On the Notion of Culture and Colonialism as Impediment to Economic Models of Development and Democracy in Africa – with a Comment on Didactic Obama-Truce-Culture Approach


Patrick Iroegbu (Ph.D) 





This article provides a reflection on the question of culture as a perceptive local and global tender to “enter the cultural economist’s mindset to secure development models Africans can work with”. It argues that the experiences of culture as a concept has been misunderstood and calls for a rethink to see culture as a critical collective design and process that can articulate both customary entrepreneurial and political experiences and challenges to respond to the need of a group in question. For Africa, in particular Nigeria, resort to colonialism to blame non-development on culture contradicts the notion of culture and its science of criticality to elevate human thought, opportunity, creativity and adaptability. With a brief comment on Obama’s vision for cultural dreams approach as a promise for making sense to achieve change and inclusion in our neighbourhoods and nation, the paper further suggests that Africa can do things by avoiding the use of culture and colonialism as stereotypes to dig on impediments to economic models for development.       


The Issue

This paper pithily examines the question: can today’s economist enter African and chiefly Nigerian culture to soften the notion that culture and resort to colonialism impede development? The question as it is purports an ideological view seeking a sensible perspective. Of all today’s African nations, and more particularly home Nigeria, the mere fact that a sovereign state consists of diverse ethnic nationalities with varying unequal powers mattered at independence granting, and at reinventing cultural colonialism. It is not that African nation-states, such as Nigeria in name is wrong but the type of “badly structured Nigerian federation” (Chief Emeka Ojukwu 2003) handed over to the cultural space, lives with a lopsided political independence, and moreover, a more asymmetrical cultural-economic dependence on the granting colonialist. Dr. Jude Uwalaka writing in his new book The Struggle for Inclusive Nigeria … (2003) states this dilemma succinctly “… Britain used its military power to bring together the incompatible” and since after independence Nigerian ethnic component parts have been engaged in various wars of to be or not to be. That is, cultural economic and political models to hold the parts together have always been challenged through force-policies of the advantaged and the disadvantaged, de-ethnicization and penchant for the un-ethnic, and because from the beginning it lacked consultation and agreement. “Entering the cultural economist” posted on this column (nigeriaworld.com, October 22, 2003) (see also response to a rejoinder - October 31, 2003), sounds to me conceptual for development rethinking and call for spaces of change.


I find the ongoing exercise apologetic to yet the white culture supremacy. It suggests a pattern of cultural discipline for development models of which must adopt alien features or just forget it in the African context. The author explained away apartheid in South African economy, showing that the success recorded in South African economic development emerged due to white culture economic and political ethics. It appears for the author, apartheid culture, irrespective of the dangers and consequences it imposed, has its merit on economic culture it enshrined on South Africa. Furthermore, the author reinforced the meaning of cultural determinism and its dilemma in the USA society today. It appears some history is necessary to understand the paradigmatic conflicts of culture and economic models in development economics. “Entering the cultural economist” as a model of economic thought for development is raising a crucial question on poverty of nations.


The question the cultural economist begs for answer can at best be both simple and complex. It is simple as it seeks to know the precise relationship culture creates or unmakes for economic success to occur. It is complex in that in every society, people create and live by the culture that they foster for themselves. A society begins life by the cultural framework it is capable of establishing. Following the history of race and ethnicity in USA and others, for example, the basis of American culture was established by the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) entrepreneurs and opportunists that outnumbered all other European community of colonizers. With a percentage break of 4 out of every 5 British protestant immigrants, those that arrived in America settled down in America and framed the WASP culture of political business, communication and legal rules to control social life as a whole. This later on changed and America became more polarized, racialized and highly ethnicized. The ethnic tensions and supremacy of cultural heritage and diversity that unfolded shaped the American Revolution. We all know the outcome and continuing possibilities and adjustments America is facing with multiculturalism and politics of inclusion into the mainstream. As a whole, America and South Africa have had different historical cultural antecedents. African continent and more particularly Nigeria have creative cultures that are ample proof that good things are endowed with the continental nations. If theory of evolution makes sense, Africa is still on the learning and developing curve orchestrated by the imposed western-economic model. This may be contrary to the belief of some sceptics when the question of Africa is raised; probing if anything good can come out her? On a strong note, culture is probably one of the sharp and genuine things Africa can express responsibly. Commonly, African culture is a heritage which never gives up being part of the action and passion of her economic and political times.


