast, the overwhelming majority of white South Africans have no rights to other citizenships.

The people

White South Africans are only make up 7,8% of the population. But they remain strategically important. They still own most capital and most companies. They constitute a significant proportion of management and in most of the professions.

The western powers, investors, and media remain sensitive to their concerns and anxieties.

Interestingly, statistics show that white living standards have risen higher than anyone else’s since 1994. That is not exactly the “genocide” proclaimed by the global alt-right.

There is a wide range of black views on colour and race relations. Some activists in the Rhodes-must-fall and Fees-must-fall movements expressed total alienation from whites and “whiteness”. Simultaneously, there are many interracial friendships and some interracial marriages.

Tensions bound to remain

The world’s oldest democracy, the US, and the world’s largest democracy, India, also have to grapple with the contradictions between nonracial or non-caste ideals in their constitutions, and affirmative action and preferential procurement laws and regulations.

In South Africa, the issue has the subject of a host of by a range of institutions in the country. These range from the Human Rights Commission, to the Equality Court and similar quasi-judicial entities, in addition to test cases decided by the Constitutional Court..

Given that the country has the world’s largest white minority living under black rule, colour line tensions will remain a fairly permanent feature of the country’s political landscape. The same can be said of the US, where the world’s largest black minority lives under white rule.


The world has been bent on putting all Muslims in one category

It’s clear that Islamophobia is on the rise globally. This antipathy towards adherents of the Muslim faith is often presented as a violent reaction to terrorism committed by the Islamic State. This suggests that if terrorism by so-called Islamic groups ends, Islamophobia will too.

Indonesian students pay tribute to the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings.
Indonesian students pay tribute to the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings. BAGUS INDAHONO/EPA-EFE

Academic and author from the University of Birmingham Chris Allen has correctly discarded this thesis. He argues that it’s extremely dangerous because it ultimately legitimises indolent stereotypes which describe all Muslims as terrorists.

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And it plays into racist views held by individuals and parts of the media. It amalgamates Islam, terrorism, and all Muslims, which means that the faith is viewed as a threat.

A study conducted by Pew Research found that, even in more supposedly liberal countries such as France, nearly half of respondents thought that some Muslims supported the Islamic State and its aims. Other research has found that a majority of people in several European countries – among them Poland and Austria – supported a ban on immigration from majority-Muslim countries.

In my book, New Horizons of Muslim Diaspora in Europe and North America, I explored how people living in Muslim societies view this growing prejudice. I also interviewed numerous Muslims: some were still living in majority Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East; others had emigrated to Western countries.

I found that Islamophobia has changed how certain Muslims portray themselves to society. The people I interviewed considered themselves targeted and vilified by Islamophobia; many hid their Muslim beliefs and identity or pretended to be less devout than they really were – some women, for instance, have stopped wearing the veil.

My respondents felt that Muslims in Western countries aren’t treated fairly. They also worried that the rise of Islamophobia had badly damaged Islam as a religion of peace.

Diaspora experiences

The book argues against an approach to the concept of culture that reduces all Muslims to one category. Such a reductive approach ignores other important factors that shape the attitudes and behaviours of Muslims all over the world. These factors include their socioeconomic status, their gender, age, level of education, social class; as well as their attitudes to religion and to Western lifestyles.

I interviewed 116 people and held less formal conversations with more than 100. They lived in Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, the US and Canada.

Those living outside majority-Muslim countries were heterogeneous: they had diverse cultures and ethnicities. They were actually divided, rather than united, on issues related to Islam and to their new, Western homes.

The most conservative, traditional Muslims in the diaspora tend to be marginalised. They don’t work, or work low-income jobs. Many turn to religion and traditional values and practices as a reaction to their socio-economic exclusion from European or American society.

But the majority of people I interviewed described themselves as only moderately religious. They were open to other cultures and principles such as secularism.

Working together

Governments in Europe and North America should be working with such people to reach others who could be taught about a moderate, progressive approach to Islam rather than one that tends towards extremism. It has already been shown that Muslim Europeans and Americans are often the first to respond to radicalism – by rejecting it. They could be drawn into programmes to help new arrivals in Western countries adapt and learn about their new cultures.

This is especially important because I found in my book that many Muslim leaders have an insufficient knowledge of Western countries, and find it hard to fight Islamophobic propaganda. Likewise, most imams in the West do not master the language of the host country. This makes it difficult for them to explain moderate Islam to the Western societies and to fight against Islamophobia and youth radicalisation among the Muslim diaspora.

