The Nigerian fuel subsidy quagmire

I caught rumblings of the fuel subsidy removal affair while on my holiday travels, but only in the past few days have I gained a sense of just what a delicate moment in time this is for Nigeria.

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for whom I've always expressed much admiration, wasted no time after being installed as Finance Minister and over the past quarter, working tirelessly to convince the Federal Government of Nigeria to eliminate the subsidy on motor fuel forthwith. The subsidy was removed as of the first of this year, triggering immediate protests. This is not the first time the government has tried to eliminate the subsidy, and it has always backed down due to popular response, but this time the government seems determined to hold its ground, and Okonjo-Iweala has been quite tough in defending her position. She points out that Nigeria is in danger of financial meltdown to rival that of Greece because of the unsustainable borrowing, much of which goes straight back out of the country in subsidy payments.

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The protests across Nigeria have looked to build on the extraordinary scope of popular actions in 2011, in which Time Magazine famously dubbed the protester Person of the Year, including the use of social media, where on Twitter they have adopted the hashtag "#OccupyNigeria."  Of course the "Occupy Wall Street" protests that have lent vocabulary to so many subsequent protests were against policies that support the so-called "1%" of people who make fortunes off globalized finance, while most of the U.S. is facing a harsh recession. There were actually plans for similar "Occupy Nigeria" protests even before the motor fuel subsidy removal, but the popular response against the fuel subsidy provided a spark that no protest organizer could possibly pass up.

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I do think this convergence of events has led to an unfortunate side-effect. Rightly or wrongly "Occupy Nigeria" has become seen as a vehicle for protest against subsidy removal rather than a protest against the corruption and mismanagement that in effect creates Nigeria's version of the "1%." The danger, however, is that I think most commentators would agree that at some point the fuel subsidy does need to be eliminated, and the real problem is not the subsidy elimination but the likelihood that the cash that the government would save thereby would just also be siphoned into the pockets of Nigeria's "1%".

Prof. Adeola Adenikinju of the University of Ibadan has been one of the most sensible commentators on the issue, which should not surprise anyone, as there are fewer more coherent discussions of the fuel subsidy conundrum than his 2009 presentation at OECD's Global Forum on Trade and Climate Change. That presentation, "Energy pricing and subsidy Reforms in Nigeria", should be required reading for anyone pondering these current events. He argues convincingly the economic case for subsidy removal, but he also admits the considerable present obstacles. He concludes:

Nigeria needs to keep to a formula based approach for determining fuel prices in the short term, while expediting actions in respect of putting in place a vibrant domestic refining industry.

This is where I think even the brilliant Okonjo-Iweala has missed the road, and at the same time I think the "Occupy Nigeria" crowd must learn the lesson of the accusations of incoherence and unthinking populism leveled against "Occupy Wall Street." Okonjo-Iweala is all about GDP growth, and that one measure can be a powerful blinder for economists. I remember watching her famous TED talk headlined "Want to help Africa? Do business here" and thinking: "OK I can sympathize with the desire to focus on foreign development as a vehicle for recovery on our continent, but isn't it even more important to focus on domestic industry?"

Why must we slaves to the mechanisms imposed by the IMF and The World Bank when China shows that there is more than one way to turn around an economy? We are coming from a similar historical and demographic place with the immense damage caused by Chairman Mao not so different from that caused by decades of African despots and colonial meddling. Yes, I do realize that the biggest issue with that thinking is that no African nation has the combination of ruthless and effective leadership of Deng Xiaoping. Surely there is a middle path, an African path.

I can hardly think of a more apt fulcrum for weighing out such a middle path than this fuel subsidy crisis. Imagine a timetable that clearly leads up to later subsidy removal through a series of confidence-building measures, some of which Prof. Adeola Adenikinju outlines in his presentation. Even Okonjo-Iweala has been forced to articulate a bit better the material gains to the people she expects from the savings from subsidy removal, mentioning health and social welfare programs, urban mass transit and more, but coming as it has, after the fact of the precipitous subsidy removal decision, this satisfies no one.