In fact, while preparing myself to read the entry of Adeniyi Aliu captioned “entering the cultural economist” I was almost set to like it. I hoped to be crafted with the sensibility of culture within economic notions and models; but I also came quickly to feel like it is a dead-end thing rightly or wrongly. All the same, the debate about cultures and economic development praxis has often tickled me. Entering the culture-world of the economist can be engrossing to others as it is to me too. Despite my not immediately riding cool with my initial expectation regarding Adeniyi Aliu’s submission, it did excite some reflection I am about to share. Adeniyi Aliu‘s entry has therefore carried me into somewhat an historical journey of colonialism and African cultural antecedents.


My reflection on the trajectories of colonialism and African cultures has not only been so awesome but also urges a sense in me I hope to explore further. This paper is about my reflection on a central implication and impacts the cultural encounters Africa and colonialism have had on economic and social poverty of nations whose cultures have been challenged and endangered. I have come to feel that, perhaps, there is something more to be said or repeated for the sake of emphasis and reawakening. My concern here is that Africa and more especially Nigeria is far from working out a credible and achievable cultural model of economic sense due mainly to the tradition of cultural misrepresentation of the African and developing economies. Africa has always been prefixed of what it can be and under whose leadership – the West branded or local African? In philosophy, or school of ideas, it has many times been asked ‘Can there be African philosophy? Better reframed, Can African philosophy or body of ideas become explained? If not, such question/s suggests that Africa is barren of even authentic creative cultural ideas and thereby must be transmitted with what the West thinks and plans.


I have come up also feeling that it takes an extraordinary African mindset to articulate the cultural predicament of Africa beginning from contacts with the European imposed cultural adversity and balkanization of Africa’s cultural centeredness as a whole. Barely after the destabilization and decapitalization of Africa through enslavement trade, the European scramble and partition of Africa also took the scene beginning in the 1880s and compounded the African scenario. By and large, the race for colonies was motivated by trade and expansion of investment, as well as by the desire to control the source of supply of raw materials. In 1992, George Ayittey, noted that at a time, the exploitative cultural drama moved one time Russian leader, Mr. Lenin to describe the 19th c. imperialist exploitation of Africa as the highest stage of capitalism. Colonial subjugation of African culture and human resources has not evaporated in ways long expected to permit a new beginning to reconstruct things by the so-called neo-colonialism of the black leaders themselves.

Cultural Classes of People Created by Colonialism

With colonialism, two classes of people emerged in Africa, namely the elite and the peasants with differential life styles and cultural attitudes. Most African leaders belonging to the elite class did not value their own heritage and the significance of their indigenous systems. The problem African development faced in terms of using culture as the basis of formulating economic models stemmed from this incompetence to appreciate and make cultures more creative to address poverty. Rather than doing what is best in terms of applying the tools of culture in development, they copied alien cultural systems to develop their own societies and countries. They recruited foreign ideologies and revolutionaries. It appeared in their mind that African societies were a somewhat a ‘tabular rasa’ where new cultures will be transmitted. They were easy to forget with a new leadership opportunity that the societies they were to administer had elevatable history, culture, institutions, thereby imposing elements of Marxist currents. These new leaders called in the expelled colonial expatriates to still be in control, thereby declaring war among their own skills, cultural capacities and abilities. Local experts in different fields of life were denigrated rather than being given opportunity to improve and advance. Most African leaders had from the beginning been driven by inferiority culture complex to the extent that finding and promoting alternative ways to solve problems and manage poverty failed unless ideas and models were, and still, are sought from the west. They were just eager to go out and showcase promises without strong framework and basis to realize such sweeping and elusive development thought and plan denied of cultural roots. Looking up to the west has up to now been raising the big question about indigenous health resources and practices in Africa. The west after realizing that the best source of medicine still comes from Africa is daily exploiting healers to enrich their facilities and supplies. While this is taking place, the African leader is equally resting on the sofa imagining rather than acting, leaving the masses to languish in unsure world.


Leaders should realize that the native Africans had always used their cultures and helped themselves. For example, despite their short comings, lack of modern education and alleged backwardness in the argument between local tradition and urban modernity, they had proved capable of great achievements and economic experience of resourceful subsistence. They have used their imagination and cultural intelligence to devise their own practical solutions and solved problems. These natives did not copy or transplant alien solutions to Nigeria or Africa to prove anything. Westerners, since after are not, one must stress, but African leaders and elites versus peasants, are the very ones we must blame and now get around and have them convinced of the capabilities of indigenous cultures and constitute research centres to develop culture and economic models that can work together. Bringing home such models from overseas and thinking that they can work is indeed an attempt to mock the features of cultural wisdom. To make it clear, culture when involved with economic factors aimed to create operational model must be participatory and collective. It is behind this prompting that the wisdom of culture manifests in all fields of traditional ethos and urban cosmology of survival. There is no doubt that colonialism has been viewed as invidious, and by corner to corner offensive. Equally, the colonial approaches had considerably proved ill-fated because it did not render much benefit in comparison with what Africa lost to the West.


