A mathematical exploration of fractal complexity among the axioms on the African state in the Journal of Third World Studies: from John Mukum Mbaku to Pade Badru.

Author:Bangura, Abdul Karim
Position:P. 42-64 - Critical essay


In this section, I present the axioms on the African state in the relevant JTWS texts. The axioms are stated in realist (i.e. 'what is') and idealist (i.e. 'what ought to be') terms. The range between the numbers of axioms is quite significant--from two in Mbaku's essay (102) to 43 in George Klay Kieh Jr.'s, (103) which is a range of 41. The reason for this huge range is that Mbaku's essay is descriptive (i.e. it describes the nature of the African state) while that of Kieh, Jr. is both descriptive and prescriptive (i.e. describes the nature of the African state and suggests how to reconstitute it). There are eight essays in total. I discuss them sequentially in the chronological order they were published.

As stated earlier, the first essay on the African state in the JTWS is by Mbaku and published in 1987. It has the following two axioms: (104)

(1) The modern African state has not been able to properly define its role in the economy due partly to the fact that many African governments have been dictatorships used by a few well-placed families to enrich themselves.

(2) The African state can play a crucial role in economic growth by designing policies that would lead to efficient management of the factors of production.

The second essay is by Julius Omozuanubo Ihonvbere and published in 1993. He proffers four axioms: (105)

(1) On one side of the embattled African state is the bourgeoisie which are under great pressure from popular forces, the IMF. the World Bank and Western governments and conservative research institutions; on the other side are students, trade unions, civil liberty associations, non-governmental organizations, progressive associations, the Economic Commission for Africa, human rights organizations and other popular forces inside and outside the continent.

(2) The draconian decrees and legislation passed by African states and the various policy papers and documents released by the World Bank bear directly on the drastic restructuring of African education to reflect the grand goals of the IMF and the World Bank.

(3) The Nigerian state has always been a coercive and exploitative state, always using the masses as objects of manipulation and exploitation.

(4) The African state is a desperate one that makes no discrimination between its real and imaginary enemies in times of crisis.

The third essay is by Okere Steve Nwosu published in 1998. It entails the following six axioms: (106)

(1) State creation in Nigeria was construed to be a strong move to address the structural imbalances of the federal system.

(2) Economic resource competition explains how the national question in Nigeria is brought about by sequences of intergroup contacts.

(3) The inequality between states of the federation and between urban and rural areas gives the Nigerian state its distinctive texture, not just the differences in the income earned by various individuals, not the huge differentials existing between occupations, and not that between different sectors of the economy.

(4) The extent to which the state is able to ensure the social order for production and distribution depends on the extent of harmonious and acceptable boundaries.

(5) No attempt was made to reconstruct the neo-colonial state and provide governance and economic structures that served all Nigerians; instead, the political and economic established by the colonial government to exploit the rural agricultural sectors for the benefits of urbanites were retained after independence.

(6) State creation was a definite response to the effects of the politics of pluralism in the same manner as boundary adjustment attempted to redress the attendant administrative problems.

The fourth essay is by Mueni wa Muiu published in 2002. And as noted earlier, it is the only JTWS essay that proposes a full-fledged paradigm of the African state. It offers the following 29 axioms: (107)

(1) The African state has been shaped to meet Western interests, which have been consistent throughout history: access to cheap labor and control of the economy, markets and raw materials.

(2) If it is accepted that the Japanese state reflects Japanese values, the American state American values, or the French state French values, then the African state must reflect African values.

(3) In order to meet the specific priorities and needs of Africans, the state must be reconfigured by retaining its positive (and adequately functioning) elements and by incorporating the still functional remnants of indigenous African institutions.

(4) Some states, such as the Oyo kingdom, relied heavily on tribute from neighboring states; when the tributes ceased, as happened in the 1830s, the state collapsed.

