Ambode & the Luggage on his Head: The White Man

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[Analyses]–I have been trying to reduce my ignorance of the situation between Ambode, the Governor of Lagos state and local actors involved in waste removal and management in Lagos by reading extensively about the matter.

Ambode is embarking of a comprehensive review and modernization of waste removal in Lagos. He wants to embark on 21st-century waste removal practices. He is putting his money where his mouth is.

I’ve read many of the documents available. I am happy with the vision and the road map.

However, the domestic waste managers are not happy. First they claim that Lagos just sprung the plan on them. Second, Lagos is owing many of them. Third, if they are put out of business, a lot of local businesses and jobs will disappear. Hear the Private Sector Partners:

“The PSP Operators commenced operations and have consolidated on their activities from time to time. Eighteen years down the road, stupendous achievements have been recorded, though with room for improvement, we made Lagos clean and the country and the international community acknowledged it.

The programme has today birthed 350 successful small and medium sized businesses, which have within this period injected over N6 billion into the industry in equipment like trucks and other assets, all privately funded with facilities sourced from local financial institutions just as they have created over 25,000 direct and indirect employment,. Lagos has since been transformed from one of the dirtiest cities to the cleanest in Africa.

The numerous awards bestowed on the State Government to that effect attest to this. Among many others, the awards include The Cleanest City in Africa 2011 conferred on it by the Bill Clinton Foundation, the Cleanest City in Nigeria by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012 and the Cleanest Environment in Africa 2013 by Siemens Global.”

There has subsequently been a lot of back and forth between the government of Lagos state and her domestic partners in waste removal.

Basically, the Lagos state government wants to dump these local operators and sign an agreement with better resourced “foreign partners” offering better services.

I was going to conclude that nothing is wrong with partnerships with foreign entities and actors until I began to see details of the “sweet deals” that Ambode is proposing to his “foreign partners.”

The local operators are saying that if they are encouraged and supported and provided with a level playing field, they could match or even outperform the “foreign operators.”

If you ask Ambode what ‘the eyes of Lagos have seen in the hands of its domestic partners’, I am sure that there will be mountains of stories of shoddy performance, sharp practices, and allied Nigerian ways of doing things.

However, the more I read about Ambode’s MOU with his “foreign partners”, the more I am convinced that we are in the ideological terrain of the black man and his problem of inferiority complex to whiteness.

Whiteness doesn’t even have to be white before the black man insists it is white and begins to create preferential conditions for it and elevate it above his own. When the black man says he is negotiating a deal with “foreign” or “international partners”, foreign and international always mean whiteness to him.

The Nigerian government official negotiates a deal with China, he sees white.

The Nigerian government official negotiates a deal with India, he sees white.

Whiteness is very important to the Nigerian official. Once he brings whiteness into the picture, he begins to trample on his own.

Everything I am reading from the Nigerian waste people boils down to how Ambode is treating them like they are less equal than his new foreign partners.

This inferiority complex pervades every aspect of Nigerian officialese. A very respected Nigerian scientist, a full Professor, once told me that a Nigerian federal agency invited him for something. This Professor decided that he would have to travel to Nigeria with a PhD student he was then training. The oyinbo PhD student was his research assistant and the Nigerian professor needed the chap for what he was being invited for in Nigeria. To his surprise, the Nigerians bought his oyinbo student a business class ticket and bought him an economy ticket!

The White man is a luggage that Nigerian officials carry permanently on their heads, grinning stupidly as the burden crushes their necks. Comrade Wandia Njoya tells me the story is not different in Kenya where black government officials also carry whitenesses on their heads in Nairobi while looking down on their black Kenyan compatriots.

This explains why I don’t cut Nigerian Universities any slack. Professor Adeleke Adeeko knows that I am notorious for not cutting Nigerian Universities any slack. They could invite you for a lecture or a seminar and plead with you: bear with us, we have no money, we have no this and that. They will say do it for free. Some may even hint that you should buy your own flight ticket. The following year, they will invite a white European or American professor several years your junior in academic rank and give him first class treatment.

I don’t joke with Nigerian Universities: offer me what I know you offer oyinbo colleagues whose rank and status are commensurate with mine in the academy or I am not coming. I cannot come and go and die because you have a white luggage on your head.

Ambode, like I said, I have read and liked your plan. But you will have to treat the Nigerians the way you are treating your new “foreign partners.”

If you are carrying a white luggage on your head and it has become inira for you, that, my friend, is your funeral. Don’t take out on your Nigerian partners. They did not send you message.

Eko baje ti!

Copyright 2017 The Page. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source.



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