Paul Akingbola: The Monumental Predicament Of Africa? The Land Of Green

“If I could, I would. But why…” This was the intrapersonal conflict I departed Europe with, last winter. With its astonishing natural greens, Africa is considered the continent with the best soil on earth. While I grew up hearing this from my teachers throughout elementary school, I had expectations and still do anticipate fragrant fruits from ‘Mama’ Africa. I remember my grandmother affirming over and over again, the sweetness of her childhood despite its being characterized by polygamy. She would paint mental pictures of how she grew up hearing from her father, the mythical stories of African legends and the numerous supernatural beings and creatures. Recounting the numerous conquests of her grandfather, she shared with the several battles her late father, Abidogun had won and the ways with which he and his warriors were rewarded each time they triumphantly returned to the kingdom after war. I could evidently see in her eyes, the trueness of every story she told.

When asked to talk about nature one evening, my Granny? Iya Oloola (as fondly called) radiated a beautiful smile hummed by her (left cheek) dimple and began by acknowledging the existence of Oló-dú-ma-ré (meaning in Yoruba: owner of the universe, supreme god whose worth is invaluable). She explained the mystery behind the stars (how each one represents one man and why a minute of silence should be observed each time one fell from the sky), the magical powers of the illuminating moon and the static sun… Describing the distinctiveness of God’s love for mankind, Iya Oloola revealed how much her husband loved and sacrificed his life for her. “Love can cure any disease”, she concluded.

Many Africans were brought up by lenient parents, some by disciplinarians and many others by loving ones. I had an equal share of the leniency, discipline and love from my folks. Perhaps being served a big wrap of pounded-yam, a bowl of vegetable soup and a fat piece of meat having been whipped with hand-ground red pepper chafed all over the body just for lying to an Aunty would paint a better picture. This tutelage left me with no other choice than to live by my Grandma’s philosophy of trueness to oneself and above all, to God even before mankind? So I made more friends and less trouble even as I grew older with my father’s mantra-like statement: “Omoluabi se koko!” (~ is crucial!) in mind. The Omoluabi is a Yoruba philosophical and cultural concept to describe a person of good character. The concept signifies courage, hard work, humility and respect. An Omoluabi is a person of honour who believes in hard work, respects the rights of others, and gives to the community in deeds and in action. It’s stunning how embedded in every African culture, the philosophy is. This was more than enough to keep us all on track. Is it not enough to keep the greens in our land perpetually green; our resources managed to make the continent better?

It is not far from being the maxim truth that the predicament of the land of green, Africa, is monumental. Is it only about the dwindling status of our economies? How about the epic unjust nature of our systems and the inexplicable absence of peace in some, and perhaps the negative peace reigning or enthroned in many other parts of the continent? While we are all too often hasty to place top on the priority list, corruption as the cause of this menace, pondering over the source of this dreaded scourge took me on a mental journey. I remember how our Monarchs lived luxuriously at the detriment of their people in the pre-colonial era? The westerners even called us barbarians just because several innocent souls were buried with our passing-away kings. I’m not saying this was barbaric. But, was it not? We are however, happy to see the significant reduction in the number of such occurrences in the last decades. At least they were in search of only one person to be buried with the immediate past Ooni of Ife on his demise the other day. But things were better back then, you’d say. Since I can’t disapprove, please allow me to disagree. Meanwhile, I am tempted to agree with the belief that culture loss is the brain behind the plague that has bewildered the African continent, possibly because wider majority share this feeling.

Stepping one’s feet into Europe for the first time is a to-be-celebrated feat for my people. My first time was amazing too, dominated by a long pondering silence filled with admiration. I just couldn’t have enough of the coolness of the weather, the serene view and the elegant nature of country’s layout. Germany’s beautiful; far incomparable to my home even from the airport. I wondered why we are still underdeveloped, yet glad to be categorized as “developing”. Privileged to walk into a bank in Berlin, I stood near a queue (distracted by an interesting broadcast message) with my heart glued to the phone. I saw an aged woman walk in and right behind me, she stood. After a little while I noticed two other people joined her and there the three of them were, innocently standing right behind me until a security man came closer to hint them that I wasn’t on the row; showing them the right place to stand. This event wasn’t a mere coincidence to me. So I shared it with a colleague who retorted: “Ode l’Oyinbo!”; (meaning, white men are fools). Then did I understand how pitiable queuing to use the ATM was like back home? disorderliness of the highest order.

Aside the enchanting beautiful night lights in the ancient city of Leipzig, I paid keen attention to details all through that period. I observed that for seven straight days, I didn’t hear the car horn more than twice despite a few traffic congestions. I saw how road users patiently waited for pedestrian to cross at interjections. I admired the boys and girls happily disposing the wraps from their candy towards trashcans in public places. I heard the young men say “excuse me” on several occasions. I heard ladies say thank you for things they paid for at malls and grocery stores. I heard mothers say thank you to their children for assisting in the offload of what the family would eat or use. I even heard a father say “sorry” to his son on the telephone for not making it home for dinner. I wished I could swap Africa for Europe.

I have traveled across Africa. The level of impatience among my people is alarming. Everyone is more or less intolerant and seemingly bereaved of love. Did civilization bring all of these too? You’d say we are busy and hardworking people but the creators of this jobs and civilization are still very patient, tolerant and loving. I see an adaptation error here. Waiting on the queue for the larger majority is like being hospitalized. Hustle and bustle triggers excessive horning even on (free) highways and within cities thereby claiming lives. Freedom to life encourages disposing a wraps of consumed or used commodities on the streets which has blocked drainages… Freedom of expression motivates saying anything without recourse to the likely physical or mental damage it could incite. Saying “excuse me” implies having a low self-esteem. (Excessive) use of “thank you” means not knowing one’s rights or responsibilities. Saying sorry presents one as not grown enough to know what one as unable to differentiate between right and wrong. I’m not sure stealing is still a problem here. Bribery is a norm? I doubt if the lives of others still matter. The land of green has therefore been turned into a fallowed soil for cultivation of the evil called corruption alongside its accomplices.

Is the problem is civilization? No, but our “mentality” is. It is obvious civilization has come to stay. As a peace scholar, I know how ‘peace in’ affects ‘peace out’. This applies to change too. Pathetic how an unchanged person dreams of changing something! I can’t count how many times well-wishers encouraged me to abscond each time I traveled abroad. They were doing me some good? Would those celebrated nations have been so if its people fled? If I could, I would. But why should I? No place like home; my mantra.

If just like me, you are tired of this remediable predicament, then it’s time to do something; make a decision to stop wishing but start doing. This is my perceived major difference between change-agents and change-makers. There’s therefore, now a chance to fight for change first at the intrapersonal level (in your mind). If every other means failed us, African youths, I am certain the bottom-up approach can get us out of this fix, for we are the future of this land. The statement “Rome was not built in a day” has only motivated complacency over time, causing us to reap sordid boons from the drenched land of green. But we can change this! And it begins with you and me, all of us.

A dying clergy man once said to his son: “when I was a child, I wanted to change the world. As grew, I wanted to change my country. As I grew older, I desired changing my little town and later, my home. But here I am today, lying helplessly on this sick bed wishing I had changed myself first. Perhaps this would have been the beginning of the change I dreamed all my life.” It’s good to say, better to act, how about both?

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of nor its associates

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