Of Africa by Abiola Oladimeji
It is no more news that stories of war, hunger, poverty and underdevelopment shape the image of Africa. Many believe (Africans too) that the continent has never contributed to world civilization and that she still has nothing to contribute. In today’s world order, the West appears as the saviour of this continent, which is definitely not the case.
This essay aims to achieve two goals: to restore the necessary confidence in Africans and to provide friends of the continent with another perspective to fully understand her situation. In the same vein, the essay does not intend to put the blames for the woes of Africa on other continents, but stating that the West has played/is playing a significant role in the disorder in Africa.
We all know that bad governance is the main problem of Africa ( I have even argued that it is the only problem of Africa). There are questions to ask; two of them are these: (1) How did Africa get into this situation? (2) Did Africa have good leaders?
Harold Smith, a formal British colonial officer in Nigeria, revealed in an interview (New African Issue 440 : How Britain Undermined Democracy in Africa) how Britain taught and rigged politicians from the Northern part of Nigeria into power before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Britain feared the Southerners and preferred the Northerners, who would serve British interests. The former were simply too brilliant. Harold Smith referred to one of the political parties in Nigeria in the 1950s and 60s as a great party too much for African standard. Such parties posed threat to British interests.
Britain wanted a weak Nigeria in order to perpetrate Neo-Colonialism in Africa. That is obviously the birth of rigging incompetent politicians into office. Harold Smith’s confession has always been suppressed; his autobiography, in which he reveals the undemocratic acts of Britain, was rejected for publication. That should not amaze anyone, because books always terrorise those who want to suppress the truth.
If Nigeria appears to be an isolated case, what about the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Congo? February 2002: The Belgian government admitted to a moral responsibility in the death of this great leader. Britain and the United States were also part of the conspiracy against this Pan-Africanist. This marks the beginning of disorder, or rather the crescending of the already Western-created/fuelled existing disorder into new heights in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We should not forget the case of the young Army officer Thomas Sankara. He got into trouble with France immediately he started working towards transforming Burkina Faso from an enclave of France to a great country. If Western powers had left these great leaders, it is most probable that Africa would not be this terribly bad today. Instead, puppets were installed and things started to fall apart. Africa has not recovered from this quagmire till today. Does any Western politician even have the moral ground to blame the current rogues in power across Africa?
Diamonds in the Congo and Algeria and crude oil in Nigeria are few among the resources that are in abundance in Africa. Corruption has been institutionalised in most African countries and most Africans thus live in poverty, despite the wealth of these countries. Switzerland is the safe haven, where these corrupt leaders keep the wealth of Africans and as long as these leaders do not offend the West, the booty is safe.
When Western media report about wars in Africa, they only show us the Western soldiers on ‘’peace keeping’’, they seem to forget the substantial role that weapons from the West play in these wars. I attended a seminar on German security policy abroad. The story is still the same: War, war and more war. Then I asked these questions: (1) Africans do not manufacture many of these sophisticated weapons, but how do they come into Africa? (2) Is weapon control not a better policy other than send soldiers on peace keeping?
As expected, I got a very diplomatic answer: We are still looking into how to control weapons from getting into wrong hands. Weapon industries provide jobs in the West and taxes for the government only when the produced weapons are sold; thus they must be sold. Who cares if that leads to the destruction of others! Without foreign weapons, how would some people in Africa wage war? I do not argue that foreigners mastermind wars in Africa, but the role their weapons play is very significant. Yet, they claim innocence. The truth is this: The West is in fact (only) interested in helping to manage the problem(s) they partly (sometimes wholely) and indirectly created/fuel and from which the West benefit greatly.
In terms of contribution to civilization, Africa surely has a lot to contribute, if only the ‘’superior’’ cultures would desist from the claim to superiority . Imperialists portrayed African culture as inferior, whereas they stole a lot of artefacts from the “so-called inferior cultures”. The West demonized the traditional religions. However, the Ifa Corpus of the Yoruba people is a very good example of what Africa has to contribute to the development of the world. Professor Olu Longe in his Inaugural Lecture at the University of Ibadan in 1983 argued that the innovations that were introduced into computer science in 1963 had been in Ifa divination, an oracle, for more than 1000 years.
I would want to point out that the title of this essay, Of Africa, is actually the name of a book by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. He discourses the continent at length and it is a book I would recommend to Africans and friends of Africa. He argues in this book that Africa has more to offer, if the continent is allowed to. He narrated a scenario in which an African sustained a spinal injury. Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles among other specialized hospitals could not help his situation. He found solution only in a clinic managed by a Ghanaian doctor who trained in the West, but he got treated with leaves from the bush in Ghana. This points out again, that Africa has enough in her culture to contribute to world civilization. The story of Africa is certainly that of paradox. I hope this discourse would provoke reflections on what is wrong with the continent.
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