Category Archives: Philosophy

What is the North’s restructuring game?

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Northern political leaders met in Kaduna in mid-October to articulate their position on recurrent agitations by major ethnic groups about restructuring the Nigerian federation. They had hitherto either been silent on the issue or suggested there was no need to change the current governance structure; which most argue is biased in their favour. It would be interesting to know what made them come around on the issue. If history is a guide, perhaps an argument was made that engaging other sections of the country on the great matter would be more beneficial than their aloofness hitherto. Tagged “The North and the future of the Nigerian Federation” and under the auspices of the Arewa Research Development Project (ARDP), I was pleasantly surprised at how well-organized it was. (I shall refer to it as the “Arewa Conference” subsequently.) Not that I made the day road trip to Kaduna from Lagos just to attend: I followed it on social media; which in addition to tweets also included live video feeds of key discussions. And even though, the political elite were accorded the usual prestige, ordinary northerners, especially minorities, were amply represented and had their say. This is important. One of the key problems of the north is the feeling minorities have of neglect and discrimination. Northern political leaders have been keen to use their numbers for supposedly the region’s gain but often to the detriment of the minorities’ interests.

Heard of Catalonia? 
The Spanish region of Catalonia recently voted to form its own country via a secret referendum, after a court declared the planned vote illegal. Tensions remain, even as Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has signalled he would not be averse to talks. You would think the Spanish government would be similarly conciliatory. What did Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, do? He gave Mr Puigdemont a 5-day ultimatum to say pointedly whether his government has declared independence from Spain or not. If in the affirmative, Mr Rajoy has signalled the central government would take over the reins of power in the autonomous region. Still, you have to wonder whether Spanish authorities needed to wait for things to go this awry. Some of the Catalans’ grievances could have been easily managed and perhaps resolved if the central government were more accommodating, for instance. And clearly, even now, it does not appear the Spanish government has taken lessons from its past mistakes. It is also worth noting how fellow European authorities have rallied round the Spanish government while at the same time piling tremendous pressure on the Catalans. Were a similar crisis to be in a developing or African country, they are not known to be so resolute in their support for constituted authority; often urging restraint by central governments while accommodating oft-called “freedom-fighters” or “activists” in tandem. No foreign government has yet to put pressure on regional agitators in southeastern Nigeria, for instance; with evidence suggesting that but for their turning a blind eye, the errant groups might not be so enduring.

That said, the Nigerian government must take lessons from what is happening in Spain. Back home, the problem has not yet degenerated to the point where someone or a group would be able to organize a referendum for independence and potentially get some legitimacy. Besides, when people agitate peacefully, it is usually because despite their dissatisfaction, there is something about the status quo that still appeals to them. Igbos in southeastern Nigeria have long expressed displeasure about the state of their affairs in the Nigerian federation; especially as they are even now not adequately represented in the current Muhammadu Buhari administration. Bear in mind, the Niger Deltans similarly made public their grievances in peaceful ways, and only took up arms after their cries fell on deaf ears.

Stop wasting time
A committee of northern governors, traditional rulers and political leaders are expected to review the final document of the Arewa conference. Town hall meetings would also be held across the region in tandem, the organizers say. Quite frankly, I am not so sure there is a need for that much ado after the Kaduna get-together. If the intention is not to buy time, what the committee under the chairmanship of Sokoto governor, Aminu Tambuwal, should do is to immediately reach out to other regional leaders for a frank talk about the future of the Nigerian federation.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/10/13/what-is-the-norths-restructuring-game-by-rafiq-raji/

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The philosophy in Buhari’s recovery

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The feeling of freshness (or languor if you had a late Friday night) is like no other, in my experience. After a long and often tiring work week, you awake with the usual jolt at the thought that another busy day beckoned, only to be reminded with good cheer that today is not one of those. The relaxed feeling afterwards is often most exhilarating. Of course, I am not going to go into detail about how people spend that time after this realization. Let us just say, it tends to be most satisfying. So yes, I had a feeling the day was going to be a bright one on the fateful Saturday morning just past. But what was it? The answer would come through soon enough. Muhammadu Buhari was returning home. The ailing Nigerian president had been in England for medical treatment for more than 100 days. Anyone who has been sick knows that what is ordinarily challenging becomes even more so when third parties begin to feign concern. If you are experienced enough, you know most are hypocrites and do not wish you well. If you are wealthy, most are really just wishing you would go kaput so that they can commandeer whatever spoils there are. If you are a political leader, especially one that wields the enormous powers of a Nigerian president, the so-called “hyenas and jackals” just wish you would kick the bucket so they can replace you. And if it looks like God does not seem to be in a hurry, they seek to hasten the process.

