Activist Baba Aye continues his discussion with TRNN’s Ben Norton about French President Emmanuel Macron and the ongoing harms of colonialism and imperialism in Africa and the Global South
BEN NORTON: It’s the real news and I’m Ben Norton. On his trip to Nigeria, Macron also tweeted: “Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian refugee. It would seem that nationality has nothing to do with the ability to succeed. If you think that being a Nigerian means you can’t succeed then you won’t.” And what’s interesting about this is Macron brings this up as an example of someone who can succeed despite their background in terms of colonialism. But Steve Jobs was actually the grandson of a millionaire, and his father was not a refugee but rather an immigrant who came to the U.S. in order to do a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, and then Steve Jobs was adopted by a white Christian family who raised him.
Joining us to discuss this today is Baba Aye. Baba is the policy officer for the health and social service of the Public Services International, a global trade union federation. He is also editor of the Socialist Worker Nigeria and a contributing editor for the Review of African Political Economy. Thanks for joining us, Baba.
BABA AYE: Thank you for having me, Ben.
BEN NORTON: So I’m wondering if you could just briefly respond to this comment from Macron. He claims, he writes explicitly, “It would seem that nationality has nothing to do with the ability to succeed,” and then as an example of someone, he cites Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs, who is actually a counter example of the point that Macron is arguing.
BABA AYE : There are quite a number of things wrong with that unfortunate tweet. One is a slick but not entirely successful attempt at patronage, and Nigerians don’t need Macron to tell Nigerians that they can succeed. Nigerian women and men hustle 24/7 to make ends meet. Despite the existential challenges they face. Existential challenges that are largely framed by policies, imperialism and collusion with local bosses the Nigerian state foisted on us. Before structural adjustment program in the ’80s Nigeria definitely was not an El Dorado, but it was very far from those that are now dictating things in Nigeria. In this state, the political elite are in cahoots with the likes of Macron and the elites in Europe which made Fela to sing about ITT: International Thief Thief. That is collusion of the thief outside and the thief inside that makes the stealing of the resources that should otherwise have been utilized for the betterment of the lives of the poor working masses in Nigeria possible. These people went to school free, free education. They had the best of healthcare under the period of the first two decades of Nigeria’s independence. If you cast your mind back, a military head of state in the early ’70s said with Nigeria the problem was not money, but how to spend it, you know? But the generation that is now talking about that, they didn’t face colonialism are facing something worse than what was the case in the immediate aftermath of independence. And that was largely due to a number of things. Like I said, the global social compromise, if you will, between labor and capital, which was concession by the bosses as result of not just the war, but also rising mass anger which they try to deflect along the lines of reforms.
So there’s that element of patronage, and then there’s an element of reducing what is a question of class divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent to one of nationality. The fact of the matter is that, be it in Nigeria, or Mauritius, or Indonesia, or Argentina, the children of the high and mighty, the children of the millionaires, the billionaires, they enjoy virtually everything the children of the rich in Europe was enjoying. Not only in the countries where they are, but they can go to any country at any time, without any problems. So you see, the 1 percent know how to take care of themselves. It’s not about nationality.
Yes, it’s true about that, but not from the angle he’s coming from. It’s true about that because those that he is talking about, the Syrians that come as millionaires, fly in with the visa, maybe with the private jet. A former head of state of Nigeria held a wedding for his daughter last year, that’s General Babangida. You have 26 private jets, all of them with Nigerians that flew down there. So it’s not as if poverty, and the challenges of making ends meet of self-actualizers is one that touches every Nigerian, no. The richest Nigerian, who is also the richest African, by the way, Aliko Dangote, is richer than anybody in Britain. So would you now say that the child of Dangote is facing such existential challenges as what children of about 70 percent of the Nigerian population are living below the poverty line, and you are saying such things that it’s just about nationality?
Within every nation, as Malcolm X taught us, there are two nations: the nations of the rich, powerful, and the nation of the poor, who are exploited. You know, you have the house negro and the field negro. Those who collaborate with international capital, just how in Europe you have-. I mean, I was in Bristol for a conference a few days back. I saw more homeless people on the streets of Bristol than I would regularly see in similar quarters in Abuja. So Macron should not think he can get away with reducing that, the fact that the few have been getting richer for ages, particularly since the introduction of the new liberal framework for capitalist development in the mid ’70s, and even after the global economic crisis commenced. Contrary to what happens in response to the Great Depression, where mass anger and organizing led to the social compromise, I earlier mentioned the Keynesian welfare solution, so to speak. The likes of Macron have kept pushing it down the throat of the worker. But we’re not taking it. That’s the remedy for the malady that they have put all of humanity into. It’s more of the same medicine that has brought us to where we are. Cuts in the funding of public services, cuts in funding social services, cuts in wages, flexibilization of labor, and making life exceedingly difficult for the poor, making life exceedingly difficult for the 99 percent.
So, coming back to your question more directly about, that it’s not about nationality. He went to Fela’s Shrine. Did Fela go to France to learn to do the Afrobeat he’s enjoying? He was dancing like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, I’m sorry to say this is absolute nonsense.
BEN NORTON: We’re going to take a brief pause in our conversation here. I’m Ben Norton at The Real News, joined by Baba Aye, Who is the policy officer for the health and social sector at Public Services International. We’ll continue this discussion in the next part.