It is sixty years Africans took back their continent from colonial masters. Ethiopia and Liberia have ran their national affairs for longer. Yet few African nations have broken the poverty shackles or found the elixir of wealth creation. Seychelles, Mauritius and Botswana being the countries that have bucked the trend.
Kwame Nkrumah did say, ‘’obtain ye first political freedom, independence, and other things shall be added”. This his saying has not come to pass. The Atlantic slave trade, colonisation, post independence neocolonisation, military interventions, the cold war, and world economic order are some of the reasons given for this state of affairs. Explanations based on African physical geography and culture have also been given to explain continued African poverty. However, these historical scenarios also bedeviled Asia. Asian countries have risen and the West acknowledges that the 21st Century belongs to Asia, while laggard Africa still lags behind, waiting perhaps for the 22nd century.
Two centuries have passed since the last enslaved African was shipped out, we also have the third generation not born as empire or colony’ children. Military interventions are rarer, yet it is more of the same. Some countries are thought to have fared better under the colonial masters. Obviously some psycho-cultural issues still persist, issues that precedes the coming of the white man. These are sociopsychological issues leading to cultural obstacles to advancement.
Some examples; Africa is still firmly in the grip of superstitious believes and ritualists remain on prowl from Nigeria to Tanzania. Rather African educational institutions opening up the minds of young Africans, their products emerge with ladened but closed uninovative minds. Seems the early prehistoric migration out of Africa took with them all the adventure gene leaving Africans unadventurous. Could nature have played a role? Most of subsaharan Africa being firmly in the tropics with no snow flakes to expose our forefathers to the three states of matter. No northern lights to scintillate their imagination. No winter or fours seasons to hone their planning skills.
TO THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM; SLAVISH MENTALITY. While the trade in enslaved peoples was stopped, slavery never left the African or Africa. Yes, we see little overt slavery but deep in our psyche slavery persists, leading to several flaws in African societies. It cannot but be otherwise because the Caucasian race recognizing the evils of slavery made moves to abolish it with little input from we Africans, rather its abolition was resisted by our African chiefs. Meanwhile the blame for slavery is laid at the doors of western civilization. Notwithstanding the fact that slavery had always been an integral part of African societies well before the advent of the Europeans in the trade in human cargo. Africans never showed abhorrence towards slavery having no sense of guilt in enslaving and selling off kin and kith.
Slavery, existed in other continents right across from China through the Middle East to the British Isles. Races in these other continents did not require external force or outside persuasion to stop the practice. African apologists of cultural slavery in Africa say it is different from the chattel slavery that was Atlantic and American slavery, but was it any different? Didn’t slave ownership become something of pride leading to raids and wars to further enslave free African peoples.
No remorse or apologies have been offered African-Americans or Afro-Brazilians nor Caribbeans from Africa. Astonishingly, Africans are demanding reparations from Europe for African slavery, double jeopardy. Time to deal with the bitter truth. We enslaved our brothers, chain-ganged them to be shipped Portugal, the Americas and Middle-East. No other race had done this. Today, conditions are so bad on the continent that we voluntarily make the dangerous Mediterranean sea crossing to pick tomatoes, cotton and sweep streets. Who is enslaving us now? No, slavery never left the Africans and it is manifested in many other ways on the continent.
- A) A Dependency Syndrome: Slaves do little critical or strategic thinking as their masters do that for them, beyond some of them quest for freedom. This is responsible for Africans forever looking up to their failing governments to do all things for them. When governments fail, we look to foreign-aid unashamedly to provide for us. When this fails they extort Corporate Social Responsibility from the few companies around them. When that fails they throw up their hands and cry to God. No notion of self-emancipation. The SlaveMaster too cannot engage in pursuits that make work easier, innovation, because he had copious human labour to apply at all tasks.
- B) A Parasitic and Selfish Elite with a perverse sense of entitlement: The elites of a society move the society along to betterment. They comprise the religious elite, academia, traditional rulers, the officers and ,of course leading politicians. They are usually the most educated and most enlightened segment of society. The African elite having taken the reins from the colonials adopted the lifestyle of the expatriates ,not mindful of the African poverty base. No thought of widening or increasing societal wealth before assuming colonial perks, car loans, quarters, holidays on and on. The military came and joined the fray. It is the religious elite now preying on the poor slaves as well.
- C) A compliant people: To complement a master-elite group is a compliant and docile population manifesting the other side of the master-slave equation. The people willingly deify their leaders making themselves available as foot mats for their leaders(Okotie Eboh Syndrome). They willingly keep the shackles on especially if it is put on them by their tribesmen. Is it any wonder that strong man politics continue to thrive in Africa ?
- D) Finger pointing and the blamegaming: It has never been the fault of the African, forever pointing a finger at others for his predicament and the proverbial four-fingers pointing back. It is either how the West underdeveloped Africa or the West are scared of Africa’s success. How would we get out of this quagmire when we fail to look in the mirror?