The economic revolution and industrialization of the west occurred because Africa was the main source of labour and material, in which her adaptive cultures and skills played a great role. One should alertly add that both the old and new western powers generally hold indigenous African institutions and culture in contempt. If anyone would think that the west has removed its eyes of denigrating African culture in order to allow a new form of economic model for development, better think again. Saying this does not rule out that co-operation is not taking place. What will not come so quickly to turn things around is the cry-cry model cooperating culture and economics at the expense of the expatriates. Envisaging any breakthrough must compare the history of Japan in that line of action; as well as critically viewing what is now shaping up in China, the next hope to evolve into a world class of sustainable development oriented economic power broker. The culture we should stress and attempt to articulate for development must be one based on true leadership models. Such models will essentially initiate genuine policy reforms. True reforms must be effective to political and economic significance of life. The argument is, culture must play central role in that the success of any economic and political activity is culturally and socially driven. Like science, every theory emanates from human and environmental needs, meaning that economic and political models are basically cultural and social circumscriptions.


The basis of all there is to evolve econo-cult change will particularly lie in the creativity and mobilization of culture itself. I am using the term econo-cult here to mean economic and cultural alliance and empowerment. It must be studied, empowered, enriched and adopted by the creative minds of decision makers and executors. Therefore it is the mode of culture adopted that researchers should pay attention and get at the underlying possibility of transforming its merits into economic sense. The culture system must thaw together with the economic parlance. But again, how can, and how has this culture of knowing what to do, how and when faired and will further fair in developing economies in the hands of leaders and leadership? The bottom line is endorsable on the semantics of cultural economics appropriate to enable the potential for sustainable development. Disciplined and devoted leaders must achieve results. Leadership for results flow from our brains, and thereby produces a creative language of idea and process hence culture. Thus, brain and mind interact and empower the hand for skill and transactions of situated means of life. That means what I will call ideological-inventive-culture process. If this is true, and I hope it is, it is then possible to connect human needs, their expressions, and representations. After that, it is time to construct a culturally-based-economic model to fit at poverty reduction and levelling off of scarcity, shortage, deficiency, paucity, dearth and severe lack of the basic essentials for the masses of nations. The argument is if this has really occurred in one place, it can occur anywhere else and everywhere through.

Leadership Interventions Destroying Culture

A somewhat answer to what is destroying culture or preventing it from acting fruitfully to empower economic model for transformation of quality of life will be inevitable and must be obtained. I try here just to bring up a few factors that have caused the misunderstanding and denigration of culture as a tool for creative economic thinking and acting against poverty of nations. I will first consider and reinforce the impact of colonialism. Secondly, I will look at the military rulership; and finally, I will bring the argument to bear on the continuity of a combination of the two imposing sources above and show how deeply the problem of culture is continuing with regard to the question of poverty of nations. It must be said that the antecedents of all of these stages of leadership interventions have left on the cultural stage - a critical spell of more anxiety. These political, economic and cultural anxieties, which are always colliding, need to be understood before anyone could deeply position the role of culture in formulating economic models to the prosperity or poverty of nations in African terms.

Two Issues Can be Argued

I am arguing that there are two ways to unravel and understand why anti-cultural leadership interventions vis-a-vis failure of economic rooting and modelling for development occurred in Africa, particularly implicating Nigeria. Firstly, it is due to the manner of colonial partition and domination of Africa. Secondly, the first issue developed into a military occupation and thwarting of the political and econo-culture articulation that became replaced by the military culture of force. Continued colonialism and use of military economic culture to administer a state brought further torture that served self-interests as against the public culture of economic welfare. The right to even think of a form of culture to serve the basis of state framework has not been given serious chance or debate. The various constitutional governments in Nigeria have never also been faced with a deep and extensive chance for thorough debate and practice, and for further development in response to a national agenda for econo-cult appraisal and development.