Unfortunately present discussion has sometimes broken down into he-said-she-said, for example whether subsidy removal was supposed to wait until April, or claims that Okonjo-Iweala has threatened to resign if any compromise is made on subsidy removal. All this heat without light is not helping matters at all. Even shotgun measures such President Goodluck Jonathan's pledge this morning to slash government salaries by 25% are not enough to grow from this crisis into a pattern of long-term solutions. A continued loss in confidence the current president and his talented Finance Minister could play into the hands of the many darker interests in the nation who have been the main actors in the historical sabotage of Nigeria's welfare. I to truly fear the emergence of some player, perhaps even an agent of the "1%," who claims the populist card against the current government and ends up taking Nigeria even further into the dark ages.

Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala need to repeat their decisiveness in applying the fuel subsidy removal policy, but this time they must rapidly decide on reform of that policy. They need to articular a clear timetable and plan to tackle corruption, addressing the fact that declared government salaries are a fraction of the mismanagement problem. They need to take firm steps to shore up the domestic, refined petroleum industry. They need to deliver credible assessments of the effectivity of the social welfare institutions that Okonjo-Iweala is promising to support with proceeds from subsidy elimination. A solid, independent advisory panel of the likes of Prof. Adeola Adenikinju and former Petroleum Minister Professor Tam David West, among other specialists, could draw up such a timetable for government approval, acting under the highest standards of transparency.

Would such a course be an easy one? Of course not. But I suspect it would be less difficult than navigating the economic (inflationary pressure) and political (popular revolt) perils of the present course.

Above all, I do hope that the government and its security apparatus sees fit to let the protesters have their say. I'm very troubled by reports of hardships suffered by the protesters, and I hope that we can show the first glimmers of a new, modern Nigeria in the treatment of dissent. President Goodluck Jonathan is no Bashar al-Assad, and shouldn't even take a step in the direction of the Syrian crackdown.  I do find myself hopeful that of all the post-war Nigerian governmental regimes, Jonathan's is the most likely to act with the necessary balance and prudence to turn this crisis around and start on the long, hard road to recovery for our nation.

King David's Nkrumah Salute

The first leader of a newly independent Ghana
Faced many a challenge to visions of utopia;
The vision is based on science and agriculture;
Here come the vultures shitting like pigeons on a sculpture.
Nobody's perfect, yo! he's got faults you can list them...

Dr. Nkrumah's intentions were the best
Why it's all a mess cause we still needed lots of help from the West...

Kennedy and his foreign aid
During the cold war turning Ghana into economic slaves...

Military coup after coup it's appaling
Seventh time a charm: enter Jerry Rawlings...

There once lived a great man with a geat vision, great plan,
A great dreamer determined to realize what he'd seen for Africa
Things fell apart at the seams in Ghana...

We salute ya, we salute ya,
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
—from "Nkrumah Salute" by King David

My cousin and sound producer extraordinaire released this clear-eyed tribute to the great man who spearheaded the African independence movements of the 50s, including that of Nigeria, whose independence came a few years after Ghana's.  Nkrumah was the father among pan-African visionary leaders from Nyerere to Azikiwe who did succeed in the most visible successes of independence, but whose energy and charisma were not quite enough to counter the complex manipulations engineered by colonial powers within the field of influence of the globally influential cold war poles in Washington and Moscow.

What I like about this Nkrumah salute is that it doesn't shy away from calling out the disaster of Nkrumah's Volta river project, which also pioneered errors repeated across Africa where ambition for foreign exchange and rapid industrialization led governments into economic patterns that extended the hegemony of Western powers while decimating indigenous industries.  These errors led to corruption, which led to erosion of the most important human resources and caused perilous internal strains.  In Ghana the false gold was bauxite, which inspired the Volta river project.  In Nigeria it was and still is petroleum.  Such projects required strong central control, which bred autocracy, in which Nkrumah was also an unfortunate pioneer, and eventually this led to a wave of military coups across Africa, and made it easier for the CIA and KGB to conduct their proxy wears across the continent.

