Black Man’s Dilemma

Posted by By at 26 September, at 03 : 06 AM Print

BLACK MAN’S DILEMMA

(This is one of my first articles on returning to Africa, after my studies/sojourn in Europe). I did not publish it until now, because I thought it was too severe, even by my own standards. I did not edit it to bring it up to date because the message remains essentially true!)

You should be the judge!

I got the jitters last week. Returning home, I saw an excited crowd wielding sticks, stones, bricks and other instruments of violence. A little later I saw them killed what was easily the biggest snake I have ever seen in my life. It was a big and very black spitting cobra also known as Naja nigricollis. Cobras, I learnt, are among the world’s most poisonous snakes. Some children had sighted it and they raised an alarm that drew adults. There were shouting and battle cries. That woke up a man that was enjoying his siesta. In panic, he rushed out leaving his door ajar. The frightened snake rushed inside. It took a while before it was finally killed.

I looked around the neighbourhood; there were pockets of bushes all around. My question is why do we Africans lack the capacity to take care of our environment? It is still a mystery to me why constructing simple amenities to make our lives healthier seems to be beyond our abilities. There were heavily muscled men around, yet they cannot summon the will to take their cutlasses and cut the weed in order to protect themselves and their families from obvious dangers. And if they cannot summon the willpower to wield cutlasses, why shouldn’t they have the imagination to pay someone a few thousand cedis to get the job done? Let no one give me the ‘Country is hard,’ excuse. Even in this HIPC times, many of us think nothing of downing three or four tots of liquor before breakfast!

If the truth be told, ours have become lethargic race. I have done my fair share of traveling around the world, and I daresay that I have never met any other group of people with absolutely no interest in improving their physical environment and material well-being like we Africans. Many of our neighbourhoods are unfit for cattle pens in some societies. For us, it is just normal when bare-footed, half-starved children with Kwashiorkor bellies parade our dirty streets. We continue to build our shacks in mosquitoes-infested, rats overwhelmed swamps and it is in those hovels that we prepare and eat our foods; marry and love our women and born and raise our children.

I am profoundly troubled by much of what I have seen and continue to witness since my return to Africa. It continues to baffle me why we Africans continue to look on with childlike helplessness while the rest of the world is speeding ahead.

About four decades ago, men landed on the moon; today but for ethical considerations a human being could be cloned. It has already happened, if Mr. David Rorvik the author of ‘In His Image’ is to be believed. And yet we Africans continue to wallow in self-induced poverty. Our lives continue to be ruled by ignorance and superstition.

Although I am as competent with computers as the best IT Professional, I’m not too fascinated by technology and science per se. And though it might be argued that in themselves, science and technology are not the answers to what is ailing mankind. But we simply cannot run away from the fact that science and technology, at the very least, guarantee better qualities of life. It saddens me to see our people still eking out of life primitive lifestyles other races have left behind eons ago. Potable water, regular electricity and decent shelter are still beyond the reach of most of our people. Our leaders continue to speechify; yet our telecommunication systems cannot compete with what obtained in some countries a century ago.

Our preachermen continue to tell the profane lies that our problems are caused by devils and that that they could only be solved by more prayers and supplications. This is an ungodly lie and many of these pastors knew it. They have traveled to and lived in societies where men decently feed, clothe and house themselves without entreaties to heavenly fathers. Many of us have lived in societies where one has easy access to high quality health service and where an ambulance would come within five minutes of being summoned. Man had long proved that we need not pray to heavenly fathers or gyrate and dance ourselves silly for cure to easily curable diseases. In many societies only those for whom thinking is an encumbrance still believe in the supernatural and the goblins of the sky. Why do we continue to ask for supernatural intervention to stave of flood? What manner of people are we Africans really? We drown in flood during raining season (as witnessed in Mozambique, Ghana, Burkina Faso etc) and millions of us are killed by drought (a la Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya).

I have being coming to Ghana since 1995 and I have seen things that made me wonder if we Africans are indeed capable of self-redemption. I simply cannot believe that in this age people are still building houses without such basics like toilets and bathrooms? I am daily confronted by the sight of entire family trooping to bushes to answer the call of nature. There are deadly snakes suck like Cobras, but that is insufficient to deter our people. Do we really need anybody to tell us that a toilet is an essential facility in a residence? When I was growing up in my village some forty something years ago, there were public toilet facilities. There were also Health Inspectors going round to ensure that the toilets were well maintained. Four decades later, our folks still have to brave snakes, scorpions and other deadly creatures in order to relieve themselves.

No, we can no longer run away from the sad fact that we have become lethargic! With an amazing, if childlike helplessness, we sit and wait for the government, NGOs, foreign ‘donors’ to come and solve basic problems for us. It is an attitude that continually baffles me. No, it is not MONEY, although that is always our battle cry.