Partition and Domination

In the main, the partition, exploitation and domination of Africa occurred soon after the end of enslaved trade in the 1940s and even much later. An international conference held in Berlin from November 1884 to January 1885 under the chairmanship of Otto von Bismarck drew up the Berlin Act that promulgated the rules of hunting African territory as a game. Effective occupation of any territory by any occupying European powers was one of the rules focused on to de-culturate her (that is, Africa as a whole). Africa became carved up into colonies for the European cultural inscription and expansion. One strong point one should note here is when reference to culture is made, it is to say a total way of life ranging from language and socio-economic profiled values, beliefs and practices, to political processes of human organization. The colonial intrusion brought about cultural subjugation and emotional humiliation on top of the general denigration of Africans as inferior in the circumstances of the enslaved trade. But that did not stop there. Across Africa, in particular Nigeria, the 1960s witnessed the gaining of independence from the colonialist. Soon after, it became drowned in military politics and the escalation of personal power and enrichment with strong linkage to the west as a continuation of colonization. At this time around, it was colonization by the people themselves in new robes and colours, what in his Africa Betrayed (1992), Prof. George B.N. Ayittey has described as black neo-colonialism, implying, as one needs to point out, a further hostility to cultures and development strategies. The poverty of a nation has long been a product of naïve cultural competence, self-centred and irresponsible leadership. It cannot be argued without prejudice and racist intentions attached that the poverty of a nation lies on cultural impediments. Culture does not, technically argued, impede development models. Rather culture serves as a basis or framework under which development is established. Culture is a viable framework capable of being domesticated by development, by serving as a collaborative force for ideas, approaches, and actions. As firms and industries serve by producing products and services, culture serves to facilitate the human side of life.


There is a need to see that the human side of an industry becomes understood as the point of association with culture because culture is exercised by people, not the other way round. Economic models must see this point too. The philosophical bases and mechanisms of culture inform us that culture in itself is a dynamic belief and value tool to development ready that is to be adapted and changed to suit well laid out development activities. Do leaders actually understand what it is to use culture as tool for development? If one leader today announces a cultural way of economic development, by that I mean, a systematic way under which development actions will unfold and progress, will other leaders coming afterwards follow rather than abandon the ongoing bases to reform, reinforce, and achieve the wisdom behind such culturally envisioned development policies and strategies? If we say corruption and self-enrichment are anti-cultural and must be diminished and rooted out of the political vision for good governance, how many leaders will respect this beatitude or beat-it? If we say, alright, a political party winning election and assuming office will lead following a national agenda. Well that means it consists in the constitutional development process of the nation. Then, if that means well and serves any sense, then also how far will it go well judging from the poverty of key road networks, infrastructural development and maintenance to begin boosting the economic development and stability? If common things like road-network making, supply of electricity, sound education and employment cannot be assured, how dare someone talk about culture as the impediment to rational and progressive development and thereby the poverty of a nation other than the one inscribed on the political operators? The bottom line is scandalously also here with leadership failure of having a culturally informed credible figure head as the constitutional president of the government.


The Military Taking Over the Goal of Colonialism

Equally, I discuss the military interventions as serious in the destruction of the creativity of culture in national development vis-a-vis planting, fertilizing and mechanizing poverty. It must be strongly stated here that poverty is a social disease capable of structurally de-voicing everything else in a polity. It denies its sufferer a voice and capacity to function and contribute to society in a more significant way. A nation with a greater number of her populations being very poor has little chances of quick, critical and sustainable growth. Can the military understand that vision of voice and participation in the political face and management of Africa and for the most part Nigeria? While colonialism served the aggressive economic interest of the colonial west, that of the military interventions in Africa sporadically graced the 1960s and 1970s with a military culture of physical force rather than participative political persuasion and agreement to forge African reality. There was absence of cultural lens of hard-wired democracy. Many societies across the world from which democracy originated into a state-art have been described as stateless or acephalous, implying also societies accustomed to a particular political decision making that works out well for them on representative framework. Members of such societies are not seen as subjects but as citizens who have rights and privileges in the social contract of service to both the society and the member on equal terms and respect. It is such states that saw the system of monarchy, called Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651) as very chauvinistic and subjective to individual empowerment; and hence not the best for realizing a meaningful quality of life for society. The good thing about stateless societies which are numerous in Africa received less attention than the paramount kingship profiles that existed with it and functioned side by side. While diversity is a virtue, it is to allow lessons to be learned and benefits shared. But the military intervention instituted a totally new mafia-gun-culture of grabby force and mutinies. It imposed a new cultural ideological system of physical force largely upon Nigerian people. The system encouraged a hybrid-culture of settlement by force and excessive corruption.