(5) Nation-building and state-building in Africa involved first the transfer of political power to the state, followed by the devolution of power to the regions and from regions to the districts.

(6) Some indigenous states lacked detailed knowledge both of their surroundings and foreign counterparts.

(7) The state lost its autonomy because long-distance export trade replaced inter-African trade.

(8) Ignorance and witchcraft became the order of the day as African states were shut off from developments in other countries.

(9) The African state became the easy prey for European conquest in the 19th Century, as the structure of economic exchange between African states and European ones did not end with the abolition of slavery.

(10) As a result of slavery, new social structures developed which affected the state; slavery resulted in the emergence of new states; and since slavery was taking place in costal areas and urban centers, the rural sector stagnated falling into backwardness and moral decay.

(11) The colonial state was all powerful, and its power was not absolute, but also arbitrary.

(12) The colonial state's priority was economic production to service its needs, resulting in lopsided development.

(13) The colonial state relied on raw power and violence to achieve its objectives.

(14) The colonial state was generally based on centralized power and authority: thus, Africans did not develop an affinity for the new institutions, since these were used to oppress them.

(15) The colonial state lacked three essential attributes which are to be found in modern states, namely: sovereignty, national foundation, and autonomy.

(16) "Independence" basically comes down to a mere Africanization of colonial institutions, leaving intact the basic structure of the colonial state.

(17) The elite maintained centralized states in which powers are vested in the executive with no tradition of party government or opposition.

(18) The state's legitimacy was under attack as it faced economic crisis.

(19) The colonial state was violent and brutal, while the postcolonial state is equally brutal.

(20) Various reasons (notably an excessive population) were given as African states' failure to develop.

(21) In an effort to open the state further to foreign exploitation, and to "save" its economies, the World Bank/IMF introduced structural adjustment programs which were, inter alia, aimed at reducing the size and power of the state.

(22) Like its predecessor the colonial state, the post-colonial state was externally determined.

(23) The crisis facing the African state arises from both the economy as well as the institutions.

(24) The post-colonial state aggravated the adverse conditions facing Africans in various ways: rulers who attempted to transform their states were systematically and ruthlessly eliminated, leaders exposed African state to further Western exploitation through the Africanization of colonial institutions, and leaders supported by the West monopolize the state and extract resources from it as fast as possible.

(25) Fundi wa Afrika's basic premise is that Africans must reconstitute their states on the basis of their own values, priorities and needs.

(26) Every legitimate state's first priority must be to halt the progression of epidemics such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

(27) The African state should connect the rural areas (where the majority lives) with the urban areas on the basis of African values.

(28) There is a division various African states with different colonial experiences and traditions.

(29) Different African states must unite within a United States of Africa to create internal markets for African goods and, thus, employment.

The fifth essay is also by Muiu published in 2008. In this one, she proffers these 27 axioms. Some of these axioms are quite similar to those in the previous essay: (108)

(1) The state is a multilayered entity from grass-root organizations to the leadership.

(2) Once colonial companies began their operations, they set up trading posts, which later were protected by the state as its "interests."

(3) The state's economic base, which became export-oriented during slavery, remained so under colonialism.

(4) The colonial state was all-powerful, and its power was not only absolute, but also arbitrary.

(5) Raw power was the main goal, and democracy was alien to the colonial state.

(6) During colonialism, the African state's role in the society also changed; it no longer served its subjects' interests, instead it became a dominating force.

(7) The colonial state lacked three essential attributes, which are to be found in any modern state, namely sovereignty, nation, and external autonomy.

(8) The colonial states were not nations because their borders that brought diverse groups together without respecting their culture and history.

(9) The ethnic groups brought together were not loyal to the state; instead they thought along clan and ethnic lines.

(10) Liberation movements ignored indigenous African institutions as a basis for restructuring the African state.

(11) The African states' development was either Western capitalism-liberalism or Soviet-style socialism.

(12) The African colonial state was essentially a foreign construct which...

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