Younger, more open-minded Muslims could fulfil a valuable role in integration and in teaching non-Muslims about the religion.

SOURCE: The Conversation / Moha Ennaji is aProfessor of Linguistics, Gender, and Cultural Studies, Université Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah

Nigeria don’t have enough universities to take in all it’s intending students, but the government don’t care

By Chiamaka Kaima

Education is, around the world one of the first and basic right of everyone, but here in Nigeria, it has been abused by both the Governments and People.

During one of the Tours to the Adekunle Ajosin University in Akungba Akoko, Ondo state. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun identified Poor Funding as a major threat to achieving a Functional Education in Nigeria. He said, Poor funding of Nigeria’s Education Sector causes Setbacks for its inherent ability to compete globally even with the inferior countries to Nigeria.

In Nigeria, to enhance good Education and stop the yearly increase of Admission-seekers [from getting] out of Hand[, the] Education Sector should be given lots of attention because it gives room for the country’s development ,but unfortunately, the quality and standard of Education in Nigeria is poor because it has not been paid adequate attention to.

And due to these lack of attention, it has caused lots of Problems that the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) has [revealed] how the number of admission-seekers increases yearly but only 75% are granted admission with only 20% being admitted to Public Universities, while 55% into other sectors of Education in Nigeria like the Private Universities or Polytechnics.

And this is are drastical elements that needs to be changed. Below are the causes;

Poor Funding

The foremost and greatest challenge that triggers this is Inadequate Funding by the Federal, State and Local Government.

In the year 2017, it was recorded that the budget bill allocated to the Nigeria’s Education sector was 26% much lower than the National budget recommended by the United Nations.

The Global organization recommended the budgetary benchmark to enable Nations adequately cater for rising Education demands.

But in the proposal represented to the National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari allocated only 7.04% of the 8.6 trillion budget to the Education.
 The total sum allocated to the sector was 605.8 billion, with 435.1 billion for Recurrent Expenditure, 61.73 billion for Capital Expenditure and 109.06 billion for the Universal Basic Education Commission. Even though, it hasn’t reduced the rise of Education yet but has yearly increased the number of Applicants to Universities.


This is another Major problem in the Country that has also affected the Educational Sector?

There are multiple stories of how lecturers collects bribes from students in exchange for grades, some even go to the extent of harassing their female students to sleep with them. Even some university administrators demands money from students to have their Exam results compiled and submitted to the (required) National Youth Service Corps.

 Also, funds meant for paying salaries and maintenance of school facilities and so on are being diverted for personal use and mismanaged.

And these acts can cause schools to embark on strikes or riots which will not only ruin the School reputation.

Politicization of Education

The Governments at all levels, especially at the State level, attempts to run many Institutions even when they’re least prepared to do such, which thereby cause a general fall in the Standard of the initially existing ones and the available budget insufficient to cater for their needs.

In addition, State Governments gives accreditation to Schools that they fully know are not well equipped for Teaching, all in a bid to generate more revenue for themselves.

Unwillingness to study Education in Schools

Due to how Courses are being scrapped out and parents advising their children/ward to go for courses that pays much in jobs than those that gives adequate time but pays less.

In 2015, it was recorded by the Educational Board, that out of more than 1,700,000 applications submitted, only 5% applied for Courses in Education.

 To that resul,most Graduate Teachers aren’t professional and inadequately exposed to Teaching Practices which has made Learning in schools in-conducive and generated the love of doing things for money and not for passion or will.

But to solve these problems, it all has to begin with the Governments and not the Citizens because they have the powers to punish any defaulters.


Provision of Conducive Environment to enhance Active Learning: It’s not all about teaching on Theory but also with other Teaching aids like practices, interactive sessions and Computers to exposed the students to more digitalized ways of learning and prepare them to be able to compete with their counterparts from other parts of the world. When these are provided, it gives each student the room to be well prepared for what they want and get it at their disposal anywhere, anytime.

Giving Power to those who actually knows What they’re to do and not to those who are there for the Money:To govern the Educational Board, the Government needs to Employ one who has both the Intellectual Skills not to rule alone but to apply Good measures and build up the Sector in a Striking way that will not only develop the Students but also the Country.

Contributions of Financial Funds both from the Private and Public sectors to Universities.

