This is a reaction to Mr. Paul Adujie’s essay, Africans: The Way The World Works. As usual, Mr. Adujie writes with style and brilliance. And more than most Nigerian public intellectuals, his love for the country is unwavering. In addition, his understanding of the country and of the continent’s problems is superb. Consequently, I usually do not disagree with his pronouncements. On this occasion however, I must register my dissent. I do so because I believe that Paul’s thesis and pronouncements in the aforementioned article is incomplete. And perhaps, one sided.
Yes, it is true that some of the problems facing Africa, and especially Nigeria, have their root in the slavery and colonial era. But for how long must Africans keep playing victim? And indeed, “In as much as I agree that slavery, exploitation, and colonialism in all its forms is evil, inhumane, sinful and injurious — we have had time to correct some of the imbalances and injustices; we have had time to map our future and our destiny; we’ve had time to climb the highest mountains.” We use slavery and colonialism as a cop-out. We blame the West for everything real and imagined that has ever happened to the continent and her people. This must stop!
Africa’s underdevelopment and continued problems can be attributed to several factors; however, the most telling of the contributing factors is leadership. Africa, and especially Nigeria, has an acute case of bad leadership.
Most African leaders are functional illiterates who have no concept of how things work. Their behavior and pronouncements give the world reasons to laugh at us.
Our leaders have poor judgment and make bad decisions: they go around the world with their heads bowed currying favors; they go from one corner of the world to the other, with cap in hand, begging for financial crumbs. Africa has been a collection of beggar nation states right from the early years of political independence.
At every turn we Africans seize the opportunity to destroy our own continent. And when we can’t do it alone, we invite outsiders to join us in the rampage. We steal and or encourage others to loot our resources. Collectively, Africans have problems with self-esteem; we look Westward for salvation. We look to the Americans and the British and the French and the Germans and others to save us from all iniquities.
Imagine this: the African elites steal from their own people and then take the money to European, Asian and American banks. These banks in turn return the money in the form of loans that comes with injurious interest rate. The consequence of this is that every child, now and into the foreseeable future, is indebted to Western financial institutions.
From Kenya to Gambia and from Ethiopia to Nigeria, the vast majority of our elites have homes and economic interest in the West. There are several Nigerian ex-this and ex-that with palatial homes in places like Houston, Chicago and Atlanta and the Los Angeles area. There are former Ministers of this and former Ministers of that with fat back accounts. We have ex-ambassador and current Ambassadors with ill-gotten financial portfolios in the US and elsewhere. Thieves, all! Vagabonds, all! Stealers of hope and dream they all are!
Now, tell me: how many American officials do you see leave their post to junket all over Africa? How many American, British, Canadian or German government official have homes and bank accounts in Nigeria, Ghana or Mali? Day after day, week after week and month after month African public officials make it to the US, the UK and other places for vacation and medical treatment. They bastardize Nigerian universities and colleges yet send their own kids and immediate relatives to schools in the US.
Are the neurosis and corruption and waywardness on the part of the African elites fallout from slavery and colonialism? Rare is the high-ranking public servant who is not a thief.
The children and the immediate family members of corrupt Nigerian officials living in the US and other parts of the West who benefits from these corrupt practices must know that their father or mother or uncle or aunt is nothing but a thief. A thief, a duplicitous swine and a lowlife scoundrel! Your benefactors stole from the public coffers so you may benefit, while the average Nigerian suffers.
African leaders can’t seem to get anything right. They can’t effectively run an army, a fire service, or even a primary school. Heck, they can’t even effectively manage an airport, a bank, or a market of any sort. They have no concept of town and city planning and so the continent is about ninety-five percent slums and ghettoes with open gutters and refuse dumps everywhere. For instance it is not uncommon to find dead dogs and cats and even human cadaver on Nigerian streets…slowly decaying and unattended for weeks.
Look around the continent and you will be greatly tasked to find half-a-dozen first-rate leaders fifty years since independence. Yes, half a century is a short time in the life of a nation and for a nation to truly develop; but show me, excluding South Africa, one African country that is on its way to economic growth and development.
Show me four countries with strong political institutions. Show me four countries where it is safe to walk at night. Show me four countries where they have quality education and quality healthcare infrastructure and delivery. Show me four countries where the educated citizens are not in a haste to migrate to the West. Show me four countries without pervasive hunger and hopelessness. Show me four African countries where life is good and prosperous — just four in a continent of fifty-two or so nation states.
We have political leaders that are truly bad. These so called leaders have no common sense and lacks good sense. They have no redeeming values. They have no vision and lack good character. In an ideal society, the vast majority of these so-called leaders wouldn’t be entrusted with the management of a high school or a community college; yet, in Africa, they become state governors and ministers, and ambassadors and presidents.
Of course we both can argue, intellectually, that Africa is making progress. We both can make the argument that a wind of change is blowing across the continent, that there is progress here and there. That’s fine. But I would suggest vigorously that the steps the continent is taking are too slow and too little and in most case, too cosmetic.
The West did not force Babangida and Abacha and Shagari and Obasanjo to mess Nigeria up. The West did not force the malevolent in Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Gambia, Congo, and Rwanda and in Zimbabwe to engage in assassinations and the curtailing of human rights; the West did not force the maleficent in Madagascar, Eritrea, and Sudan to engage in human right abuses.
As bad as the leadership is, these crooks did not commit the atrocities all by themselves. Generation of crooked civilians and military officers assisted in bastardizing the continent. And while the public looting and mismanagement was going on people like you and me and our friends and family members either joined in ruining the continent, or we simply turned blind eyes to all that was going on.
And now that we have a continent that is awash in utter poverty — due in large measure to our own mismanagement — we blame the West. The case of Nigeria is simply pitiful. Pitiful, painful and tear inducing! This is a country with far more human and natural resources than most European and Asian countries; yet, she wallows in debt, paucity, and cancer-causing environment. It is impossible to look at that country, that potentially great country, and not cry.
Corrupt practices are a given. In the five or so years since President Olusegun Obasanjo has been at the helm of state, how many men and women has been arrested, prosecuted and sentenced for corruption other forms of illegalities? Obasanjo’s fight against corruption is a joke. And we all know it is!
I am in no way contending that the Global North does not have a hand in Africa’s underdevelopment. The West is full of men and women who are bent on subjugating Africa. And the Western Capitals would probably want nothing more than the continued exploitation of Africans and their raw material and mineral resources. They get cheap oil, cheap cocoa and rubber, cheap diamond and gold, and cheap labor and cheap everything. Everything that comes out of Africa has a price — prices set by the Western world. But everything that comes out of the West is set at “market value…fair market price.”
But to suggest or to blame the West for all that ills the continent is simply not fair and correct. Africans have a hand in the destruction of their own land. Colonialism and slavery (alone) is not responsible for Africa’s woes. And so Africans must take responsibility for their own lives and not leave their destiny in the hands of outsiders; and they must always remember that the vast majority of their leaders have been colossal failures. And thieves!