A high level official systemic greed and what one can get from office in terms of number of vehicles, houses, and loots of various dimensions turned out to be seen as a new culture of political opportunity for a grab. It therefore beats my imagination when it is being argued that the poverty of Nigerian nation is a product of shallow mythical imagination, cultural primitivism and lack of culturally endowed vision. This can never be correctly sustained. Nevertheless, culture could not have been so severely misrepresented than in such thinking as an impediment of development. Rather, a greedy military or political system hampers a valuable culture of creating goods and distribution of such goods and services to end users. The military, a baby, and off-shoot of colonialism did not only eclipse thoughts to initiate culture as a basis for economic models for development, but also it made sure that indigenous African institutions were turned upside down. That is to say, they rolled guns and people into the no-aim for the collective, and too, to killer-grab-resource market as a form of culture of survival, and thereby rendered misery and dying in silence as a new architecture of econo-cult of life. One intriguing thing about culture is it is not easy to reason out why every region of the world is different and must develop with their very own cultural insuppressibly elements. Culture can diffuse and the process of diffusion motivates culture change for the rational and charismatic leader to use Militarization of a culture, such as the one of Nigerian society as a whole, is basically ethnocidal to any sense of forming economic cult of growth. Africans expected the quality of their lives to improve, but the military culture of interventions sorely disappointed this much like colonialism did. If we are to think of culture as a source of model for economic liberation of poverty, it will first bear on leadership culture that had been planted for long on destructive and scavenging terms.

Regrets for a New Start

Regrettably, the point just raised above is far from happening because the old guards are still there. The military ex-generals are there occupying various political strata of the nation. I had a rich discussion with Dr. Chidi Osuagwu (of A.I.C.E.) during a recent conference at Owerri (at Whelan Research Academy, courtesy of the vision of Prof. Dr. Msgr. T. Okere). While we were having a moment of cool off, the question of who is in control in Nigeria and what is likely to be the hope for change to reduce poverty and suffering came up. The calculation weighed much on the zeal with which the military is still hungry about power in Nigeria. This time around it is by changing clothes only in the name of structured pot-belly retirement. The easiest way they are operating is at the same time the easiest way they have to be understood. These guys are not leaving the stage. They are still in control. Accordingly, the power will still be long to shift away from the old guards to the proper civilian in Nigeria, particularly the presidency. The language and activities of the military are sounding loud enough regarding the ferocity of the political-gun to occupy the presidency. We could boldly read their lips and foot-prints on the sand and at the table of vote counting. My thoughtful excitable friend, Dr. Chidi Osugwu, for example, did not grind his feelings and calculations on this fear and understanding of the movement of the ex-generals in the political scene of the present Nigeria. Things are just sad, we concluded, for recreating the basis of culture for a better political economic-decent-culture framework. So the problem hangs on. May be we also guessed the masses using the force-of-culture can rise one day and call for re-planning. Ojukwu has in many instances called this “round table sitting for re-planning Nigeria” (Vanguard, October 31, 2003). It makes sense.


The Truth Remains

Whether anyone likes it or not, the truth remains that, Nigeria has lost her basic cultural sense of creativity until the old guards would think twice. So what is happening now is that the society should be cautious and vote for econo-cult by humiliating these ex-general figures out at the polling showground. That is, until the society gets rid of these guys by compelling them to become and act civil, one should not blame culture for what it can do against poverty. If one is suggesting indigenous culture as a block to national wealth versus poverty, it is at the same time important to think about the culture of the leadership that will create or deform economic models for development. We now know that the military regimes deformed the wisdom of culture and planted the wisdom of physical force, economic torture, hunger and weapons of mass frustration. The culture of looting the treasury is a part of military approach of victimizing a defeated enemy. Defeat and loot it suggests becomes entrenched in a career of power show the military took over from the colonialist. The aim of positive culture is to create and sustain development and values, but not to frustrate the same unless it is acting accordingly to punish offenders. Here the cultural scenario is somewhat different in USA and South Africa as said earlier because in these socio-cultural spaces, there was no prior intention to vacate the stage, so what happened was a brutal development mission enforced. The military regimes had always breached promises to correct wrongs. Soon after they take power by force, including grabbing votes and mandates by force of the current strategy of the ex-generals, they start shooting in the market without any serious commitment to the social contract to alleviate poverty and heighten development. So we are talking about culture and economic model to fight the poverty of nations? The QED is, culture has always been made the escape goat and blamed. And it is constantly and wrongly blamed as an impediment to sustainable development. This is far from a reasonable study and therefore FALSE. The problem is situated elsewhere. It is critically located within the mood of those leaders professing the so-called culture; and not the devices of culture by itself. Period. As the logic of culture is to respond to a need by the designers of that culture, it is therefore unfortunate that the military and the neo-colonial economic leaders have designed corruption and use of force as a pattern of their vision of culture of leadership – and by so doing they have belittled culture in serving as a basis of checking injustice for public good.


