In Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, there’s a newspaper called the Daily Trust and a weekly columnist named Idang Alibi.
Last Thursday, Alibi wrote an opinion piece with the headline “I Agree with Dr. Watson.” This refers to James D. Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist who embarrassed himself recently on the subject of race and intelligence.
Here’s some of what Idang Alibi wrote:
“I do not know what constitutes intelligence. ... But I do know that in terms of organising society for the benefit of the people living in it, we blacks have not shown any intelligence in that direction at all. I am so ashamed of this and sometimes feel that I ought to have belonged to another race.”
“Nigeria my dear country is a prime example of the inferiority of the black race when compared to other races. ... Is it intelligence that we cannot provide simple pipe-borne water for the people? Our public school system has virtually collapsed. Is that a sign of intelligence? Our roads are impassable. ... [W]e have no steady supply of electricity. ...”
“Anywhere in the world today where you have a concentration of black people among other races, the poorest, the least educated, the least achieving, and the most violent group among those races will be the blacks.”
“Look at the African continent. South Africa is the most developed country because of the presence of whites there. This may be an uncomfortable truth for many of us but it exists nevertheless.”
“Instead of regarding bitter truths expressed by the likes of Watson as a wake-up call for us to engage in sober reflection, we take to the expression of woolly sentiment. For me, this type of reaction is a further evidence of our unintelligence.”
“God himself must be frustrated with his black children. They must be an embarrassment to him.”
Toward the end of the column, Mr. Alibi makes a sort of turn:
“As I write this, I do so with great pains in my heart because I know that God has given intelligence in equal measure to all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin. The problem with us black people is that we have refused to use our intelligence to organise ourselves socially and politically.”
Since last Thursday, Mr. Alibi’s column has ricocheted across the internets. I first saw it on the white-nationalist site American Renaissance, where commenters are writing things like “it takes a brave man to utter truth”... “Here, indeed, is an honest man”... “Wow, some sobering words from this brave soul.”
At allAfrica.com, which reprinted Alibi’s essay, you’ll find differing viewpoints. Such as: “You, Idang Alibi, are another example of self hate! ... You need to study your history and get up off of your knees.”
A Nigerian blogger named “Dayo” has posted a paragraph-by-paragraph response to Alibi.
Now, I happen to believe that the measurability of cognitive skills and the heritability of cognitive skills are valid subjects for research and public discussion. But Idang Alibi’s column isn’t even about that. It’s about his own bone-chilling racial shame. Which made me curious to read more of his writing.
Who is Idang Alibi? Well, he presents himself as a devout Christian. (Nigeria is 50 percent Muslim, 40 percent Christian.) And he is notorious for writing inflammatory columns.
In 2002, Alibi wrote one titled “Ethiopia: An Embarrassment to Africa,”
which provoked online responses from all corners of the Ethiopian diaspora.
Discussing recurrent famines, Alibi asserted that “Ethiopian leaders and people are not thinking hard enough about how to solve their problems. And this is typical of us Africans, especially those of us in the homeland.”
“I know that all religions teach about charity or the need to be our brothers’ keeper,” he continued. “I am also aware that kindness does not only consist in giving money and food. In some circumstances..., the best gift may be ideas. And this is what I am offering to Ethiopians: wear your thinking cap, think hard and you will find a solution to your perennial hunger.
“Your plight has become a source of great shame and reproach to the rest of us.”
(Why Idang Alibi thinks the agricultural policies of Ethiopia reflect on him in Nigeria... that’s a mystery.)
In recent months, Alibi wrote a series of columns titled “Why Should I Love AIDS Victims?” On August 22, he put forth this modest proposal:
“If you ask my opinion about what needs to be done about the AIDS pandemic, my simple solution is let us begin a mandatory testing of everyone in our country. Any man, woman or child who is found to be [HIV-]positive should be isolated in camps until when a cure is found...”
(Many readers protested. The ombudswoman of the Daily Trust wrote that Alibi’s columns violated the Nigerian government’s declared policy of “ending stigma and discrimination” against people with AIDS.)
Add it all up, and it might be that Idang Alibi is simply a controversialist. He loves outraging people with his bluntness.
Or he could be one of the saddest human beings alive.