I once called a group of youth in my area together in order to get their ideas on why they cannot fix themselves common (sic) communal toilets. Their excuses range from the flimsy to the utterly ridiculous. Most said the government should do it. Many gave the ‘No Money Syndrome,’ justification. I then sat them down to work out how much it would cost to build a simple place of convenience.

We all discovered that it was an utterly ridiculous amount. All that is needed is a digger, a spade, some planks of wood and nails. Money is not fighting in my pocket, but just to make them realize the ridiculousness of their excuses, I offered to pay half of the cost if only they could raise the other half and supply the labour. They left vowing to come back. Of course, I haven’t heard anything from them since. And if that doesn’t sounds odd enough, what about this: Some of my neighbours with in-house toilets prefer to go into the bush because, according to them, it is cheaper than buying water to flush the toilets. And my neighbours lacked the imagination to collect the water from the bathroom to use in flushing their toilets the way I do!

One of my neighbors recently celebrated the birth of his third child with all the pomp and ceremony that he could muster. There is nothing strange in that except that this is an unemployed guy whose wife is also doing no trade from which to earn any income. The two older children have stopped going to school for over a year now because he couldn’t afford to keep them there. Yet, this guy thought nothing of getting another child and was glad to get boozed celebrating it!

If you ask him why he doesn’t try and get a job to keep the family, his reply is that he’s doing ‘connection.’ Of course, one can depend on the vagaries of nature to keep one alive, but should one also involve a wife and three innocent children in one’s Russian roulette with life? I don’t think so. I feel so sorry for the kids. The eldest, Kofi, is a very bright ten years old. It saddens me greatly that his father is wasting his life away with apparent no concern. I offered to send him to an orphanage and pay for his upkeep there, but his father’s puerile narcissism made him refused the offer. Many are weeks that the guy will simply vanish, and I’d be left to cater for the family. And the ingrate is not the type to come back and say ‘thank you.’ The likes of him apparently believe that the world owe them a favor.

Two other traits of ours that continue to baffle me is our propensity to show off. Observing our wedding and funeral ceremonies has led me to conclude that we are a race of spendthrifts. I do not attend parties simply because I do not know how to even try to impress people. Within reason I could offer direct assistance to the needy, but what’s the point in organizing parties?

Although not religious I greatly admire the Islamic religion for its simplicity. In Islam, marriages are modestly consummated; births are minimally celebrated and one does not need to burst a budget in order to bury a departing relation.

I have talked about my unemployed neighbor that spent fortune to welcome the birth of his new baby. I have also seen people borrowed money for such unproductive ventures like marriages and funerals. What I asked myself is who is the mason that lives in a single shack in a very poor neighborhood trying to impress by pulling all the stops to wed an unemployed spinster? It would have made better sense to me if they have utilize the money to move to a better place or get the lady some income-generating trade.

And what about this strange habit whereby our Chiefs and Elders sold whole towns with absolutely nothing to show for it. Land bequeathed to them had been sold and the money remained unaccounted for. Just ask them what they did with all the proceeds from their patrimony. They used it on funerals and other useless ceremonies. Institutions like our Royalties no longer impress me. To me they have become effete and rather useless.  And I daresay that it is high time we jettison them. Many of them have had the benefit of education and have been exposed to other cultures. They have seen what is possible for Humankind with dedication and good leadership. Aside from a few, how many of our so-called Chiefs are actively pursuing progressive ideas and projects that would bring solid progress to their people. In this regard, I must doff my hat to the Asantehene.

Many foreign NGO had come and build modern toilet facilities for many of our villages. Our people would simply lapse into their old habits as soon as the foreigners left. I have seen many of the facilities rotting away for lack of maintenance. In many of our rural areas are also many water projects initiated by NGOs. The NGO people will build the reservoir and asked the villagers to contribute to lay the pipes in order to allow clear, potable water to start flowing into their homes; of course, our people would say that they didn’t have the money! I have seen many of the reservoirs standing and being destroyed by the elements. I know that the NGOs could easily have laid the pipes, but they just wanted to get the villagers involved so that they will also see it as part of their properties. The same villagers that pleaded poverty when asked to contribute to potable water projects would soon be seen spending millions of cedis to send a departing relation to the world beyond! I have witnessed people keeping dead relations in mortuary for upward of a year. The same people that would not have money to buy common Paracetamol for the relation they are spending fortune to bury.

Some years ago I succeeded in bringing some sewing machines for the children of the Orphanage being run by my friend. And later seven boxes of Carpentry tools were also shipped to them. Neither my friend nor I have the money to build the workshop needed to house the machines. The machines are gathering dust in my friend’s house! I have on several occasions pleaded with the Elders and Chiefs of the village to come to my friend’s aid in erecting a structure to house the workshop, all to no avail. They didn’t say so in many words, but their attitudes suggest that we are some crazy bozos with no better employment for our money and time. So, we have been knocking on the doors of foreign embassies and NGOs!

