A VISION WITHOUT MEASURE; A NEO-AFRICAN RENAISSANCE
(Based on excerpts of Afrisecal Interactive Lecture on African Leadership held on 28th August 2005 at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Kaduna, Nigeria . The lecture was given by founder of Afrisecal Movement, Dr. F. O Ohanyido)
“I beheld the grinning mask of pleasure; Of the masquerade of the ancestral treasure. It was a vision without measure. In the great silence of the night The spirit of the trove stood bright I heard his roar, and the voice was thunder Briefly fear quaked me asunder And as suddenly submerged under. .“
(From CLANKIND by Francis Ohanyido)
“In June 1997 an advisor to Mbeki, Vusi Maviembela, wrote that the African Renaissance was the "third moment" in post-colonial Africa, following decolonization and the outbreak of democracy across the continent during the early 1990s”. . But then I have always viewed this rebirth as something greater than a “moment” – it is more of a defining flux that is devoid of an end, with its first firmaments serving as building blocks for its universal reaches. The composite elements of African Renaissance, social cohesion, democracy, economic rebuilding and growth and the establishing of Africa as a significant player in global political affairs have always been agreed between Mbeki’s Ubuntuism and I. The Neo-African renaissance (Afrisecal movement /Afrisecaism) is in this wise considered in the light of the evolution of a strong and vibrant African Union driven by the strength of stable politico-economic structures of individual member states. This will be independent of all vestiges and vehicles of neo -colonization and corruption in all its colours and attendant effects on development. It is one whose integral nature will have its foundation deeply imbedded in a modern sense of a just and egalitarian society concept, but ideally home-brewed in recognition of individual states and their attendant socio-cultural and economic realities. This of course being fired by the age-long African idea of being “a brother’s keeper”, a concept now being adopted by New African Partnership for Development (NEPAD) initiative , alongside it’s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) being championed by Obasanjo, Mbeki and Wade. Some have described this in terms of a Pax Nigeriana or Pax Praetoriana or even a marriage of the two due to the strong elements of Nigerian and South African influence. This cannot be helped because the deep intellectual circuits of the African personae have been so much encapsulated in the definition of a Nigerian on one hand, while South Africa is the rainbow sign of the old continent on the threshold of being “Born Again”. Between them lies the propulsive fiat for the greatest changes to be seen on the continent in the following millennia. The keys in terms of the African rebirth are therefore bi-focused with self-reliance and pan-Africanism at its twin epicenters. The reasons should be quite obvious…it is in baseline economics. So long as Africa remains underdeveloped, the propensity for perpetual penury shall be her fate.
That the biggest obstacles to achieving optimal drive with full-blown renaissance will be the Developed countries. This of course, is stating the obvious. The simple reason being that they are at all levels industrial economies, functioning on production based systems, which puts them in a state of continuous production of goods, demanding the sale of these goods, which in turn creates a dire need for buyers for the excess goods at a profit. Therefore such products have become part of the globalization process that has the less developed and less mechanized agricultural economies at a disadvantage. Coupled with that, their financial muscles and control of the global media has practically determined world consumer trends to the disadvantage of the developing world. Industrialization may be properly financed and developed; presently Africa (and chiefly Nigeria) is notorious as the dumping ground for all sorts of goods. The rapid growing population across the continent has further has further made mockery of all economic indices, despite the havocs wreaked by HIV/AIDS, wars and famines, the continent still boasts of an astronomical population growth rate. It’s noteworthy that Nigeria takes the lion share in this regard with a staggering population estimated at about 150 million. Maybe one of the biggest obstacles can be said to be corruption. Nowhere else apart from some Asian nations that corruption has become so institutionalized as Africa with particular reference to Nigeria. Corruption still remains a major drawback to all attempts at consolidation of democracy in the region. On a wider scale, when I discuss corruption from an Afrisecal standpoint, I sometimes look beyond corruption in newly “toddling” democracies like Nigeria, to expand the geographical focus to include all nations in transition. This could be from all forms of Fascism or authoritarianism to a democratic oasis like the defunct Eastern Bloc nations. Here my emphasis is however on developing countries of the African sun where this cankerworm threatens democracy by destroying its capacity for good governance, transparency, and ability of the state to ensure sustainable development, thus denying people the enjoyment of their full citizenship rights and, consequently, engendering violent conflicts. A true Afrisecal renaissance would best be fashioned culturally on a platform like no other before- it shall best be driven on the economic front after the renaissance of Asian Tigers, typified by China and South Korea. This is because these economies were designed without the pervasive encumbrance of the developed countries, often referred to as the developed world, who have always paid lip service to the idea of and the genesis of a true African economic rebirth. It is interesting to note that Africa’s two powerhouses; Nigeria and South Africa represent the bulwark of the economic renaissance in our time.
In this biennium like every age before it, every generation, every civilisation and every state where a renaissance evolves, two factors are always been present and recurrent: A visionary leader, 2. An aggressive plan. These two fundamental elements are the coupled facets of a necessary change. There is dearth of visionary leadership in the present day African states primarily due to poor mentoring and debased leadership transition systems. This was not always the case since visionary leaders can be traced in the annals of all nations of the cradle of civilisation. They were there in ancient Egypt, Songhai, Ghana, Mali, and Great Zimbabwe to name but a few. Then there is also the issue of what I have always referred to as “leader blindness” which has evolved within the populace due to poor value systems that have developed in the bloom of mediocre leadership, “Juntanesque” Banana republics and Noyau nations. Because of these, we have failed to see them as the quiet meditating and lone voices of order in our midst. We Africans are all Nigerians … we welcomed The Abacha in the multi-fold incarnate of Mobutu, Banda, Idi-Amin, Compaore, Bokassa, Doe, Mugabe and the rest of them in the void less corridor of the power vampire!