•There should be a Career Counselling where the Youths are been advised about Courses and similar courses when not given the first: This is a very delicate issue that should be looked into.

The Federal Government can enforce career counseling in all schools especially in secondary schools both the juniors and Seniors to avoid large numbers desiring to study one course that has Several alternatives which hinders the progress of the Economy.

 And if these solutions and many more are being implemented, it’ll give Nigeria a greater chance of competing with their counterparts from other parts of the world.

About the author.

Chiamaka Kaima is a young prospective writer with good writing skill that cuts across, education, lifestyle and living. She writes for The Bloomgist through our Academic Writers Forum “Column 60

How peaceful protests can change troubled Algeria

Peaking after Friday prayers, streets across Algeria have been flooded with protesters demanding change in recent weeks. They are demanding an end to the 20-year rule of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has now pledged – not entirely convincingly – to stand down.

Whether genuine change will now come remains to be seen. But what is most notable about this mass “hirak” (the Arabic word for “movement”) is both its distrust of any politician who seeks to speak on behalf of the protesters – and its rejection of violence.

The importance of these two factors is grounded in the long struggle the nation has faced. Algerians, although determined and hopeful, are well acquainted with the dangers of striving for a change of this magnitude. Their shared past offers many lessons about nation building, many of which came at a heavy price.

Experts are divided over the definition of a “nation”, but many agree that two factors are important. On one hand, a collective memory serves as a record of the triumphs and failures from which the nation derives its lessons. On the other, imagination helps to instil a deep bond between the nation’s different members and cultivate an enveloping sense of community. Both of these factors have played a role in Algeria’s ongoing quest for nationhood.


Algeria won its independence from France in 1962 after a seven-year war that left more than a million dead. In Algeria, the memory of the martyrs is both a source of grief over the magnitude of the loss, and a source of pride, over the willingness of some to sacrifice everything for the nation’s freedom.

The FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) played a significant role in steering the country towards independence. But the war, and the role the FLN played in it, became a means for the party to legitimise its rule for decades afterwards, and a narrative behind which it could obscure its numerous failures.

The economic crisis of the 1980s played a major role in forcing the state to move from a single party system, which had allowed the FLN to monopolise power, towards a multi-party system. And the people took the chance to express their desire for radical change.

The FIS (Front Islamique du Salut), an Islamist party, took advantage of the situation, grew in popularity and in 1991 looked like it would defeat the FLN in the elections. But the Algerian army intervened, claiming it was protecting the nation from the dangers of FIS ideology, and blocked the electoral process. The FIS took extreme measures, a militarised wing was formed, and the country was plunged into chaos and civil war during a period known as Algeria’s “Black Decade”. Around 200,000 people lost their lives.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose recent bid for a fifth term (despite ongoing illness) sparked the current hirak, was elected for the first time in 1999. His Civil Concord law, followed by the 2005 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, which came during his second term in power, helped end the civil war. But this achievement yet again became a way to legitimise his rule for years afterwards.

No Arab Spring

Memories of the Black Decade also became a shackle, long hindering any widespread opposition. When the Arab Spring swept the wider region from 2011, fears of a return to the bloodshed of the civil war prevented many Algerians from seeking change which might trigger violence. Indeed, on February 28 this year, in an address to parliament, former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia tried to use the Arab Spring to caution the Algerian people against turning the nation into another Syria.

But the peaceful protests that followed have sent a clear reply: this is not Syria. Change through non-violent means is possible.

Algerians are well aware of their own past. And they don’t want to replicate the bloodshed Tunisia had to endure, the military seizure of power in Egypt, the unstable situation in Libya, or the devastation of Syria. The nation’s previous experiences, especially those of the Black Decade and the fatal manipulation of extremist ideology which sought to snuff out the diverse nature of Algerian society, are reminders of how a spark of change can easily, and often bloodily, be extinguished.

But Algerians also believe in the possibility of a different future, one that brings to fruition a nation imagined by them. The hirak is the people’s expression of this, one removed from the interference of politicians or foreign governments.

In a letter addressed to the people, Bouteflika has now declared that he will not run for a fifth term. But he has also cancelled the upcoming elections and extended his current term.

He has promised to oversee a peaceful transition to a new republic, but Algerians have rejected this and plan to continue the non-violent hirak.

Remembering their past while striving for a better future, they are determined to translate their ideals into a new state. The struggle goes on – but its medium remains “silmiya” (peaceful).

