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Cablegate: The American Studies Association of Nigeria

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002980

SIPDIS


STATE FOR ECA/A/E/USS RTAYLOR,
ECA/A/E/AF AMARTIN, ECA/A/E VRELLI-
MOREAU, AF/PD, IIP/G/AF, INFO AF/W
LAGOS FOR PAS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SCUL OIIP NI
SUBJECT: THE AMERICAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA
CONDUCTS A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL ANNUAL CONFERENCE


Ref: A) SecState 102568; B) Ghebreab-Taylor E-mail of
5/9/02


1. Summary: The 9th annual conference of the American
Studies Association of Nigeria convened in Calabar,
July 9-12, 2002. "American Studies" specialists from
Nigerian federal, state, and private universities
compared U.S. and Nigerian laws pertaining to
ethnicity, citizenship, and democracy. This year's
meeting was extraordinary, primarily due to effective
planning. The conference attracted over 100
distinguished academics including the keynote speaker,
Dr. Adell Patton, Associate Professor of African
History and African Diaspora, University of Missouri
at St. Louis. Sixteen excellent academic papers
highlighting the theme of the conference in law,
literature, political science, and history were
presented. A roundtable discussion, the capstone of
the seminar, elicited lively and extensive discussions
on citizenship and human rights issues in the United
States and Nigeria.


In his presentation, Dr. Patton urged Nigeria to
"selectively borrow" democratic principles from the
U.S. experience so that the country could "leapfrog"
into the social and technological era of progress. He
also advocated a strong civic education program and
reconciliation among the various ethnic groups in
Nigeria. He provided his perspective on how the
various groups in the United Sates - a nation of
immigrants - have become inclusive and citizens within
the American nation. "But for Africa, ethnicity,
citizenship, and democracy will always be problematic
until the continent comes to grips with the nature of
its colonial experience. The legacy of the colonial
'Native Authority' and its customary law of tribalism
is still present in Africa under the guise of
patrimonialism," he said. Dr. Patton, who specializes
in Nigeria and has done extensive research and writing
on the country, also addressed academics and students
at the University of Jos, Ahmadu Bello University, the
University of Ibadan, and the University of Lagos.
This is a GPRA report. End Summary.


2. The American Studies Association of Nigeria
(ASAN), one of Nigeria's leading academic
associations, held its 2002 annual conference in
Calabar, July 9-11. The theme for the three-day
seminar was "Ethnicity, Citizenship, and Democracy in
the United States of America." Dr. Patton served as
the keynote speaker at the conference. Sixteen other
distinguished scholars also delivered very stimulating
papers on issues of ethnicity, citizenship, and
democracy in the U.S. and Nigeria.


3. Nigeria's democratization is facing serious
challenges, and this year's ASAN conference provided
an opportunity for American Studies specialists across
Nigeria to critically examine the current democratic
environment in the country drawing useful lessons from
the U.S. experience. In studying ethnicity,
citizenship and democracy in the U.S., what should
Nigeria selectively borrow, if anything, from the U.S.
system of laws? Dr.Patton made a number of useful
suggestions. To build a nation that is inclusive of
all groups, Professor Patton urged Nigerian leaders to
reconcile the legacy of the "Biafran Civil War" and
rebuild the East with federal funds as was done during
the post-Civil War era in the U.S. He also
recommended affirmative action programs to help
redress economic and social inequalities experienced
by the Nigerian minority groups against the "tyranny
of the majority." The issue of human rights in this
regard, he emphasized, becomes paramount and will give
universal respect to Nigeria.


4. To deal with the minority question of the Niger
Delta region, Dr. Patton also recommended the State of
Alaska formula of sharing oil profits. In the United
States, he said, people from Alaska are exempted from
paying taxes. The profit from the sale of oil after
production expenditures is shared and returned to the
people in the form of tax refunds. Professor Patton
further advocated the creation of a "Civil Rights
Commission" consisting of internal and external
members to report on the state of "unfreedoms" in the
State-Nation and need for Civil Rights legislation to
protect minority interests. To accommodate minority
interests, the Government of Nigeria should establish
a National Equal Opportunity Commission (NEOC) with
guidelines for equal employment opportunity based on
merit.


5. Dr. Patton also called for the teaching of civics
at the elementary and secondary school levels followed
by two semesters of Nigerian national history with
emphasis on reconciliation and pride in the nation.
Civics, he said, teaches about the founding fathers,
patriotism, ethics of behavior, and the need to have
respect for each other no matter what one's ethnic
background or religion, etc. The Federal Government
should be responsible for the education of citizens
within the nation - women, men, girls, and boys. Only
then, Professor Patton said, could citizenship within
the nation become a reality and ethnicity decline.


