Commentary

Ryan’s trip to a Youngstown soup kitchen backfires

By , October 27, 2012 | 6:05 pm | 0 Comment

Ryan’s trip to a Youngstown soup kitchen backfires

ONUMBA.COM – It goes without saying that no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio, which easily explains why the Romney campaign is pouring gobs of wampum in the Buckeye State.

But just how bad does Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney really want to win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes?

Apparently, bad enough that Romney said this, “We need to win Ohio. If we win Ohio, we take back America.”

And bad enough that his 42-year old running mate Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan last week took over a soup kitchen in Youngstown for a photo-op without gaining permission from the president of the facility.

But it wasn’t just Ryan being in the kitchen that was the kicker. It was what he did when he got there. While in the kitchen, Ryan, who was decked out in a white apron, was photographed washing pots and pans that appeared very clean.

It was a 15-minute visit to the soup kitchen for a photo-op that went terribly awry. It resulted in a pointless publicity for the Romney campaign, forcing it to explain why Ryan snuck into a soup kitchen pretending to be washing dishes without asking the president of the facility if it was OK to do so.

Ryan offered explanation for what he was doing in a soup kitchen.

“We just wanted to come by and say thanks for doing what you do,” Ryan said. “This is what makes society go. It makes it work. Helping people.”

That was a nice clarification , but the president of the facility didn’t appreciate it.

“We are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations,” Brian Antal told the Washington Post, as he kvetched that Ryan pretty much
“ramrodded their way” into the facility without asking the people who runs the place.

It all begs the fundamental question: Why was it that important for Ryan to be seen in a soup kitchen to start with?

That’s easy. For one thing, for politicians running for office, it seemingly conveys, even if it is phony, a connection to struggling hoipolloi.

For another, especially in this case, it might be a continuation of Ryan’s effort during his debate with opponent Joe Biden to debunk the notion that the Romney campaign is only looking out for millionaires and billionaires and intrinsically detached from the pain and concerns of average folks.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.

The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

 

Commentary , Politics

Obasanjo speaks out for his tovarish, but he is wrong

By , August 11, 2011 | 2:39 am | 0 Comment

Obasanjo speaks out for his tovarish, but he is wrong

ONUMBA.COM – Ah.  “Birds of the same feather” flock to defend each other.  

Apparently, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is mad.  Hopping mad.  In his ‘holier than thou’ view, he feels that impertinent treatment is being meted out to ousted Hosni Mubarak by the mean-spirited Egyptian authority now prosecuting him for epic shenanigans and abuse of power. 

From Kenya, where he was attending a clambake with his fellow feckless African leaders, Obasanjo expressed the high-minded view that Egypt is transgressing for not showing disgraced Mubarak the ilk of respect befitting a former leader.  He loathed the 82-year-old Mubarak being wheeled into court in a cage and derided it as an infradig.  Accord him the “personal dignity” “befitting his status,” he demanded.  Worked up about this, he kvetched and fervidly assailed the conduct of the Egyptian authority as unbecoming and worried about this not being “good for the image of Africa.”

Isn’t that comical?  All that keelhaul, coming from a military-civilian hybrid with a pugnacious demeanor, whose glib acrobatic moves to cling on to power beyond his lawful duration blew up on his face and vividly exposed his power-gluttony and self-serving nature.  He and Mubarak probably swapped playbooks and his ranting caterwaul is claptrap and a mighty-bloody joke. 

Of course, Obasanjo is entitled to his sanctimonious opinion when he said that this is not good for Africa’s image.  But he is certainly not entitled to having his remarks go unchecked.  Obasanjo, if I may helpfully point out, still stokes tantrum in riled Nigerians who are still convinced he got away with his own catalogue of shady indulgencies while in office.  Some are still rabidly demanding investigation of his regime, though there’s very little chance of that happening since no one has the balls to go after him. 

