“CHANGE”; is the word on the lips of most African politicians, when campaigning and seeking to be elected into office. During campaigns, they accuse the government precedent of all sorts of corruption only to end up worse than their predecessors. Soon as they take the oath of office, the word disappears from their vocabulary. They take the same action as their predecessors; running cap-in-hand to their former imperial or colonial masters, for direction and instructions on how to rule their people. How long; do we need to continue to recycle these African Perambulators, in our search for CHANGE?
To answer this recurrent dilemma, it is thus necessary at this stage; to ask ourselves what “CHANGE” we talking about, and when will things change as we all hope! The first step-in my opinion to help us in our search, it is important to know ourselves and where we coming from. Like I often refer us on this page, our search won’t be far from music because it is a weapon – apology Fela Kuti. It is almost half a century since our so-called independence, if one may ask what is independent in the actions of African Heads of State. To underline this better; the effects of five hundred years of slavery and colonialism in Africa, is the issues Fela raises in PERAMBULATOR the title I chose for this piece.
Generation after generation, Africans have been programmed and conditioned to work and slave for the system: “My father, your father, African fathers must start to work at twenty. Success and riches are their targets, everyday from six in the morning till six in the evening, going to work for a small salary. For fifty-five years, from sun-up to sun-down, he slaves for the system until he is tired and falls dead or retired by force. And to compensate all these year of “meritorious” services, the enslaved man is given a ‘gold wrist watch’ (not today where governments find it hard to pay salaries let alone pensioners).
Apart from this, the only property he could point to from all the years of slaving for the system is an old bicycle. Fela adds that the conditioning and brainwashing of Africans into becoming certified slaves, started from the education system: teaching them big grammar in English, to the detriment of their African languages, brainwashing Africans to believe in European medicine to the detriment of African medicine. For example in their school curriculum Africans, are taught to see European explorers as people who came to discover and save the population from savagery. Fela asks how it is possible to credit the discovery of the sauce of the Niger River to the British explorer Mungo Park.
What about those fishermen, who have been plying the river’s course from generation before the arrival of Mungo Park? Same can be said of other so-called explorers? He concluded that the European explorers may have “discovered” Africa for Europeans, but certainly not for the African people they met on the continent. He concludes by saying Africans started civilization and if the continent is behind in development, it is because of five hundred years of slavery and colonialism.
Like I wrote in my piece: Africa, the need for radical change, when one decides to go into politics, there are two ways to do politics – one either do politics for personal reason or doing politics for a common goal. I can make politics for my own personal interest, or I can make politics for the general interest, collective interest - the interest of the people. Most African politicians today, place their own interest before the interest of the whole nation - that’s the problem. When you place your personal interest before the common interest you in-fact make compromises, sign contracts which alienates the interest of the people.
But if you do politics for the common interest, you will make compromises in the interest of everyone - it is thus an affair of political clear-sightedness, driven by dedication. It is not enough to do politics for the sake of doing politics, if one wants to make a change in African politics - it should entail dedication and patriotism.
Thus the question; how can we as Africans have a-new, that kind of patriotism flow in our blood? If Africans prefer to serve and give their expert knowledge outside the continent, it is because the necessary conditions are not in place in their respective states. Their competences are not exploited, because they are considered inferior to their Western counterparts and due to the necessity to survive, our experts move to other countries in search of greener-pastures. This is no question of being patriotic or not, it is a question of survival. If the conditions are right, our competent professionals would stay in Africa and work for change on the continent.
Corruption the cancer that is devouring the African society and impedes the continent’s progress, is not new to today’s African vocabulary, and the denunciation of African leadership and their complicity in the wide-spread. Majority of the finger-pointing of the politico-financial corruptions are directed at those persons in charge of politics on the African continent, but from all indications this bad decease emanated from the Western Hemisphere. Today; it has spread almost everywhere in the world, becoming a contemporary universal reality. In view of its recurrent nature, one can ask where is the African money from corruption banked. And to answer one can say - of course in the banks in Western countries!
African so-called leaders, go over there cap-in-hand every day seeking aids while these institutions impose structural adjustment program on us making our countries more impoverished. What we fail to see is that they are nothing but institutions of corruptions. These institutions cannot help us if we bear in mind that the governments of most European nations and the Western Hemisphere, are among the most corrupt on earth. They sell weapons to various factions to creates wars (remember Angola-gate and Iraq’s petrol for aid scandal for example).
We have to avoid the mistakes of the past, it is necessary to put aside things which have neither head nor tail in the 21st century. If we are serious about African Unity, we cannot continue to do things in reverse manner. We all are aware that one cannot wear a jacket inside-out, the same for trousers – they cannot be worn in reverse. If we want a federated African nation we have to do things correctly.
Africa does not need words like rupture in view of what is happening or what transpires at present, what we need is rather a radical change. If we continue to use words like “rupture” or "break" to motivate us into action, Europeans are going to laugh at us like they have been doing for centuries – “those are words from a well trained or broken slave.” They have been well trained to repeat our vocabulary. He speaks of his continent like we trained him to do, he see his continent like the Third World. Words like: Co-development, partnerships, north-south dialogue, etc., all these words are designed to keep Africans chained to their former colonizers.
