Africa: A Chequered Past and a Damned Future?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth…” (Ben Okri).

Is Africa doomed? Take a historical journey into the past one hundred years and tell me what you see, or part the veil of the future and tell me what you see. There is nothing in our past that presages human and economic development, political prosperity, security and stability and an endearing role within the global community. Ours is a continent with a chequered, unsettling past and a future that holds no promise. Ours is a continent that is about to be forgotten by time.

Africa is a continent that is characterized by tyrannical and repressive rule; ours is a continent that is characterized by military coups d’etat and political instability; ours is a continent that is characterized by gross and institutional corruption; ours is a continent famous for violent ethnic and religious conflicts and wars. From Algeria to Kenya, from Senegal to the Sudan and down south to Southern African, the situation is the same: a land famous for extreme general poverty and squalid environmental conditions.

By the way: what has Africa given to the world in terms of science and technology? What contribution have we made in the areas of philosophy, economics, political theory and political thought? What invention have we bequeathed to the world? And if the African continent was to disappear from the face of the earth, would the world miss us? Would the world notice our absence?

It is correct to say slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism and the anarchical global system stunted Africa’s development. It is also correct to say that the aforesaid conditions made possible malfeasants like Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Joseph-Desire Mobutu, Macias Nguema, Idi Amin, and three-dozen others. And in very recent memory, we have had men like Babangida, Abacha and a dozen others. In the same vein it is also correct to say we have had ample to correct most of the imbalances brought about by the colonialists. But alas, we failed in our duties!

In the years since independence, our leaders have encouraged and engaged in corrupt practices, despotic rule, ethnic cleansing, and political assassination and also instituted hate and xenophobia and extreme nationalism. What is it about our milieu and our culture that produces such men? What is it about our culture and our worldview that allows us to tolerate such men? In the case of Nigeria, one of such men is warming up to ascend the throne come 2007. What a shame!

In the periods immediately following independence, hopes were high for newly independent African countries. The hope was that within two decades or thereabout Africa would be a land of peace and prosperity. After all, the ingredients for success were in abundance. But regrettably, this was not to be! The land was taken over primarily by men with evil intention who later unleashed all manner of wicked deeds on their own people and also colluded with foreign agents to milk the continent’s marrow. And they continue to do so!

Today, much of the world looks upon the continent and upon Africans as uncouth, uneducated, barbaric; and as a people incapable of managing their own affairs. Nigeria especially lends credence to such assumptions. Nigeria is a microcosm of what is wrong with the African continent. Four decades after independence, she is still in shambles. In spite of all her human and natural resources, she is still a beggar-nation. She is a beggar-nation because, amongst other factors, she has been ruled by a succession of mostly corrupt, rudderless, illiterate third-rate leaders. Nigeria is not alone here. Most African countries can not even manage their own affairs without guidance from Paris, Canberra, London, Lisbon, Brussels, Madrid or Berlin.

Most African countries will simply suffocate without economic aid from their colonial and neocolonial masters. In addition to being at the mercy of their colonial lords, most African countries are on America’s ventilators. How shameful it is that in our own countries the Europeans and Americans and others lord over us. And in their own countries they lord over us. Any wonder then that they have no respect for Africa and Africans?

What does the future portend for Africa and Africans? Well, there is no mystery to the answer. We don’t need a clairvoyant to tell and warn us of our future. We don’t! We don’t because the future is here. Now and for the next five decades at least Africa’s lot is in the areas of violent ethnic and religious conflicts, parasitic corruption, legions of irresponsible and irresponsive political leaders, continued underdevelopment, resource wars, and apathetic and fatalistic populace. Moreover, Africa will continue to be the playground for religious and political fundamentalist — especially for proselytizing evangelists claiming to be doing God’s work when all they do is help fleece the continent of its natural resources.

Some hopefuls are pointing to Ghana, Senegal, Botswana, South Africa and a few others as the beacons of hope for Africa. They see in these emerging countries what is possible in Africa. They see in these countries what can be good about the continent. May be these hopefuls have a right to their positive disposition. May be! Even so, when one look at South Africa, one cannot help but wonder, “But for Nelson Mandela, where would that country have been today?” South Africa was saved only because Mandela came onto the stage at the right time. Imagine that country in 1990/94 and in the hands of a man with a different mentality and disposition. Who is to say Ghana has beaten the “instability bug”? All the aforementioned countries are on the edge of precipice. One false move and it is all over and then a return to the “old days and old ways.”

By heavens, I hope the hopefuls are right…so our suffering can turn into the wonders of the earth!

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Anonymous June 27, 2005 - 7:52 pm

The West was once like that. Europe did not get successful within a decade but almost century. Time will change for Africa, besides 45 years of Africa Independence is still a short period

Anonymous June 1, 2005 - 5:18 pm

What a moving piece! I am an African American woman and have had this discussion with my Nigerian man a few times and also with my friends, whom all just happen to also be from African countries. My view on this subject is somewhat close to the initial quote. I have and will always stand by my view that Africa is God's chosen continent. Why else would mankind begin there. True there are those evil people who stick out like a sore thumb and make it so very hard for so many people. But I look at it this way…Countries like mine, USA, are focusing so much on making money, and driving the best car with the largest house. We focus on making things smaller, making this larger, making that faster. We spend 14 hrs at work, 5,6 or even 7 days a week. We don't see our families, too tire to go to church. To independent to pray. I feel with out the corrupt people in Africa, it is a simple place. Like God wants it to be. People seem for focused on religion and raising a family the right way. Africans are God's chosen people. The rest of the world is in disarray, chaotic. Stay strong Africa, you're day will come. It may not be next year or next 20 years, but one day, one day you will see His face, and He will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servants." I say WELL DONE my African brothers and sisters, well done.


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