If you accompany trouble on his travels through Africa and the additional Continent of Africa World, you would have to wonder why Africans do not wish to make life better, cleaner, healthier, for themselves. And for their children. Talking of continents, there are two additional ones now. There is the Arab World, most of whose land mass is in the continent of Africa. And there is the Africa World comprising Africa and the slums and dump sites around the world.
Africa world writers and intellectuals like to say what people in Asia and Europe and North America are doing to make life better for themselves and their children, and anyone else who cares. They do this as if the mere listing of the actions of a Japanese or Chinese or Indian leader would make the Nigerian leader do the same. Time and endless time again, the writers and intellectuals of the Africa World continue to do this without any positive response from their political leaders.
These political leaders have seen these countries, met the men and women who lead these countries, walked the clean streets of these cities and travelled in the regular and regulated means of these countries. Have our leaders been encouraged to imitate these persons, places and things?
Nigeria airways wasted. Nigeria railways railroaded into destruction. Nigeria roads reduced to motor paths and dirty fishing ponds without fish.
The newspapers are full of the failure of Nigeria to make life better for themselves and their children. Dump sites in the middle of government secretariats. Universities with impressive gates and no buildings. Buildings named hospitals where medication, doctors, nurses, cleaners have left behind and gone to other places.
Our political leaders have seen palaces, slept in palaces around the world and yet come home to ramshackle buildings decrepit in the extreme and hang notices indicating this to be the palace of some Oba or other. Every village is a kingdom, every untidy town an empire for some bare footed chieftain carrying a joke of a crown. Unless we have an indigenous inspiration to make things better for ourselves, no listing of what others have done would inspire us to make things better for ourselves.
What has inspired others in the world to seek betterment in their lifetime? Poverty and disease are major inspirations for people to aspire to a life of sufficiency and health. But there is still something else. There is the belief that poverty and ill-health is not the fate of any one. Poverty and disease is not wished on anyone by some malignant deity or neighbour. That underlining belief that poverty and disease can be avoided, can be done away with inspires the effort to seek better seedlings, better forms of food preservation, deeper understanding of the courses of illness and disease. Without this belief, nothing will get done.
The lives of others also inspire the wish for betterment. Look at Obafemi Awolowo in the old Western Region. He devoted himself to study Nigeria. Out of the abundance of his reading, research and writing he came to conclusions, which should guide any wise leader in future about anything Nigerian. Out of that contemplation consequent on continuous thought he came to a number of actions: about Education, about public health, about the economy, about housing, about electricity, about life being more abundant to everybody.
Look at Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Living the way we were living in South Africa, black and white, was inhuman. In a world where the satisfaction of the best of one set of people was achieved by the worst of another set of people, all fellow humans, was not good. Period. Something must be done to school the wealthy and the wretched, the powerful and the powerless, white, black or blue that only a shared wealth is worthy of humans. To achieve that balance Nelson Mandela pronounced himself ready to live for. Or to die for.
In spite of these shining examples of human beings, we are still locked in ignorance, in poverty and in disease. We are still covered in darkness as if nobody had showed us the light. Our people die uselessly in the face of curable diseases. In fact, dying uselessly seems to be our lot in the Africa World. And yet, it should not be so.
Why then is it so? History has to do with it. And there are idiots who proscribe the teaching of history in our educational institutions. Culture has to do with it. Yet, our culture and, particularly, our non-culture, has to do with it. Later for the content of our non-culture, attitudes and behaviour that we pick up along the way because they are convenient. Our beliefs also have to do with our not seeking to better ourselves beyond subsistence level.
Subsistence existence is dragged from the concept of subsistence farming, which is defined as “farming whose products are intended to provide the basic needs of the farmer, with little surplus for marketing,” and “farming that brings little or no profit to the farmer, allowing only for a marginal livelihood.”
We have extended this concept to every human effort we make. We have subsistence teaching and subsistence lecturing. We have subsistence banking and subsistence trading. We do subsistence politics and subsistence pastoring and evangelising. With no little profit margin to invest in greater possibilities, the rest is to manage to survive. The quality of that survival never improves. Unless we strike it lucky, like the luck of the gambler. Or a Ponzi scheme winner. Or a pool winner.
If we strike it lucky we abandon our subsistence profession and spend like the pool winner, spend until it finishes! And when it finishes we return to our subsistence profession and live on the dream of our recent boom!
The question our writers and thinkers should be concerned with is not telling us how they did it in China or in India or in Japan with the implication that we can do the same thing and make life better for ourselves and our children. What they should do is tell us how we go beyond being satisfied with living a subsistence existence in Africa World.