How about our business attitudes? We are plagued by the same shortsightedness. A Jew would do everything to build a viable business that will outlast him. Do we have black businesses that outlived their owners? We tend to crave immediate gratification. Most of us are not interested in business venture that does not bring immediate profit! That explains why most of our so-called businessmen are those that are combing the waste dumps of Europe to rescue discarded tires, disused televisions and abandoned fridges to come and sell in Ghana. Some are even importing old newspapers and used women panties!

And what do most of those that call themselves contractors here do as soon as they are awarded government contracts? The first thing is to buy the latest designer car, build a mansion, marry more wives and started throwing parties. If they happen to be Moslems, of course they would have to make a trip to Mecca to give praise to Allah. If they were Christians, it would be time to go to Paris, London and New York for shopping and ‘Medical Check-up.’

Over fifty years of our sham independence, we still lack the industrial base to produce the most basic of our needs. To stop mosquitoes from invading our shacks, we have to import mosquito coils from Indonesia. We have to import Candles from India to supplement the erratic supply we get from our power authorities. We continue to believe the fallacy that economies are built by ‘buying and selling.’

I remember my undergraduate days at Leiden, Holland. At weekends, we sometimes go to Antwerp in Belgium to wind down. I am mostly shocked by the sight of African students (mostly children of African rulers and elite) tooling around town in the latest Mercedes and BMW cars. Attired in suits that costs upward of $2,000 and shoes that are over $1,000 and watches that would set their unfortunate countries back by at least $50,000. These guys\gals would be consuming the most expensive cognac by the bottles. Of course, they cannot raise the level of any intellectual argument. Those people are today misruling their countries. We have to configure that into any reason we adduce for the sad situation our continent is in today.

I hope that better minds would educate me on why we Africans choose to live in sordid squalor when, with little effort, we could improve our lot. Why do we choose to make our homes in hovels with cockroaches and mice as co-tenants? Why do our elite dress in expensive robes while the masses of our people continue to live in conditions that would rival those in Victorian England vividly portrayed in Charles Dickens’ novels? Even the most exclusive of our residential areas still lack public toilets, so people are forced to urinate and, occasionally, defecate by the roadsides. In many of our streets, soil-men are peddling their trades in broad daylight.

Let us consider what we call culture. Culture is defined as the customs of a particular group or civilization. In Africa, we tend to believe that culture began and ended with bare-breasted, heavily buttocked women gyrating widely to music from the drums of heavily muscled macho men. We remain the only branch of the human race that does not derive pleasure in speaking its language. We do not enjoy eating what we produce: our palate has been geared towards imported produce (British mad cow beef and foot-and mouth diseased muttons have become staple of our diet). Despite our numerous Ministers of Agriculture our rice still comes from the US and Thailand. And I still wonder why people that have absolutely no conception of time want to eat ‘Fast Food.’

On assumption of power, the NPP government carried out an exercise to register unemployed people in the country. With all the pageantry that they could muster government functionaries made a song-and-dance about the noble goals to be achieved by the exercise. I shook my head in amazement. Instead of wasting the millions (or is it billions?) cedis in registering unemployed people, why didn’t the government used the money to create emergency public works for the unemployed? A simple example should suffice:  Few years ago, I went with my girl friend and our newborn child to the ‘Amsterdamse bos,’ – a large and very beautiful park in the Dutch city of Amsterdam. The park was really beautiful with facilities for fishing, boating, horseracing and many other forms of recreations. Lolling in the summer sun, my friend told me that the park was built immediately after the 1945 war to generate employment. The Dutch government, in order, to put as many people to work as fast as possible, initiated many public works like parks and canal building. I learnt that several European countries adopted the same methods to rebuild their shattered infrastructures and economies. The people were paid nominal wages, sometimes with coupons and sometimes with food stamps.

Why can’t African governments recognize the same emergency and initiate emergency programmes to put their people to work? No, our problems are not due only to lack of money, but our poverty of foresight. It doesn’t have to cost huge sums if the bureaucracy can be taken out of such programmes. The money wasted on the registration exercise could easily have been used to put smiles on the faces of some of our people. The unemployed have been registered, now what? The database would need to be constantly updated and maintained, otherwise it’d be useless (if it is not already so). If I know our bureaucrats well, more paperwork would definitely follow creating more necessity for more paperwork, ad infintum.

It is leaders challenging their citizens to lift themselves up and improve upon their environment that build modern societies. After a devastating flood in 1953, the Dutch government said, ‘NEVER AGAIN.’ Dams, canals and dykes were built all over the country to ensure that lives were no longer wantonly wasted by natural disaster. The Dutch are today earning good money selling the technologies they developed to keep their water at bay.  In May 1961 President Kennedy challenged Americans to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth “before the decade is out”.  On July 20, 1969 American astronauts landed and planted an American flag on the moon. It was a feat brilliantly captured by Norman Mailer’s in his ‘Fire on the Moon.’ The spillover from the technologies the Americans developed to get to the moon benefited every facet of American industries.

