Reinventing Africa for the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century
By Professor Julius O. Ihonvbere, OON, OGI
Being Text of the 2010 Annual Public Lecture of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), Lagos, 22nd July, 2010
It is a great pleasure to be here with you all today and I thank CBAAC for inviting me to give this lecture. I am particularly proud of the excellent work of Professor Tunde Babawale at this Centre.
Let us begin by setting the context for this lecture. Africa, no matter what perspective we adopt, remains in deep trouble. This should not be a cause for fatalism or afro-pessimism. It is true that the crises of politics, economy and society are deepening. Yet, beneath these crises are sites of integrity, struggle, hope and commitment to change for the better. One of the major problems of statecraft and politics in Africa has been the inability to generate, package, and implement viable and effective programs for growth, development and democracy.
It is embarrassing to note that there is not one area of politics, economy and society where any African state could be said to have been so successful that its example should be a lesson to the world. Even where the issues, contradictions, and needs are so glaring, the post-colonial state in Africa and its custodians have managed to snatch failure and confusion from the palms of success. In large measure, beyond the usual annoying suffocating and vitriolic propaganda on radio, television, and newspapers, African policy makers (if they can be so described) have managed to put the cart before the sick horse, ignore glaring realities while manipulating the people and squandering scarce resources on irrelevant and irresponsible projects. This is usually done in the name of helping the people, promoting nation-building, indigenisation, Africanisation, national unity and development. When the so-called leaders are not squandering incredible opportunities for growth and development, they busy themselves with intra-and inter-state wars, harassing women, children, intellectuals and activists. It is amazing that in 2010 Nigeria, there is still a huge national debate about North vs. South, South West Vs North East or whatever, all in the diabolical struggle to corner power for primitive and mindless accumulation that has so far precipitated pains, poverty, alienation, violence and instability.
If we take a total look at the African condition today, one reality that we cannot accuse African leaders and policy makers of doing in the last six to seven decades is that they promoted any form of development. To be sure, failed policies have “developed” the pockets and bank accounts of a tiny class of political elites and their hangers-on. For the majority of Africans who are suffering from grinding poverty and hopelessness, what has passed for public policy since so-called political independence has been nothing but pain, hunger, marginalization, exploitation, domination, and deliberate impoverishment. Death by Government (R. J. Rumen, Transaction 2000) or death by public policy has become the outcome of numerous half-baked and poorly thought-out policies as well as outlandish corruption that have been unleashed on Africans.