Jul 29, 2008, 12:53 PM
In one of his poems, the late Lenrie Peters asked, "Where are the banners now?" The rhetorical question reflects an underlying tone of disillusionment with the euphoria of political independence that swept through the African continent from the 1950s right through the early 1970s. Political independence at the time had been hyped as the antidote to Africa's misery, a promise of a better life for every African. To be charitable, that promise of an El Dorado now seems to be a mirage.
Since Ghana gained its political independence from Great Britain under the irrepressible Kwame Nkrumah a little over 50 years - the first sub-Saharan country to do so - the continent has been plagued by a misdirection of focus. Capitalist and socialist paradigms have been tried without success; presidential and parliamentary systems of governance have also been experimented with, to varying degrees of success or failure, depending on one's perspective.
In the past 50 years or so, Africa has lurched from one civil war to another; it has been wobbled by a succession of coups and counter coups; it has been weakened by diseases and poverty, so much so that Africans now grasp at anything to get by. Across Europe, North America and Asia, Africans are arrested for drug trafficking, human trafficking and illegal migration. Recently, Europol bust a sex trafficking group that lures young nubile African girls to Europe with high expectations of changing their lives for good. Due to the deepening poverty that ravages the continent, parents hardly think twice about handing over their children to whoever comes with bogus promises of making their lives better. But as we have seen, they end up making life worse for the unsuspecting young girls.
There is an urgent need to reverse this trend and set Africa on the path of real freedom - economic emancipation. Until and unless African countries are economically self-reliant, they will continue to be pawns in global affairs. The key to achieving this reality is to have well-focused leadership. This leadership - at all levels - should provide fiscal discipline in every way and ensure that public finances are utilized for the projects they are meant for. When public money is siphoned into private bank accounts, the continent as whole is plunged deeper into squalor and degradation.
Then there should be discipline in all aspects of public life. This should begin with respect for time. Our poor attitude towards time is a factor that is responsible for our backwardness. We term this attitude as 'African Time'. There is no such thing as 'African Time'; it is a euphemism for our indolence as a people. Time is an invaluable resource that needs to be well managed in order to achieve progress.
Whether we believe it or not, the outlook of a continent is a reflection of the quality of minds of the people of that continent. If Africa is poor and wretched, then we as a people are poor and wretched in mind. The moment we tune our minds to a high level of thinking and accomplishment, the outlook of our continent will change accordingly. Every African therefore is duty-bound to work for the betterment of the continent. We can win real freedom and progress for the continent, if we will ourselves to do so. The ball is now in our court!
"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he breaks, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime, and the punishment of his guilt".
John Philpot Curran