Friday Sermon: Matters Arising 2: The Great Escape

By Babatunde Jose


Many countries, especially those colonized escaped the cultural imperialism of the West: They rejected the imposed language and culture, but embraced the technology and knowhow of the Whiteman. They therefore, escaped being sentenced to a perpetual state of modern slavery. Among those that escaped are, India, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Dubai and the Gulf States of Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi; unfortunately we did not escape.


After the Korean War ended in 1953, and the US aid and help including subtle attempt at cultural imperialism, the Koreans still held on tenaciously to their language and culture. Today, Korean engineers have succeeded in building the world’s largest ocean-going cargo vessels that are capable of carrying more than 18000 containers each; built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd (DSME), one of the “Big Three” shipbuilders of South Korea (including Hyundai and Samsung). They are also the three biggest shipbuilders in the world. Yet, South Korea was nothing in the 50s and 60s. One of the Four Asian Tigers: The South Korean economy experienced rapid transformation called the ‘Miracle on the Han River’. Today, it is the world’s seventh largest advanced economy and fifth largest exporter. It is the world’s third least ignorant country. It has the world’s third highest health adjusted life expectancy and fourth most efficient healthcare system. It is the world’s largest spender on R&D per GDP: Leading the OECD in graduates in science and engineering. Home of Samsung, LG and Hyundai-Kia, it is the world’s most innovative country for 4 consecutive years since 2014. The world’s first country to fully transition to high-speed Internet and today has the world’s fastest Internet speed and highest Smartphone ownership, ranking first in ICT Development, e-Government and 4G LTE coverage.


Yet, it has not allowed religion to supplant its development: It has a majority Buddhist population and shamanism has survived: Now we know why such countries excel! They are not bogged down with fasting and prayer conventions: But hard work!

The case of Dubai is illustrative of an Islamic country that has refused to engage in spiritual hypocrisy. Today, less than 5% of the emirate’s revenue comes from oil. Dubai is a ‘miracle in the desert’. Its Western-style model of business drives its economy with the main revenues now coming from tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. At a time when our own Emirates are  planning on setting up Cattle ranches or Zangos and bent on dipping the Quran into the Atlantic Ocean, the city has become iconic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings (3rd in the world, 178); in particular Burj Khalifa, the tallest building and manmade structure in the world; it also contains the world’s highest mosque on the 158th floor (of 160), the world’s highest swimming pool, on the 76th floor, and the world’s highest viewing platform, on the 124th floor.


There are two major commercial ports in Dubai, Port Rashid and Jebel Ali; which is the world’s largest man-made harbor: When the father of the present ruler ordered the construction of the port, he was asked by his son why he was constructing a port in the desert. The father told him that water will come to the port: The Creek was eventually dredged and water came to the port which today is the biggest port in the Middle-East and 7th in the World.


In 2016, Dubai International Airport was the 3rd busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic handling 83.6 million passengers. And is also the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic.

Emirate Airline which started on March 25, 1985 with 2 leased aircrafts is today the proud flyer of the largest Wide-Body Fleet on Earth; Emirates ranks as the largest airline in the world by international seating capacity, according to the latest annual report by IATA. At the Farnborough Air Show in 2006, Emirates signed an agreement for 10 Boeing 747-8F in a deal worth $3.3 billion, and in 2007 Emirates signs contracts for 120 Airbus A350s, 11 Airbus A380s and 12 Boeing 777-300ERs, worth an estimated $34.9 billion, at the Dubai Air Show. Yet, here we are with a defunct national airline and still owing its staff their last salaries and pensions. There was a country!


Dubai as a city is not as wealthy as, New York or London. Dubai has no oil left, only 2% of its GDP is based on oil: But it has become a ‘miracle in the desert’. Dubai can only be described in the superlative degree of comparison. Burj Al Arab is the only “7-star” hotel in the world, and it is one of the most photographed monuments in the world.


The Palm Islands are the largest artificial islands in the world and one of the most ambitious developments on earth. Dubai Marina is the largest man-made marina in the world. Dubai Mall is the largest shopping center in the world by area: And attract more than 750,000 visitors every week. Dubai Fountain is the largest dancing fountain in the world. And it’s visible from space, making it the brightest spot in the Middle East.