Highly spiritual
Only President Buhari would be able to say what myriad spiritual battles he has had to face since he assumed office two years ago. Not that we should care; afterall he asked for the job. Still, his recent recovery (and victory) is as much a physical one as it is a spiritual one. When Reuben Abati, the former media aide to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, revealed his suspicions about demonic forces at the presidential residence, he was derided. Thankfully, Mr Abati stuck to his guns. Incidentally, the loudest of his critics then are also those who know very intimately well what he was talking about. Muslims are taught about the many creatures of Almighty God and the many dimensions and forms they take. They are also taught that God created man superior to all beings. All, except Him. This is why those who lose their way in search of temporal greatness are first made to degrade themselves before these inferior beings, before the help they seek is provided them. Knee deep into those treacherous waters, they find out too late that whatever supposed good they had hoped for, pales in comparison to what they are forced to give up. Let us just say a significant portion of the Nigerian elite is beholden not to God but to these nefarious forces. And people like Mr Buhari are outliers in the Nigerian context. To these forces, his kind should not be allowed to prevail; lest their own brethren might begin to think there are other ways to glory. (But of course, there are; albeit steep, difficult but ultimately attainable and sustainable.)

In the Islamic understanding, a man for whom God desires a comfortable hereafter, would almost certainly live a life of trials. These come in various forms: sickness, loss, and so on. Short of such tribulations, man is bound to engage in excesses. And since man is almost always sinful, he is bound to suffer some punishment from time to time. A higher understanding makes obvious how this can also be one of the greatest blessings God can bestow on a man. When a man is sick, he is ever aware of his humanity. He is more considerate. He is more empathetic. And more importantly, restraint is forced on him. To the extent that what strength would ordinarily allow him, he is forced to forego, he is not likely to be as erring in his ways as he would typically be. He is less sinful. Mr Buhari is a good man; in the Nigerian context, at least. But he is entrenched in his ways. And so were he to be of full strength, he would likely engage in excesses that could be detrimental to the people he has been ordained to rule for a brief while. He may not have relied on his capable deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, as much as he has now been forced to, for instance. Hopefully, he would allow Prof Osinbajo even more leeway now that the man has proved not only to be diligent but religiously loyal. Incidentally, many of the Muslims and northerners that Mr Buhari put much store in are precisely the ones who betrayed him the most.

Do justice
Nigeria is a country of many tribes and religions. The nepotism, tribalism and wanton violence (by Fulani herdsmen, for instance) that have characterized his rule thus far are great injustices. There is no justification for any section of the country to be made to feel like this is not their land. Everyone should be free to practice his religion and interact with whoever, insofar as they obey the laws of the land. When Mr Buhari was not as feeble, his posture (or so-called body language) did not suggest that he understood that he was the president of almost 200 million people. It was a great injustice to have used his office to seemingly punish a section of the country because they did not vote for him. Two years on, after much damage within the polity and personal troubles of his own, Mr Buhari now offers some accommodation; albeit with a stick still. No matter. Mr Buhari must do more to correct the injustices under his rule thus far. Otherwise, his recent relief may be fleeting.

Also published in Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/08/23/the-philosophy-in-buharis-recovery-by-rafiq-raji/

Let Buhari be

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Surprise, surprise
A gaunt-looking but lively Muhammadu Buhari, who will be taking a huge risk if he is not back in Nigeria from London on or before 4 August – 90 days from 7 May when he left for his most recent medical leave – was probably horrifying to merchants of falsehood hitherto touting exclusive knowledge of the ailing Nigerian president’s fragile health. The picture they painted was far worse than that which emerged on 23 July. It is not unlikely that President Buhari was probably in a more vulnerable position before then, as he underwent treatments that likely required anaesthesia and so on. But this would not be unusual. He is after all unwell. Some suggest Nigerians would be more sympathetic to Mr Buhari’s predicament if he were more transparent about what ails him. I doubt that very much. At least, not this late in the game. Truth is, no matter how loved you are and how many the multitude in your company, a man ultimately bears his burden alone. All the empathy in the world would not transfer the pain Mr Buhari feels to the many hypocrites who claim to love and care for him. It is actually pathetic listening to some of the commentary. Most of our political leaders are suffering from one ailment or the other. That compulsory vacation they all take to England or America (and lately to Singapore) is often motivated by the need to check their health status. It is the ultimate hypocrisy that while they keep their own conditions under wraps, they advocate otherwise for Mr Buhari. Some say he should resign. Another group has gone further to seek a court order to force his cabinet to declare him unfit to govern. Their efforts would end in futility.