What Obasanjo failed to mention in his irrational and unhinged harangue in Kenya was the ugsome truth about the factors really responsible for besmirching Africa’s image.  He should look elsewhere for why the global view of the continent is skuzzy, crummy, depressing and shameful.  The treatment that Mubarak is receiving is not it.  Perhaps, the pestiferous corruption, grand mismanagement by bumbling leaders and systemic ethics morass in Africa are the undeniable culprits.  They are the bunyanesque albatross ravaging hopes, bedeviling and dragging down the continent.  The opprobrious and pervasive culture of marauding and siphoning Africa’s exiguous financial resources into foreign bank accounts by greed-infested African governments, led by mindless byzantine charlatans do more to bedaub Africa’s image than anything else.  And then there are the vicious bloodcurdling conflicts wreaking havoc on folks and battering societies.  Jaw-dropping footage clips of morbidly skeletal-starving children of Somalia dangle as an emblem of infamy staining Africa’s image.

The furious revolt that doomed Mubarak’s monstrous 30-year long dynasty was past due.  Just look at his appalling record. He rained vicious tyranny on the Egyptian plebes while presiding over a regime involved in a smorgasbord of crimes. He is now facing a plethora of charges, some for pilfering billions of dollars from the people’s till, having ruled Egypt as his personal fiefdom.  Media reports variously peg his obscene worth at between “$40 and 70 billion,” safely stashed in Archipelago of foreign banks. 

But Mubarak is not alone.  That kind of notorious canker and perfected thievery is incorrigible in virtually all African countries where you have thriving corruption factories manned by effete Kleptomaniacs and parasitic jackasses.  Yet, you wonder out loud why these wretched countries are mud-stuck in deepening torment and apocalyptic squalor.  African governments are globally known more for pittance than advancement, more for brutal conflicts that innovation, and more for a culture of untamed hedonism than pride in self-reliance.  All of that clearly sums up to a “bad image” for a floundering continent that has become a global laughingstock wallowing in multilayered social malady and economic mess.

But it also adds up to why Obasanjo’s audacious demand for “dignified” treatment for Mubarak is utterly misplaced.  And the suggestion that he is not being treated courteously is a profound departure from basic candor.  How much more respect can the Egyptian authority show him that he is not currently enjoying?  Mubarak is not in a Gulag receiving shabby treatment.  He is facing justice for his crimes, for crying out loud.  It is not supposed to be a leisure walk through a flowery park with canorous songs from crooning birds.  But if somehow, a gold-trimmed Jacuzzi and a plush Benz to ferry him back-and-forth to his trial is what Obasanjo has in mind, then that’s a quixotic wish. 

Stick with me guys as we meticulously examine the treatment that Mubarak is receiving and wrap this up.  He is enjoying a VIP treatment for his array of illnesses.  He is being well fed when he is not on hunger strike.  And since his ouster, they have sheltered him in a cozy country-side hideout.  Anyone else would have been dumped in a tartarus calaboose.  Taken together, Mubarak is being accorded far more succor than the innocent and defenseless pro-democracy minions brutally mowed down by his camorra of butchers on his ukase. 

What’s more, he is receiving far more respect that the Egyptian rank and file he robbed of a better future.  For his museum of atrocities as the leader of power-grabbing and looting corruptocrats that studded his vicious tyranny, Mubarak certainly deserves all that is being hurled his way.  Yep, ‘facingthemusic bologna’ is a sandwich better served cold.  I’m just glad that justice for brutally shady politicians in Egypt is not as mushy and laughable as it is in Nigeria.

My advice for Obasanjo is to go back to his Ota Farms and butt out of it.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

Commentary , Featured

A conversation series: One-on-One with Ohio Black legislators debuts in the Call & Post, Onumba.com

By , June 9, 2011 | 12:21 am | 0 Comment

A conversation series:  One-on-One with Ohio Black legislators debuts in the Call & Post, Onumba.com

ONUMBA.COM – The protracted paucity of fresh postings on onumba.com is obvious, to say the very least.  We certainly regret it.  Over the last couple of weeks, it may have appeared as though we dropped everything and embarked on a fun-filled vacation.  But that wasn’t it.  Actually, the explanation for our rare taciturn is quite contrary to such perfectly understandable speculation. 