In contrast, African leaders are good only at shedding tears at scenes of disaster only to go back to their opulent palaces and forget about it. Until next time when more copious tears would be shed over what, with little imagination, could easily have been prevented. Just like the colonial authorities kept Africans at arms length our own leaders are treating us with contempt. African leaders wasted over two decades pursuing neo-colonial, genocidal economic policies formulated by the malevolent twin neo-colonial institutions, the IMF and the sadly mis-named World Bank. No sooner had the evil institutions admitted that their Structural Adjustment Policies had failed did African governments started stampeding to embrace HIPC, another neo-colonial policy dreamt up by the wicked officials of these institutions. Do our political leaders need a crystal ball to see that HIPC would worsen our economic conditions?

Our governments could also appeal to our sense of patriotism. Many of us are not selfish and would also like to contribute our quota to improve our society. Let the architect among us design parks and dams and canals; let the surveyors among us survey the land; let the civil and structural engineers among us do the supervision and let our youth provide the labour. Those of us in the IT sector should be challenged to provide the computers, the printers, the plotters and the computer programs to help out. The breweries that are spending billions of cedis on advertisements to get us drunk should be asked to provide some fund to take care of logistics and other things, while our farmers and hoteliers should donate food to feed the labourers. We could pay the workers with food stamps (work for food programmes) or with government promissory notes. We could also create special medals for those that participated in such public work programmes. We should recognise that until some of us are determined to make our societies better than we meet it, so long shall we continue to wallow in poverty.

It is time we learn that no society has ever been developed by foreigners however benevolent. In few years the Chinese would land a Chinese on the moon. China would still be wallowing in poverty and ignorance today if she had waited for ‘foreign donors,’ to come and solve her problems. Enough said.

.MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-size:10.0pt; mso-ansi-font-size:10.0pt; mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} /* List Definitions */ @list l0 {mso-list-id:496656423; mso-list-template-ids:-483603338;} @list l1 {mso-list-id:686954177; mso-list-template-ids:949750568;} @list l2 {mso-list-id:1030375163; mso-list-template-ids:2130896448;} @list l2:level1 {mso-level-start-at:2; mso-level-tab-stop:.5in; mso-level-number-position:left; text-indent:-.25in;} ol {margin-bottom:0in;} ul {margin-bottom:0in;} –>

About the Author  

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

  1. Freedom Bookshop, near Apollo Theatre, Accra.
  2. WEB Dubois Pan-African Centre, Accra
  3. Ghana Writers Association office, PAWA House, Roman Ridge, Accra.
  4. Afia Beach Hotel, Accra

Where to buy them online:

On Lulu Books:

18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories https://goo.gl/Skohtn

Ghana: Basic Facts + More: https://goo.gl/73ni99

Africa: Destroyed by the gods: https://goo.gl/HHmFfr

Africa: It shall be well: https://goo.gl/KIMcIm

Africa: it shall be well

on Kindle books: https://www.createspace.com/4820404

on Amazon books: http://goo.gl/QeFxbl

on Lulu Books: https://goo.gl/SQeoKD

Africa: Destroyed by the gods

on Kindle books: https://www.createspace.com/4811974

18 African Fables & Short Stories: https://goo.gl/s9tWAf

on Amazon books: http://goo.gl/1z97ND

on Lulu Books: http://goo.gl/KIMcIm

 My Lulu Books page: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FemiAkomolafe

Get free promotional materials here:

  1. Africa: it shall be well: http://alaye.biz/africa-it-shall-be-well-introduction-in-pdf/

A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: It shall be well’ can be downloaded here: http://alaye.biz/africa-it-shall-be-well-a-free-chapter/

  1. Africa: Destroyed by the gods (How religiosity destroyed Africa) http://alaye.biz/africa-destroyed-by-the-gods-introduction/

A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: Destroyed by the gods’ can be downloaded here: http://alaye.biz/africa-destroyed-by-the-gods-free-chapter/

Read a review here

Femi’s Blog: www.alaye.biz/category/blog
Website: www.alaye.biz
Femi on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/author/femiakomolafe
Femi Akomolafe’s Lulu Books page: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/FemiAkomolafe
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ekitiparapo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FemiAlaye
Gmail+: https://plus.google.com/112798710915807967908;
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/femiakomolafe;
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/fakomolafe
Email: fakomolafe@gmail.com
Profile on New African magazine: http://newafricanmagazine.com/tag/femi-akomolafe/

Facebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeby feather
 

Blog, News, Polemics, Random Musings , , , , ,

Related Posts

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Support us with your Paypal Donations