- E) Power is right and a social PECKING ORDER: This is best illustrated with our road habits. Trucks and articulated vehicles are king of the road blaring their horns, (sirens are used by the powerful) for others to clear off the road or they come out worse for not doing so. Next the V8 engined SUVs claim the junctions and roundabouts at all times being bigger than the sedans. The motorcycles are disregarded by the saloons knowing the former will come out of a collision worse. At the lowest rung are pedestrians, easy pickings for the motorcycles and the tricycles. Indeed, might is king and this pecking order is the unwritten law in a slave culture.
To compound issues, the elite exhibits and elicits so much angst against the poor masses. They enact oppressive bye-laws as the constitution is a mere window dressing document that seeks to protect the rich masters against the perceived angst of the people they have impoverished. Courts are there for the rich and powerful elite while the poor face the full brunt of the law. So termed poverty alleviation schemes are syphoned off by the elite bureaucrats attending regular conferences and seminars in posh hotels. I am sure we are familiar with signs saying “okada are banned in this estate”. It says a lot. Poor relatives will have to walk the final kilometer when visiting, or they don’t want them visiting at all.
There is a need for a new African mentality devoid of the slave mentality. A new African devoid of superstition, and replaced with better philosophies of life.
Why zero in on thoughts or the thinking of philosophers? This is because the civility and wealth of Europe is formed on ideas not resources. Thinkers begat philosophies, thinkers begat sciences, thinkers begat innovations, sciences begat technologies, technologies begat industries and industries begat wealth. More wealth allowed for more civility in the society.
The remnants of the slavish psyche is inimical to the ethos of creating wealth, so Africa remains poor. The culture throws physical labour at work, so little innovation which is the real motor of wealth creation occurs. The culture views man as a dispensable commodity not a primer of wealth, not a gem. The culture demands a master who becomes the oppressive strong man. He is willingly deified by the people who act as accomplices in an oppressive state.
I reasoned it was the curses of enslaved peoples shipped across the Atlantic in inhuman conditions that held the continent back, it is not though atonement for enslaving them might help. Curses or not the continent will remain in bondage and penury because slavery never left the continent only captured peoples left. Slavery remains at home in the continent and in the mentality of its people.
Meanwhile, only free peoples, free in mind, continue to create wealth (Ayn Rand in her book, Atlas Shrugged). That is the reason America has become so wealthy as they are both in mind and spirit, the land of the free. Can we say this of Africa? Americans knowing the limitations slavery placed on man went to war to rid their country of the scourge. From the end of the American civil war it has been upwards, eventually overtaking Europe.
This had played out in Europe as well as slavery and eventually serfdom was abolished across Europe. The black death of the 14th century had depopulated Europe and contributed to thinking peoples spawning technologies through innovation to replace the depleted labour force. This led to the industrial revolution and the Europeans surged ahead of other races. The reverse can be said to have happened in Africa with excess that we exported to the Middle East and the Americas.
I have been led to pen my thoughts as new development plans are on the table for the elusive African renaissance. There is the African Union Agenda 2063 and the German Marshall Plan for Africa. The Marshall plan that worked in Asia and Europe is at risk of failure in Africa without a change in our mental attitudes. It doesn’t require a billion Africans to change, just the elite. A new elite that comes to terms with its slavish past and comes to hold a strong abhorrence towards slavery in all its appearances and then say, NEVER AGAIN! The question is how do we drive this change?
Recently, Professor Wole Soyinka while presenting his latest book ‘Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth’ was quoted as saying ‘some of us sell ourselves into slavery’. For a fact, but slavery never left us, it remained in our subconsciousness only becoming illegal under colonial dispensation. We can see this in family eulogies(orikis) that brag about family or tribe exploits in ownership of slaves. Slavery persist in other ways rituals, women sweeping our highways with archaic brooms and employing a person to open gates for big men to drive in. Indeed we did not excoriate the scourge of slavery from our mortal souls. Now it has moved from the subconscious of society to CNN showcasing it for us.
Yet we Africans are not abhorrent of it. Mauritania sat in the Organization of African Unity OAU as slavery was still legal in that country remaining an integral part of their society until 1981. It was later criminalized in 2001. It took pressure from the West before they took this action of criminalizing slavery.
It’s not too late to make amends and I am recommending a Pan African Institution to conduct studies covering the whole range of the deep cut of slavery in African psyche and polity from the historical past to the present.
“…………. none but ourselves can free our minds” – From Bob Marley’s masterpiece Redemption Song.
LET ME POSIT: ANY AFRICAN CONSTITUTION BE IT NATIONAL, REGIONAL OR CONTINENTAL THAT DOES NOT TAKE COGNIZANCE OF OUR SLAVISH PAST IS A FRAUD !
Dr Adedamola Olugbenga Jaiyesimi