Education As a Fear Factor

In the face of all the military tactics, education has been feared. To de-empower people to liberate themselves through responsible culture, education was one of the tools used by the military to deform the community cultural essentials. Since time, the mess up of the educational system has served the wishes of the military to silence intellectuals and the power of knowing and acting rightly. Political correctness is perverted. What matters is how much loyalty and largesse a public officer can be and manifest in the face of systematic will-to-force things. Any opposition, or lack of chubby support, it is said, to the political leader and his or her aides, or loot-cronies, are militarily punctured down. It should not surprise anyone that the same mechanism of exploitation of African culture by the colonialist did not stop to be applied by the military occupation of political powers in Nigeria and across Africa. The Ghana’s and Nigeria’s drama and, moreover, the cases of palaver in Zimbabwe, Angola, Republic of Congo (former Zaire), Rwanda and Somali are just a few cases exemplifying this. Venality, official looting, bunkering, and settlement otherwise referred to as flamboyant-money-making in official capacity act as symbolic part of successful leadership. It is by no means a forcing of cultural alien exploitative ideologies and of insulting the ethics of cultures and revolutionaries down the psyche and axis of Nigerian connections. The basis of all these is not a reflection of cultural sensitivity to and of the African aspiring to defuse imposed military, intellectual, cultural and economic repression.

Did Anything Shift – Nigeria Vs Colonial Econo-Cult?

I doubt it. The fact remains that western ethnocentrism, and cultural contempt prevented recognition of the capabilities of African indigenous culture in economic and political development. As it is, this did not change with the intervening civilian and military leadership since (after) independence of many of African new-nation-states, mainly for Nigeria. Outside the social contract of political arrangement for service (J.J. Rousseau 1762), it has been generally held and continues to be supposed that the African vis-à-vis Nigerian indigenous institutions are poor, archaic, and incapable of being developed by the chaotic and unpolished politicians themselves. The story, rather theory was that the political black man of Nigeria vis-à-vis Africa cannot rule himself credibly. Good civil leaders are not found in the military because; they have not been nurtured in the art of political leadership to prove that hypothesis wrong. How long will undemocratic soldiers practice politics and become the voices of civil cultural-economic model to lift Nigeria out of poverty? Think about it. The theory further postulates that colonial rule and military use of forceful settlement were good if the culture of militarism and colonialism will continue to supplant one another. To the question, can African nations lift or not lift themselves out of poverty? This will remain a debate. Until the old guards in Nigeria leave the scene or transform. For the rest of Africa, things are not going better too. However, the promise of democracy is a major one. It will if well operated lift hope for the common person. Benefits will come no matter how long it may take. Such promise of democracy is mythical in the hands of the military whether ex-general or not in Nigeria. It is so far so unfortunate for Nigerian culture to suffer all brutalities and blames as an alleged obstacle to economic development models. Uncreative culture of leadership emerging from the military hold of power directly or by disguise in uniform will ever be a drama of backwardness and the killing of wisdom of cultures. It will be far from transcending into encompassing positive results. In this sense, culture as a way of life expression should be blameless in itself. It is the militant practitioners of culture as opposed to informed and civil ones towards realizing economic models that we must blame against abuses of, and failure to stimulate positive cultural economic contexts.


Banking Culture Blow Up

A case for Banking, for who and by whom? The political criminals (the Igbo would say, ochichi ndi ori, or oshi na-ama), my own cousin once yelled out, when he was told that ACB and Progress Banks had collapsed; two banks he had invested heavily and received nothing in return, like all the story of distressed financial institutions is still such unpleasant development. Is it due to indigenous culture why they failed? Indigenous Credit and Loan institutions functioned as thrift and savings built on culture of mutual trust. They were hardly abused. Culture knew the fundamental ethical bases of their operations and they served financial and development purposes. Development theories have failed mainly because cultural wisdom that is put in place to give basis for healthy operation have been wronged, and decayed by various rough political interventional experiences. Our author, Mr. Adeniyi Aliu, I hope, must come to think with this postulation as quite crucial to the basis of poverty of Nigerian masses and African nations as a whole. As Dr. Adeniba Adepoyigi also observed, Mr. Adeniyi Aliu’s entry links with a so-called, I add - exotic sensibility - culture-based research, which sometimes appears to insulate the western claims for superiority, thus urging Africa to follow their models in order to achieve economic prosperity. He cautioned that people should not be misled into thinking that societies in Africa have certain indigenous cultural peculiarities which inhibit economic development whilst western European economic prosperity is considerably devoid of such components. If any exists, I will also add, they are influenced as the continuity of colonial foot-prints on the culture-soil.