Five things that can fix Nigeria’s completely messed up Education system

Nigeria’s education system is based on the (1)-6-3-3-4 formula: one year pre-primary education, six years primary, three years junior secondary, three years senior secondary, and a minimum of four years tertiary education.

The model had been used successfully in China, Germany and Ghana before Nigeria adopted it in 1989.

But it’s never been fully implemented in Nigeria. Although successive governments have theoretically upheld its objectives, none has successfully implemented the policy.

Nigeria’s educational system is in assorted crises of infrastructural decay, neglect, waste of resources and sordid conditions of service. The country has over 10 million out-of-school children. That’s the highest in the world. Another 27 million children in school are performing very poorly. Millions of Nigerians are half-educated, and over 60 million – or 30% – are illiterate.

On top of this, many eligible young Nigerians can’t gain admission into public universities. At the same time prohibitive tuition fees, among other factors, are a barrier to the country’s private universities.

As the Buhari-Osinbajo government starts its second term it should focus on key areas that will dig Nigeria’s education system out of the deep hole it’s in. I have identified five priorities it should attend to first.


The new government should appoint an expert Minister of Education, not a political party lackey. In the past, Nigeria’s educational system has fared better under expert education ministers who earned their stripes through the system.

Take Professor Jubril Aminu, who served in the portfolio from 1985 to 1990. The 6-3-3-4 system was inaugurated during his tenure. Aminu also introduced “nomadic education” in 1989 for nomadic Fulani and other migrant ethnic groups.

Aminu was followed by Professor Babs Fafunwa (1990 to 1992). He overhauled the national education policy. He also provided room for education in mother tongue, a universal practice which most African countries have not fully implemented. UNESCO recommends education in mother tongue because of its immense advantages.

Lastly, under Professor Sam Egwu (2008 to 2010), a controversial agreement was signed between the government and the union representing the country’s academic staff. The agreement – signed in 2009 after drawn-out negotiations – stipulated conditions of service and remuneration for lecturers, the autonomy of universities and how the government should fund tertiary education.

But successive governments have violated the terms of the pact, claiming that they didn’t have the money to meet some of its terms. Officials claimed that sections of the pact were difficult, and in some cases impossible, to implement. However, the union rejects these claims and has accused the government of using delay tactics and questionable criticisms to frustrate the deal.


Funding is the biggest problem confronting Nigeria’s education system. The percentage of the budget allocated to education annually is abysmally low. In 2018, only 7.04% was allocated to education. This is far below UNESCO’s recommended 15%-26%.

Nigeria’s experience with the commercialisation and neglect of government secondary and primary school levels has led to poorer education outcomes. Nor is privatisation the answer: it’s only likely to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. It will deny many children affordable quality education, increase the rate of illiteracy and reduce academic performance at the tertiary level.

If the government continues to privatise government-owned universities, as is already the case with the proliferation of private universities with high fees, tertiary education will become the exclusive preserve of the rich upper class. This, in a country where more than 90% of the population is currently living in abject poverty.

The government should also cut wasteful expenditure. For example, I would argue that the “school children feeding programme” is a massive drain on resources.

Government reported earlier this year that it allocated 220 billion naira for the programme and of that, about 50 billion naira was wasted. This money could have be spent on more pressing problems such as building more classrooms and equipping them, supplying teaching and learning materials and improving staff welfare and remuneration.

Money for research

Research suffers in three ways in Nigeria. First, researchers work without sponsorship, particularly in the core sciences. The Tertiary Education Trust Fund is virtually the only source of money. The Trust funds and sponsors research projects, gives grants for research and sponsors lecturers for academic conferences, among other things. But its resources are limited and its operations are slow, highly selective and sometimes politicised.

Secondly, study findings are often abandoned on library shelves because the government isn’t committed to research-oriented development. Researchers don’t have the means to promote their work and research findings.

Third, research output is mediocre and repetitive because there are no effective measures in place to track research output nationwide.

Stop incessant strikes

In 1978, the Academic Staff Union of Universities was established to represent academic staff in Nigeria’s universities. Since then, there have been strikes almost every year, disrupting the academic calendar.

To stop these annual disruptions, the government must increase budgetary allocations to the sector and honour agreements that have been signed with the unions.

The only way that strikes will be stopped is if the welfare of all staff, from teachers to lecturers, is prioritised.

