It is impossible to tell, with any degree of certainty, how Africa would have turned out without slavery and colonialism. All we can do is guess, make conjectures. Nonetheless, considering the fate of other peoples in other continents, and considering also the history of the continent, it is safe to say Africa too would have had its fair share of historical-unavoidables. Overall, one does not share in the excessive romanticism of the continent and its past; moreover, one does not have a hangover over slavery and colonialism. The time to move on has long gone.
Unfortunately, too many Africans — encouraged by African leaders and continental elites, and some scholars — have made it fashionable to blame slavery and colonialism for all that ails the continent. And then, there are the religious leaders who harp fatalism into the consciousness of their followers. And so it is that a sizeable number of Africans have refused to take personal responsibility for the continent’s failure and recklessness. Day in and day out, they wait for a God or for a Rawlings with magical wand. In addition, they look to the West for direction and for handouts. How sad, how mistaken!
Africans themselves must take back their own continent; they must take back their own countries. The West can help, but for the most part, Africans must do the unthinkable and the painful to regain their world. As it is, Africans are afraid: they are afraid to sacrifice their conveniences and their lives, and are very much afraid to venture beyond the veil. This timidity is more pronounced in the post-independence generation — a generation that is given to immediate gratification, laziness and gullibility. For the most part, they imitate absurdities from other regions.
Almost forty years after most African countries gained independence, the continent continues to have a striking resemblance to the Africa of the 18th and 19th century. Any wonder then that some commentators have insinuated that the continent was better off colonized. Indeed, in one country after another, the conditions are similar — similarities that are manifested in low quality of life. In virtually every country, the average African has been betrayed by the intellectual class, the military cadre, and by the civil society (selling out to the oligarchy and to foreign agents).
For Africa to advance, certain unorthodox steps have to be taken. The suggestions here can be improved upon. However, one must take into consideration the fact that for more than forty years, all types of paradigms and approaches have been rendered and tried to no avail. It is time to think and act unconventionally. Trepidation will not help. Fear will not help. Dithering will not help. And neither will the little-little things. It is time to be bold. It is time to think of our countries as ours, to think of our continent as ours — as our personal domain.
What is the condition of things in Central Africa? Is life better for them today than it was three or four decades ago? In Cameroon, Paul Biya is milking his people dry just as other leaders do in Central African Republic, in DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo. Does anyone know what’s going on in East Africa? Save for Tanzania, the region has been a killing field for a while now. Southern Africa is getting messier by the day. The world is not sure of what to do with Robert Mugabe; and in South Africa, an alleged rapists/rogue is set to take over government. West Africa is dominated by a limping giant.
Virtually every African country lacks the fundamentals of development. They lack the infrastructures. These leaders create hell-on-earth knowing they and their kin can go overseas for education, for medical care and for all other necessities. Imagine what will happen if they and their family members are barred from travelling abroad for the best those countries have to offer. African leaders should be banned from those trips so they too can roast in the inhumane conditions they have created for their own people.
Of all the problems facing the African continent — weak institutions and the crisis of governance, the enmity between the rulers and the governed, the inability to draw lines between public and private goods, preliterate and fatalistic citizenry, the sheer stupidity and low self-esteem of African leaders, etc, etc — the question of leadership is the most pressing. Beginning with Ghana in 1957, to South Africa in 1994, contemporary Africa has not had more than five first-rate leaders. Since leadership is the bane of the continent, why not act on it?
In “What Does the World Owe Africa?” I suggested a series of steps to be taken by the Western world. Here and now, I am suggesting a series of steps to be taken by Africans to rescue their continent from misery and squalor. There are twelve steps Africans must undertake to reclaim their continent. Today, I offer five: five things Africans owe their continent! First, assassinating certain leaders would be justified. Who will or who would have shed honest tears at the funeral of Said Barre, Issayas Afewerki, Idi Amin, Samuel Doe, Teodoro Nguema, Arap Moi, Robert Mugabe, King Mswati III, Joseph Mobutu, Hissene Habre, Gnassingbe Eyadema, Sani Abacha, and two dozen others or so.
None of the aforelisted would have been missed had their lives been snuff out 2 years into their reign. Killing them would have done Africa a world of good. Indeed, “There are times when assassination is necessary in order to change the course of history.” Left alone such death-deserving leaders will kill the hope and aspiration of others. And they did. Secondly, meting out “Chinese treatment” to corrupt officials will help stamp out crooked and nation-damaging behaviors. This method calls for the impartial probing of assets and the forfeiture of assets that were dubiously acquired followed by the physical elimination of the guilty so long as it is legally sanctioned.
Why do we execute armed robbers? Why do we execute those who commit treason against the state? Simple: we do because their actions are heinous. If an armed robber steals $1,000.00 we execute him or send him to twenty years in prison; but when a politician steals $2,000,000.00 we turn blind eyes to his crime. As drastic as some of the proposed measures may sound, they are entirely necessary if Nigeria is to free itself from the abyss. They are crucial if we care about our welfare and about the type of society we want to bestow on future generations.
Third, the revival and strengthening of the legislature and the judicial; the education and reeducation of the people and the introduction of a new political and governing system would be in order. Most Nigerians are weary and wary of the military establishment. Still, we ought to fashion a governing system that allows for both to coexist. For instance, the American or British style system does not seem to augur well for Nigeria’s peculiar condition. Fourth, the office and institution of traditional rulers should be abolished. These institutions have, in most cases, been a hindrance to development.
Also, Africans must consider taxing religious houses (save for the Traditional African Religions). Churches and Mosques are money making endeavors. Lagos State for instance could easily earn $50 million a year from the thousands of churches and mosques that litters the State. Revenues earned could be used to clean up the streets and ease traffic congestions. Religion may be good for some people, but, for the past two decades or thereabout, the Abrahamic religions have become a source of instability and underdevelopment in the continent.