Despite all that we rightly salute Nkrumah.  if these have been harsh lessons for Africans to learn, it has been essential that we learn them ourselves, and Nkrumah led the way to such self-determination.  It is also for us to address the problems over time.  We should be wary of quick fixes.  Everyone salutes Mandela for his greatness, but I'm sure he paid careful attention to his African history, and learned the right lessons.  Even Mandela had his elders, among whom Nkrumah was a leading light.

I've always personally enjoyed the fact that Nkrumah took his pan-Africanism even as far as matters of the heart, marrying an elagent Coptic Egyptian lady Fathia, whom he impressed as a fiery African nationalist in the spirit of Nasser.  The marriage fell apart with the strains of Nkrumah's later years in power and Fathia returned to Cairo even before Nkrumah went into exile in Guinea, but after Fathia's death a few years ago she was flown according to her wishes to be buried beside her husband in Ghana.


ObPoeticReference: 

We are the punch bag of fate
on whom the hands of destiny wearies
and the show of blows gradually lose
their viciousness on our patience
until they become caresses of admiration
and time that heals all wounds
comes with a balm and without tears,
soothes the bruises on our spirits.
—from "Ghana's Philosophy of Survival" by Kwesi Brew, richly discussed in "Poetry as Cultural Memory", by Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah.  It's also well worth reading "Africa, 1966" on the same Weblog.

Labor, industry and negligence

Solvency or luxury 
Or modesty of revenue—
Campaigners seem to want all three 
But most that they can have is two.
—adapted from "The Madison Front" by Uche Ogbuji

The above stanza is the crux of my poem, "The Madison Front," which was posted in Verse Wisconsin this weekend as part of their  "Poems About Wisconsin Protests" series.  It takes a critical look at all sides of the politics and economics of the Madison protests. There's also audio of my reading it, which in some cases will automatically play when you load the site. I'll try to figure out how to record better quality audio next time.

The bottom line is that I think all sides tend to miss the most important point, though no one more than Scott Walker and his supporters.  Gutting union rights won't solve their fiscal problems.  The only things that will are increasing revenue or reducing the overall standards of living to a point neither left nor right would be likely to accept.  This is a fundamental problem throughout the U.S.  Most of the talk about "small government" by folks such as the Tea Party is either vague, or focuses on institutions that offend right-wing social sensibilities and are yet the most infinitesimal fraction of spending.  No one who insists on maintaining current levels of defense spending while sniping at environmental and educational institutions is in the least bit serious about budgets.

At the same time the left has lost its backbone.  Despite steeply declining overall tax rates over the past century, right wing campaigners have succeeded in turning "tax" into a word so dirty even progressives fear to use it.  I personally think it's a good ting that tax rates have declined, but I think it's common sense that there reaches a point where you reach the nerve bundle of the tradeoff in my stanza above.

No one in the U.S. seems to be calling the true debate.  Are we willing to accept being the greatest military power in the world by just a small margin rather than by two or three times, or are we willing to sacrifice our standards of living to levels that would place us wel at the bottom of OECD league tables?  No one seems interested in the latter, and I can understand that.  I enjoy having a high per-capita standard of living.  I think the crux of the debate, then should be in the matter of defense spending versus taxation, but everyone seems terrified to press this point forthrightly.

It's hardly unusual for the U.S. to have arrived in this situation.  It's just the way of power in the world.  As Samuel Johnson says in a famous quote:

There is a general succession of events in which contraries are
produced by periodical vicissitudes; labour and care are rewarded with
success, success produces confidence, confidence relaxes industry, and
negligence ruins that reputation which accuracy had raised.
—from section 21 of The Rambler by Samuel Johnson

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And speaking of The Rambler, my search for the above image of Dr. Johnson (caught possibly in the eyes-open phase of winking and blinking) led me to a Weblog established by a gentleman inspired by the great Doctor's efforts.  I've read a few of the entries and it's got a bit of The Copia about it.  I'm always delighted to find a fellow journeyman.

