There was a recent debate in Westminster Hall on how good it was to be giving large amounts of OPM (Other People’s Money) towards worthy causes in Africa; the worthy cause in this particular instance was the provision of clean water and sewerage to the ‘needy’ in villages all over the place. The premise is, as far as can be established, encapsulated within the statement ‘Well Africa is rather large, and there is allegedly large numbers of villages, so let’s give a lot of cash, because that will sort the problem out, and then all us do-gooders will sleep the good sleep, with no furrows creasing our earnest brows; and that will have solved the problem.
I was thinking about my next paragraph, when I recalled a post I made some five-odd years back, which featured the thoughts and beliefs of a Black man who gets an awful lot of stick within his own Continent; mainly because his opinions are so widely disliked, or engender such disapproval. Readers: I give you Mr. Idang Alibi, who is his own man, and speaks his own mind:-
Albert Einstein who is acknowledged as one of the brainiest men that ever lived on the surface of the earth once said that the average human uses less than 10 per cent of the brain God has given to him.
Whether out of a sense of modesty or he was seriously speaking the truth, he said further that even he himself (who had such a high reputation for accomplishing much with his brain) did not use more than that 10 per cent. . If this assertion is correct and if other races use less than 10 per cent of their installed capacity for production, I can safely say that we Black people use less than one per cent of our installed brain capacity for reasoning, inventing and producing things.
Why do I say so? Our race seems so averse to thinking and this helps to explain why we have achieved so little in terms of socio-political organisation, scientific and technological inventions, economic and material development and in all other indices of human progress or development. Please do not accuse me of being harsh on ourselves. I say this out of patriotic anger and disappointment and there is truth in what I am saying.
I have said several times that this earth that God has made our habitation is a work-in-progress. God deliberately did not ‘complete’ creating a perfect world for us his children to just dwell in it without a care for anything but to tend it, subdue it and make it to suit our requirement because he did not intend us to be robots, but to be thinking and creative beings who will be his partners-in-progress.
That is why God did not build houses for us to just inherit and live in, once we are born; but He created limestone, clay, sand, water and granite for us to figure out how we can convert them to building materials and use them in making for ourselves habitable houses. God could have made us furniture but he instead made for us tress so that we can fashion out from them wood and turn them into the kind of furniture we desire.
With thinking or creative faculty bestowed upon us we are meant to put our brains to work. But we the Blacks are the least willing or the least able of all the races to put our brains to productive work.
Our refusal, so to say, to use our brains and think out solutions to the challenges confronting us is the number seven reasons why we are the way we are–poor, miserable and pitiable.
We Blacks everywhere are too willing to resign ourselves to any situation in which we find ourselves. The Black man can remain in a ghetto environment for centuries without thinking about how to improve his circumstances. Government will not care about him and he will not care about himself. Go to any African country: the same type of grass-thatched round mud house that our ancestors of pre-historic times lived in is the same type of houses many of our people are still living in today. This does not in any way show a people who regard life as a continuing battle to conquer and subdue the earth so we can live a better life than our forebears did. This shows a people who do not sit down and use their brain for their own good.
From the little reading I have done, I have discovered that every great civilisation that has ever been built was done so based on certain ideas: the wise elders of the people of that material time sat together and reasoned among themselves and decided that they needed to follow certain principles of life before they can grow and develop. It is said that ideas rule the world. They indeed do. Every country that is known as great is built on an idea or a set of ideas. Any discerning person who visits any country for the first time, will know what ideas, or if any ideas at all, informed the building of that country. You will know if a country is built to confer the greatest good on the greater number of the people or is meant for the elite or is a looters’ haven.
Europeans who fled from religious persecution to the new world of what is today America decided that they will embrace what we call today Protestant Ethic namely frugality, liberty, hard work, discipline and the pursuit of happiness. Employing these principles they proceeded to build a country that has become an empire still buIing the rest of us in the world today.
About fifty years ago the tiny city-state island of Singapore was a dirt poor place, even more backward than some of the countries in present day Africa. One man, who can be called the island’s philosopher-king according to the prescription of Plato, sat down, thought hard and decided that certain things needed to be done to take Singapore from a backward Third World nation to a successful First World country. That man is called Lee Kuan Yew.
He said the country must embrace a sort of capitalism driven by the state which is in turn governed by a tiny band of highly educated, patriotic, honest, absolutely corrupt-free, disciplined and visionary elite. Today, that country that is smaller both in size and population than Sokoto state is called a tiny titan; it punches far above its weight!
Where, I cry, are our own thinkers, planners and executors of the ideas we have for building great African societies? First of all, what are the ideas that we Africans have for building our countries? This is where everything starts: a good thought.
On what ideas is a country like Nigeria founded? From the way our country is run, it looks like this is anything- goes- place. It is a place without rule or order. Do anything you can and anything you please to grab as much as you can. If you like keep your loot here or better, hide it in safe havens abroad. Even if a country is founded to be a rouge haven, there must be guiding rules for roguery so that every rogue can enjoy his loot in relative peace. But no. Dare to call for some kind of conference, whether sovereign or non-sovereign so that our governing elite can sit down and decide what we need to do as a people, and many who are afraid that an inconvenient rule may be made to stop looting may be thought of to spoil their own chance, will not like to hear that. And so we are stuck.
And that is the fate of many African countries. We are afraid of even thinking about the way forward. What a tragedy!