In my life time, I have seen the ravages of war, the destruction caused by ethnic violence, the struggles against apartheid, the obliteration caused by diseases and famine, and most presently, the devastation caused by terrorism and terrorists. Take Congo for instance, they have been in conflict since before Nigeria became independent. I read Obasanjo's book - Nzeogwu, and he spoke of how one of his earliest military postings as a young officer was on a Peace Keeping mission to Congo. Till today, there is still some kind of skirmish in Congo. Hutu and Tutsi genocide in Rwanda happened in our very presence until Paul Kagame's force moved in and quelled the genocide. Ethiopia, all my growing up years, I always knew them to be in famine. The first time I saw a healthy looking Ethiopian was in Big Brother House. Somalia, as long as I have known them, has been in one form of conflict or another, with intense famine and disease. Of course, conflicts bring famine and deprivation. Corruption at all levels of government has been the order of the day. Sierra Leone, which was once the academic hub for training intelligential like the genius Bishop Ajayi Crowther, descended into chaos and stayed so for so long until recent history.
Now we face terrorists and terrorism - Boko Haram., Al-shabab, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and other rebel groups fighting in various countries from only God knows what. And then as if we had not had enough, Ebola reared its ugly head and had succeeded in killing over 3000 people.
What is the problem with Africa?
Africa was not always this chaotic assemblage that we see today. Once upon a time, Africa was a stable of organization run by wise learned men. Formal learning like we know it today barely existed anywhere in the world; in fact formal learning as we know it today was an offshoot of the industrial revolution of the 18th century. Africa long had learned men. Men learned in the art of the day, learned in construction, learned in management and business, learned in government. I am Igbo by tribe and I know that long before the white man came, long before slave trade diverted people's attention to all sorts of atrocities, long before the balkanization of West Africa at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 which set colonization of West Africa in motion, the Igbo people had a senate of elders - ndi okenye, ndi Ichi, ndi Ochi, depending on what part of Igbo land or dialect one spoke. They had rules and regulations, customs and traditions (omenala). They had system and codes of behaviour that everyone had to abide by. They also had punishments and honourary awards or titles which were meted out to people as their case may be. Olaudah Equaino eulogized the Igbo customs and way of life in his book - The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equaino, AKA Gustavus Vassa, The African.
We have blamed the problem of Africa on colonization, and somehow colonization had a lot of ills, but it also had a lot of benefits. Whether the ills are more than the benefits is left to the debaters to decide. But from the vantage point of time, colonization brought with it so many problems especially ethnical conflicts like in Rwanda, between the Hutus and the Tutsis. In South Africa, colonization transformed itself into the worst form of racial discrimination ever to happen in the history of black Africa - Apartheid. But while we can blame the colonialist for the power tussle that ensued after they left, can we blame them totally for the genocide that it resulted into?
Can we blame the colonialist for corruption in our governments, for impunity in our systems and for not educating our people? Can we blame the colonialist for poor agricultural practices, for little to no healthcare, for diseases that are ravaging our nations and for the poor quality road we all have to drive our expensive cars on? Can we blame the colonialists for the quality of people we have in government, people who would seek to perpetuate themselves in power at the detriment of the people, people in government who would rather stash piles of money in a Swiss banks than repair the schools in their states and communities? Government officials who would rather fight the opposition than ensure that the populace is protected from criminal elements? Private Citizens who would not try their best but would rather sit around and wait to share in the loot and the "cake" of government.
The problem of Africa is that Africans have refused to take responsibility for their own lives. They do not realize that for good or bad, the way the nations turn out depends on them. It is easy to call American to send us Zmapp, it is easy to ask for aids from all the so called developed nations of the world. But if we do not take responsibilities for our lives, our government, our infrastructures and our education, just to mention a few, Africa's problem will never be resolved.
The problem with Africa is that Africa thinks someone must help it resolve its myriad of issues - help feed her populace, help raise her children, help repair her roads, built her schools, fix her healthcare. Africa thinks that someone somewhere has something to lose if her citizens continue in wanton destruction of life and properties. The only reality Africa has not awakened to is that other people are too occupied with their own problems to think for Africa. America care about Africa as long as doing that protects their national interest. China sees Africa as the next place to annex for resource control.
Africa, wake up, no one will think for us, we must think for ourselves. No one will end the crime and violence within our borders, we must end it ourselves. No one will build our water systems, raise our kids, built our road, repair our healthcare; we must stand up and do what is needful to make our lives and nations better. We can blame colonization all we want, we can blame slavery all we want, we can blame imperialism all we want, but when push comes to shove, it still us, us, in our town and cities, bearing the brunt of whatever ill it is that befalls "our laid back people".
Africa is not lacking in talent and skill. Africa is not lacking in natural resources, our people are not lacking in energy and vigour. Africa is not lacking in population, infact we have enough population to form a global market of our own. Africans across the world are delivering value to their countries of domicile, but how about in Africa. Until we begin to act like the Asians no one will take us seriously.
What did Asia do? Asia took its bull by the horn. It decided, it was no longer going to gripe about not being supported by Europe and America. Asians decided that they will not go cap in hand begging for aids and assistance any longer. They decided to wake up and change their own narratives. In 1960, China was still a poor country, Korea was engulfed in the Korean War, Malaysia and Indonesia did not have any meaningful thing going for them. Hate communism or like it, Chairman Mao started a revolution, 50 years down the line China became a powerhouse. In October 2014, China became the world biggest economy in terms of per-capita spending (or Purchasing Power Parity). Korea also became the world engineering powerhouse, manufacturing Samsung, Kia, Hyundai, LG, and Daewoo (the biggest ship builders in the world). The story goes on and on.
African must rise up to be counted. All of us, young and old, men and women must rise up and contribute our quota. We have died for our fatherland enough; it is time to live for it. Complaining about how bad the government, the system or the people are cannot change anything. Complaining about how unemployable our youth population is will not make things better. We must change the conversation, from talking about "what the problems is" to "what we are doing to contribute to the nation building effort". Power will not start itself, healthcare will not repair itself, schools will not build themselves, businesses will not sprout from the ground, good governance will not fall the sky, people must create them - we must create the schools, create the healthcare, build the companies, educate our young, raise new businesses, we must create the life we want, we will create the life we want, we can create the life we want, everyone one of us, Yes we CAN!
In conclusion, when you catch your friend arguing and complaining about how bad the country is, ask him or her this one question, "what are you contributing to make things better", if he cannot answer, tell him to stop talking and start working .