Africa’s Grand Illusions

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

I have just finished reading a mid-sized tome by Roel Van Der Veen: “What Went Wrong With Africa.” The book is not exactly a history text; it is more a contemporary account of why Africa is the way it is while other continents prospered; and about how globalization, lack of viable institutions and democracy and other factors have impacted the continent. In a nutshell, the book is mainly about why Africa is vastly underdeveloped. Put another way, it is about “why, despite the rising prosperity elsewhere in the world and widespread changes that took place on the continent itself, Africa failed to break free of poverty after gaining independence.”

How did a continent so rich in human and natural resources ended up being the most famished and underdeveloped of all continents? One need not look too far as corruption and brutality and stupidity is a common currency in the continent. After all, the history of modern Africa is mostly a history of excesses, gluttony, viciousness, and treacherous behavior on the part of the leaders and elite; and of indifference and cowardice on the part of the masses and the intellectuals — all of whom are exploited and enslaved by the Western powers and by the multinational corporations and their agents.

Africa is not atypical in any way. The fact is that everything that has ever happened in Africa has happened elsewhere; but while other continents are putting their house in order things are adrift in African: there is no linkage between the government and the people. What’s more, African leaders weakens and corrupt their own institutions; they manipulate the poor and the uneducated; they play sectional politics; they do not draw lines between public and private interests thereby illegally enriching themselves; they have no respect for human life and human dignity; and they rely on coercive agencies to do their biddings. All of the aforesaid have caused complete sorrow and compounded Africa’s problems.

As I read the book, I couldn’t help but wonder about all the development theories — dependency, modernization and a host of others — that made the rounds and continues to be talked about in the academy. But more than that, I couldn’t get Africa out of my mind. But then how do you think of Africa without thinking about Nigeria? After all, Nigeria is a microcosm of what is wrong with the African continent. 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 and functional illiterates. Nigeria is not alone here. And in fact, most African countries can not manage their own affairs without guidance from Paris, DC, London, Lisbon, Brussels, Madrid or Berlin.

These countries await guidance from their colonial masters. For instance, the Nigerian government is having “problem of governance and development” in the Niger Delta region. Instead of finding politically and socially just solution to the problem, she calls in the United States government. What’s the message here? What is the president of Nigeria telling the world about his mandate and commitment? There can be no military solution to the Niger Delta debacle. Obasanjo cannot bomb the region into submission. Never! The government does not have a monopoly of force and brutality. If he is not aware of this fact, or if he is in doubt or denial, he should ask the French and the Americans about Vietnam and about Iraq.

Empires have come and gone; burly nations have comes and gone; predatory states have come and gone, yet, the resolve of the people remained. Because Obasanjo and Nigeria will not change their attitude and faithfully address the legitimate grievances of Niger Deltans, the indigenes have resolved to see to it that Nigeria take her last breathe in the not so distant future. Utter ruin and complete disintegration awaits her at the end of the tunnel. Fact: the ongoing event in the Niger Delta is the beginning of what awaits Nigeria.

African countries beg to be acknowledged, to be recognized even when they lack legitimacy in the eyes and minds of their own people. They beg for crumbs in the form of foreign financial aid. And in this regard, leaders from the Francophone African countries are the worst: they act like poodles and or like little people who need direction to commence and complete even the tiniest of assignment. Common, does anyone really think Paul Biya, Omar Bongo or any of those French-speaking African goons are leaders in the true sense of the word? When I think of them I think of puppets, miserable little puppets.

Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritania, Angola, Madagascar, Lesotho, Uganda, Mali and Gambia and others all live off of foreign aid. Anyone with a modicum understanding of political-economy or development politics knows that aids are never given “on the basis of humanitarian or development considerations.” Foreign aid does not serve any real purpose. The little that eventually gets into any of the targeted countries doesn’t get to the intended beneficiaries. More often than not, it is the elite and government functionaries that pocket or squander the aid.

Foreign aid, I submit, are injurious to a country’s psyche; it promotes laziness and indolence and dependency tendencies. And over the long run, receiving countries become indebted to donor countries and in due course become an appendage to the donor countries. This is colonization all over again, folks. Or if you are more charitable, call it neocolonialism; but either way, Africans are selling their future again. Why isn’t anyone telling African leaders that the West, as a rule, does not give a dollar out of the goodness of their heart: they are capitalist countries and not charitable trusts! Capitalism is all about profit and self-interest and the exploitation of the weak.

Africa must set herself free from this forced, and in some cases, acquiesced slavery. If we must Rawlingnize the continent, well then, let’s do it. Otherwise, the best and the brightest amongst us should proffer solutions to our mammoth problems. Something needs to be done.

African leaders, with the exception of one or two, are bad. They are simply bad! And the intellectuals? Oh well, what can one say? Most are intellectuals by name only. They can not point to a brick they’ve lay in the house of knowledge. They are money-hungry and pseudoistic by nature. Only a few are genuine giants on whose shoulder some of us stand. And the traditional elites? Oh my goodness, they are nobody and nothing but thieves. Most of them would even steal their parents’ coffins even if to make some buck.

It is possible to forgive our intellectuals and the masses. But not the politicians. If there is heaven — and I really don’t know if there is one — a ten-year old would be able to count the number that would be welcomed there. Really! These are born predators that go into politics, not to serve, but to steal and steal and steal. Or to abuse their position; abuse the trust placed on them or make nonsense of our institutions and constitutions. From Chad to Eritrea and from Togo to Sudan, what we have is the betrayal of the “common man” by their leaders. Who can we rely on to solve our problems? Who can we rely on to make us whole and human again? I have been thinking about it for a while. However, one thing is for sure: we cannot and must look to the West for solutions or salvation.

It is illusory to think that the West has the genuine interest of Africa at heart. Heck no! Britain, France and Germany will never “set Africa free.” Never! And neither will the United States, Italy, Japan or Canada allow Africa to be competitive and strong and developed. Oh no! It is not to the benefit of any of these countries to see and have a truly independent Africa. For at least five hundred years, they have been riding on the back of Africans. Where would Europe or the America be without Africa? They got fat on us. They are used to “f*cking” us. And to think that after all these years they will suddenly “let my people free”? No. Never! Unless of course Africa set herself free!

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Anonymous March 9, 2006 - 2:02 am

Sabella…You mentioned the answer to our problems…Rawlingnise all the mother f—–s!!!

Anonymous March 2, 2006 - 12:08 pm

great piece there and it definitely highlights the problem we have but these problems are becoming a bit cliched out, we've heard it over and over again, its time to gradually make the changes required to correct things..

Anonymous March 2, 2006 - 9:24 am

Botswana does not live off foreign aid. It is one of the richest African country with a GDP per capita ten times of Nigeria. Pls remove this great example of African propserity from ur list- it also has the longest multi-party democracy in the continent; since independence


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