Chinweizu’s rage is misplaced. Even as we bicker, our intellectuals and our leaders are in the same hotel lobbies, lobbing blame at each other for the royal mess that we are in. They take breaks after each self-serving exhortation, down bottles of good wine and resume blaming each other for the mess. And boy is it a mess. There are not enough agbadas to clothe the PhDs in Aso Rock. The looters currently holding Nigeria hostage are the world’s most educated human beings. What has the white man got to do with our collective lack of will? If we are evidently smart enough to know that the white man acts only out of its self interest, what are we doing waiting around to be screwed? It makes no sense.
There is nothing new in Chinweizu’s observation that Nigeria needs to be restructured. What have our leaders done in the past six years that have affected in a positive sense, the structure of Nigeria? Every option for Nigeria is on the table, including its dissolution. Even the matter of the dissolution of our failed state would require effective leadership. Who will bell the cat? To date, the only attempt so far to look at Nigeria’s constitution has been shamefully self serving: General Obasanjo’s goons have been combing the constitution to ensure that he can somehow inflict a third term on us. What does that have to do with the white man? We are now told that same-sex marriages are illegal in Nigeria. What has the white man got to do with this mess? At what point must we start holding these fools truly accountable for their deadly buffoonery?
Chinweizu’s analysis is too deeply rooted in old paradigms. Our traditional notion of nation states surrounded by physical boundaries is under serious attack by the realization that thanks to advances in technology nation states are being morphed into each other. We are inching gradually from communities of many to communities of the individual linked together like a true confederation of the whole. In other words, the individual would truly become the nation state. African intellectuals should think out of the box and help fashion a new economic blue print for African societies that can thrive in the new dispensation.
African leaders ought to deploy Western notions of economics with common sense that is firmly grounded in the reality of our condition. The reality, of our condition, should be guided by the belief that it is also possible for us as Africans to negotiate (with the West) from a position of strength. Contemporary economic models were built to accommodate commerce within physical boundaries. The notion that African societies should allow the efficiencies of supply and demand to lift them out of the doldrums of poverty is dangerous because there is actually no such creature as a pure market. It is possible perhaps to devise solutions that take into account a harsh reality which is that for many African nations the first task ironically is to build robust infrastructures that can withstand the rigors of the economic pills that Western style economists are advocating.
When you cut through the clutter and the belligerence, Chinweizu offers up some truths. Nothing new but they are true. As intellectuals and as a people we have held ourselves hostage to the best and worst thinking of the West. We have held ourselves hostage to the largesse of the West. We have held ourselves hostage to our fears that we are somehow inferior if we don’t make our own rules for living life on our own terms. And the result is that every day we inch towards irrelevance.
It is not only in the area of economics that we have blindly aped the ways of the white man. It is true that we are the sum of our experiences. As Africans, we have allowed alien cultures and norms to totally subsume our collective identity as expressed by our cultural practices. Even as we advocate the acceptance of practices that have enabled certain societies to prosper, there is the ever-increasing reality that African customs and traditions are being wiped out wholesale as unwholesome. We have deserted our gods, preferring alien gods who respond to our needs rank indifference. We are a race without our own gods, doomed to the whims and caprices of alien gods whose offspring view us as sub-humans. That should worry all of us. The new religion that we as Africans have embraced (at home and in the Diaspora) is the most eloquent testimonial to what Chinweizu is railing about. This new Christianity, this new evangelism, this new Islam that accepts any and everything uncritically is a drug unlike any pernicious addiction before it. It threatens to join forces with AIDS to force our people off the surface of the earth. We ought to fight off this new scourge that threatens to conscript all of our people into the cult of darkness from which there is no reward and no return. For, in this cult, the only winners are the millionaire-high priests, shameless myrmidons of the darkness-god, the almighty dollar. A pox on all their temples. Their temples have become temples of doom. Their priests gather the dispossessed and dispossess them some more. Their priests gather crooks and bless their loot. A pox on all their evil temples.
We must hold our leaders accountable: Our leaders have failed us. Under the watch of a greedy cabal of intellectuals, pastors, priests and imams, and our agbada clad weevils our land burns, roasting helpless children, men and women whose crime was to be born in a land of plenty – plenty thieves. Even as we bicker, democratically elected governors of oil-rich states are openly looting the treasury. Their unemployed are riding water taxis, latter-day Adaka Boros openly asking to be slaughtered by a murderous state. Our guns should be turned inwards at our leaders.
It is really very simple. Our people are not asking our leaders to take them to the moon. No. Our people are not asking our leaders to build the next supercomputer. No. They are not asking our leaders to be the next nuclear superpower. No. They are not even asking to be fed. No. They are asking to be left alone. Our leaders cannot pull that off. Now, that is incompetence. What has the white man got to do with that?
Chinweizu is right about some things. It is true that Africa is facing the fight of her life and she is not even fighting back. Every day that passes, Africa inches away from relevance, pulled away from glory by her thieving sons and daughters. Chinua Achebe is right. We are living witnesses to an abject failure of leadership. We ought to hold our leaders responsible for the shame that Nigeria has become. Our leaders have failed us and they have failed us thoroughly. I have always felt that we need to rely on robust structures to serve our societies and our people. I have always felt that we need structures, not individuals, to define our morality. But we now know that we need men and women of character, to build, protect and nurture these structures so that we may all prosper. Who will bell this cat? Our leaders have failed us. A pox on all their houses. Soyinka is right. We were sent the wrong peopl
e. We asked for statesmen and we were sent executioners.
Let the debate continue.