The thing is, because we pride ourselves in pursuing topical news to offer our readers quality product, not just chucking stuff out there just to fill up the space, we have been busy working to bring you a healthy mix of news reporting, political analysis and most recently, the best of interviews with newsmakers in Ohio, including our plan to offer a rare penetrating peep into the life, career and thinking of the men and women who represent the Ohio African-American community in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate.

We have been putting all of this together and the result is something that has never been done before, certainly not to our knowledge.  And that is, Ike Mgbatogu, the Call & Post and Onumba.com columnist will be sitting down with each member of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC), in a wide-raging, meaty conversation over a gallimaufry of subjects including their background, politics, faith, future plans, their dreams and aspirations growing up.  The lawmakers will also discuss a miscellany of other issues including diversity and inclusion, their heroes, their views on Malcolm X, what they think about Africa; whether they have been there or even care to go.

The parley on politics and government will navigate the shoals of party partisanship as it interfaces with the anfractuosity of governance, where each member will tell us what they make of Gov. Kasich, his first 100 days in office, his policies, and his support for controversial Senate Bill 5, House Bill 1, and the $55.6 billion biannual budget.  They will tell us whether they have met the governor one-on-one and how that played out, obviously, mindful of the frosty and tumultuous nature of the relationship between Kasich and members of the caucus.

So, the next time you see Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard, who recently had her one-on-one with Ike, fighting and defending programs for the poor, the middle-class and the minority communities, think of her as an intensely progressive politician who, believe it or not, never planned to be in politics, but rather, was earlier in her life on a confident trajectory to become a ballet dancer, an actress and a singer, the “next Lena Horne,” if you will. 

Also, think of her as a profoundly devoted public servant who was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., (not in Akron where she grew up) with a Godfather from Nigeria, friends in Ghana and a ferocious desire to travel the African continent she holds exceedingly dear as her beloved ancestral home.

The full interview of each member will appear each week in the Call & Post Newspaper, with intriguing excerpts posted here in Onumba.com that week, and then the full interview the week after.

All told, expect a landfill of information from this.

Rep. Heard’s ‘one-on-one with Ike Mgbatogu’ is on this week’s Call & Post issue.

Now, having said all that, it is quite possible there are some folks (and there’s no rosy way to say this) who may be totally oblivious to all of this, or may not even know who their representative are, or perhaps belong to a phalanx of the politically aloof crowd who take the work of these legislators for granted. 

But just so all of you know, the 15 members of the OLBC are collectively, without a doubt, the loudest and most effective voice of the Black community in Ohio government.  With a commendable mix of diligence and vigor, they form a plexus of relentless bulwark and cathead of minority vigilance fighting back a tide of legislative proposals they believe to be hostile and baneful to the interest of the Black community. 

In short, without this covey of folks, African-Americans could be the first to be “run over” by that proverbial “bus” that tough talking Kasich talked about shortly after he took office.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2011 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group.

 

Editor's Choice , Featured , Politics , State of Ohio

Woman’s passion for African culture builds bridges, promotes knowledge

By , February 18, 2011 | 4:21 am | 0 Comment

Woman’s passion for African culture builds bridges, promotes knowledge

ONUMBA.COM – Anita M. Diop is an African– American born and raised in America.  But she has a unique way of describing herself:  “I’m an African born in America.”

That uncommon Africentric, Pan Africanist portrayal of herself speaks volume about a woman who is ferocious when it comes to her passion for African people and culture. 

For starters, Diop is married to an African immigrant from Senegal.  Her college education focused entirely on Africa.  First, was a Bachelor’s Degree in Africana Studies and Speech Communications, followed by a Master’s Degree in African History, with a specialization in Arts and Culture, all from Wayne State University, Detroit.

“I love myself and I love my people,” she told the Call & Post in an interview last week.

And that’s not an empty cliché, either.

Indeed, Diop is profusely involved in a smorgasbord of activities which expresses that love.

She is the founder and executive director of the African Roots and Heritage Festival, a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization she established in 2008 out of the remnants of a startup group called the Black Cultural Festival she formed the year before. 

The group’s mantra is:  “Celebrating Our Heritage, while Confronting the Challenges” of being Black in America.  Its mission, as noted in its website, www.africanrootsandheritagefestival.org, is to promote African culture, arts, the unity of all African people, under the umbrella philosophy of pan-Africanism.