Nigeria days on TNB

I've recently posted several Nigeria themed articles on The Nervous Breakdown.  I started writing up a series of scatter-shot observations, 50 in all, on the occasion of the country's golden jubilee.  The first part of "50 Observations on 50 years of Nigeria," items 1 - 16,  touches on our staple food, fufu, military coups, parenting, machetes, the national anthem, Niger delta pollution, malaria, rainy season, "Ghana must go," Fela, and much more.  The second part runs from items 17 - 32, touching on the principal languages, street hawkers, economics, religion, colonization, okada, Dele Giwa, clothing, ogogoro, and includes a brief La Divina Commedia parody aimed against the scum who light gas flares.  The third part runs from items 33 - 50 and touches on Pidgin, Nollywood, masquerades, jaas, football, literature, the civil war and the cold war, serious oyinbo grammar, and of course partying.

My own interactions with the land of my birth have been complex, with so much time spent abroad, but so many crucial, formative years spent in Nigeria.  I admit there is so much of me that reflects the time spent in America, and I do have a significant bent towards Britain, but the Igbo and overall Nigerian consciousness within me is mountainous.  It's my utter foundation.  I think I speak about Nigeria with an unflinching eye to my experiences of its glories, its tragedies, and its absurdities, but regardless of context and mood, my hope and faith in Nigeria is unquenchable, and I hope that's plain in my series.

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As a sort of epilogue to the series, I posted an interview with award winning Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor, whose African themed fantasy and science fiction stories have always delighted me.  She was a good college friend of Chimezie, whom I met a few times while visiting my brother in University.  He brought my attention to Zahrah the Windseeker, and I was hooked, and I'm hardly alone in that.  Her work has been hoovering up prizes and acclaim, and she is incubating some very exciting projects in multiple media.  In the interview I ask her primarily about the "bubbling calabash of language stew" in her latest novel "Who Fears Death."

I also include a couple of gorgeous illustrations related to Nnedi's work, including the cover of Zahrah, and a pair of drawings by Ross Campbell, to whose work I was just introduced while preparing this interview.  I'm really struck by Campbell's skill and feeling drawing ethnically diverse characters.

It has been a busy period following the birth of my daughter, with many exciting developments at work, a scare for my father's health (to which Chimezie has alluded), a more hectic than expected holiday period, and much more.  I'm always grounded by my family, but it was very nice to be further grounded by so much contemplation of the past, present and future of that paragon of complexity, my native Nigeria.

Quotīdiē ❧ A too-often understated perspective on reparations for slavery

The African role in the slave trade was fully understood and openly acknowledged by many African-Americans even before the Civil War. For Frederick Douglass, it was an argument against repatriation schemes for the freed slaves. “The savage chiefs of the western coasts of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily accept our moral and economical ideas than the slave traders of Maryland and Virginia,” he warned. “We are, therefore, less inclined to go to Africa to work against the slave trade than to stay here to work against it.”

—Henry Louis Gates Jr.—"Ending the Slavery Blame-Game"

I really don't know much about Henry Louis Gates Jr. except that I got a good laugh out of reports of his response to the police officer who asked him to step outside his own house.  I did find very interesting his article about some of the inconvenient reality regarding reparations the destination countries of slavery to the descendants of those slaves.  Frederick Douglass's argument against repatriation schemes echoes into debate about reparation schemes.  I've been making a similar argument for ages, but then again it's probably easier for me to say, considering I'm the insouciant type whose 'forbear was not the one shuffled off in a coffle to Calabar for a ghastly journey and a ghastlier existence abroad.'

OK, to be sure we don't treat the history of the slave trade as gingerly in Nigeria as we do in the U.S. An old girlfriend of mine was from Arochukwu, and when I wanted to tease her (which was often) I called her "slave trader". She'd call me "bushman" It's all good. Of course I didn't dwell on the fact that my Mom is from near Calabar, where the Aros would typically sell all the slaves they'd captured in their raids on the Igbo interior (where my Dad is from).

