by Ernest Armah
Most of the history of our continent, Africa, is lost on us. The fondness of Western media to rather inaccurately generalize the problems of some regions to all on the continent hasn’t helped and the frequent reportage of sad events on the continent clearly overshadows the good. Indeed, Africa has a story to tell. But they are told by the wrong persons because those to tell it have chosen to remain silent. Or chosen to deepen its negative outlook to satisfy parochial interests.
Sometimes, it is tempting to think that Africa was a disorderly space on earth wallowing in savagery prior to the arrival of the Colonialists. But this is diametrically not the case.
According to Wikipedia, pre-colonial Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterized by many different sorts of political organization and rule. These included small family groups of hunter-gatherers such as the San people of Southern Africa; larger, more structured groups such as the family clan groupings of the Bantu-speaking peoples of central, southern, and eastern Africa; heavily structured clan groups in the Horn of Africa; the large Sahelian kingdoms; and autonomous city-states and kingdoms such as those of the Akan; Edo, Yoruba and Igbo people of West Africa; and the Swahili coastal trading towns of Southeast Africa.
Bottom line is there was order (Order in this context is a verb. The Concise Oxford dictionary defines DISORDER as disruption in functioning). Now we have gained notoriety for disorderliness. We hardly function. Technically, we could be said to be in coma; brain dead. Almost every election in Africa has to be witnessed by foreign Observers whose assessments tend to be more credible to the rest of the world than ours. Our national budgets have to be supported by other countries. We cannot feed our own. Neither can we resolve our own conflicts.
In the face of the deadly Ebola virus, the Health Ministries in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone (the three countries the virus was most rife in terms of prevalence and deaths) were frozen and indecisive when thousands of their own people were dying.
Strangely, when the world resolved to synergize efforts to fight Ebola, African governments except its business tycoons contributed the least to the basket. African billionaires including Aliko Dangote, Patrice Motsepe and Strive Masiyiwa made substantial pledges and have raised $35m raised so far. Global response to the Ebola outbreak was delayed but Africa should have been an exception. Detailed information of contributions/commitments/pledges to fight Ebola is available here
This is just a reflection of the fact that economic freedom makes more sense than political freedom. Imagine if we had more Dangotes, Mostepes and Masiyiwas.
To some extent, slavery left an indelible mark on the continent. This mark could be best described as dependency. In an opinion piece published in the Daily Graphic, John Mahama, President of Ghana said that, “the struggle to become free is always followed by the struggle to remain free; that the guarantee of our individual liberties as nations can only come through the guarantee of our collective liberties as one continent”. Freedom is not free. It is hinged on a desire to be free. And that desire has to be translated into tangible actions for freedom to be obtained. Those actions come with a price. This is why the freedom post-colonial Africa enjoys today was bought through the toil and blood of our forefathers. However, the passion to assert this freedom individually as countries and collectively as a continent dipped after we were proclaimed free.
To remain free, we need to be responsible.
To be blunt, the root of our disorderliness lies in our irresponsibility. I don’t really care about the neo-colonialism rants, political failure and what have you. What truly matters at this critical stage is that we hold ourselves responsible and accountable. We should focus more on asserting ourselves on the global stage. And education is indispensable in this quest.
I’m moved by Africans who have taken it upon themselves to solve problems and add value to their communities. I have friends who run small scale businesses to meet needs in their immediate communities. Some are employees in organizations, big and small, who give 150% of time and energy. The others serve as volunteers in their spare time in various capacities.
Their actions are not only backed by passion but also a motivation to transform their communities.
These are the stories we should be telling. Because it inspires and moves us to act instead of feeding on the bad things usually reported in the news. Bad news sells but good news tells people what’s possible.
PS: I won’t be doing poetry for a while