It does that in a number of ways, including hosting cultural programs and festivals, providing workshops, seminars, photo and art exhibits, film festivals, dance, music and special events.

The group is currently planning a big cultural festival for July 16 and 17, at Franklin Park, 1777 East Broad Street.

Aside from holding cultural events, the group’s other big focus is promoting the value of education among young folks.

Diop explained why. 

“We strongly believe that creating forums for youth to develop, express, and enhance their talent is a great deterrent against negative social patterns and behavior,” said Diop.  “We strive as a  model for becoming productive citizens in our community.”

Recently, her group announced the Anita M. Diop Scholarship of Excellence award for high school graduating seniors and college freshman students.

Eligible students can start applying now for a chance to win a minimum of $500.  Application form is available through the group’s website.  Contestants must be Columbus area high school graduates in 2011 or entering as a freshman in a trade, or vocational school, college or university to qualify. 

Those who qualify must submit their application with a two-page essay due by the April 15 deadline.  The essay should be submitted to: africanrootsandheritagefestival@yahoo.com.  It should focus on the theme of the contest, “Living the American Dream as an African American or African in America.” 

In the composition, students are required to discuss their roadmap for how they plan to achieve the American dream, said Diop.

Successful applicants will be announced on or after May 15th. 

As though she is not already involved in enough projects, Diop is also the Ohio Representative for the 6th Regional Diaspora Caucus for the African Union, a cabal that represents all African people born outside of the motherland.

As for how you can help with the festival, Diop said that her group is still accepting speakers, vendors, entertainers and contributor’s to the scholarship of excellence fund through PayPal.

For more information, contact the African Roots and Heritage Festival, at: 614.321.6390 or 614.390.8864.  The group’s email address is:  amdiop@africanrootsandheritagefestival.org

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Commentary , Featured

Columbus teen formed group to help homeless veterans

By , February 9, 2011 | 4:59 am | 0 Comment

Columbus teen formed group to help homeless veterans
ONUMBA.COM – Davante Goins is only 15-years old.  But he is not your typical 15-year old. 

Goins is a 10th grade sophomore at Mifflin High School.  When you talk to him, he sounds every bit like a teenager.  And he probably does many of the same things folks his age do.

But Goins, notwithstanding his youthful age, is a young man on a mission:  to help homeless veterans.

Referred by the officials of the Columbus School District, the Call & Post called Goins up last week to find out the kind of things he is up to these days.

He is up to a lot.  

Goins told the Call & Post he was looking forward to a big meeting on his calendar with the officials of the Columbus Veterans Affairs.  There, he would discuss his plan to help homeless veterans. 

NBC4 TV has featured his story.  He has had meetings with the Columbus City Council and other government leaders to share his plans for helping homeless veterans. 

And those plans tell the story of a focused young man with a noble goal.

Goins is the chief executive director of ‘Operation Shelter 4 Homeless Veterans,’ an organization he established to help place homeless veterans in ‘transitional homes.’

The group’s website, ‘operation4homelessveterans.org,’ says its mission is “to get homeless veterans off the streets of Columbus, Ohio.”   A huge part of that, said Goins, is to refurbish “vacant and abandoned properties, to be remodeled into transition homes for the homeless veterans to reside in.”

“We want to clean up Columbus and get homeless veterans off the street,” he told the Call & Post.  He pointed to the “5,700” abandoned and vacant homes in Columbus that could be converted into homes to house homeless veterans.  And “the number is still growing,” he said. 

His goal is to repair these homes for homeless veterans.

But Goins knows none of this would be easy.

That’s why he said his group will “take it step by step, day by day” to accomplish his goal of finding transitional homes and “get them [veterans’ into these homes.”

“Everybody has a story to tell like Ted Williams,” said Goins, referring to the remarkable saga of a once Columbus homeless man whose velvety voice became his ticket to fame and opportunities.

“It’s criminal for veterans to be homeless in the United States,” he said. 

If anything is more criminal, for Goins, it is allowing these abandoned and vacant homes to crumble to waste while the city’s homeless veterans dwell under highway bridges in an unconscionable squalor.