Ski Dubai is a 22,500-square-meter indoor ski resort that offers the incredible opportunity to enjoy real snow in the desert all year round: And the largest indoor snow park in the world. Dubai Aquarium is the largest suspended aquarium in the world and provides unique views of 33,000 submarine animals behind the world’s largest acrylic viewing panel. The luxurious JW Marriott Marquis Dubai Hotel is the tallest hotel in the world. Incredibly developed in the middle of the desert, Dubai Miracle Garden is the largest natural flower garden in the world. It has entered the Guinness Book of Records with the world’s biggest flower clock. What do we have in comparison; except the largest gathering of ‘state robbers’ in the world?


With a population of more than 1.3 billion, it’s no surprise that India runs the largest national school system in the world. With more than 700,000 schools in operation: The Indian Constitution provides for free and compulsory education as a fundamental right to children between the ages of 6 and 14; all in local language. 80.5% of Indians are Hindu. Indians are very proud of their language and culture. They have one of the largest higher education systems in the world after China and the United State. Indian is a nuclear power and an industrial giant. Bangalore is India’s answer to Silicon Valley. Most of our banks and financial institutions operate on software developed in Bangalore. India is also the home of Tata, an industrial conglomerate. Religion is never on their ‘front burner’; though it sometimes assumes a crisis proportion.


As at February 2017, there were 789 universities and 37,204 colleges in China; which has turned out to become the factory of the world. In 2008, China had over 20 million enrolled in the universities and graduated more than 6 million students. It is instructive to note that China has 1 in 5 college students in the world. Majority of Chinese are Buddhist: And God created them too! But, they do not live on fasting and prayers.


According to research carried out by the World Economic Forum, Russia churns out 454,000 graduates in technology, engineering and construction, annually, with exception of India and China. And they learn in their mother tongue. Under Communist rule, all religion was suppressed; and Russia was still the first to send a man into space.


Most of these countries are not defined by religion, but by sound early education where children are taught in their mother tongues. A common thread that runs through them is that they are able to produce cheap skilled labour for the manufacturing industries. It is this abundant, skilled and cheap labour that attracts US manufacturers to China. It is also this skilled cheap labour that enables China and other Asian Tigers to compete favorably with the West.


Our leaders at independence had all the opportunities to set us on the road to development like the Asian and Chinese peoples. The self governing regional system we practiced then, gave the regions much powers to shape our lives the way they liked; seeing as it were that these regions had their own constitutions; and they had a free hand in deciding the education policy of their regions. But the leaders were not challenged like the leaders in many of these countries that escaped the Whiteman’s noose. People like Gandhi in India, Kwan Yew in Malaysia and General Park in South Korea, made sacrifices for their countries and set them on the road to self sustained development. If only leaders like Awolowo and Azikiwe had done more along the line of self sustained development we would not be where we are today. Rather, due to their selfishness and myopia, they were hell-bent on controlling the central administration and failed to follow in the footsteps of India, China and Singapore. Their inordinate competition for control resulted in the military seizing power; not to better our situation but to send us spinning into the abyss of backwardness and war. While General Park was laying the foundation for self sustained development of Korea and General Ayub Khan was doing the same in Pakistan, our ‘kamikaze military’ kleptomaniacs were busy lining their pockets with our common patrimony.


Today other countries are leaving us behind, including our Arab brothers who were nowhere near us even in the seventies; all because they are today able to master western technology in their own language. Today, the computer keyboard comes in various languages including Arabic, but no African language.


We are only content with accusing each other of religious and ethnic domination. We have nothing to write home about in terms of national achievement. We ape the Whiteman both in our imperfect language and nuances; while we attempt to be more Christian than Jesus and more Muslim than the ‘Guardian of the 2 Holy Mosques’. Like the proverbial bat, we are neither rat nor bird. Instead of exporting refined petroleum and other finished goods to the world, we are busy exporting Christianity to those that taught us about Jesus: Exporting coal to Newcastle! But there is hope. If only we can have a rethink and retrace our steps.

Who stole our God?


Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

Post Author: Eric Eric

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