In conclusion

If these priorities are successfully implemented, Nigeria’s education system would be well on its way to realising government’s commitment to its own policies and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

SOURCE: The Conversation

The end of democracy in Nigeria

A dismally low turnout in the presidential elections revealed the fractured relationship between politicians and populace.

‘Like a marriage, democracy cannot survive without trust.’
‘Like a marriage, democracy cannot survive without trust.’ Photograph: Luis Tato/AFP/Getty Images

By Remi Adekoya

You know a democracy is in trouble when two out of three voters don’t bother to turn up for a presidential election. In Nigeria’s just-concluded presidential poll, incumbent Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected with the backing of 15.2 million voters compared to the 11.3 million votes his main rival Atiku Abubakar, was able to amass.

Although this gave Buhari 56% of the total votes cast, in a country with a population of close to 200 million, including more than 84 million registered voters, 15.2 million votes hardly qualifies as a huge mandate. The 35% voter turnout was down from 44% in the 2015 presidential election and way down from the 54% turnout in 2011. In fact, turnout for Nigerian presidential elections has been dropping at an alarmingly consistent rate since 2003. So why are increasingly fewer Nigerians feeling the need to vote in elections that decide the most powerful political office?

Poor organisation is one reason. The last three elections were all postponedat the last minute, causing frustration as well as suspicion that politicians were delaying things to perfect their rigging strategies. Voting itself often involves waiting long hours, in a cumbersome and inefficient process. For some, it’s too much hassle.

Then there is the ever-present fear of violence on election day. Indeed, violence erupted in several places across the country in this election. Politics is a high-stakes game anywhere; in Nigeria the rewards of victory are particularly high. Nigerian legislators are among the highest paid in the world, while the president controls a huge oil-money fuelled patronage system that can transform you into a billionaire overnight. Also, top Nigerian officeholders enjoy the highest prestige within society because they have money and power. Suffice it to say, the motivation to win is significant. Considering that the Nigerian state is too weak to have a monopoly on violence, some political actors take advantage of this and deploy it as a tool for competitive advantage.

‘The 76-year-old Muhammadu Buharii who governed highhandedly and often incompetently.’ Photograph: Reuters

Furthermore, this year’s choice between the 76-year-old Buhari, who governed highhandedly and often incompetently during his first term, and the 72-year-old veteran politician Atiku, who is widely considered corrupt, was hardly inspiring.

However, it is likely that the largest contributing factor to the extremely low turnout was the feeling that whoever won, nothing would change. The system is so corrupt that it makes no difference whether X or Y is president. Pew Research conducted last year showed that only 39% of Nigerians were satisfiedwith their democracy, 72% said most politicians were corrupt and 57% said no matter who wins elections, things do not change much. Only 38% felt that elected officials cared what “ordinary people think”.

And so here we are. The problem is that it is difficult for a system to maintain its legitimacy if only one in three citizens believe in it. This is the position Nigerian democracy now finds itself in. Buhari thus needs to keep his celebrations as short as possible and start focusing on restoring some faith in the system. A genuine and systematic effort to tackle corruption, including within his party, would be a good start. While having built a reputation of not being personally corrupt, during his first term Buhari was seen by many to have pursued a selective anti-corruption drive aimed solely at opposition politicians, while his own political friends conducted business as usual.

‘The 72-year-old veteran politician Atiku Abubakar, who is widely considered corrupt.’ Photograph: Reuters

For instance, one of Buhari’s main political allies, former Lagos state governor, Bola Tinubu, was flippantly unapologetic about the bullion vans, which many suspected were full of cash for vote-buying, photographed entering his premises on election eve. He said he reserved the right to give people cash “free of charge” if he so wished while denying that it was to buy votes. Incidents like this only fuel the cynicism of Nigerians, who see Buhari as hypocritical for turning a blind eye to such brazenness from his allies.

He also needs to make his second-term cabinet as diverse and competent as possible. Voter turnout was particularly low in the southern states where Buhari, who hails from the north, is seen by many to favour his kinsmen and those loyal to him in political appointments while competence takes low priority. Nigeria’s economy has taken a battering in recent years and it is vital that people see Buhari as putting the welfare of the country’s economy and its citizens above any personal or ethnic considerations and sentiments.

Like a marriage, democracy cannot survive without trust. The relationship between the Nigerian government and its people is broken. Apathy prevails. Trust is scarce. Buhari’s second term needs to be focused on tackling this lack of trust that Nigerians increasingly feel towards their political system. Otherwise, the future of Nigerian democracy looks very bleak indeed.

