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Like Nigeria, South Africa fails (2)

By Yinka Odumakin
THERE is a saying in the Yoruba country that the sound of rain shortly after the utterance of a cleric fortifies his belief that the heavens validate his assertion. As this column was hitting the print last Tuesday, South African President Jacob Zuma was in the news doing what black people are famous for – blaming others for their failures.

Zuma told reporters that the reason why South Africa is descending from the First World to the Third in just twenty years after the collapse of apartheid  is “apartheid heritage”. He claimed  that apartheid is to blame for the weak economic growth in South Africa, calling it “colonialism of a special type”.

*President Zuma
*President Zuma

“Other countries in Africa never had a racially based economy…We are trying to address the legacy of apartheid, and it’s going to be with us a long time,” said Zuma.

“At the same time it (South Africa) must be competing with countries that never had such a challenge.”

Economic growth

South Africa’s economy grew by 1.5 per cent in 2014, down from 2.2 per cent in 2013, according to preliminary estimates of real gross domestic product (GDP) released by Stats SA.

Zuma admitted  in his interview that power outages in the country were also hindering economic growth, while unemployment remains a concern.

We would have raised our fists in the ear if Zuma had taken a point of departure from this past time of African leaders never taking responsibility for their actions and heaping all their woes on slavery, colonialism, imperialism and now apartheid.

There is no doubt that these historical phases had their impacts on the lives of Africans, it is utterly irresponsible to use them to excuse the lack of vision,the will power to do the right things and the absence of character in leadership that have been the bane of Africa decades after independence.

I have no doubt in mind that if President Zuma were asked why is he into the habit of acquiring a harem, he would most likely cite apartheid experience for his libidinous waywardness.

20 years into Nigerian independence,the Ozidi King Sunny Okosun released an album titled “Which Way Nigeria?” and part of the lyrics:

“Twenty years after independence, we still find it hard to start. How long shall we be patient before we reach the promised  land?”

A few years after him, Fela  Anikulapo Kuti released JUST LIKE THAT with powerful lyrics such as :

“White man ruled us many years we get electricity constantly

Our people take over dem come build Kainji Dam

Since dem build the dam no electricity for town…”

When Malawians were tired of the tyranny of their longest reigning despot Kamuzu Banda, there was a huge protest and some of the banners they carried displayed the message “BETTER THE COLONIALISTS.”

That African leaders have not been able to create functional societies several years after the colonial experience and that our people are still nostalgic about the years the white man was here in terms of a system that works should make us to search ourselves and interrogate what is wrong with our genetics.

I recall getting into this argument about 10 years ago with an older friend of mine who is one of the biggest players in insurance in Nigeria about something being wrong with us as black people and I did my best to put up defenses.

Functional societies

After reeling out many of our failures, his verdict was “we blacks are created to amuse humanity.

If you want your child to make some impact just ask him to go and play football or sing music. ”

I had called his attention to the evil of colonialism and how it slowed down our development. But he asked me poignantly “What has Liberia that was not colonised made of itself?”

I further espoused on the fact that many African societies were not exposed early enough to the type of education that is driving modernisation. He allowed me to conclude on the point and said again: “I hope you  remember that some of the earliest educated people in Nigeria like Chief Adekunle Ajasin went to Fourah Bay College. What has Sierra Leone achieved with that education? Go there today and you will see Lebanese mining their resources.”

Having lost the argument at societal level, I shifted gear to the individuals and flaunted black people like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and others whose intellects the world could not ignore but he was still not fazed as he said: “Those ones are statistical errors. No society can make progress only on its exceptions.

A decade after our conversation, nothing has changed and there is little flicker of hope in the horizon that we are moving in the direction of progress.

Direction of progress

Black people are not doing enough to shake off the bigoted views of white folks about them, some of which we must shamefully admit are true.

The colonial raider of Nigeria, Lord Lugard had decades before P.W Botha given his own views about Africans:

“”In character and temperament” wrote Lord Lugard, “the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person. Lacking in self control,  discipline, and foresight.

Naturally courageous, and  naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with  little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving  weapons as an oriental loves jewelry.

His thoughts are  concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment,  and he suffers little from the apprehension for the  future, or grief for the past.

I WRITE this piece from  Michigan where the first Mayor of Detroit to ever to be sent to jail, Kwame Kilpatrick, is spending 28 years in prison for taking bribes.

His father was sentenced alongside with him. I need not tell you his colour as you already know by his name. This was not written to agree with the prejudicial views of white folks about us blacks but to nudge a new generation that would look inwards and correct the faults in ourselves as against blaming our stars.

Hopefully in our lifetimes, some good news can still come out of Africa.


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