Justice and dignity
Why does he have a presidential jet waiting on him at a London airport, some ask with feigned exasperation. Why shouldn’t he? Is it not too expensive, they wonder. Well, our republican-type presidency is very expensive. Could the money not be better used to alleviate the poverty that plagues millions of Nigerians, it is mused. Why start there though, I wonder. We could aver that the State House with the many mansions that sometimes never get occupied is too expensive to cater for just one man and his staff. Yes, let us put the head of state in a place where he could be a danger to his neighbours. Maybe we should also ask that his motorcade switch off their engines when he is not in the car. After all, his security should not matter. Wait a minute, Nigeria is not a sovereign country. Is it? It cannot be. Because if it is, we would not ask that our president be going cap in hand begging for a plane in case of an emergency. What is wrong with us? Advanced democracies that we are always quick to cite as examples of excellence would not dare suggest that their sick president should leave office. At least, not until all medical options are exhausted. They would instead do as Mr Buhari has done. Immediately swear in an acting president while the substantive man ails. There are numerous examples of presidents who having survived assasination attempts go on to seek additional terms in office even more popular. Were that the case, would anyone dare suggest Mr Buhari should resign from office? In any case, no good deed goes unpunished. Mr Buhari has been transparent as much as his temperament can allow. When analysing issues such as these, the fundamental question to ask is thus: Has Mr Buhari broken the law? No, he has not. Is the acting president, Yemi Osinbajo, adequately empowered to do the job in his stead? Technically, yes. Politically, no. But he has certainly been able to do the part that matters.

There is a reason it is the politicians that occupy high office and not bureaucrats. A popular leader comes to office with the mandate of the people. That legitimacy comes handy when difficult decisions are to be made. Prof Osinbajo has had it easy thus far not so much because of his intellectual acumen or political prowess but more due to the goodwill his principal enjoys. Those who are scheming to have Mr Buhari declared unfit for office whether via the courts or the cabinet should be very careful. If there is even the slightest perception of an unceremonious exit plan for the man, even the acting president may find the seat too hot to handle. It is unfortunate, of course, that what is motivating some of those who wish Prof Osinbajo should rise faster to the throne have religious and ethnic underpinnings. And of course, the north would need to do some soul-searching around why for the second consecutive time, their choice to rule Nigeria has come up with ailments that have hampered his capacity to rule. I have in the past asserted that until whoever their choice is does away with the injustice that has become typical of the stewardship of their brethren, even the next person may not succed. So yes, Mr Buhari is sick. He would probably remain so for the remainder of his first term. And yes, he should not even contemplate contesting for a second term. And I doubt very much that he does. But the country does owe him some dignity. Never mind that how we treat our leaders does ultimately reflect on us. And yes, how they treat us does reflect on them as well, hence their suffering.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column (2 Aug 2017). See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/08/02/let-buhari-be-by-rafiq-raji/

Constitution review is a farce without devolution of powers

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Power belongs to the people
Admittedly, the recent constitution review votes at the Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives caught me a little by surprise. Yes, I did see the occasional news showing deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu going to a couple of states on the matter. But I did not take it seriously. Until that fateful day in late July when they voted. Bizarrely, most of the commentary on restructuring the Nigerian federation, loud and impassioned as they were, rarely made prescriptions to the lawmakers who it turned out, were not only in a position to do something about it, but would imminently vote on proposals in this regard. It suddenly dawned on me that all those vociferous agitations could have been more effectively channelled towards pressuring the lawmakers. Devolution of powers, affirmative action for women, greater control of resources, revision of the archaic land law that puts all land in the hands of the government by fiat and so on, have long been thorny issues. The legislators had the power to get them all done. And instead of putting relentless pressure on them, we were mostly pointing fingers at the executive arm of government. Absent the pressure, they simply did what they liked on voting day.

What is the point of reviewing the constitution at this time if some of the federal government’s powers are not going to be devolved to the states? True, there were a couple of amendments they passed that had one excited; like reducing the age of eligibility for high office, the so-called “not too young to run” bill, independent candidacy for elections and making it compulsory for the president to address a joint session of the national assembly in a “state of the nation address”. Still, restructuring our dysfunctional federal system should have been the raison d’etre of that exercise. Should that be the one thing they choose to reject? And judging from those who were shouting down these crucial issues before they were even voted on, the lawmakers most opposed to them come from the north. This is unfortunate. With increasing likelihood of finding crude oil and other mineral resources, a reformed land use act might actually be more beneficial to the north now more than ever.

