It is, stating the obvious that Africa has all it takes in both human and natural resources that can make the least African swim in wealth and comfort. On the contrary, the poorest man on earth, in terms of wealth and general well-being is in Africa. I often get agitated when some surveys in the western world give poverty level as those individuals who feed on one US dollar a day. The story is worse than that. Today in Nigeria, for example, there are millions of families not individuals who, for many days have not the US one dollar equivalent to feed on. They go on for so many days with little or no food and have no access to good drinking water, let alone enjoying other infrastructural developments and social security which are the prerogatives of the individuals in other continents.
A collectivity of the individual makes up the society and before we speak of the society, the individual is touched. It is when the individual is developed that the society can be said to be developed. In other words, the qualities and attributes of the individuals are therefore, transferable to the society. A developed society, in this sense, rightly becomes the society in which the individual’s qualities are well blended and having the capacity of both internal and external relationships. Was it not Walter Rodney in his famous write-up, who asserts that every people have shown a capacity for independently increasing their ability to live a more satisfactory life through exploiting the resources of nature? The profound question in my mind is whether Africans, for four centuries have had the peace of mind, to exploit their natural resources, and develop their potentialities? Have these centuries not been restless, wasteful, most confusing and of great fear of insecurity to all Africans? How can Africans, under these circumstances be able to increase their ability to live a comfortable and more satisfactory life, when after the colonialists’ exploitation they are again being impoverished by the actions of their fellow Africans?
Borrowing a leaf from Allan Panton, I would rather say of Africa, “Cry, the beloved continent”. Allan Panton’s concern was for South Africa and he wrote his novel, “Cry the beloved Country.” Surely, he was moved with emotion and pity, to witness the atrocities meted on the blacks of South Africa, by their white counterparts. It was, and is still a clear demonstration of man’s inhumanity to man, a show of what man has made of man. South Africa’s experience is in no way different from what the entire continent went through.
Colonialists have ruled in Africa continuously since the conquest of Ceuta, on the Moroccan Coast by Portugal in 1415. Until the mid-nineteenth century, colonial rulers, commercial companies and brigands were frequently associated with the transoceanic trade in slaves. It was only when it was being rendered obsolete by the rapid technological advance of industrial production did the traffic in humans subsided, as it was displaced by commercial interests in animal, vegetable and mineral products of Africa. Africa then came to limelight and became the centre of attraction for European competitors. During the 1870s, rival European powers accomplished a gigantic haul of African territory. The scramble for Africa was perfectly effected and legalized in 1885 in the obnoxious Berlin Conference, when boundaries were adjusted. This boundary adjustment recognized the territorial claims of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Belgium. This laid the foundation for colonialism which impact is still prevalent in Africa till this day.
The life of segregation, social class system, forcibly moving materials and men away from Africa, using fellow-human beings as domestic servants and beast of burdens, are relics of colonialism which have laid the basis for corruption by African leaders, African leaders have merely added pepper and salt to perfect whatever negative influences which colonialism have left behind. Like the colonialists, African leaders live in mansions built in choice areas of the continent, ride state of the art cars and lead a life that is extra-ordinary. Each leader in Africa perfected the art of money-laundry and swindling his nation of huge amount of money at the pains of his nation’s infrastructural development, social security and the well-being of his citizenry. What a pain have some of these continental leaders inflicted on the people of Africa. Reflect, and take a look at the days of Idi-Amin of Uganda, the Abacha of Nigeria, the Charles Taylor of Liberia, the Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo DRC, the Gbagbo’s of Cote d’ Voire, and recently ex-President Mubarak of Egypt, whose six hundred million dollars he stole from his country’s purse may never be recovered. The list is long and I will spare you of the details.
I was intrigued to hear ex-President John Kufo of Ghana came out strongly to defend African leaders when Amnesty International dubbed Africa the most corrupt continent. I sympathize with him because he has not the proper understanding of his fellow African brothers in order to determine what they can do and how mean they can be. John Kufo is my man anytime, but he should remember the African adage that when the oil stains one finger, all the fingers are said to be stained. He should take a look at the visible streams of object poverty flowing through the nooks and crannies of Africa before he can come out to defend the indefensible corrupt African leaders. The only thing permanent with each of them that is unchangeable is CORRUPTION. It flows permanently like blood in the veins.
It is not an over-emphasis to assert that Africa is the continent flowing with milk and honey. The petinent question is how has this flowing milk and honey been harvested to the good of the African people? Nearly every country in Africa is blessed with animal, vegetable and mineral wealth, but how have these been managed by the African leaders to the benefits and the good of the people? On the contrary, each passing day lives Africans poorer than they were the previous day.
Let African leaders have a rethink and Mr John Kufo of Ghana will have a bigger job to do by speaking to his African brother’s to thread with restraint in area of corruption. They should have the love of those under their rule at heart, and like Louis the XIV of France whose only wish was to make every French citizen have a chicken to boil in his pot every Sunday, African leaders should always have at heart, the welfare of their citizens. The great Winston Churchill of Britain left office without having a building of his own. He went back to live in a rented apartment. Lady Thartcher also of Britain left office without a house of her own. News have it that the children and friends built a simple house for her and the husband. Can this be said of our African Leaders whose ambition is to stay in the office till death do them part, in order to cover up effectively all the financial crimes they have committed against their states? African leaders should purge themselves of this madness called corruption. I am very sure that in the very near future corruption, will not be of any interest to many generations to come in Africa. They will all have the heart of sincerely bringing their fellow Africans out of this cankerworm called poverty. This can only happen when African leaders eschew corruption now.
It is fashionable for African leaders to have huge bank accounts in continents outside Africa with fictitious names, names of relations, friends and fake company names. What then is corruption if this is not? How many leaders from Europe, Americas, Asia and other continents have huge accounts of stolen money in African banks? African leaders should have a rethink and shelve all manners of corruption which in all ramifications defraud their people and impoverish them. None of them is carrying this money to away to hell or heaven when he dies. Why accumulating and converting the wealth of the people to their own? The world is watching, and African leaders must answer whatever name they have given to my dear continent.
Pat Asakome who is a broadcaster, an author and analyst in current affairs writes from Lagos, Nigeria.