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An African rereading of American constitutional history

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Jimanze Ego-Alowes


Even more than the Kashmir region in Indo-Pakistan, History remains a fiercely contested territory. Historical orthodoxies last only as they can be sustained. Unlike the contestations between India and Pakistan, the historical revisionist order does not call for muscles or threats.Only the unearthing of new data or logic is sufficient.

If successful, these new facts or perspectives may not only shade new light on old certainties, but might end up overthrowing them. Thus a successful historical revision of a historical process need only furnish new data or more convincing logic. Sometimes the evolution of historical processes conspires to affirm the new interpretations.

This much seems to be what has happened to aspects of American constitutional history. In a bold and path-breaking book, Jimanze Ego-Alowes, a Nigerian historical scholar has successfully, as far as one was taught, seen America in new light. Ego-Alowes’ theses are fresh and inviting but more interestingly are confirmed by recent developments as he points out. In other words, Ego-Alowes has been able to explain the rise of the United Arab Emirates, UAE/Dubai as an American-style historical experience under the desert sun. And to the extent it is logic that counts, Ego-Alowes’ thesis remains impeccable.

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These groundbreaking historical and developmental ideas are contained in his latest book, The University-Media Complex: As Nigeria’s Foremost Amusement Center. The book is available, but the author already described as one of Africa’s leading thinkers has uploaded an excerpts of the book in his website, africanomics.org.

Interestingly, the excerpt comes with the addendum that covers the UAE/Dubai development miracle in America terms, as it were.In his book, The University-Media Complex, Ego-Alowes rereads the making of American constitution and building of its ship of state. It is a large and complex argument but it reads smoothly and agreeably.

Its central argument is that the wet-nursing of organic minority parties/zones/persons or powers by the majorities is the only key to building a stable political order. And that this order is the first rule and ground rule and minimum necessary condition to having economic development. By recourse to the statistics as at the time of the founding of America, Ego-Alowe is able to establish that America observed this insurance, as he calls it. Interestingly, he posits – in an addendum – that this arrangement, more than leadership, explains the miracle of Dubai as it did America.

It is an astonishingly innovative work. And deserves a close reading by scholars and the general public. Our redemption as a nation may lie in understanding what Ego-Alowes is saying.It may then be safe to say the following. The British/United Kingdom heritage colonials’ component/population of emergent America stood at 60 per cent, as they had a sub-population of the total states taken together. However, it was clear that to help build America, they gave up on the right or privilege of counting heads, a procedure that would have given them unfettered majority (60 per cent Senate) dominance.

They gave up on the right of counting heads because that would have destroyed or undermined a (prospectively great and mighty) shared future. As history has witnessed, it is a future of boundless potential realised.However, America’s founding fathers rather went for an arrangement that required that they shed electoral weights and donate those weights to the other ethnics, who, roughly, constituted 40 per cent of the population. This sleight of making 40 per cent = 60 per cent is one of the greatest constructional feats in human history, and it is very important, despite it being largely un-narrated. It is to pre-empt ourselves, one of the greatest insurance premiums ever paid by man or group.

To simplify, the American Founding Fathers conceded things to save and empower themselves and their futures. As Ortega rhapsodised, they became generous (but not quite). We hold that the American Founding Fathers were imaginatively self-serving or better still, all-serving.(The only way to serve yourself most times is to serve all. “There is never victory for one. There can only be a victory for all,” says Mother A’Endu). Insightfully, their share in and or of this “all” is still the greatest. In other words, they invested a cent today to share in a forever-growing stream of dollars tomorrow.

That American genius arrangement may thus be characterised as follows: The American Founding Fathers, in constructing their new ship of state, took to ballasting the weak in numbers, so that all the numbers may be the strongest they could be, severally and collectively. This rite of rationally constructing a ship of state that is storms-weathering is unparalleled, as much as we know, before America.

Therefore, if America works, it is due to concessions, insurance premiums against unpredictable futures. And the strength in numbers of them did this by co-sharing with the weak as co-equals. That is, to bring in the weak in numbers, the dominant British extraction colonials elected or agreed to tend towards consensus rather than towards mere democratic numerical count. Granting each state unit, regardless of population, common senatorial equality, was a form or muted form of consensus voting. In engineering terms, it is a form of ballasting the parts to save the whole (we repeat).

It will serve well to recall that this generosity of the American Founding Fathers even extended to other newcomer states which wanted to join the then thirteen-member union. They were each and separately not to suffer any handicaps for so joining. It is in part the same line of anti-monarchist sense of the largeness of heart. It canvases and captures the sacrifices that the Igbo demand, because echi ebuka, the future is the biggest farmland and harvest. In other words, let us not be greedy over the smallness of today because tomorrow is the biggest harvest.

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To summarize: What happened is by default, following nature rather than articulation. The colonies that were to bind together as the new American nation would have had on the average and by default, about 60 per cent of the founding states bearing dominant English/United Kingdom heritage/descent population majorities. And the rest 40 per cent would have been dominated on average, separately, by any of the other founding sub-nations: the Germans, the Dutch, the French, etc.

This is on the basis of the sub-nations, by default or reflexively, gathering together, more or less, to the same geographical space, which happened to be states. And the 60=40 per cent states dominance ratio is rational, since the movements were not guided. They were largely random. Thus the averages are as figures suggest, likely to be.

In other words, we can say as follows. The concessions of equality of states in the senate is more a concession to a (dominant) people inhabiting a space, which happens to be or is designated a state. It is not a concession made to a space, some geography, say a state, inhabited by peoples. That is, American Founding Fathers worked with [human] nature, as it manifests, even while wanting to transform her.

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Jimanze Ego-Alowes
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