Goins, who plans to attend Law School, possibly at Georgetown University, said the inspiration to launch the project came from his grandfather.

He shared the glum stories his grandmother told him about his grandfather who returned from Vietnam War to shabby treatment and scorn.

That inspired me to start this project, said Goins, whose favorite movie is “Lean on Me.”  If all goes well, homeless veterans in Columbus will probably be doing just that.  “It’s a way “to put service above myself,” he said.

“I have the opportunity to give back to the community,” said Goins.

He is seeking funding for his project and plans to pitch his mission to media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, and First Lady Michelle Obama, who frequently speaks out on behalf of homeless veterans across the country.

Goins assembled a six-member board to work with him.  They are Howard Williams, Director of Housing; Michael Watkins, Director of Veterans Affairs; Brandi Martin, Director of Community and Public Affairs; Mike Meyer, Chief Director of Operations; Denise Johnson, Director of Legal Affairs, and Larry Farley, Director of Education.

Davante Goins and ‘operation4homelessveterans.org can be reached at:  614-589-7084.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Commentary , Featured

Pony up Halliburton: Oil giant to pay Nigeria $35 million to settle bribery case

By , January 23, 2011 | 7:08 am | 0 Comment

Pony up Halliburton:  Oil giant to pay Nigeria $35 million to settle bribery case

ONUMBA.COM – When Nigeria filed a lawsuit on December 7 against former U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and oil company Halliburton, some probably dismissed the move as an ostentatious pursuit of the impossible.

Well – it wasn’t.    

Rather, it was pay-up time. 

Halliburton has agreed to pay the West African nation the sum of $35 million to settle a bribery scandal which Nigerian officials said occurred when Cheney was the Chief Executive Officer of Halliburton.

Cheney, 69, and ailing, was with the company before being elected vice-president of the United States under President George W. Bush in 2000.

Nigeria accepted the deal even though a settlement of $250 million was sought.

By accepting the deal, Nigeria agreed to rescind the lawsuit and all charges filed against Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) and all entities and persons named in the case. 

This saga escalated after Nigeria’s anti graft agency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, deepened its investigation of Halliburton activities in the country, probing Cheney’s role in the bribery scandal.       

Cheney, arguably the most powerful vice-president in the history of the United States, was the leader of Halliburton when a suspicious gas plant popped up in the Delta region of Southern Nigeria, prompting questions by Nigerian officials over whether Cheney and other Halliburton officials paid Nigerian government officials $180 million in “cash for contract” bribery to secure $6 billion contracts for the construction of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

Nigeria’s lawsuit probably piggy-backed on a pair of investigations in the U.S where federal agencies brought similar charges against Halliburton which later negotiated a combined settlement of $579 million.

Nigeria is one of the world’s major oil producers, but because of massive level of corruption and mismanagement, the country is ravaging deep in squalor, its citizens toiling in apocalyptic despair and bone-crushing poverty. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Commentary , Featured , Immigrant Community , Uncategorized

Columbus man is seeking to lead warring Somalia

By , December 5, 2010 | 2:29 am | 0 Comment

Columbus man is seeking to lead warring Somalia

ONUMBA.COM – Mahatma Ghandi’s words that we should be the “change we want to see in the world,” is probably no more than just a lofty cliché for a lot of people.

But for one Columbus resident, it has become much more than that. 

It’s also a call to action.

Abdulkadir “Fish” Ali said that it’s time to rescue his war-battered homeland from the mean-spirited grip of politicians he characterized as “inhumane, unwise and heartless.”  These folks, he said, have for years fanned the flame of a vicious conflict that has brought Somalia to its knees. 

Yet, through it all, Ali, like other Somalis, paced the sideline with hands folded as their troubled homeland ravaged in deepening squalor.

But that was then.

In an interview last week, the 52-year old Ali told the Call & Post that he has seen enough.

“I came to the conclusion that I can no more be an indifferent spectator of the calamity that has befallen on my beloved country of Somalia,” said Ali.  That conflict has shredded Somalia into rubbles of despair, leaving its hapless citizens dangling in endless brutal hostilities, which started in 1991 after the collapse of Siad Barre’s government. 