Perhaps the legislature’s greatest fear at the moment is the potential convocation of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution or amend the current one. It probably motivated the current and rather unusually quick recent amendment process. You would think the legislators would see how passing the devolution of powers amendment would be key to shutting up such suggestions and thus preserve the status quo. Because should they fail to do so, as they have done now, no one can say what a likely constitutional conference in the aftermath would propose. It could include scrapping the Senate, for instance. It is not a secret that our bicameral legislature is taking its toll on our finances. They have simply failed to act in their own self-interest by refusing to deal with the restructuring question now once and for all. Senate president Bukola Saraki says hate speech evolving from the regions, like the secessionist quest by some in the southeast and evacuation notice issued to Igbos in the north, stoked fears that led to a misunderstanding of the devolution of powers proposal amongst senators. I am not convinced. It should instead have been the primary motivation for doing something about the issue. The states have registered their displeasure at the betrayal: they were assured the amendment would pass. Well, they should not stop there. They should refuse to pass any constitutional amendment at their respective legislatures until the devolution of powers bill is part of the package.

Smiles, hugs and scoffs
Women were also definitely disappointed over how most of their issues were rejected. There were two key proposals. One was to ensure that at least 35 percent of cabinet positions are assigned to women. The other was to allow women have almost the same citizenship and indigeneship rights as men via marriage. The former was rejected in the Senate but approved in the lower legislature. The latter was rejected in both houses. One popular female commentator wondered aloud if they might not have to resort to the Aba women “naked” protest of lore to ensure they get heard. Quite frankly, I blame the women. When women want to get concessions from men, and often on issues that require men to cede power, whether from their husbands at home, male siblings or male bosses at work, and so on, they are never short of ways to ensure they get what they want. They do not rely on hugs and kisses for these. And on the issues that really matter, they know not what to do? Personally, I think any type of affirmative action, talk less that for women, is condescending. But it has become a global practice, in business especially, with company boards not having a decent representation of women largely frowned upon. High-achieving women no doubt chafe at the notion that way needs to made for them to succeed. Not that the same women hesitate to use the allowances to advance their interests when they suit them. But if the increasing number of women who are or have been prime ministers, presidents, chief executives and so on by dint of hardwork, drive and diligence is anything to go by, women do not need anyone to open the gates for them. Besides in politics, people rarely do stuff for altruistic reasons. Female lawmakers who simply focused on just lobbying for their causes need to up their game. What leverage did they have? Did they care to find out first what political issues or goals were uppermost on the minds of their male counterparts and present a trade that they would not be able to refuse? That is the type of hard bargaining that would get women what they want. Not smiles and hugs.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/constitution-review-farce-without-devolution-powers/

A critique of Mandela’s legacy

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Whether in mining or banking, the structure of the South African economy still bears great resemblance to that of the apartheid era. Mostly black miners take trips deep down into the earth via thin shafts, while their mostly white counterparts stay atop or wear clean shirts to offices on well-manicured grounds with vistas still as beautiful as they were when they first fell in love with the country. If the new mining law, now suspended, asks that blacks own in perpetuity, a 30 percent stake in all mines, is that so unreasonable? Maybe the minimum 1 percent of turnover compulsory distribution to host communities requires a rethink; using another variable, like profit, could be problematic, however; because it could be manipulated. It could be made due only after unavoidable business expenses, though. Asking that half of new prospecting rights be black-owned is not unjustifiable either. In any case, what is the alternative? If the status quo is allowed to continue, a more radical approach would be adopted further down the line. The ultra-nationalist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party would nationalise all mines (and banks) if it ever got to power certainly. Of course, the mining companies may not mind buying more time to sweat their assets faster under the current lopsided terms: only about 38 years in gold reserves are believed to be left, albeit there is at least two centuries worth of platinum reserves yet untouched. So on balance, there is much to be gained and lost by both sides.