How Can Culture Be Defined in This Context Then?

The notion of “culture” is important for the formulation and understanding of economic models for development. But the term ‘culture’ has always been used in both wide and restricted sense. The latter will suffice here as it is basic to the communicational enterprise that is involved in economic policy discourse. As such, it is appropriate to focus on the meaning of culture with regard to human rights; and the right to economic model for wellbeing and deep development. A UNESCO conference held in 1968 ‘on cultural rights as human rights’ brought a line of definition which states “culture means, the very essence of man, including the sum total of human activities; culture is precisely that which makes human different from nature. A report of the World Commission on Culture and Development states also that “culture is the total and distinctive way of life of a people or society. Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1992) says “culture means a way of life that mirrors and shapes the economic, social and political life.


Nowadays, culture embraces the educational system, the mass media, globalization, and the cultural industries. In short, it is all about humans and their everyday local to global merged worlds. Additionally, the Declaration on Culture Objectives in Berlin 1984, states that the role of culture is a whole of values which gives the human beings their reason to be and act; as the main aim of all societies is to enable everyone to achieve personal fulfilment – take a shot at a dream in life and bring that dream to a reality. The right to seek information and participate at all levels of one’s competence is to cultivate cultural and economic co-operation in ways possible. Considering all these, it is imperative to see that economics cannot become useful to daily life if it functions outside of the culture in itself. This although, will be impossible to do. The implication is that culture enables people to act in true concert with activities tied in with it in life. As such, it is possible to achieve, with discipline, a true economic model to offer results against poverty. The essence of being human is a development argument and it is fundamentally to resent domination of irresponsible others within the unproductive present economic and political structures devoid of human-collective sensibility and strong heritable value. Culture force must in time predispose humans to set their creativity against current system, with intent on retying and reinterpreting the custom of democratic benefits. It is time to let out the dog of inferiorization of cultures as a constant part of development failures.

In this field, anthropologists see the primacy of culture as a deep concept that looks at the way in which groups and individuals manipulate their world and constantly negotiate and mobilize it. They view culture as a framework that allows the members of a given society to make sense of themselves, their experiences in their changing everyday world, and where they are going in life. Culture is human creativity with enormous implications for economic and political survival by adaptation and influence.


Of the Role of the Anthropologist?

The role of the anthropologist may be important in thinking through cultures and economic models. According to Riall Norlan’s Development Anthropology (2002, p. 72)

anthropologists working in development perform three closely interrelated roles. They collect and analyze information; they help design plans and policies; and they carry out these plans through action by being program and project implementers as part of the multidisciplinary economic team who must be involved from start to the finish of a project. Good development cultural economist must be, above all, good participant formulator and implementer of econo-cult in African and largely Nigerian development environments. Official attention to the “social-context” of development projects only began in 1972 with a report on the use of anthropology in project operations at the World Bank. Although the history of participation is young but the increasing importance of anthropology in the management of econo-cult is gaining significance than before. It will be of interest to think with culture experts to handle the field of their expertise for the entry of cultural economist. Social and economic policy in Nigeria must recognize this too in a development design. Development anthropologists not only show economists and policy engineers that there are different cultural worlds beyond; they help them understand how to interact successfully with them. Anthropology is used in international cultural encounters, not for neo-colonization of any sort but, as a science of discovering the ways necessary to realize systematic project of interculturation.


The African-American Obama-Truce-Culture

Before ending this submission, I want to comment briefly on the notion of Obama-truce-culture. This is also called Obamanism – so-called African-American political approach of reversing culture of racial-profiled inheritance as shown in the Obama triumph to the USA presidency. Obama-truce-culture has become a syndrome of “change has come to America.” The president Elect Barack Obama of the USA may not have been the first American submerged in the circumstances of his mythical story of a bi-cultural inheritance. But it appears he is the first to make cultural sense of his situation and his loss and discovery in the same. When he wrote his book, Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995, 2004), he did not only write a biography of his life and identity but also pictured a collective view of individuals in America and elsewhere whose lives and identities have been challenged in the same American second generational migration story of their progenitors and cultural inheritances. African leaders can be assessed given the same colonial cultural inheritances and what senses they make of them in their encounters, losses and discoveries.