—me—"Want a Slave Trade tour? Don't miss Arochukwu."

Certainly any talk of reparations for any historical evil is a mater of politics, and nothing that could be considered balanced convention or regular law.  You could certainly make a reasonable argument that descendants of slaves deserve reparations across the board, from descendants of plantation owners as well as descendants of the damnable potentates who started off the chain of commerce.  It might be a tricky one to identify the guilty parties in the latter case since I doubt there was much record keeping in the Guinea hinterlands, not even in Nsibiri annals of Arochukwu secret societies.  I'd personally work with our family lawyer to get us off because our name 'Ogbuji' clearly indicates that yams were our stock-in-trade, not heads.  But just as US discussion of reparations is more about government compensation schemes than inter-family vendettas, I suspect the way to go for Africa would be hand over a bunch of oil rights to the reparees.  I'm for that.  "Good riddance," I'd say, and maybe given the Deepwater Horizon, the US might be a teensy bit less jealous of mineral rights as well.

(Photo from 'A Breakthrough in Yam Breeding')

Politics and not law.  Jewish families have received reparations for slave labor in Nazi camps, and some people consider the favorable economic zoning given as a sort of ersatz autonomy to Aboriginal American groups a form of reparations.  But I don't think precedents work in such a sociological pea soup.  Maybe one day Palestinians will be able to command reparations for Israeli occupation, with funding provided through compensation for Russian Pogroms, and for the long process of disenfranchisement that led to the Warsaw Ghetto.  Maybe one day Armenians will send a bill to Turkey, and Instanbul/Constantinople can set up an electronic exchange.  Or heck, the Ibibio might send a bill to the Arochukwu, and a good number of North African and Middle Eastern countries might expect to cough up for those swept up in the Trans-Saharan slave trade.  Going back a bit further, I'd find pretty poetic the idea of a dispatch to Rome from Addis Ababa for all that Carthago delenda est business.  Sociological pea soup, I said.

I did, however, find a central lesson for all this in Gates's piece.

But the sad truth is that the conquest and capture of Africans and their sale to Europeans was one of the main sources of foreign exchange for several African kingdoms for a very long time. Slaves were the main export of the kingdom of Kongo; the Asante Empire in Ghana exported slaves and used the profits to import gold. Queen Njinga, the brilliant 17th-century monarch of the Mbundu, waged wars of resistance against the Portuguese but also conquered polities as far as 500 miles inland and sold her captives to the Portuguese. When Njinga converted to Christianity, she sold African traditional religious leaders into slavery, claiming they had violated her new Christian precepts.


Yes, that does sound quite Christian of her.  It's the wide and well-traveled gate in contrast to Wilberforce's skinny porthole, so go figure that when 'President Mathieu Kerekou [sic] of Benin astonished an all-black congregation in Baltimore by falling to his knees and begging African-Americans’ forgiveness for the "shameful” and “abominable” role Africans played in the trade,' he did so in church.  Oh well.  Never mind trying to make sense of it all.  I'll just hang out waiting for my own bill.  If they come for me for any sins of my forbears, they should expect me to make payment from my ancestral yam barn.

I go chop ya dollar

[Originally posted on uche.posterous.com]

This is a dual-language blog entry. Nigerian Pidgin first, then the translation to en-US. 

Dem get dis show for radio "This American Life". I been hear small small part of de show wey dem gist about 419-eaters. Some oyinbo dey make wuru-wuru for de yeye people wey dey send that e-mail. When the show finish dem play Osuofia "I go chop ya dollar", but dem say na de song wey popular among all de 419 people. I think say them go make people confuse. That song popular throughout Africa, and no be guy say we dey make cunning for Oyinbo. Make I tell you truth, O! 