Best to concede a little more now
Even so, it is probably wiser for the industry not to allow things deteriorate to that extent. So even as their resort to the courts have secured them a quick-win, with mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane suspending the implementation of the new law pending when the courts decide on the matter, they would be better served by making some concessions to the government. It is unfortunate, of course, that someone with President Jacob Zuma’s tainted credibility happens to be the one championing the black cause. Like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe before him, his selfish motive is writ large. Had that person been Nelson Mandela, no one would have the temerity to challenge such a move. Such was President Mandela’s stature and power. With lesser beings now floudering at the helm, many argue Mr Mandela could have done much more. Because now a black South African with that kind of influence is not likely to emerge again in our lifetime. (Just like India is not likely to produce another Mahatma Gandhi.) The conditions that create such mythical figures only occur generations at a time. And rarely is a later champion ever able to fill in the shoes of earlier heroes. So with the benefit of hindsight, Mr Mandela should have paid as much attention to economic freedom as he did the political one. Some might say he was constrained somewhat. This is doubtful. The apartheid regime only caved in because it had no choice. Mr Mandela could have pushed harder.

So as the world marks another Mandela Day (18 July), black South Africans must reflect on the future they want for their country. Their reality is what it is. But if they think deeply, they would see how fortunate they already are. White South Africans can be accommodated, allowed to continue thriving in tandem with a similarly successful black population. The key is to find that optimal policy mix that allows both sides get almost all they want without totally alienating the other. Securing more economic power for blacks does not necessarily have to be an entirely zero-sum game. Without some forceful correction of the country’s currently unjust economic structure, however, whatever progress that is made while it subsists would eventually unravel, when an even more impoverished black majority decides they have had enough. Still, no matter how much economic power black South Africans snatch from their erstwhile oppressors, it would be meaningless if most remain underskilled or as is depressingly still the case for a lot, unskilled. Europeans realised a long time ago that it would be far more profitable to give control of primary resources to their former colonies if they could almost exclusively be the ones to add more value to them and subsequently sell them back at premia that dwarfed whatever value the raw materials ever had. So when it seemed like the colonialists had finally accepted reason by succumbing to agitations for independence those long years ago, they were actually motivated by the realisation that what would replace their repression could be even more lucrative. And without any of the bad press.

Not too late
But this is no secret, or excuse in fact: Asians managed to unshackle themselves regardless, rising to levels that African countries they were hitherto at or below par with now only dream of. Without a doubt, African leaders, past and present, are especially guilty for their countries’ frustratingly floundering evolution. For sure, there were foreign enablers. But principally, Africans are primarily responsible for the story state of their affairs. It would be most saddening if all the suffering that Mr Mandela and his people endured for all those long years turns out to be all for nothing. But that is what it would be if all that the black majority achieves is the expropriation of brick and mortar from their erstwhile oppressors without the skills to maintain and enhance them, and innovate new ones. Zimbabwe is the perfect example of how a senseless economic nationalism is almost a sure step to even more bondage. While that country continues to struggle since the selfishly motivated act by Mr Mugabe, the expelled whites have since found fortune elsewhere. A subsequent reversal by Mr Mugabe after much loss is evidence of the error. To that extent, Mr Mandela had some foresight in making what now seem to be overly generous concessions to the apartheid government. His pragmatism was suitable for his time. A new one is required today.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column (19 Jul 2017). See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/07/19/the-mandela-legacy-the-costs-of-not-pushing-hard-on-economic-freedom-by-rafiq-raji/

Reflections on Obama (1): Caution as courage

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

As the sun sets on Barack Obama’s presidency, questions are already being raised about what he really achieved. Never mind that there might not be another black American president for a very long time to come. Over the course of the year, I hope to reflect on his decisions and what motivated them in the hope that there might be lessons for those of us who seek success in leadership amid vicious opposition. When President Obama took over the American presidency in 2009, the country was in a recession and mired in two messy wars. He leaves office amid a resurgent economy and more manageable military engagements around the World.

At one point during the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party flagbearer, hugged each other warmly in front of the press. It was a most genuine moment of affection. About eight years earlier, Mrs Clinton gave Mr Obama much grief, as they fought for their party’s nomination. To put it bluntly, she barely hid her racism. And it is opined that Bill Clinton, her husband, never got over her defeat by ‘Barack’. The conclusion I came to was that perhaps it finally dawned on her, as she now faced another type of discrimination, sexism in her case, how much hurt she must have inflicted back when they were competitors. Mr Obama’s magnanimity (or sagacity) in not only appointing her to perhaps the most influential appointed office in the American government, but also in allowing her ample room to succeed, may have also taken on a greater significance.