• Remi Adekoya is the former political editor of the Warsaw Business Journal

The growth of ‘money’ gospel in Africa and the fate of its blind followers

By Ilana van Wyk

The prosperity gospel is back in the news in South Africa, this time over the misdeeds of one of its prophets. The prosperity gospel is a religious movement that has exploded in popularity and prominence in South Africa over the last two decades but has stirred up controversy globally for more than 40 years.

Not many knew Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria. Facebook
Not many knew Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria. Facebook

The gospel first reached South Africa in the late 1970s through churches such as televangelist Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church. Due to apartheid restrictions on the movements of black people, the prosperity gospel’s reach was limited. But since the start of democracy in 1994, preachers from across the continent have streamed into the country’s townships, converting large numbers to this new gospel.

Today it’s the fastest growing religious movement in South Africa. While precise statistics are lacking, scholars agree that prosperity gospel followers rival, if not exceed, the numbers of so-called mainline churches.

Not many South Africans had paid much attention to Prophet Shepherd Bushiri until the end of last year. But when three people died in a stampede at his Enlightened Christian Gathering Church in Pretoria, the “self-proclaimed prophet” received wide media coverage.

In February 2019, he was again in the news when the police’s special crime investigative unit arrested him and his wife on suspicion of fraud, money laundering and for exchange control irregularities amounting to over US$ 1 million. His R20-million private Gulfstream jet was also attached.

Bushiri’s followers also attracted media attention when they gathered in great numbers waving placards outside court to pray for his release. Many prostrated themselves on the tarmac, tears streaming down their faces as they spoke in tongues or as they cried for their “daddy”, “Papa” or “Major One”.

Paseka Motsoeneng, better known as Prophet Mboro, who is a preacher from a similar church, lent emotional and spiritual support to Bushiri’s “children”, traumatised by the loss of their “spiritual mother and father”.

These scenes led many South Africans to ask questions about Bushiri’s supporters. Were they part of a cult? Or were they merely instruments in the hands of a man who manipulated their vulnerability for his own financial ends?

Christian commentators called for urgent government intervention to protect poor people duped by the improbable promises made by what they termed as “scam” churches and “fake prophets”.

As an anthropologist, I have been studying prosperity gospel churches in South Africa for nearly a decade. I have attended hundreds of daily services, watched scores of televised ones, analysed websites and chat forums and interviewed hundreds of prosperity gospel believers. And unlike theologians who argue about the legitimacy of Biblical interpretations and questions of doctrine, I have been interested in the kinds of people who swear undying support for men like Bushiri.

Tenets of the prosperity gospel

The prosperity gospel explains poverty and illness in terms of sins against God, specifically the withholding of tithes. It also ascribes such “bad luck” to the work of demons engaged in a spiritual war against God’s kingdom. Converts typically renounce their past lives and their old churches.

They embrace spiritual “technologies” – these include offerings in church, paying tithes, praying strongly and exorcising demons – that promise to secure miraculous health and wealth directly from God. They also follow preacher-prophets who they believe have special powers to fight against the “spirit of poverty”.

Many believers are strengthened in this faith through the persistent testimonies of those who had been “blessed” with jobs, houses, cars and healing in church. These testimonies are delivered from church pulpits and in person, and are endlessly repeated in church publications and on radio, television and the internet.

What I found

My research showed that prosperity gospel churches attract people from all walks of life and a variety of educational backgrounds. While the majority of congregants, like the majority of South Africans, are typically poor and dependent on social grants, these churches also count significant numbers of professionals, business people and increasingly, politicians, in their ranks.

I also found that Prosperity gospel believers are not captive victims of so-called cult leaders. In fact, they move constantly between churches as they search for more efficacious “technologies” and “stronger prophets”. Chances are that as Bushiri faces more legal troubles, more of his followers will desert him for prophets like Mboro.

I often struggle to convince people that those who subscribe to this gospel are not simply credulous dupes. Detractors often refer to the figure of the improbably rich prophet, men like Bushiri, as proof that the prosperity gospel is illegitimate and that its believers are fools.

God and money

There’s a long Western Christian belief that money is a force that corrupts proper spiritual intentions and corrodes sacred social bonds. Stemming from the 16th century Reformation, this tradition has been very suspicious of any coupling of God and money, holding that the material world poses dangerous distractions from proper spiritual belief.

