The problem of Africa: how honourable are our ‘Honourables’?

7th Parliament1 File photo

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 Source: Elvis Effah

A story is being told of a peasant farmer who lived in the hinterlands. This farmer who felt the pangs of neglect every blessed day was living alone. One day, as this farmer was busily working on his farm, an awful incident occurred. An aeroplane full of politicians crashed near his farm. Without any delay, this poor farmer started digging the grave of the politicians. When the police arrived, they asked the farmer what had happened. The farmer, without any sign of remorse, enthusiastically answered, “The plane crashed near my farm and I buried all of them”. One of the police officers asked with a sign of indignation and out of shock; “are you sure they all died?” The poor farmer slowly and patiently replied, “Some of them were screaming, ‘we are still alive.’ But I couldn’t believe them. You know these politicians. They can lie”.

I do not take delight in making mockery of the “honourables” of Africa. As a matter of fact, many citizens in the continent of Africa wouldn’t hesitate to do likewise if they are to find themselves in the situation of this peasant farmer.

It is crystal clear that during the struggle for independence, the clarity and unanimity with which African freedom fighters articulated their views and vision for their country and Africa as a whole was bracing and very patriotic. Their clarity of purpose and ideological cohesion in the African continent will forever convince one to believe that they were reading from the same script scribbled by one scribe.

The African continent will be eternally grateful to some visionaries like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Madibo Keita of Mali, Augustinho Neto of Angola, Patrice Lumumba of Kenya, Samora Machel of Mozambique among many others. These were men who lived beyond reproach and led exemplary lives.

In the early years of independence, most African countries portrayed some traits which made it clear that they were moving in the right direction. Per the natural resources, most African countries were eager to achieve a mutual social cohesion, economic prosperity and political freedom. The train of development in Africa as expected by some analysts was to move with the speed of a cheetah but with military accuracy. This train that was moving in the right direction of development and progress has long come to an abrupt halt. The script of progress is long lost and African countries keep on punching below the economic weight of the world. The economic terrain is in shambles and has become unbearable for the ordinary citizens. Many years after most African countries untied themselves from the apron-strings of their erstwhile colonizers, the citizens are still swimming excruciatingly in the endless vicious cycle of poverty and shame.

Wait a minute! What then is the problem of Africa? Could it be as a result of inadequate natural resources? Certainly no! The continent of Africa in my opinion is the luckiest and most privileged among all the continents. It is extremely exhilarating to know that Africa is the world’s richest continent in terms of natural resources. But in terms of the wealth of its citizens, it is the poorest. What an irony! The African continent is never in shortage of rich minerals like gold, diamond, bauxite, cobalt as well as some precious commodities like oil, timber and gas. Need I talk of the untilled fertile acres of farmlands?

Many people have proposed the problem of Africa. Chinua Achebe, an industrious son of the continent posited that the problem of Africa is squarely the problem of leadership. In his book “Why Africans are Poor”, Greg Mills states unequivocally that Africans are poor because their leaders have chosen that path. Africans and their leaders desire things which require effort but they never make any meaningful effort. I can’t agree less with these prolific writers. But quite contrary to the view of Greg, I opine that Africa is never poor but we are stealing her wealth. It is an established fact that about $161bn comes to Africa within a year in the form of remittances, loans and aid. It is worth noting that at this same time, about $203bn leaves the continent of Africa.

The “honourables” who are supposed to be the agents of development and protect the public purse are now a pain in the neck by becoming the strategic authors of the doom of Africa. P.O.C Umeh describes them as ambassadors of poverty who are always frustrating the corporate will of the masses.

The word “honourable” simply means to be “honest and fair”. But how many “honourables” (politicians) in Africa really deserve this prestigious honour? With staggering and wavering lips, the masses address them as “honourable” and yet they are “unable”. Many “honourables” are locked up in the corrosive war of corruption and greed. The virtues of integrity, honesty and equity are alien to the “honourables” of Africa. Corruption has been institutionalized and those who still hold on to the ancient virtues of honesty and integrity are seen as the endangered species. They give the youngsters every reason to be corrupt. In the nature of things, when the cow is chewing a cud then the calf will follow suit in that same process.

To most of these “honourables”, they see the continent of Africa as a cemetery where their bodies should be laid to rest when they die. Meanwhile, the hard earned monies of the continent are siphoned to fuel foreign banks. The most pathetic aspect of it all is that, some loot these huge amounts of money and save them in foreign banks without the knowledge of anyone. They die and these monies and properties become the assets of the foreign nations. This barbaric and inhuman behaviour on the part of some African leaders only denigrates and debase the dignity of the masses and tarnishes the image of the continent as a whole.

Without any shilly- shallying, most “honourables” in Africa are only famous for the wrong things. Instead of being recognized as astute and famous leaders, our leaders have chosen to be infamous. Ask of Sani Abacha of Nigeria and he will definitely be remembered for corruption. Talk of Mobutu of Zaire (now DR Congo) and he is only rembered as the man who saw Congo to be God’s personal gift to him alone.

Idi Amin of Uganda was known internationally as a man who gruesomely murdered anyone who opposed him. David Mukholi (Managing Editor of Vision Group) recalls how scary it was to walk along the Nile River because dead bodies were washed ashore every blessed day. To the world, Amin is the embodiment of anything dark and monstrous that came out of Africa. He rose to become the 20th century most infamous leader in the world. Some 3,000 people are said to have been killed during his eight year rule.

It is only in Africa that our “honourables” can spend about 3.79 US dollars of the tax payer’s money on pampers and other fleeting desires. It was quite disparaging to know that about $10.3 billion was seized as at 2016 from people who were suspected to have looted the nation’s money in Nigeria. This exercise was carried under Buhari’s regime. About $9.8 million in the safe house of Andrew Yakubu, former managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was found and seized. These whopping amounts are in individuals’ pockets in Africa. Meanwhile, some paupers in Africa cannot afford two square meals a day. Some people in Africa really squeeze water out of stone in order to make ends meet.

The behaviour of the ‘Honourables’ of Africa has pushed the citizens to start doubting the fundamentals of their independence and freedom. It is unfathomable to know that in Ghana, under the auspices of Sir Gordon Guggishberg, 19 well equipped hospitals were built including the much talked about Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. 3,380 miles of road network was constructed to facilitate transportation by land. Similarly, 207 miles of railway was constructed in the bid to enhance transportation in Ghana. The prince of Wales College (now Achimota School) was built at the cost of 12.4 million pounds. Most Africans would now be asking the uncomfortable question; “how many hospitals, railways, harbours and roads have been built after the erra of colonization and the early years of our independence and what is the amount of money wasted over simple projects like Public toilets? The few infrastructures are left to deteriorate and are now beyond rehabilitation. How many African countries can still boast of quality railway lines?

The attitude of the African politician has made most African countries to suffer from inferiority complex in the presence of other continents. Africans are now coerced to seek approval from others to feel complete. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t stop believing in Africa.

Moving forward, the “honourables” of Africa and we the citizens need a total repentance. We need a total change of mind and heart. For all we know, “the one condemning the act hasn’t gotten the golden opportunity to be corrupt” as asserted by P.L. O Lumumba. It’s high time our “honourables” knew that the national cake is not to be siphoned into individual pockets. Being in power for one’s own parochial interest is really a great disservice to the continent of Africa. The weakness of Africa is pathetic and it is time to create a new Africa where we shall be the sole deciders of what others will think of us.

A new Africa where our “honourables’’ will serve passionately and sincerely and not for their self-aggrandizement. A new Africa where the citizens won’t continuously pester our Politicians for money before they can vote for them. A new Africa where the honourable will truly be honourable. There is the need for a total hygiene in the politics and leadership of Africa. THE WRITER IS ELVIS EFFAH BLOGS @ elvis1site.wordpress.com EMAIL: elviseffah50@gmail.com

Columnist: Elvis Effah