OK, I lied. I'm switching to en-US all the rest of the way. First I'll translate the above, and then I'll continue... 

cue sound of ghetto blaster tape rewinding

There's this radio show "This American Life". I caught a bit of a recent episode which included a tale of 419 baiters, basically westerners who look to tun the tables on the e-mail scammers. At the end of the show they played Osuofia's "I go chop ya dollar", saying it's a song popular among 419 scam artists. This might be true, but it's misleading. The song is popular throughout Africa and the diaspora, and not because people are celebrating e-mail scams. I think it's worth clearing up the record a bit, but first of all, here's Osuofia. 



Poverty no good at all, oh
Na him make I join this business 
419 no be thief, its just a game 
Everybody dey play am 
If anybody fall mugu, Ha! my brother, I go chop am 

Translation: Poverty sucks, so I joined this business. 419 isn't stealing--it's just a game. Everybody does it. If anyone is stupid enough to fall for it, I'll get away with what I can. 

National Airport na me get am 
National Stadium na me build am 
President na my sister brother 
You be the mugu, I be the master 
Oyinbo I go chop your dollar, I go take your money disappear 
you are the loser I am the winner 

Probably no translation needed except to mention that Oyinbo means white man. 

Osuofia is a character from a few popular Nollywood comedy films, and really what this song is doing is two-fold. It's providing some fictional escape from the too real problem of poverty in Nigeria, among honest people and dishonest alike. It's also skewering the outrageous claims of 419 scam artists, along with the outrageous gullibility of those who fall for such claims. 

Think of it: you walk up to a man on a small town Nigerian street (say Okigwe, where I went to secondary school). You tell him "hey, if you were to send Americans an e-mail telling them you're the widow of the President, and that if they can get you $10,000 you'll get them $1,000,000 the president stole from his people." You might expect his reaction to be: "I can't imagine who would fall for such a silly story, but if they did, I don't feel sorry for them, because why should they want to help in theft from people who can so ill afford to lose anything?" You could also imagine this man wandering back to work with no lunch (he has to skip that meal to save money) dreaming of what he could do with $10,000 from a greedy, gullible hand overseas. 

Then a year later you go back to that same man and you tell him "Remember that scam I told you about? Well it's been going gangbusters, and there have been a lot of victims, and now people look at all Nigerians as just a bunch of spammer/scammers." Imagine his combination of bemusement, bewilderment and contempt for both the scammers and the vics. Most Nigerians handle such nonsense with black irony, and this is precisely the spirit of "I go chop ya dollar". I'd say that's obvious to any Nigerian who hears it, and the festive tone of the song is just the broadest clue. 419ers who enjoy the song probably employ intentional double irony. 

Which means, of course that the use of the song in the close of "This American Life" represents a triple irony. Which is pretty cool, even if they unwittingly gave the wrong impression about the song's audience.

Those despicable gas flares

The Beeb reports that there is increasing pressure the Nigerian government to stop burning gas flares ("Nigeria court action on flaring"). You see crude oil is so much more profitable than natural gas for petrol companies in Nigeria that rather than install facilities for developing gas, they pipe it up in stacks for burning in the open air.

My father taught at the University of Port Harcourt for a time in the late eighties, and I spent a good amount of time there (though I was a student at the University of Nigeria further North in Nsukka then). You could see several gas flares around just from the campus, especially at night, and it wasn't too far a drive to hear their loud hiss and crackle. It was a horrible sight, but one that one unfortunately became used to. I can't imagine how much environmental damage has been wasted over the years the flares have been burning, how much waste of potential resource. It's just a disgrace. And it doesn't just affect those of us who have some connection to the area.

Nigeria flares the most gas in the world. Campaigners say it creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all other sources in Sub-Saharan Africa combined.