But there are other Christian traditions such as the prosperity gospel that are much more materialist in their concerns. In these traditions, money does very different kinds of work. It is the proper medium through which their God “blesses” people, through which people petition God and through which believers come into social being and connect to others through their generosity.

Some of these traditions have a long history in South Africa, going back to the 1800s. The mission record for instance shows that scores of early converts- and missionaries- demanded material proof of their new God’s power. Various Revivalists used Christianity to inform more aggressive forms of millenarianism such as the “gospel of self-help” during the 1940s and the tent campaigns of the 1960s. The prosperity gospel is a continuation of this materialist Christian tradition. For its followers, it is not a con, just a different approach to their God.

Girls beat boys at school and lose to them at the office – here’s why

Hard work and discipline help girls outperform boys in class, but that advantage disappears in the work force. Is school the problem?

From elementary school through college, girls are more disciplinedabout their schoolwork than boys; they study harder and get better grades. Girls consistently outperform boys academically. And yet, men nonetheless hold a staggering 95 percent of the top positions in the largest public companies.

What if those same habits that propel girls to the top of their class — their hyper-conscientiousness about schoolwork — also hold them back in the work force?

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, the journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in,” they wrote. “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.”

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision.

We need to ask: What if school is a confidence factory for our sons, but only a competence factory for our daughters?

This possibility hit me when I was caring for an eighth grader in my practice. She got terrific grades but was feeling overwhelmed by school. Her brother, a ninth grader, had similarly excellent grades, but when I asked if he worked as hard as she did, she scoffed. If she worked on an assignment for an hour and got an A, she felt “safe” only if she spent a full hour on other assignments like it. Her brother, in contrast, flew through his work. When he brought home an A, she said, he felt “like a stud.” If his grades slipped a bit, he would take his effort up just a notch. But she never felt “safe” enough to ever put in less than maximum effort.

That experience — of succeeding in school while exerting minimal or moderate effort — is a potentially crucial one. It may help our sons develop confidence, as they see how much they can accomplish simply by counting on their wits. For them, school serves as a test track, where they build their belief in their abilities and grow increasingly at ease relying on them. Our daughters, on the other hand, may miss the chance to gain confidence in their abilities if they always count on intellectual elbow grease alone.

So how do we get hyper-conscientious girls (and boys, as there certainly are some with the same style) to build both confidence and competence at school?

First, parents and teachers can stop praising inefficient overwork, even if it results in good grades. Gendered approaches to learning set in early, so it’s never too soon to start working against them. Recently, as I read “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” to my 8-year-old daughter, I stopped at a passage in which Hermione — the fictional poster child for academic fastidiousness — turned in an essay that was “two rolls of parchment more than Professor Binns asked for.” Hermione, I pointed out, doesn’t make great use of her time. She’s a capable student and could probably do just as well without working so hard. “Right,” my daughter said. “Of course she could!”

We can also encourage girls toward a different approach to school — one that’s more focused on economy of effort, rather than how many hours they put in. Whenever one of the academically impressive and persistently anxious girls in my practice tells me about staying up until 2 in the morning studying, I see an opening. That’s the moment to push them to become tactical, to figure out how to continue learning and getting the same grades while doing a little bit less. I urge my patients — and my own teenage daughter — to begin study sessions by taking sample tests, to see how much they know before figuring out how much more they need to do to attain mastery over a concept or task. Many girls build up an incredible capacity for work, but they need these moments to discover and take pride in how much they already understand.

Teachers, too, can challenge girls’ over-the-top tendencies. When a girl with a high-A average turns in extra credit work, her instructor might ask if she is truly taken with the subject or if she is looking to store up “insurance points,” as some girls call them. If it’s the former, more power to her. If it’s the latter, the teacher might encourage the student to trust that what she knows and the work she is already doing will almost certainly deliver the grade she wants. Educators can also point out to this student that she may not need insurance; she probably has a much better grasp of the material than she gives herself credit for.

Finally, we can affirm for girls that it is normal and healthy to feel some anxiety about school. Too often, girls are anxious even about being anxious, so they turn to excessive studying for comfort. We can remind them that being a little bit nervous about schoolwork just means that they care about it, which of course they should.