Ali, who was the Chairman of the Somali Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, announced last week that he is a candidate for president of Somalia in the upcoming 2011 election under the mantra:  “2011 New Hope for Somalia.”   

He described the existing political arrangements and behavior of current crop of Somali politicians as “unacceptable.”

Most Somalis would certainly agree with that assessment.  The East African nation is currently ripping itself apart in a conflict that has robbed it of an effective government for nearly 20 years. 

What’s worse, there appears to be no end to the anarchy in sight.

In the Diaspora, war-fatigued Somalis residing in the United States and elsewhere pray for a leader capable of rescuing their torn-up homeland from lawlessness to make room for peace and stability. 

But they are clinging on to very little hope that it would happen.

Ali, though frustrated, remains optimistic.

 ”I am not one of those who gave up hope on Somalia, because I love my people and I love my country,” he said.  “I believe our good days are ahead of us, all we need is to make the right choice this time around.”

That right choice is his candidacy.  “I have a plan,” he said.

The linchpin of that plan is to “restore our statehood and rebuild our country,” he said, promising “to build a strong Somali army” to rid the nation of meddlesome foreign forces. 

Ali vowed to “stop and eliminate the senseless bloodshed.”

“It is very painful,” he said, decrying the mindless destruction playing out in Somalia today.

A major part of the country’s woes, said Ali, is caused by the current Somali leader Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.  In his eyes, Ahmed is simply not up to the job of delivering peace and stability to the country.

However, Ali wasn’t always against Ahmed. 

When Ahmed visited Columbus in 2009, Ali wholeheartedly supported him.  He even gave an inspiring speech at Ahmed’s welcoming clambake held at Villa Milano where he expressed the view that “he is our best chance to lead Somalia to peace and stability.”

Well, Ahmed is yet to do that, and Ali now doesn’t think he is going to.

“It’s time for a new leadership,” he said, promising to run a government rooted in “honesty, integrity and accountability.”

“We cannot wait for another 20 years for something to happen,” he said.  “We want to take back our country from corrupt politicians.”

Asked why he turned against President Ahmed, Ali replied, “Reality.  The president had enough time to show leadership, but he has not.”

As for why he supported Ahmed before, Ali said it was largely because of his background, alluding to the fact that Ahmed was part of the Islamic Court regime that was generally lauded for ruling Mogadishu “peacefully.”

“We thought he would show leadership,” said Ali.

But Ali’s candidacy may run into a hurdle from the fact that the United States and the international community are reportedly rooting for Somalia’s current regime to succeed.  It remains unclear whether such support will translate into a policy to have Ahmed remain as president. 

Either way, Ali is forging ahead believing that, “The U.S. is supporting the wrong leadership in Mogadishu.”  Despite all that support, the government is still unable to fend off its formidable foe, al-Shabaab, which reportedly has ties to al-Qaeda.

Currently, Somalia is ungovernable.  A mix of sustained hostilities and sporadic flare-ups has engulfed the impoverished Muslim nation, forcing thousands to flee to neighboring countries, the United States and elsewhere.

At the height of Somali conflict, a stampede of warlords scrimmaging for power littered the scene of a ruptured country carved up into hostile clan-based fiefdoms.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Editor's Choice , Featured , Immigrant Community , People , Politics

Quit complaining about the Somalis, get involved

By , August 25, 2010 | 1:53 am | 2 Comments

Quit complaining about the Somalis, get involved

Onumba.com — Pouting, whining, caterwauling, kvetching and scowling all over the place with long faces isn’t the solution.  It won’t help non-Somali African immigrants in Columbus get through the doors of government opportunities.

Understand one thing, please:  ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease.’   And that’s pretty much what’s playing out here.

Of course, it is abundantly clear, unless one has been camping out in a cave, that the Somalis, for what it is worth, are soaking up all the oxygen of attention from governments and community groups compared to other African immigrant communities?

But why?

For one thing, a stampede of them arrived here as hapless refugees needing a smorgasbord of government assistance to settle in a strange land.

