The One Person behind Africa’s Miseries

Do you know that Africa is several steps ahead of the Western World? Well, it is, at least in terms of Time Zones. This is a fact that will remain unchangeable until a supernatural force “decides” to displace the continent elsewhere (someday). Sadly, the same holds true when it comes to its economy, which is lagging behind the rest of the world despite its wealth of resources.

Where were you when Otto von Bismarck was formalizing the Scramble for Africa? What was your father or great grandfather up to when the imperialists were advancing their jingoistic agenda and legitimizing the colonial enterprise in Africa? I posed this question to my grandfather and he said that his father (my great grandfather) was busy coining emebayeno y’Omogusii (my community’s proverbs) with his peers uninformed that a one Sir George Cayley was scratching his head in a distant land over the idea of inventing “flying machines” someday. To cut the long story, we can fill a dozen stacks of books recounting the aggression of the European imperialists, military invasions, and eventual colonization of Africa.

With several countries set to hold general elections this year, a public survey conducted by the Pan-African research network, Afrobarometer, revealed that less than 25 percent of Africans trust their national electoral commissions.

Anyone who has watched Rango can acknowledge that the action comedy film satirizes the impact of capitalism in third-world countries and mocks Africa’s self-inflicted miseries. The protagonist (Rango) defies all odds to liberate Dirt City from its oppressive mayor, who restricts water supply to the residents purposely to control them. Do you know why industrial development has stalled in most countries hitherto? Did the last colonialist pack up all his skills and left us wondering what to do with all our resources? Why is the economy growing at a snail’s pace? With a dearth of evidence, it is plausible to say that Africa has never had the requisite economic or political institutions for prosperity since the black man took charge. Nevertheless, this has become one of those Bogeyman tales that no longer frighten the modern day child.

Upon mature reflection, the one person who is behind Africa’s misery is the voter, who has become so unconcerned by the rampant legislative, political, and administrative corruption. Why have we found it so hard to disentangle ourselves from our ethnic cocoons or break free from our leaders’ divisive politics? Why have we turned violence and ethnic cleansing into forms of political participation? Why are we so nonchalant even when bad leadership has become a compliment being served with every meal? It is quite discreditable that we have become tolerant of the extractive institutions around; virtual dictatorship is now a standard definition of most countries; resigned to the status quo, the electorates across the continent have eventually made “there’s nothing we can do” a hereditary mantra. In fact, when countries like the U.S. are on course to lower the voting age to 16, we are increasingly becoming disenfranchised — and we seem OK living with it.

With several countries set to hold general elections this year, we all owe it to ourselves and our future generations to vote massively for good leaders. Nevertheless, as Sir Tom Stoppard once reckoned, “It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting.” In this line, the findings of the public survey by the Pan-African research network, Afrobarometer, revealed that less than 25 percent of Africans trust their national electoral commissions. This should sound alarm bells for the Rangos in our countries to keep their guards up and avert rigging. Although most of them have sublimed into marionettes easily manipulated by predatory and kleptocratic governments, we should be politic enough and continue cheering them on for the sake of our posterity. Of course, there might be some imbeciles amongst us who are warming up to take part in post-election violence, it is upon the incumbents to be moral enough and relinquish power if and/when the voters decide so.

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