I hope that some of the renewed pressure will force the government and its crony Western petrol companies to stop this practice. If the Nigeria gov is looking for a good way to spend the 18 bill it just scored, or its chunk of the Big Bucks for Africa that American presidents have come into the habit of supporting (1, 2), it could hardly do better than research and development related to avoiding waste of natural resources as exemplified by burning natural gas away into the hot West African troposphere.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Toli skewers Reagan

Now the deification of Reagan is one thing (although there was a little shock on my part in reading the ensuing pablum about Ronnie's supposed prescience), but that deserves a separate post and I've long promised The Governor of Redmonk something on that front. Per Ignatieff, Reagan is supposedly responsible for "the emergence of democracy promotion as a central goal of United States foreign policy". The repeated misadventures in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and almost everywhere else are conveniently skipped over. The dissonance of soaring cowboy rhetoric, garden-variety Iran/Contra criminality, defence industry sinecures, or Savings and Loan cronyism and plain hypocrisy in the Realpolitik that Reagan's cohorts practiced are not commented upon, nor is it anywhere acknowledged that those swarthy developing world types incurred consideral collateral damage when they served as battlegrounds and proxies in that awful Cold War.

Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah

Hot damn! That needed to be said. I've been long winding up to a rant on Reagan, and being able to quote Koranteng helps relieve a bit of the pressure.

Why do Americans and some Brits venerate such a despicable character? I suppose they ask why so many others revile him. Never mind Reaganomics. His legacy would never be so awful for merely damaging the macroeconomics of his own country (national leaders, unfortunately, do this all the time). What Reagan did that, I'm convinced, will have him stomped into history's dustbin once people get the right amount of perspective is to set back the development of large swathes of the world by at least two decades. As if that wasn't bad enough, he and his cronies did so with a cowboy cavalier insouciance that is nothing short of breathtaking.

Some of the veneration of Reagan comes from the abject myth that he ended the cold war, made even more laughable by the puerile notion that once The Reagan had flung down the awesome term "Evil Empire" the enemy capital immediately began quaking to its sudden demise. In the real world it was Thatcher who had to whap Reagan upside his head with her handbag before he took any sort of meaningful action against the Soviet Union (he originally preferred to restrict his belligerence to socialist regimes that did not bristle with enough ICBMs to pulverize the moon), and it was the audacious tandem of Walesa and Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) who truly catalyzed the tumble. And even so, all that would all have been for naught without Gorbachev's even more audacious revolution from within the very Kremlin. Those figures, and not Reagan are rightly associated with the collapse of the USSR, if we insist on pin-pointing individuals. But why do we so insist, anyway? Clearly we saw an inevitable unraveling of the ludicrous economics of communism, stretched thin by the need to manage a huge war machine and an even bigger machine for promotion of communism abroad.

Thatcher is an interesting character. Her economics were brutal, but they were just what Britain needed. People often liken it to Reaganomics, and that boggles my mind. Reaganomics was an entirely capricious beast forged by all the tools of operators such as the Coors family (yes, an embarrassing amount of the poison sprang from this wonderful state of Colorado) towards the establishment of oligarchy. It was and is never necessary and always destructive. At low resolution some of the implements of Thatcher's and Reagan's policies were the same, but even where there was such partial correspondence their impetus and effect were very different. I admire Thatcher as a very resolute figure: she didn't do any favors to the developing world, but she at least was clear and forthright about what she was up to. We could see the blows as they arrived, and respond as best we could. Reagan preferred slinking, cowardly action, with the occasional, strategic sally, such as the incredibly gallant assault on tiny little Grenada.

Koranteng:

That same laudable Reagan was for breaking sanctions on the apartheid regime in the name of not encouraging that dastardly communist Nelson Mandela who was busy breaking rocks on Robben Island. Indeed if I remember correctly even the democratic institutions of the US need looking after and some of us are monitoring the situation here with alarm.

That's the sort of point we should never lose sight of. The only thing Reagan means to anyone who has had to live through a thuggish regime in Africa is a redefinition of "freedom" so cynical that I suspect it outdid even the propaganda-driven policy of the "Evil Empire" itself.

Oh. And, as usual, Koranteng's soundtrack to his rant (see the end of his posting) is right on.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia