Calm down, patriot, those aren’t my words. Kindly transfer your anger to the grave of the Ugandan poet Okot p’Bitek who in his prose poetry book “Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol” lets loose an Africa-bashing black man who is an exact portrait of the subject in Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Mask”. Today I’m possessed by the rage that intoxicates Ocol [husband of Lawino, that proud daughter of Africa]—Ocol who asks us to set fire on “all the anthologies/ Of African literature/ And close down/ All the schools of African studies.” To Ocol, Africa is merely an “Idle giant/Basking in the sun,/ Sleeping, snoring,/ Twitching in dreams;.” Ocol is angry, and he is so for a reason, which is why, while asking us to arrest, disregard and dishonour the persons and memories of our intellectuals, poets, freedom fighters, monarchs and all advocates of pan-African ideologies and traditions, he challenges: “Can you explain/ The African philosophy/ On which we are reconstructing/ Our new societies?” This question was asked by Ocol, a British-educated African, about the time of independence of many African countries. Half a century later, where is our longitude and latitude in the world geography of Development?
Unlike Ocol, my anger has not lost its bearing, and it has not somersaulted into the lake of self-hate. But it’s close to that state, which is why I sound almost like a disowned son of Aime Cesaire. It is a valid excuse to blame the European explorers who disrupted the “darkness” of Black Africa in the era of their industrial revolution and led us through torturous years of slavery and then colonialism. The Europeans planted their greed on many strange lands, and their ideas in many people and thus left behind an explosion of identity crises which our ancestors couldn’t really manage. Here we are, still chained and imprisoned by petty antagonisms along the lines of governments, religions and ethnicity—Muslims against Christians, the Hutu against the Tutsi, democracy against the military, government against the people.
Africa has been the testing ground for all forms of evils, in governments, in religions, and in socio-economic structures. Today while the world is inventing new ideas and going on for grander scientific and technological prospects, Africa is still discussing “tribes” and related antiquities. The world has embarked on researches to understand human genetics and pathology, Africa is still fighting over whose religion is superior. The races whose people organised these religions have since moved on to higher rungs. The Arabs, of whom Prophet Muhammad was a member, now have the Burj Khalifas of modern tourism. And the Jews, of whom Jesus was a member, have the Albert Einsteins whose scientific “atheism” changed the way we see the world. . . Africa’s intellectuals and scientists are wasted in activisms of religious and ethnic advocacies; a battalion of them is lost in brain drains to the same West. The least we can offer to honour the struggles of our ancestors whose activisms were veritably for the redemptions of our identities is building an Africa of many possibilities; and Blackman who must not rush to Germany or India to treat his catarrh, who must not seek refuge or asylum in Europe and America on grounds of war, famine, education and social welfare.
The trouble with man in Black Africa is largely his inability to solve the puzzles of his creation; man on the earth of Black Africa fails to look beyond two or so centuries ago, long before the coming of the Christian missionaries and Arab traders, to see a reason why we must never let these religions and politics of the foreigners push us towards anarchy. This man is still possessed by inferiority complexes, having been tactfully trained to see his history, personality and civilisation as nothing but wreckage salvaged by a people whose languages and cultures he has taken up.
The world is not waiting for us, and the cry that the Europeans exploited us to build their civilisations is already clichéd. The task ahead of us now is matching the feats of our sisters, old colonies, who have beaten the colonisers in certain phases of developments. Singapore, a small island with no natural resources, has been awarded the best city in a world where Paris and New York have reigned since the wake of modern civilisation; India is performing magic, astonishing the West, in areas of information technology; Malaysia has beaten countries that once nursed it in not only building a country worthy of the name, but also it has become, for Africans, the leading headquarters of educational capitalism. The question to ask ourselves now is: is the Whiteman still in charge of our State Houses from Abuja to Addis Abba, Khartoum to Kigali? And in skirting the many excuses of conspiracy theories and neo-imperialism twaddle, I realise that Africa is actually suffering from a complicated case of low self-esteem at a time when we should be confident, in the chaotic universes of western imperialism, Christian materialism and Arab expansionism. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (03/05/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)