By Ebou Gaye
Many Africans viewed colonialists as encroachers and oppressors during the colonial era, and thus craved and clamoured for independence. However, their hopes were shattered after the attainment of independence. Despondent as they are, they ask the question “Are we really independent?” To them, “independent” Africa is much more difficult than re-independent Africa. I concur with them to a large extent because things have been growing from bad to worse and continue to deteriorate by the second since independence, as substantiated by the political, economic and social crises we are currently experiencing in Africa.
Civil wars are very common in Africa where many countries have been destabilized, with large numbers of people displaced. There is political repression and suppression, as evidenced by the persecution of politicians, writers and journalists in the form of harassment, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, incarceration, banishment and assassination. Today, most African countries are suffering from economic slump, as exemplified by the depreciation of local currencies, exorbitantly high level of inflation, heavy debt to the point of insolvency, low salaries and high rates of unemployment and brain drain. Misappropriation of public funds, arm robbery, drug peddling, arms trafficking, prostitution and baby dumping are rampant and on the rise in Africa.
The question arises now: Who is responsible for this adverse situation? To me, a large proportion of the blame goes to our leaders whose avarice and desire for self-aggrandizement prompt them to oppress their people as a way of defending their selfish interest. That many African leaders amass wealth rapidly and lead flamboyant lifestyles amply demonstrates their immense contribution to our woes. To add insult to injury, they unscrupulously and ruthlessly maltreat their people in their selfish attempts to perpetuate themselves in power. In some cases, the money looted by African leaders can go quite a long way in servicing the debt of their countries, which leads many to wonder whether they are sincere and justified in their requests for debt relief. In other cases, the money wasted in propaganda or in trying to repair the battered image of heads of state can assuage the problems of their people or improve their wretched living conditions significantly. For these reasons, many people believe that such leaders lack mercy and are thus insensitive to the sufferings of their compatriots. This behaviour is utterly unfair and unacceptable. What is more shameful and sinful than mistreating people for self-interest after seeking their mandate to lead them and taking the oath to serve them without fear or favour, affection or ill-will? Why take loans or seek debt relief while spending lavishly? Why impose a heavy debt burden on people and deny them the chance to benefit from the money?
However, we should remember that a leader is just one person among many and hence cannot hold a whole country to ransom without the complicity of others, no matter what powers he has or is believed to have. I quite agree with the philosopher who contends that leaders are shaped by their societies and that members of society have their share of the blame where leaders go wrong. According to this philosopher, all leaders- good or bad- have their twin brothers or twin sisters in society. Simply put, there is affinity or inherent resemblance between leaders and some members of society- every leader has people like him in his society. This argument is cogent, for leaders come from society, not from the sky. A leader cannot do anything without the help of others, nor can he lead or become a leader without the help of people. Therefore, the blame cannot be laid squarely on the feet of African leaders for their misbehavior and our predicament. Going by this philosophy, it can be rightly stated that Africans, like their leaders, have their share of the blame for their plight. Put in simple terms, some subjects are tarred with the same brush as their leaders. Like their leaders, many Africans aspire after prestige and material resources to the extent of conniving or conspiring with bad leaders in their misdeeds. This explains why some people in Africa put the interest of their heads of state before the interest of the masses. This is why some shameless, wicked people in Africa are always ready to do the dirty job or try to defend, justify or cover up any nonsense, regardless of the sufferings of the populace. It is for this reason that some Africans lead a life of sycophancy.
Africa has gone to the dog owing to this bad behaviour of her sons and daughters, which begets affliction for the common people. Africans have been impoverished, pauperized, agonized and antagonized by their own compatriots who hold them hostage. Independence is an era in which Africans are enslaved and brutalized by their fellow Africans, which is heartbreaking, to say the least. We have experienced deterioration in terms of living conditions and suffered human rights abuse miserably and excruciatingly at the hands of our compatriots after having been ill-treated by our colonial masters in many ways for quite a long time. Evidently, we are not really independent as envisaged and desired.
To reverse or remedy this unfavourable situation and prove to our colonial masters that we can decide or shape our own destiny, we need to put collective or national interest before personal interest and treat each other with mercy, justice and fairness. Otherwise, we will continue to blame our colonial masters and other outsiders for our numerous crises while, at the same time, begging them and seeking protection or salvation from them continuously.