A visionary Afrisecal leader is one who sees and appreciates the vistas of the pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial and future renaissance heritages. He is the one whom his era can be vouched for in posterity, one who defines the aura that enfolds the course of the realization of a people and a continent and creates a culture of advancement in the masses, and against all odds creates an enabling nexus for great events to occur. He is one who understands that the structures and not the personalities of leadership stand the test of time. Such men built the great civilizations which lived beyond their life time .The one recurrent decimal in their personality is the drive to enhance the well-being of the greater number of the society. The Chinese call it the “mandate of heaven” to lead. The Afrisecal intelligentsia has observed the socio-political landmark of Africa, taking cognizance that the history of the African continent has witnessed the emergence and reemergence of leaders with the village despotic mentality, starting from the colonial administrations who slapped puppets into leadership (what Fela would have called ‘Zombies”), because their primary purpose was to abet the translocation of natural resources of African states while pretending to administer the nation, and through them colonize the people. All the time, actively rendering tutelage to these pseudo-leaders, spies and local collaborators who masked themselves with the cloak of nationalism.
Over the years these bands of comprador elements of the military and civil classes have empowered themselves along the way by turning their nations into beggar states, and in some states like Nigeria, natural resource producing and distributing economies. These bands have consolidated their status by affiliating with secret cults or forming cabals and manipulating the very machinery for the protection of the state -the military. They have redefined the concept of leadership to thrive on the mattress of Statism. Babangida did it, so did Mengistu, Strasser, Obote, Biya, Waddeye, and so forth. They instilled fear in the masses; they divested them of all toga of basic humanity in them. Now they have gone a step further by manufacturing dynastic lineages to African leadership. We have seen it in Togo.
A visionary leader in the Afrisecal case is the leader who is willing, able, ready and capable to challenge the very essence of the old order, not by resorting to force or violence but by carefully erecting the infrastructures of change process and by articulated use of the intellectual reorientation of the people, ensuring thereby that the African masses identify not with the leader but the change process. In a situation where there is concordance that an Afrisecal leader represents change, then the ideology of change must be imprinted into the psyche of the masses, so that the collective orientation of their desires for change is so strong that they reach out and demand for a framework to implement the change. Activating and actually utilizing the right to vote, on the basis of a universal suffrage without gender discrimination can achieve this.
THE AFRISECAL ROAD-MAP
It is a road-map that will change and enforce the law, that will uphold right and condemn evil, that will empower the poor and support the rich, that will respect due process, that will create an economy to produce and not just procure, that will fulfill the basic responsibilities of the government to the governed, the responsibilities of housing, clothing and feeding its populace. It only when the basic semblance of these is in placing that we can truly succeed in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The vision will provoke industrialization and rejuvenation of the Agricultural sector thereby create jobs, opportunities, and better living conditions, decentralize the governance process and make it less cumbersome, and thereby push the government to the grassroots and closer to the governed. The traditional African cultures have strong democratic tenets that can be translated to modern day polity that will be inherently unique and relatively more acceptable to the society. A democratic welfarist state has always been a better option to the African by borrowing the better features of socialist governance without the tendency to statism. . This is due to the fact that welfarism is strongly rooted in the African extended family system practice from which most African communities operate. Eradicating corruption and enhancing transparency, accountability and integrity in all areas of national life and international relations would improve the utilization of development resources for all citizens, the poor in particular, and thus strengthen pro-democracy practices and attitudes. Professor Adebayo Adedeji, former UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, declared in a July 2002 lecture in New York that for Africa, the restitution of only 25 percent of the monies looted from African states to the west, would suffice to put the continent on the path of sustainable development. Among the most important structures for the rebirth is Education – at least free universal basic primary education should be available to all African children with strong curriculum content of their civic responsibilities and African history. This among other things should be aimed at preparing their minds to end the elitism, corruption, poverty and violence, that seem to be the bane of our African continent.
Power of the ballot
Africans do not go to the polls; we are all Nigerians in this regard too. They abhor the voting process, they do not become members of political parties, they believe sycophants and opportunists are disguised as politicians and as such no good ever comes out of it. Their fears may be well founded, and as such due to their non-proactive stance, the result is that elections come and go, leaders are sworn in, who found their way there by scheming, maneuvering and being military apologists or their comprador cohorts. Thus elections from the grass roots are basically on popular electoral selection not election which creates in turn a situation where, The Africans having not voted have no basis to neither critique the process, contest it’s results nor demand accountability from politicians. Leaders turn out in the elitist garbs of masters and not servants born of the ballot.
The process of change is a ballot re-orientation because the African apathy is the harbinger of political nightmares. The ballot re-orientation must go hand in hand with intellectual re-orientation for it will be the foundation to sustain the wind of change. We must bring the masses to the polls, and thereby create a strong poll culture: One man, one vote power. By so doing, the affair of state will concern him. Doing this, will entail palavers at the grass roots in voices and languages they can identify with. The tone of change must be in the voice of the masses.