6. Considering the fragile experience of democracy in
Nigeria, American Studies specialists at the ASAN
conference were most interested in learning how groups
in the U.S. have become inclusive and citizens within
the American nation. Dr. Patton's participation
provided the desired direction and kept the discussion
on track. Recalling actions taken by President Truman
to achieve racial integration in the U.S., Professor
Patton told the conference participants that the
Truman Administration deserves credit for
strengthening citizenship and democracy, and de-
emphasizing ethnicity and racial identity in the
United States. President Truman, he said, invented
the phrase, "Civil Rights" and used it as a tool to
address the old problem of racial discrimination in
the U.S. Patton told the conference participants that
on December 5, 1946, President Truman did something
that no other president had done: He issued Executive
Order 9808, establishing the first Presidential Multi-
Racial Civil Rights Committee of 15 distinguished
citizens, whites and blacks. Through the work of this
Committee, in 1946 President Truman was able to
address the four basic rights: the right to safety and
security of persons; the right to citizenship and its
privileges; the right to freedom of conscience and
expression; and the right of equal opportunity against
de jure discrimination.


7. Dr. Patton also made several references to
President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" programs.
He argued that the "Civil Rights Act" of 1964, which
established the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), was an important reference in the
study of ethnicity and citizenship in the United
States. "While citizenship in the West was based on
rights and duties, the concept of citizenship in
Africa was based on colonial experiences. Colonialism
simply decentralized despotism, and democracy cannot
emerge until the segregated states from colonialism
are transformed," remarked Dr. Patton.


8. Professor Patton and the conference participants
criticized the Nigerian Constitution as "nothing less
than a tribal document." The ASAN conference observed
that whereas the U.S. Constitution guarantees full
citizenship to all Americans by making provisions that
enforce it, in Nigeria, constitutional aberrations
continue to promote ethnicity and "indigeneship"
across the country. Thus, the seminar advocated a
constitutional provision that would allow for
permanent residency for any Nigerian, irrespective of
ethnic or religious background, after six months of
stay in any community of one of the Nigerian states.


9. In addition to the conference, Dr. Patton
addressed academics and students at the University of
Jos, Ahmadu Bello University, the University of Ibadan
and the University of Lagos. Additionally, in Abuja,
he addressed senior staff of the Institute for Peace,
Research, and Conflict Resolution. In attendance at
the Abuja program were Ambassador Jeter, and the
Nigerian Minister for Integration and Cooperation in
Africa, Dr. Abimbola Ogunkelu. In Ibadan, Dr. Patton
participated in a roundtable discussion with members
of the Nigerian Society for Information, Arts, and
Culture (NSIAC). These extra program activities
arranged by both PAS Abuja and Lagos proved fortuitous
in our efforts to strengthen democracy in this
important country. The visit also helped us to reach
key players in the current democratic experience in
Nigeria with up-to-date information on how democracy
has continued to shape the destiny of the United
Sates.


10. GPRA Data:


Result/Impact: Outstanding. The selection of the
theme, ethnicity, citizenship, and democracy was
timely and appropriate. Through the able direction of
Dr. Patton, conference participants were able to
critically examine issues of ethnicity, citizenship,
and democracy within the Nigerian context. While the
American Studies specialists agreed that there are no
universal principles on citizenship, they also agreed
with Dr. Patton's suggestions regarding some useful
lessons for Nigeria from the U.S. model as defined by
the 14th Amendment of the American Constitution. The
attendance of Dr. Patton greatly enhanced the quality
of discussions at the conference.


Date: July 9-11, 2002, FY 2002, Fourth Quarter


MPP UMBRELLA THEMES: Strengthening Institutions that
Bear on the Understanding of the U.S.


AUDIENCE REACHED: Over 100 American Studies
specialists from federal, state and private
institutions attended the conference. Also in
attendance were senior administrators of the
University of Calabar including the Vice Chancellor,
Professor Ivara Esu, and Professor (Mrs.) Ebele Eko,
Deputy Vice Chancellor for academic matters. A
substantial number of graduate and undergraduate
students from the university were also present. Given
the level and quality of discussion at this
conference, we envision that these American Studies
specialists will expand the debate on ethnicity,
citizenship, and democracy with thousands of graduate
and undergraduate students during their classroom
lessons thereby reaching out to a significant number
of future Nigerian leaders. During his visit, Dr.
Patton addressed about 800 people.


NON-USG FUNDING: N/A


QUALITY OF U.S. SUPPORT: Excellent. Thanks to
ECA/A/E/USS for funding the conference and ECA/A/E/AF
for sponsoring Dr. Patton under the Fulbright
Specialist Program.


COMMENT: If success could be measured in terms of
growth, the American Studies Association of Nigeria
(ASAN) has done well indeed. Over the years, ASAN has
continued to attract the best of Nigerian scholars
into its fold. ASAN has over one thousand registered
faculty members who teach a wide range of courses on
American society and culture. The National
Universities Commission recently approved the
University of Jos diploma program in American Studies,
which was put on hold by the Abacha regime and shelved
for over 10 years. This is one of the many success
stories of ASAN activities on Nigerian campuses.
Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria will host the ASAN
2003 conference in February when the Association will
mark its 10th anniversary and has selected the theme,
"American Society Since the Four Freedoms." The
February conference will coincide with African
American History Month, and post hopes that
ECA/A/E/USS funds for the conference will be available
by November 2002 in order to facilitate a grant for
ASAN. ASAN has requested USD 25,000. PAS Nigeria
requests that ECA/A/E/USS provide enough funds to
support the program.


JETER

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