How Africans Are Underdeveloping Africa And What They Should Do Differently (Part One)

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Written by: Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo

What has been and is still wrong with Africa? Why have African countries been and are still the world capitals of poverty and unemployment and the major “Third World” countries? Why did Bolton Giles had to entitle his book as Africa doesn’t matter? What makes African people and nations not matter among the comity of world nations?

More so, if democratic governance is a better option for African countries, why did military stage and are still staging coup d’état against it in Africa? Conversely, if military rule is the alternative, why did Africans struggle and are still struggling to rid their nations of military juntas? When will Africa be liberated? What liberation? By who and how?

Well, against the backdrop of the recent power tussles in some African states, it’d perhaps be helpful to reflect in the light of the above posers on the beleaguered African democracies and the increasing re-emergence of belligerent military juntas and what need to be done differently to turn things around positively and liberate Africa’s past from the future and the future from the past.

Recently, many news media broke the news of Armenian President who voluntarily resigned saying his country’s constitution doesn’t give him enough influence to wage on the ongoing national crisis in the country. He further explained that, having been handicapped to push for innovative changes through exercise of constitutional powers, he wouldn’t want future generations, who may not be apprised of his constitutional handicapping, to attribute failure to him.

This news reminds of an observation often made about African political orientation. Notably, that, while the act of voluntary resignation is common in the Western public service and political culture, one seldom hears or reads about such a practice coming from the class of the insatiable, power-hungry African leaders who would rather push for getting more constitutional provisions that would guarantee the elongation or perpetuation of their stay in office.

In the view of this writer, African political leaders have only succeeded in importing Western democracy into African countries through the charity of, or pressure from, their counterpart Western leaders without imbibing along with it the Western political psychology that is progressively driving democratic governances over there. As a result, democracy in Africa has continued to clash with the psycho-political mentalities, idiosyncrasies and interests of the individual African politician or political party. Hence, they often pursue selfish policies and projects at the expense of selfless services for the greater collective and national benefit.

Of course, looking broadly and critically against the backdrop of the difference of historical, geopolitical and psycho-social factors that characterize the respective Western and African worlds, one could be permitted to submit that African leaders do not necessarily need to exclusively configure Western political psychology into their consciousness to be able to efficiently shape and direct the business of governance in their respective countries.

Alternatively, and imperatively too, what our political leaders do have is the latitude to wholesomely and pragmatically Africanize or domesticate Western democracy through development and entrenchment of positive African political psychology and orientation that should purge democracy of its perceived demerits, entrench its conceived merits and take a step further to realign it with indigenous philosophies, principles, values, ideals and common aspirations to drive ideal governance with delivery of political manifestoes for national, regional, and continental prosperity, peace and progress.

Sadly, however, consciously or due to lack of a collective willpower, instead of structuring and implementing democratic ideological frameworks the like of the one just enunciated, many African leaders appear to have adopted democratic systems only to the extent of using it as a subterfuge to pursue their parochial political interests. This, they have continued to perpetrate behind the veils of corrupt practices and with impunity in many ramifications and various dimensions and proportions – clandestinely orchestrated veils that often block the eagle-eyed view of the various established anti-graft agencies from catching and holding them to account.

This reflects the class of a people the Holy Scripture of Islam, the Qur’an, berated their condition, lamenting in the verse 147th of its Chapter 7 that:

“….those who behave proudly in the land in an unjust manner; and even if they see all the signs, they will not believe therein; and If they see the way of righteousness, they will not adopt it as their way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as their way….”

It is these abysmal trends of maladministration of people, power and politics, of mismanagement and underutilization of resources, and of misplacement of priorities from selfless services to selfish stocking up that have brought about and still bringing about political mishaps and failures in the form of widespread disillusionment, political crises, economic instabilities and the ever growing rates of poverty, of unemployment, of out-of-school children, poor educational system, infrastructure deficits, insecurity and internal strife etc., across various African countries, from Djibouti in the horn of Africa, to Kinshasa, to Bamako, Abuja, Yaoundé, and Khartoum, among others.

In light of this situation, it would not be inconsequential to assert that, when Walter Rodney wrote his How Europe Underdeveloped Africa – a masterpiece that uncovered the far-reaching effects of colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism on Africa – he obviously had only analyzed a flip side of the root causes of the African problem. But our scholar-revolutionary (as Vincent Harding had described him) can be excused for the fact that he had written his book in 1972, a period when many African countries had just got their independence and the administrative blunders of the African leaders of the time were just beginning to gather cloud.

Sadly, Rodney was so soon assassinated in 1980. Had he lived on, he probably would have penned another volume with a title like “How Africans are under-developing Africa!” Notwithstanding, our genius author must be absolved to have implicitly performed this intellectual task, judging how he had aptly highlighted in the same book that:

“None of these remarks are intended to remove the ultimate responsibility for development from the shoulders of Africans. Not only are there African accomplices inside the imperialist system, but every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work for its overthrow.” (Walter Rodney (1972), How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (2008 edition) Panaf Publishing, Inc. p.34)

Clearly, notwithstanding the external militating factors, it’s the responsibility of the Africans, particularly the leaders, to take the development of their countries and continent into their own hands and selflessly navigate through the turbulence of developmental challenges.

Alas! With the exception of an extremely few leaders, substantial number of African politicians have fumbled, failed, still failing and may continue to fail except they strive to rebuild their images through rebuilding their nations. This assertion reverberates the memory of a former leader of Liberia, President Tubman’s historic acknowledgement of the political fumbling of African politicians in a statement he made during a state reception held in honour of the then world Supreme Head and Khalifa of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmad, on April 29, 1970. He exclaimed:

“It is a great privilege to have the spiritual king of the present age among us – one whose prayer is always heard. Politicians and statesmen have lost the ability to cope with the situation in the world today. They have fumbled, sinned and are frustrated with the deteriorating situation.” (The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, U.S.A (2008), Ahmadiyya Mosques Around The World, The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, U.S.A., p.80)

Fast-forwarded to the present, over fifty years after, it’s glaring why and how terribly deteriorated the situation had come all the way in Africa!

……………To be continued!

About the Writer: Al-Hafiz Yunus Omotayo is a Journalist, Missionary of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at of Nigeria and Chairman of the Muslim Writers Guild of Nigeria. Email: al-hafiz@thetruth.ng