“The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.”― Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father
History is one of the most powerful tools a people can utilize in building a sense of national identity and pride, towards social, cultural and economic advancement. A people without a true sense of their history lack a clear direction for the future.
Africa is, surprisingly, an underdeveloped country, despite her abundant natural resources. Colonialism came in disguise of civilization and in the process destroyed the core values of Africa. The traditional system of education was undermined to perpetuate western education which is alien to African culture. The trade and economic system was quite exploitative and was capitalist oriented. Tactically, the European colonialists explored and exploited both human and material resources of Africa to develop their own economy. The under-development of Africa could therefore be attributable to long term effects of slave trade, labor exploitation, unfavorable tax system which are common features of colonialism. The nature of African inherited educational system is such that encourage social stratification, and economic inequalities of the people of Africa. Also, the inherited educational system contributes to technological stagnation and perpetual disorganization of African Economy. Of equal importance is the fact that financial gain rather than quest for civilization, modernity and cultural integration were hidden factors for colonialism. More importantly, Africa is a primary source of raw materials for the European factories as well as a steady and stable market for European goods despite the fact that such products were offered at exorbitant rates. The infrastructure put in place arguably were to facilitate further the exploitation of Africa by the colonial powers. Indeed, every stage of European Conquest involved the use of arms and ammunition wherever persuasion fails. Similar fate befell Africans during slave trade era and millions of African active population were lost in the process.
Several years after the end of formal colonial rule, African teachers still teach their students dusted off colonial history curriculum. In the medical sciences, students in Africa are still taught the colonial history and practice of medicine, and no mention is made of Africa’s achievements in this area. The medical student in Africa graduates with a sense of inferiority complex and awe for the White man who invented everything he had learnt in school. The African tertiary graduate despises his roots, hates himself and whatever he represents, and makes no effort to study what is left of the indigenous knowledge of medicine held by his grandfathers and elders in the villages.
Paulo Freire, rightly noted that education has been used for the maintenance of the oppressive status quo; “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry.” If Paolo Freire’s words are anything to go by, then Africa is lacking in what true knowledge represents. What exists on the continent today remain archetypical remains of the oppressive colonial knowledge, aimed at fostering ignorance of the African’s self-worth and knowledge, forcing him instead to strive – unsuccessfully, of course – to take on the very being and image of the erstwhile colonizers.
Africans are forever trying to be like the West; talk, dress, think, organize their political, social and economic systems like the West. Ngugi Wa Thiongo aptly captures this in a speech delivered at the Fourth Steve Biko Annual Memorial Lecture. Colonialism, Wa Thiongo notes, “subjects the colonized to its own memory, making the colonized see themselves through the hegemonic memory of the colonizing centre. Put another way, the colonizing presence tried to mutilate the memory of the colonized and where that failed, it dismembered it, and tried to re-member it to the coloniser’s memory.” Even when the Westerners travel to the deep interiors of African villages to gather indigenous pharmaceutical knowledge – in the case of the Hoodia, for instance – and return to patent and sell it as their own, Africans keep quiet, afraid of “biting the finger that feeds them.” Little wonder, it is on the lips of other races, even though not often verbalized, that the African has not made any meaningful contribution to modern civilization.
Over Fifty years after Independence, Africans have refused to deconstruct and reconstruct the foundations of its colonially bequeathed knowledge. We have been dispossessed of our cherished core value system, making us think we are lesser intelligent, we are mentally and psychologically raped….There is excessive inferiority complex on our part. The average African is constantly faced with the problem of culture disorientation. The major problem of African is the problem of identity of culture. The average African behaves like someone suffering from senile amnesia. He does not understand where his coming from, where he is at present and where is going.
I think it is extremely sad that a lot of us tend to dismiss the importance of history, why should we forget about our past when no one else does? History has tremendous power, there’s a reason museums exist, there’s a reason why today I can watch historical dramas set in Britain, Rome, Korea and Japan but cannot find the same set in Mali or Zimbabwe. And when I do find historical films set on the continent they tend to show the colonized view of history rather than the complex truth, it’s much easier to have everyone walking barefoot and living simply.
Corruption and embezzlement are a way of life for African leaders. From South Africa to Egypt there is no country where corruption is not endemic. In Equatorial Guinea where oil export has earned the country billions of dollars, the 600,000 people living in the country continue to live in poverty while Teodoro Obiang Nguema and his cronies continue to siphon the oil revenue with no accountability. Nigeria, Gabon, Congo and Angola all of them Oil-exporting countries are noted for high level of corruption among the ruling class. All four countries are ruled by a cabal of corrupt leaders and their associates who masquerade as the representative of the people: presidents, senators, MPs, ministers, government officials and the list go on and on… In fact, the type of government in all four countries can best be described as Kleptocracy.
