#Article (Archive)

Africa: NO WE CANNOT at least not yet

Nov 11, 2008, 5:14 AM | Article By: Abdul Hakeem Ajijola

"Yes we can" and they have. Certainly the election of Barack Obama is historical. Yes he is likely to initiate changes, as obviously his being President, at the very least, symbolises this. However, we collectively need to lower our unrealistically high expectations of him because he will work within a system that has many challenges, some obvious and many subtle. If he can focus, as he has pledged, on American education then he will have laid the seeds for America's future prosperity and survival. Barack Obama certainly brings a level of constructive intellect, creativity, global goodwill and energy to leadership in the USA that has been missing for several years. As an African, I find Barak Obama's victory, while extremely well deserved, bitter sweet because while we rejoice that YES WE CAN, it is sad that apparently in Africa it see that NO WE CANNOT, at least not yet. Not that we cannot, as such, but we won't have the opportunity to, at least not likely in this generation. The seeds of today were planted years ago, probably in the late 50's and early 60's. Barak Obama was born in 1961 but more importantly that was approximately the middle of the modern period of the struggle for the political and social emancipation of the African-American, the antiapartheid struggle and the political (not economic) independence of African nations. Clearly, Nigeria and much of Africa are NOT effectively planting seeds now for tomorrow, or what we are planting is troubling to say the least. As the ancient Chinese proverb says, "If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people." Today, we must educate our people and leverage on global tools such as Information Communication Technologies to foster the requisite education for all people at all levels regardless of background, age, sex, physical and mental characteristics, creed, tribe, religion, status, income or any other social divide. Today, our competition is no longer local but global, and our core limiting factors are ourselves, our education and the opportunities we create. Can an African child of humble means be empowered to attend the BestUniversity in Africa? Assuming of course you believe that the best African Universities are globally competitive. Can that African child be empowered to rise to a level in the political sphere where they canrealistically aspire to greatness in Africa? Will the African political machinery give them an opportunity to articulate and express their possibilities? Will the African general electorate receive the message of someone who is "not like them", especially if that person is not from their ethno-cultural group. Arguably people like Nelson Mandela and the like have demonstrated that in principle "Yes we can." We should remain hopeful that it is potentially possible for this to happen. However, the price/ hurdles are still very high and that there is still a long way to go. Our current political circumstances, however, remain disappointing. As Africans we ask, will our leaders at all levels truly learn from Barak Obama victory? Not likely. Will they try to superficially "ape" him? Probably. Will our leaders change and change our circumstances, for the better? Not anytime soon. This is the bitter pill we are swallowing. While a few of our leaders may themselves, or enable others who, have the basic intellect to deliver on a Barak Obama like potential we are yet to be convinced that any of them have the attitude, or can create the opportunities, to do so. Thus, while, we remain convinced that the rest of Africa "can", and WE MUST, change for the better. Realistically, I suspect it will be later rather than sooner. To do this we must invest in knowledge and the requisite information tools infrastructure, processes, methodologies and attitudes. As people of the so-called developing world, and assuming that the generation to which I and maybe you belong to, have "missed the boat" we must still make the requisite investments for our children and those yet unborn - our posterity. So as we congratulate Mr. President elect, and the people of the USA for having the opportunity to make a choice and making for what we consider the appropriate choice, we can only watch wistfully as they do so, and continue to work towards the day when we, and our children, can do likewise.