Seventeen Empty Vessels

The British and their co-colonial occupants must have been in a hurry to leave Africa in 1960. In that year alone, an unprecedented seventeen countries took down the colonial flag amidst fireworks, dances, hopes and speeches.

Through this year 2010, fifty years after, there would be a series of fireworks and dances again with the individual leaders of these sovereign states beating their chests in heart warming speeches, the kind the Independence day heroes gave, speaking lucidly about some better imagined idea of greatness, ceasing the opportunity to write off more public funds and kick start the process of another fifty years of flop.

Certainly there would be celebrations. They are already going on. It’s but an African heritage to roll out the drums and go agog when something good happens. So who would blame their Excellencies for exercising a civic responsibility? The questions however is what really are we celebrating about?

Fifty years up and the continent is still trailing the rest of the world in everything from space science to football which ordinarily doesn’t require any extra intelligence to excel in.

The seventeen that makes up cycle ’60 seem the very best examples of what waste the continent has become. They are a gang of seventeen adult delinquent fellows, like that group of older students you had in your primary school class who never got anything right. Countries that bear proven scholarly evidence of how a country should not be run, led by captain Nigeria which is in itself an embodiment of failure, and the whole pack testimonies to the nightmare the independence day dreams have become.

Does it bother their Excellencies that all seventeen of them, Cameroon , Togo , Madagascar , Democratic Republic of Congo , Somalia , Benin , Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast/Cote D’Ivoire , Chad , Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon , Senegal , Mali , Nigeria , and Mauritania feature prominently in the list of the fifty poorest countries of the world?

Does it bother their imperial majesties that the people whose existence confers on them the title of “leaders” form the majority of the inhabitants of this planet who still go to bed with an empty stomach, who still share drinking water sources with excreting livestock and toxic waste, People for whom basic education is still a luxury, people who still think HIV is fiction and sickle cell the works of the gods?

Do they realize that they are simply presiding over misery? Do they care? Does it matter?

Certainly it doesn’t matter that among the seventeen is a Somalia making world headlines for piracy, a Niger were the constitution is not worth tissue paper, a Madagascar where DJ’s wake up one morning and cease power, a monarchical Togo, a perpetually unstable Congo, hegemonic Gabon and a rudderless Nigeria.

What is important is that there is a course to celebrate and celebrate we must. We must now romanticize the word “Golden Jubilee” and make it sound like it means something else…not an age, something more awesome, like a feat that came about from the sweat off our brows, like a status that is divine which will guarantee a miraculous turn around of our condition going forward.

But they don’t beat the drums themselves. They conscript us. We who ease our frustration in depressing nightly passion, producing much more children than our low and dwindling finances can handle. We who sleep drunk off cheap alcohol, seeking unsuccessfully for an opium for our misery. We to who tomorrow exists as a huge threat.

It is we who they would clad in funny costumes and send to the arena to beat the drums and dance to their imperial delights, waving flags soaked in the many blood baths that has turned us bestial, wiggling our waists to drum beats of war, smiling as though we got life from doing so when essentially we are simply bidding time. Time before we breathe our last and exit, leaving behind orphans, orphans who will either be ravished by hunger and malaria or left at the mercy of recruiters of child soldiers.

The drums of 1960 resonate across the continent today as the cycle‘60 marks their jubilee. But the beats are not the same and we should not dance the same. Indeed we should not dance. We should light candles and gather in the streets to mourn, singing solemn songs and resolving in our innermost hearts that the next fifty years can not be the same.

Written by
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
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