But let’s be clear, that’s hardly the only reason.  Part of it, I think, is also that Somali groups have for years labored in the trenches of social activism capitalizing on a plethora of issues in their community as a springboard to engage the political process and chummy up with local politicians.  Many of them have been able to articulate their once scattered orb into viable, focused and visible pockets of communal advocacy now being championed by a rash of pushy cabals constantly dangling their pain before swooning government officials.

But in contrast, other African communities, especially West African communities, have not been able to match the Somalis in this fundamental regard.  Yet, many refugees also arrived from Sierra Leone, Liberia and other places, and very much like the Somalis are also facing a catalogue of difficult challenges.

To be fair though, it is not as though West Africans are a bevy of clueless naifs wallowing in their lack of desire to form groups.  No – they form groups, too.

But the question is, to what ends?

Seemingly, the kind of associations emerging out of West African immigrant communities often take the form of esoteric social clubs, the kind we have back home, that cater only to the interests of their uppity members.  Far too often, the leaders of these groups are quite boffo at promoting dancehall shindigs than the interest of their community before government officials, which in a way, easily explains why they are blasé about the communal ululations tormenting the poor in their communities.

True, not all West African organizations are woeful culprits, but far too many of them suffer from this contagious prodrome.  Much of it, I think, is because some of these groups sprouted out of a restless and cavorting phalanx of elitist leaning folks united in their phalangeal seclusion from the concerns of the puisnes among them.

That’s why, these inchoate camarillas are inherently not agents of community mitzvah.

How often do you see a West African organization representative before a committee of the city council or the Franklin County Board of Commissioners trumpeting community issues?

The fact is, West African groups have a woeful track record regarding this.   But in contrast, Somalis do it all the time.

To be clear though, I’m not knocking non-activist groups.  It’s OK to form groups allowing restricted membership, by a swashing bunch craving uppity hobnobbing with no interest in social activism.  It is entirely OK.  But if that’s how you want it, then for heaven’s sake, get off the back of the Somalis if you are unwilling to get involved in community work. You just can’t have it both ways.

West African hoipolloi, many of them toiling in dual jobs as nursing aides, babysitters, store cashiers, factory workers, and restaurant factotums, constantly grumble about their plight being ignored by government leaders they say often cater to Somalis’ every tantrum.

Some have questioned the veracity of this claim.  But those making it uncompromisingly believe that the Somalis are lopsidedly being coshered with love while  they receive shabby treatment.

To resolve this indaba here would amount to a lofty orb, and I won’t even try.  Yet if there’s any dram of truth to this raging claim, then a hefty dose of the blame should be dumped right at the doorstep of those tone-deaf government officials who for some nutty reason just would not quit treating the Somalis as though they are non-Africans.  It only deepens the rift.

But having said all of that, constantly being on a rampage caviling, brickbating and begrudging the Somalis won’t help.  It is a copout.

What to do?

Quickly get off the dead horse and mount the farm cart of social advocacy, instead.  While on the wagon, swiftly purge the old, stale, lethargic order by organizing and pushing to reform and refocus these hedonistic and feckless West African cabals littered all over the city for a noble role in social activism.  That is essentially how the Somalis have been able to establish a noteworthy presence deep in central Ohio’s political scene.

One gallant effort to form an activist West African organization took place a couple of years ago, but the group, which was called African Women Empowerment Network (AWEN), despite the initial euphoria touting all the great things it wanted to do for the community, limped through a tide of debilitating hurdles before it ultimately died on the vine for lack of support from both the government and the community it was swooning to help.

But truth be told, that wasn’t really the only reason it collapsed.  It was also because its founders failed to sustain their initial gusto and commitment to the project.  And that’s not too far from the linchpin of all this, which is that folks in the West African communities often prefer to tackle their issues solo and outside of the integrated communal solutions.  Yet while communal spirit is also evident in these communities, the problem is that narcissistic socializing often trumps the noble idea of being ‘my brother’s keeper.’

Many of them regard being involved in community work as fundamentally counterproductive, a mindset rooted in the recognition that having superior college education, skills, experience, and deeper connectedness to the system are enough to assure them desired economic sufficiency.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus. He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com.

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