Even if neither you nor your daughter cares about becoming a chief executive, you may worry that she will eventually be crushed by the weight of her own academic habits. While a degree of stress promotes growth, working at top speed in every class at all times is unhealthy and unsustainable for even the most dedicated high school students. A colleague of mine likes to remind teenagers that in classes where any score above 90 counts as an A, the difference between a 91 and a 99 is a life.

To be sure, the confidence gap is hardly the only thing keeping women out of top jobs. Women also face gender bias, sexual harassment and powerful structural barriers in the workplace. But confidence at school is one unequal advantage that we can address right now. Instead of standing by as our daughters make 50 flashcards when they were assigned 20, we can step in and ask them why. Many professional men brim with confidence because they have spent years getting to know their abilities. Women should arrive in the work world having done the same.

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Lisa Damour is a psychologist in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and the author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood” and “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” @LDamour • Facebook

The Passage of the #GEOBill is long overdue

By Chioma Agwuegbo

Being female in Nigeria can be considered an extreme sport, with women and girls perpetually playing the odds in a game where the house is rigged to win. 

For over 30 years, Nigeria has paid lip service to the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls. Past governments have said one thing, hurriedly signing international treaties, but failing (woefully) to domesticate them. These treaties include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in 1985 under military rule, the African charter on Human and People’s Rights, touted as the most continent friendly, yet progressive document on women’s rights, which the African Union adopted in 2003 and Nigeria ratified in 2004. 

This lip service has had and continues to have severe consequences for women across the country, and even in the diaspora. 

A few years ago, a video of three women who had stolen pepper in a market in Ejigbo, Lagos State surfaced; not because they had been handed over to the market authorities or law enforcement, but because they had been stripped naked, beaten within an inch of their lives, and men stuffed sticks, and ground, dried pepper into their vaginas. One of those women died. A lot of initial outrage and arrests, shock, and heavy sentences later, the matter has died without any logical conclusion that will deter reoccurrence. 

In 2010, a former employee of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency accused the agency of firing her because she refused to abort her baby, contravening their law that forbids unmarried women from being pregnant. Her application to the agency to marry the father of her child had been denied, even though she had put in the required two years of service before marriage. 

Still within security circles, the Nigerian Police Act is rife with discriminatory provisions for women who wish to enlist. They must be unmarried, and then apply to the Police Commissioner of their Command for permission to marry. It gets worse; an unmarried woman police officer that gets pregnant will be discharged from the force, yet nothing is said about the man who impregnates the woman.

Until 2014 and the historical judgment by the Supreme Court, Igbo Customary Law barred the female child, irrespective of the circumstances of her birth, from inheriting or partaking in the sharing of the property and estate of her father.

It begs the question, what does Nigeria have against women and girls? What reason could ever suffice for the delays in immediately halting the various manifestations of discrimination against half of the population? 

How does a nation that purports to uphold the Constitution thrive in the absence of the full actualisation of the International Covenants of Human Rights enshrined in that same Constitution? Instead, it whips up the National Gender Policy, which in itself is a decent collation of the national and international treaties the government has signed up to, but without any legal backing, is as toothless and ineffective as those get.

Enter the Gender and Equal Opportunities Bill, popularly known as the #GEOBill, an appropriation the best parts of CEDAW, the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women and the National Gender Policy.

The #GEOBill has suffered many refusals in the hands of an increasingly and predominantly male legislature that refuses to prioritise the rights and protection of women. The 6th Assembly threw it out for being ‘unAfrican’. The Bill was defeated in March 2016, and a second, watered down version thrown out in September 2016, for ‘going against our traditional and religious’ practises. 

Which practices? Is one of them marrying children, which some legislators are wont to do? Verified statistics place underage marriage in Nigeria between 43 and 45 percent, in a country with the highest number of out of school children in the world. 

These legislators couldn’t be bothered to form a quorum on the 9th of December 2016 for the Bill to be presented for public hearing, and in 2018, two dates for public hearing on the Bill were postponed.  What does Nigeria have against women and girls? What does the Legislature have against the protection of women and girls, and the promotion of their rights to self-actualisation in Nigeria?

The 8th Assembly, and the Assemblies before them, have failed women. They will go down in ignominy as sitting within the chambers that denied women their rights to thrive in Nigeria as equal, deserving members of society. 

We hope that the 9th Assembly will pass the #GEOBill, treating it with the urgency that it has lacked, but by Jove, it totally deserves. 

Chioma Agwuegbo, a communication strategist, is founder of TechHerNG, a community of learning, support, and collaboration for women in technology.