2013 has been a hugely significant year for Africa. It is the year in which we lost so many significant personalities. Personalities who firmly stood as symbols of the African struggle to make Africa a better place. These people fought in many ways to rid Africa of oppression, re-create the African’s mentality and resolutely stood as supreme symbols of positivity in the world.
First there was Chinua Achebe, whose death represents to me the commencement of a denouement –the exits of a rare class of people to the great beyond which heralded the end of an era. The late writer had through his numerous writings strove to tell the African story in an unromanticized way and in doing this, foregrounded the humanity of Africans. Achebe’s works also showcase the unique nature of the African, pointing out that we had a history before the West came, while also urging the African to be proud of his heritage and culture. In so many ways, he contributed his quota in making Africa proud while fighting for better governance for his people. This is evident not just in his works, but also in his many political statements.
Then Kofi Awoonor. Awoonor’s death calls to attention–in a very gruesome manner–the perennial problem of violence in Africa. That he was killed in such a manner remains an eloquent statement of how much needs to be done in a continent where everybody fends for himself while the governments focus on looting the treasury. It is a continent where the security of lives remain at an all-time low while morally depraved citizens continue to rise against others in violent statement of anger in order to get the attention of uncaring governments and sometimes, as an exhibition of the evil innate in man.
Festus Iyayi’s death is of huge significance too. The manner in which this literary great was killed in that car crash involving the convoy of the Kogi state governor Idris Wada is mind boggling. ostentatious, reckless speed, and government officials’ tendency to assume the “god position” are some of the visible ills foregrounded by Iyayi’s death. While there have been accusations of deliberate murder in Iyayi’s death, one truth that cannot be disputed is that Festus Iyayi died as a result of a government’s “violence” on its citizenry.
The grand finale of course is the death of the greatest African, Nelson Mandela. Madiba’s death officially brings to a close, an era. Professor Wole Soyinka’s aptly sums this up when he said “The soul of Africa has departed, and there is nothing miraculous left in the world”. To all Africans and indeed to the entire black race, Mandela was a symbol of all that is good, assertive, caring, honest about blacks the world over. He was a symbol of hope and many looked to him for inspiration. The many tributes from people all over the world especially from the masses on social media are testimonies to how much people viewed Madiba as an inspiration and symbol of hope that tomorrow will be better. The Mandela story gave every one of us hope that Africa would one day assume her rightful place in the world. His death to me therefore is symbolic.
I do not think for once that the death of these African champions is coincidental. I take it as a symbolic end of an era and a handing over of the baton to others. They came, fought for us and have completed their races. Iyayi and Awoonor in leaving, significantly pointed to the lingering problems facing the African society and thus drew our attention to the necessity to continue the work of making Africa a better place.”There is still a lot to be done” Iyayi and Awoonor said, and left the world. They were both victims of the problems still facing the African continent and their death foregrounded this.
As is evident, African governments in whatever form continue to exploit the masses. As it is, Africa is yet to take her rightful place in the world. One may ask; “where is Africa’s rightful place in the world?” The answer is simple; at the forefront of all things good the world does.”
We are the cradle of civilization and we must take our place. But first of all, we must get our house in order. Mandela, Achebe, Awoonor, Iyayi, and others have pointed out the path we must take. With the handover of the baton to us, it is now imperative that we decide the path we must follow. Is it the path of cowardice, selfish aggrandizement, silence in the face of tyranny and abuse? Or like our fallen heroes, will we take the path of justice, selfless service, bravery and the exhibition of the African soul?
Mandela’s death marks the end of an era. We can carry on in the new era, determined to honour all he did by following in his footsteps, or perhaps we can kickstart the destruction of the African soul. Whichever way, the choice is ours.