Writing the Struggle – Africa needs to get mad to effect change

Two things came out of the OAU/AU 50th celebrations in Addis Ababa recently – the need to push Pan-Africanism and that of developing the continent.
The question that should be interrogated is why half a century later the continent has not gone anywhere farther than having black leaders.
Indeed, looking across the continent, there is a sense of déjà vu. Leaders are still talking about economic empowerment just like what some of the founders of the OAU spoke about 50 years ago.
Just as it was then in the early years of African independence, coup d'etats are still occurring on the continent; civil wars continue to claim innocent lives; poverty is moving faster than development; inequality continues unabated; freedom has remained elusive; access to health, education, housing and jobs has not been accorded.
Just what exactly is dragging Africa backwards despite being the richest continent and one with the hardest working people?
One of the reasons is that Africa has not acted mad enough to effect positive change for its peoples. Instead, leaders have assumed the roles of the settlers.
A few and indeed countable leaders who acted madly for the benefit of their people ended up dead or were sidelined or called names.
Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara and Robert Mugabe’s efforts to walk the talk did not end well.
The slain Burkina Faso president, Thomas Sankara, said change can only come if leaders assume some madness.
“You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future,” Sankara said.
Another Pan-Africanist, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem ‑ who died in a car accident in Kenya on May 25, 2009, wrote extensively about how leaders become replicas of the evil forces they would have dislodged.
And this is how they do it.
Education is one culprit that has made Africa lame and most of its leaders weaklings in the global setting.
No single African country has embarked on an educational system that best suits its needs.
All of them have taken up the colonial educational system that was meant to mould the African into some ‘yes-man’, who looks up to Europe for salvation and guidance.
The educated African still acts and lives like a slave who gulps ideas and ideologies without asking questions.
This was an education, specially designed to churn out labourers who created wealth for Europe. It was every student’s objective to acquire an education and then earn a living.
For the African, earning a living meant and still means being able to feed their family, dress for church on Sunday, afford a roof over their heads, be able to drink every day and get a small pension when they age. Most of this lifestyle is largely on credit.
If one goes around in most shops today, it should not surprise them that most of the people who buy expensive clothes on credit are blacks.
This is where you hear and find people who boast about the expensive shoe or shirt they put on; people who talk loudly about the type of whisky they drink; the expensive bars they frequent; and the exotic perfume they use.
It also meant to pay for their deaths in advance by means of funeral policies that can afford them some of the most expensive caskets on earth.
It was an education meant to make the African smile even when wallowing in poverty and living a heavily borrowed life.
It’s not education meant to wise up the African on taking control of his resources, being proud of himself, questioning ideologies and making his own decision.
And this is the education independent Africa inherited and perpetuates.
But that should not surprise because most African leaders too are fascinated with Europe and all her charms.
This is why most African leaders, even those who would have fought in the bush for years, assume the lifestyle of the settler/oppressor.
The first thing they do is to occupy the state house, acquire Savile Row suits, Gucci shoes and personalised Mercedes Benz cars.
The next thing is adopt the same laws the colonial master used to subjugate and brutalise the people. There has never been any hurry to expunge laws used by the oppressor.
All over Africa, wherever wars were fought, the central demand was land yet how many black-led governments have met the people’s expectation in as far as fulfilling the land promises are concerned?
While it’s known that settlers grabbed land by force from the indigenous black populace, most African-led governments cannot enact laws which allow them to re-claim parts of the land for the marginalised blacks.
In most cases, those in government become the elite with unfettered access to land; mineral resources and most of them are bought to be part of international companies exploiting both the mineral wealth and the African labour force.
By virtue of being the black faces in an all-white business, the ruling elite class assumes the role of the protector to such business, which siphons billions of dollars outside the continent.
That has kept most parts of Africa underdeveloped and undeveloped because all the wealth and the proceeds thereof are not re-deployed on the continent for the benefit of the people.
Instead, Europe and other parts of the world, which exploit Africa use Africa’s resources to develop and sustain their people.
While taxes in Africa are among the highest in the world, her resources, which are sent abroad ease the life of the people there.
The saddest thing is that the ruling elite and all its cronies do not bank their earnings from such associations on the continent but smuggle everything out to European banks.
This also includes dirty money, which is ill-gotten from corrupt activities.
Caught in such a trap, most leaders ‑ who would have fought so hard for the emancipation of their countries ‑ find themselves sitting on the same table with the very people who made them suffer and live like third-class citizens.  Examples abound of African presidents who own castles in some of Europe’s most exotic places where they take their families for holidays while their people are eating sand back home.
Fifty years, hereafter, Africa’s every progress has been eaten up by corruption. Whenever a country makes two steps ahead, corruption takes it back 10 steps.

June 2013
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