Since oil was first discovered in Nigeria about 50 years ago, several billions of dollars have been realized from it but today the whole population continue to live in abject poverty and the country has nothing to show for it. Between 2005 and 2009 state governors were arrested by Scotland Yard in London on corruption and money laundering charges. Among them are James Ibori of oil rich Delta State and his wife Theresa who had their 35 million dollar asset frozen by the English court. Mr. Ibori earned about a thousand dollars a month during his eight years as a state governor he managed to acquire wealth to the tune of $35m and was a key financial contributor to the campaign of Late President Umaru Yar’Adua. He owns a private jet and lavish London home. Another corrupt governor is Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, governor of oil-rich state of Bayelsa who was also arrested in London for money laundering charges. Mr. Alamieyeseigha broke his bail conditions and evaded capture in Britain by dressing up as a woman. When Police conducted a search in his London home they discovered one million pounds worth of cash in his home.
In Ghana over four ministers and government appointed officials have been implicated in a corruption scandal involving the British bridge construction firm Mabey and Johnston. In countries such as Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon, The Gambia, Sudan, Uganda, Libya, Zimbawe, Tunisia a Kleptocracy class of people have replaced anything democracy. In these countries very few people continue to remain in power and the people have no say in the way their country is governed or run. According to the Africa Union (AU) around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by its leaders and civil servants.
Now think of this. What do you think will happen if instead of stealing the money and banking it in Switzerland, Monaco, France, Britain, Cayman Island and the rest as the governors in and the leaders in Africa have been doing, the money is invested in training teachers, doctors, engineers, invested in infrastructure-roads, telecommunication, harbors, hospitals, schools, research institutions? What do you think will happen if every school has library with the right kind of books that will enable students to get the knowledge and skills they need? What do you think will happen if the money is invested in generating electricity for those living in the villages, towns and cities? What about if the money is used to build water treatment plants to supply the people with potable water? What do you think will happen to standard of living if the money is invested in agriculture, build canals, irrigation facilities and storage facilities, buy tractors for farmers so they can produce to feed nations?
Are African leaders happy when every negative thing in the world is associated with their countries: poverty, wars, corruption, AIDS/HIV, illiteracy and starvation? Are they happy when children die of diseases that can be eradicated? What effort are the leaders making to eradicate poverty apart from just stealing monies that could help develop the countries? Why don’t they use the money generated from the sale of oil, gold, diamond to invest in education, fast and efficient transportation systems that could help increase business activities, create jobs and raise the standard of living of their peoples? Is it because they do not care? Is it because they do not know what development is all about? Is it because their only aim of seeking power is to steal and mismanage what remains of their loot?
The whole of Africa South of the Sahara is rife with poverty. What makes the leaders in Africa to have a negative attitude towards development and poverty eradication but love to accept bribe and engage in corruption and embezzlement? When they travel to Europe, America, Korea and Canada don’t they see the roads and the airports? When they visit their children in these countries don’t they see the infrastructures that make it easier to do business? What prevents them from doing the same in their home countries? What makes Yahyah Jammeh of Gambia an expert in killing journalists but not the slightest idea on how to end poverty in his poverty stricken country? What makes the Bongo family in Gabon so stubbornly corrupt? What makes Dos Santos and his cronies to fail to use the oil money to build schools and houses for the poor in that country? What makes Denis Sassou Nguesso so corrupt as to have 112 bank accounts in France alone? What makes them enemies of progress and development? Is it lack of patriotism or is plain selfishness? Is it a genetic problem or is lack of vision and foresight? Is our politics that breed nepotism, cronyism and blind patronage to blame? What makes the leaders in Africa not to think beyond corruption and embezzlement? Why do they always take away poverty eradication from the equation? Why do they substitute development with corruption? Do they get satisfaction in seeing millions die of hunger, if no then why do they steal the very money that could end the misery, hopelessness and desperation among the people?
THINGS TO DO TO ADVANCE AFRICA’S LIBERATION.
African rulers must exercise sovereignty over African lands and riches and use them for the benefit of their people. This is true national independence from colonialism and imperialism. Secondly, education is the key to the development of Africa, wise control of her raw materials and use of her human resources. Quality education is the key to creating, owning and controlling Africa’s wealth and mentally decolonizing her people’s captured minds. Africa needs a diverse education that is tailored to the economic needs of her people. That education must be free for the poor. No African child must be without education, merely because of his or her condition of poverty. And these African children must be taught the true history of Africa, not the colonial history of Africa’s invaders that is full of perfidy to protect their colonial interests. All African countries must prioritize the study of science, technology, economics and finance and of course International Law. Africa’s children must be equipped with skills and professions that arm their countries with technological capacity to process Africa’s raw materials and export them to the outside world as finished goods. An African nation that exports its raw materials unprocessed will remain a perpetual pauper. Where there is urgent need or desperate lack of high technology to process raw materials rapidly, African countries must exchange Africa’s raw materials for high technology; not for cash or foreign goods. Countries that enrich themselves from Africa’s raw materials are secretive and refuse to transfer technology to Africa. Knowledge is power. This is probably why Prophet Hosea told his people in 735 B.C. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
This Piece is Written by Temitope Odeyinka
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“The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.”― Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father