Naturally, John Kerry, another competitor, would be a natural replacement when Mrs Clinton needed to go prepare for what then seemed like a sure – her best chance certainly – shot at the presidency. There is probably a much comprehensive contrast to be made about the Obama-Clinton relationship, especially within the context of one of the most vicious presidential campaigns in US history. That Mr Obama let go of his legendary calm to campaign in the most emotional way (we’ve ever seen of him) for Mrs Clinton makes one wonder whether what motivated him was his angst at Donald Trump, the foul-mouthed Republican Party flagbearer, who was also a stone in his shoe, or empathy for Mrs Clinton, a woman trying to break the highest glass ceiling in the land, or both. I do not want to focus overmuch on that at the moment. I am more interested in those pivotal decisions that shaped his presidency for better and some might say, for worse.

Mr Obama would hardly enjoy a quiet retirement. Efforts are already afoot to unravel his signature health insurance policy, ‘Obamacare’. And by who else but those ardent foes of his: the Republicans – they gave him much grief. But for this inaugural piece, I want to focus on the dynamics behind what is now widely argued to be his biggest foreign policy mis-step. That is, choosing not to order air strikes against Syrian targets after evidence emerged that Bashir Al-Assad, the embattled (and now resurgent) Syrian president, used chemical weapons against his own people. In my view, it was perhaps the most difficult decision of his presidency. And his albatross.

Even a symbolic airstrike in Syria would have been better than the public humiliation of allowing America’s bluff to be called, some argue. And to add insult to injury, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, another Obama foe, would do just that afterwards. As a human being, especially considering how many lives were lost to America’s inaction, Mr Obama must have been enraged. It is a testimony to the strength of his character that he did not seek to regain the initiative. Otherwise, Syria could have been for Mr Obama what Iraq became for George W. Bush, the 43rd American president.

Would President Bush have called off the Iraq war if evidence of chemical weapons (and others of mass destruction) was not found just as he was about to give the order? As it turns out, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did not have chemical weapons. And the jury is still out as to whether Mr Bush knew this before giving the order for attacks to commence. American presidents wield so much power that it takes a man of great courage and respect to carry it lightly. And in Mr Obama’s case, the easy thing would have been to order the Syrian airstrikes. By choosing not to, Mr Obama was well aware he would have to endure taunts of timidity long afterwards. President-elect Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is in part a rebuke of Mr Obama’s caution. Incidentally, what Mr Trump may soon learn is that power is best wielded lightly: it is the perception of power that is more effective. The moment you allow adversaries test your supposed clout overmuch, as Mr Bush did in Iraq, you become vulnerable. True, they might find that indeed you are as powerful as you say. But having put a finger in your nose, they no longer fear you. And after a while, they find weaknesses they can exploit. The Iraq war proved to be humbling for America. There is also a sense I get that Mr Obama did not want the first black American president to leave a mess. And as far as achievements go, Mr Obama turned out to be a pair of safe hands indeed. Some argue otherwise: they say the World is a more dangerous place because of Mr Obama’s caution. Time will tell.

It is probable Mr Obama’s enduring legacy would be in his being, having made nonsense of myths about the limits of black achievement in American society. Even the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him came before he ever achieved anything of significance. He got the prize before the deed: America didn’t start any new major war, a conventional one at least, under his watch. Addressing the military during their farewell tribute to him, Mr Obama, in that ever sing-song tone of his, put his doctrine succinctly: military action “should be compelled by the needs of our security, not our politics.” After a likely turbulent Trump presidency, Americans may come to see the wisdom in those words.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/reflections-obama-1-caution-courage/

The Joy of Living

By Rafiq Raji

Elegushi Beach, Lagos-Nigeria(RR 2013)

What do old people think about?

You see them staring at vistas, taking gentle steps as they contemplate their pasts.

Many are sad regretting risks not taken, wondering about what could have been.

And yet the young make the same mistakes, refusing to take risks.

Worried about what could be lost instead of what could be gained.

How many that have died do we remember?

Certainly not those who refuse to question the orthodoxy.

There was an age when the World was thought flat and flight seemed a fantasy.

And yet here we are.

Would you rather you were just passing by?

And in old age strut on promenades wishing you were more daring.

Perhaps you could have been wealthy, led nations or changed some little part of the World.

But then how would you know? You never tried.

Be bold. Be daring.

Take the injuries that come as accolades.

They are testaments to your refusal to be like everyone else.

For if we were all the same , life would not be interesting.

Insist on your place. Push boundaries.

And if you do grow old, your reflections would be of surprise that you could survive so.