However the word which they never use is Radical Change! Here is the word we need to apply so as to galvanize us into a positive action. The struggle should not be limited to concept only we equally apply it linguistically – hence needs to use words like Radical Change! Remember we need to manipulate the African brains, the spirit, the mentality - it is a psychological struggle.
Again I ask, how do we as a people; explain this weakness among African leadership particularly among us: we have both competent men and women, we have intellectuals, we have capable doctors, we have scientists, why then does Africa not have the right leadership. Why are African leaders, running cap-in-hand to their former imperial or colonial masters for direction and instructions on how to rule their people.
We have a document titled Colloquium on Black Civilization and Education; it is a blue print on how Africa should be ruled. Who among the current African heads of state can confirm reading the recommendations of the colloquium? How many States Assembly members from current independent nation members of the African Union have debated the recommendations of the colloquium in their respective assemblies? How many African individuals know the contents of the colloquium? It is a document printed by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Information, printing division, Malu Road, Apapa Lagos.
It is a document put together during the World Festival of Black and African Arts. For those who don’t know, the World Festival of Black and African Arts have, since its inception in Dakar in 1966, been considered under three main headings:
The Colloquium, which is the very heart of the festival, is a forum where scholars, writers, and artists of Black World, come to pool together their reflections, their researches and their experiences, around a theme which gives each festival its distinctive mark, and which is illustrated by all the activities of the festival. The aim of the colloquium is to help Black peoples to become more familiar with their cultural heritage, to master it better, to tighten their solidarity with a view to ensuring their total cultural liberation, and to pool their efforts together in order to promote and disseminate their cultural values within their communities all over the world.
The theme of the colloquium of the First World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar was: Function and Significance of Black African Arts for the People and in the Life of the People. The theme of the Colloquium of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture held in Lagos in 1977, is: Black Civilization and Education. The main theme was sub-divided into ten sub-themes, which were further regrouped into five working groups or committees:
Working Group 1
(1) Black Civilization and Arts
(2) Black Civilization and Pedagogy.
Working Group 2
(3) Black Civilization and Literature
(4) Black Civilization and African Languages
Working Group 3
(5) Black Civilization and Philosophy
(6) Black Civilization and Religion
Working Group 4
(7) Black Civilization and Historic Awareness
(8) Black Civilization and African Governments
Working Group 5
(9) Black Civilization, Science and Technology
(10) Black Civilization and Mass Media
On the theme: Historical Awareness, the colloquium’s recommendations to the Governments of African States and Black Communities in the world, is that the Western imperialist ideology, following Hegel, in denying history to the black man and in placing him as a foot-note to universal history, intends to produce a history that is Eurocentric and racial, and to show African civilization as inferior. European historians speak of African history in such terms as ‘the primitive and barbarian tribes”, who were still, at the advent of colonialism, at the first stage of human society.
However, we now know the rich contribution made by pre-colonial Africans to the history of humanity, and we now understand with much more clarity the history and civilization of the Africans, thanks to the methodological renewal taking place in the social sciences by the use of historical materialism and structuralism. Unfortunately this information is missing in our school curriculum and education system! It is therefore urgent to proceed to a scientific re-writing of African history and to insist on the contributions of the African to the history of humanity. In the same way, words like “tribe”, “primitive”, “pagan”, “savage”, “barbarism”, “ethnics”, “dark ages”, “dark continent”, etc., by which European historians justified the colonial enterprise, should disappear from the African historical vocabulary.
The anthropological and historical researches of the last few years have brought to light some facts about the historical consciousness of ancient African societies. This was found to be a global and unitary consciousness which included all the past history of man and nature; a socio-centric consciousness in as much as the objective of history was the construction and preservation of human society; finally a consciousness where the future was the essential factors (slave trade, colonisation and its consequences) into a “divided” and “shattered” consciousness creating, today, the crucial problem of its reunification, reintegration, and therefore its reconstruction.
Considering that African society was based on communalism, the spirit of brotherhood, solidarity, unity, national cohesion, respect for rights of groups, tolerance, dialogue and discussion; African scholars, meeting at the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture, recommend to African Governments to draw inspiration from these values! In the African world, research has shown that our ancestors had well defined ideas of nature, human life, existence, social relation as well as of man himself. It is on the basis of those well defined ideas that the fundamental elements of human civilization and education were developed.
For us then, in the contemporary period, it is not enough to talk about these developments in civilization and education but rather we must progressively translate those lofty ideas into positive actions for our collective existence. For us in the Black and African world, the fundamental issue in our education must continue to be the issue of relevancy, not rhetoric’s and verbalisms.
For almost half a century, most African leaders have transform the African man and woman into perambulators; hence I say we must all do well to heed the calls of our great leaders for African Unity Now! Like Frantz Fanon once said:” Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mini cries. It is a question of starting a new history of man. Humanity is waiting for something other from us than such an imitation which would be almost an obscene caricature. But if we want humanity to advance a step further, if we want to bring humanity up to a different level than that which Europe has shown it, then we must invent and we must make discoveries. For Europe, for ourselves, and for humanity we must turn over a new leaf. We must work out new concepts and try to set afoot a new man.” If we talking of “CHANGE”; this is how to make it happen!