Niger is half the size of Texas but about twice the size of France. The country is bordered by Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali and Nigeria. Yet in times of dire need none of these countries came to her aid. None came to her aid until it was too late. None of the aforementioned countries came to her aid until children and women started dying and the nation was severely devastated. But of course that is the story of Africa – a collection of panhandlers that can’t seem to help their neighbors in times of crisis.
But if Algeria and other surrounding countries couldn’t help, what about Libya — a country that puffs and huffs at every perceived slight? Where was Nigeria the supposed giant of Africa? Perhaps both countries are more concerned about their place in global politics as opposed to their place in African politics. But then what is politics if it lacked compassion and benevolence? And even if President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Libyan counterpart, Colonel Mohammed Ghaddafi dropped the ball; where was Tandja Mamadou, Niger’s president since 1999?
Where was he and his cronies when their country was gradually sinking? His country is rich in uranium, coal, iron ore, petroleum, tin, salt, phosphates, gold, molybdenum, and gypsum. What happened to all the money that accrued from the sale of these resources? Perhaps like in virtually all African countries, the President and his pals siphoned his nation’s wealth and lodged it in Paris, Switzerland and elsewhere – leaving the vast majority of his people to suffer in abject poverty!
Today and in the last couple of weeks Niger has been in the news just as Ethiopia and Sudan and Somalia was; and just as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone were a couple of months ago. To think of these countries and to think of Africa is to think of hunger and starvation and premature death and war and the destruction of hopes and dreams.
Why can’t African leaders get it right? How could these leaders allow their countries to go to rut and then rot? When will African leaders ever get it right and usher in periods of sustained development and growth? After all these years, panhandling is still in vogue, I guess.
It is painful to watch skeletal African children on television day after day; it is so sad to see all those children bathing in flies week after week; it is heart wrenching to watch the parade of African children and their mothers in the media month after month begging for food and water and medicine. For most in the West and elsewhere the image of Africa that is ingrained in their mind is that of a continent and a people that are incapable of meeting basic human wants and needs and of a people so pitiful, so pathetic and eternally lazy they are unable to manage their own affairs. That is the picture of Africa they have come to know in the last half-century or so.
King Mswati’s Africa! Robert Mugabe’s Africa! Omar Bongo’s Africa! There are at least three dozens of them roaming and parading the African landscape. Jokers all! Olusegun Obasanjo for instance is dreaming of sending Nigerians to Space in about fifteen years. What a joke! This in a country where it is almost impossible to travel from one city to another without suffering deaths and destructions on the road? This is a country that couldn’t even maintain a national airlines. A country that does not have an effective postal system? A country that does not have functioning fire and sewage system? Yet she wants to send men to Space? What a joke…space ko..space ni…space my ass!
Oh well, may be Nigeria will hire the Americans or the Russians to help build our space station and then help fly our men and women. If we are willing to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to foreigners to coach our national teams, why not hire foreigners to take us to the moon and elsewhere. And while we are at it, let’s call in the Germans or the Canadians to take over Aso Rock.
We have a group of African countries that are burning and suffering yet we are unable to help. We want debt forgiveness yet we are asking for more loans? We want to play ball with the big boys in the international system yet we beg for food and other aids? An agrarian society that can’t feed itself? Go figure! But what’s to be done about a continent where her leaders continually bring shame to her people and her land? I wonder…
My eyes welled as I watched the insanity that is going on in Niger. Why didn’t her president and political elite help avert such calamity? Why must Africa always beg the world, especially the West, for help with such simple matters as food, water and medicine? Why? And of what use is Nigeria to the African continent if she can’t supply most, if not all the help the people of Niger needed and deserve? And why must Nigeriens continue to tolerate such an incompetent like Tandja Mamadou who is supposed to lead his country to the promised land?I cried for Niger…and I cried for Africa.