According to Prof. Obasi Igwe of UNN (“Barack Obama and Nigerian Revolution”, in Guardian Online, Dec. 28, 2008) – Obama has told us to demolish the concept of impossibility in our lives; he has enjoined us to have confidence in the ability of human to overcome; he has loudly reminded the forgetful that white or black, men and women are the same and can compete and achieve similar goals if only you work hard (and smart) enough. Barack Obama has told Nigeria and Africa together to abolish the phenomenon of colonialism of doing things because it has destroyed the best in us, is leading to a bridge to nowhere as Africans continue to excuse their non-critical use of culture, and fathom their shortcoming to forge new perceptive grounds on this; and will not be the mechanism for creating the Obamas for change to come to Africa. He is pointing out to us to destroy the indigene/non-indigene ethnic cleansing policy in Africa, especially Nigeria because it is stifling the circulation of talents, youths and ideas in the country, and would have made it impossible for him to be born a Hawaiian and become an Illinois Senator, then President. Had he not made bold the trajectory of history of his race and inheritance that suggests for Africa to do the same, little would he have been able to communicate the audacity of hope (Obama 2006) to take a shot at the American dream. The power of culture therefore can be clearly stated to lie in the senses of which we make of our lived experiences in challenging economic models against injustice, opportunity, inclusion and development. Dreams from his father equally embody the dreams from his mother – his mother being an anthropologist with well travelled life in community organizing and development in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Where-ever anyone can take up political, social and economic opportunity for development, we are told through Obamanism that it is right to do so through self-immersion irrespective of the view we may have of the “other” before us. African development models need a rethinking by diminishing the notion and biases we have of culture as an impediment when it is, indeed, the leaders who misunderstand culture, and moreso, to what critical uses, culture can be put to model economic mindset for development.       


African nations’ poverty cannot get solved by adopting western institutional frameworks and patterns that are culturally unaligned to African development indicators and realities. Leaders cannot militarize and marginalize the pragmatism of culture and think that western institutionalized cultures will serve the case of poverty. Not minding how one may accept or analyze it, the institutions of democracy are alike that of money and free markets that have not been alone to the western creations. They had deep root in African cultures requiring vision, political-will and leadership to understand different forms of these institutions and how best to assign them in the statecraft to function, in ways affordable and accessible. My view is that southern or northern polemics of development econo-cult models do not exist in real political terms, because the existence of the south must derive not from speechifying or rhetoric, but in institutions holding culture and economics together. Culture specific fieldwork which is almost, seldom visible in Nigeria’s example of poverty and poverty alleviation campaign, should be explored in an attempt to represent people’s perceptions of econo-cult model to combat poverty of nations. Perhaps, re-thinking a Nigerian tradition of autonomous regional participatory democratic culture will inevitably activate the will-to-power and survival of economic models sought for development to render a bullish fight against poverty of ideas and models. While Adeniyi Aliu’s entry in this column is nice to read, it appears, as I must conclude that, studies focused on culture-economic models, with Nigeria in mind, is not only limited; but considerably rare. It is urgent to think with this rather than not. Endangered cultures need to be re-thought in the context of devastating leadership interventions. Today as such, entering the cultural economist is, technically viewed, an ideological question seeking a practical approach in a challenged Nigerian and African cultural environment. We can draw from Obama-episode of re-invention of racial change has come to America and rethink colonialism and critical uses of culture to reshape economic models through self-immersion and senses we make of our colonial inheritance and dreams of our plural ethnic, national and continental identities. 



Selected Notes and References


Aliu, Adeniyi. 2003. “Enter the Cultural Economist” In www.nigeriaworld.com, October 22; and October 31.

Ayittey, George, B.N. 1992. Africa Betrayed. New York: St Mary’s Press.


Adepoyigi, Adeniba. 2003. “Enter the Cultural Economist – A Rejoinder” In www.nigeriaworld.com, October 28.

Barack Obama. 2004. Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.  New York: Three Rivers Press.


Barack Obama, 2006. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Crown Publishers.


Nolan, Riall. 2002. Development Anthropology: Encounters in the Real World. USA: Westview Press.


UNESCO. 1970. Cultural Rights as Human Rights. Paris: UNESCO. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1993. In Council For Cultural Co-operation 1995, p. 13.


Ojukwu, Odumegwu Emeka. 2003. “Odumegwu Ojukwu at 70: Nigeria is not the Problem, it is the Governance” In Vanguard Media Ltd. Nigeria, October 31.


Scupin Raymond. 2003. Race and Ethnicity: An Anthropological Focus on the United States and the World Upper Saddle River; New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Pp. 102-124.


Uwalaka, Jude. 2003. The Struggle for Inclusive Nigeria…A Treatise on Igbo Political Personality and Survival in Nigeria. Enugu: SNAAP Press.