Of Cattle Colonies and Dubois Thought

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By Gbadebo Adeyeye

Many people said that you either love Nigeria or leave the country. As for me, I will not love it because it is not a friendly country; and I will never leave it until I personally help to straighten it out. For example, experience has taught me in life that the number one thing you must learn to be is humble, no matter who you are; whether you are a president, governor or a commander in-beef. It is not only about you, it is also about your fellow citizens; particularly in a time like this when all Nigerians, Christians and Muslims should pay close attention to their neighbour’s welfare.

Desperate problems require a desperate solution. That is the reason why it is more important now than ever, to destroy the political influence of the Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria before the country is finally colonized by madmen. We must also remind their sponsors, the same group of arrogant, egomaniacal and vindictive citizens who have been taking Nigeria six steps backward each time the country makes a step forward since independence, what W.E.B. Dubois meant when he said many years ago that ‘I had been brought up with the democratic idea that the general welfare of the citizens is the object of democratic action in the state. But through the crimson  illumination of war (including herdsmen killings in Nigeria), I realized, and afterward by traveling around the world, saw even more clearly that the so-called democracy is allowing the mass of the people to have only limited voice in government; that today, we do not have democracy; instead, we have oligarchy, and oligarchy based on monopoly of income; the same oligarchy has been designed to deny democracy in schools, the health care system and businesses as it has once been designed to deny democracy in government’.                  

Unfortunately, many Nigerian leaders, especially the herdsmen sponsors are not aware of the contributions to the discipline of political economy made by a great thinker, William Edward Burghard Dubois (1868-1963) – a major figure in the Pan African Movement between 1919 and 1945; the ‘father of African independence; to many of us, a famous scholar on black life, and the founder of Civil Right era in the United States of America.  Dubois had a very strong economic agenda of a normative nature for black people in America and around the world. Although, heavily influenced by the German historical school, and disinclined towards the classical school of Adam Smith, Dubois economic analysis reflect a variety of socialist— oriented concepts and proposals for the normative purpose of advancing the condition of black people around the world, particularly in Africa. Dubois saga also reminds us of an earlier member of the Germanic school, Adam Muller (1779 – 1829), whose work probably opened Dubois mind.

Muller was influenced by the Germanic school, as such, he believed that Adam Smith view of the state as a collection of atomistic individuals with ‘natural rights’ (usually refers to as ‘birth right ‘by Northern Nigerians) should give ways to a new Germanic doctrine. He also believed that the state is an organic unit of which the individual forms a part. The state is more than a mechanism that exist to maintain just order and administer affairs. It is an organism, a living whole! Muller emphasized further that the real wealth of a nation is not just material as Adam Smith would have it. It is partly spiritual, including language, culture, laws, tradition and so on. Based on this, Adam Muller generally took an ardent interest in the condition of working men, and urged that the state should exert itself on their behalf. These ideas are to a great extent, socialist ideas which W, E, B. Dubois stood for, and which in fact. Should be digested into African political system; including Nigeria. We can see clearly in Dubois writing when for example, he advocates a ‘cooperative commonwealth’ but strongly opposed any program of black capitalism (including the establishment of cattle colonies) on the grand that this will automatically bring into black communities, a new cause of division, a new attempt to subject the majority of the race to an exploiting class of their own people.

Interestingly, this was in contrast to some black Americans like Booker T Washington and Marcus Aurelius gravy philosophy. Garvey philosophy and ideology was against European exploitation of Africa, even though he himself firmly believed in capitalism like majority of Nigerian leaders. While Dubois was fighting for the black Americans freedom based upon the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments of the United States constitution which guaranteed political equality to all Negroes, Booker T Washington was opposed to such policy. Also Garvey’s maxim ‘Africa for Africans’ was an ideology for transportation of all black Americans back to African colony. ‘Why shouldn’t Africa give the world its own black Rockefeller, Rothschild and Henry Ford? Now is the opportunity. Now is a chance for every black to make every effort toward a commercial and industrial standard that will make us comparable with successful businessmen of other races. ‘Capitalism’, Garvey asserted, ‘is necessary for the progress of the world, and those who unreasonably want to oppose or fight against it are enemies of human advancement’.
At any rate, there was no common ground between Garvey and W.E.B.Dubois. Dubois advocated democratic socialism with state control of only the basic means of production and distribution. When the African countries were to win independence for example, as the leader of Pan African movement between 1919 -1945, Dubois advocated radical ideas of ‘complete self-government’ for Africans in Africa, organized on the basis of socialism and cooperative economy, which would leave no room for economic inferiority among Africans, including the helpless farmers in Nigeria.

 Unlike the selfish leaders in our society, Dubois laid more emphasis on the following of non-capitalist, basically socialist economic proposals: economic planning to ensure adequate income to every hard working citizens, a planned system of good hospitals, schools. Cooperative organizations of black professionals so that they could provide services to all in need without regards to their own profits.
The gist of Dubois economics was to create a planned communal social system among blacks like the white counterparts. Communal in the sense that economic relations would become social rather than private, thereby avoiding economically inspired class division, and make economic exploitation very difficult, especially in a country like Nigeria.  His plan was also communal in the sense of strengthening family and group ties, and building a stronger sense of unity among black people so that all could become dedicated to the welfare of the group rather than seeking and be preoccupied by personal advancement. More interestingly, Dubois economic thought was an idea of a self-reliant political economy that would help to combat social arrogance and chauvinism among the people of color. Dubois did this, in one way, by taking a scientific study of the so-called black problems and exposed the myth of political and  socio- economic ‘superiority’ expounded by such Pseudo- biologists as Count Author de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Madison Grant and Lothrop stroddard, the ideological fathers of Fulani herdsmen and their sponsors!

–Adeyeye is the Proprietor of Crown Heights College, Ibadan