The so-called "Make poverty history" campaigns may be sounding great to western media and some thoroughly colonized Black men who believe devoutly in the infallibility of the white man, but not to any one who has given a thought to the tone of their campaign and what they believe in. The campaign is disturbingly patronising and full of half-truths all in the name of sounding good. Black people are being made to see the cause of their backwardness on others rather than take responsibility for their failures. It may seem right to some people that westerners are accepting responsibilities for their ignoble roles in the curse of the Black race, but believing in the indispensability of westerners for the survival of the Black race actually implies superiority not equality. The campaign insinuates that Black people are incapable of surviving on their own as not only debt relief is needed, but that they must also be promised regular hand outs as well as granted what they term trade justice. To crown it all they adduce ludicrous excuses for the backwardness of the Black race. Even though, there are only a handful of Black African countries which suffer serious natural disasters like drought, they blindly assume that the entire Black Africa suffers grave environmental and geographical disadvantages. This pathetically wrong because on the general scale Black Africa could boast of being the most endowed part of our planet because the region has got the least share of the worst natural disasters in History. The fact that the campaign does not discriminate between countries which really have serious environmental problems like draught e.g. Mali and Niger from those that should not be poor for any reason e.g. Nigeria is indicative of a blind picture they want to have about the Black race as naturally incapable to organise themselves.
Even if Bob Geldof and his cohorts have genuine concerns about the ordinary people in Africa, they are going about it the wrong way because they are not actually addressing any problem by wining and dining with presidents and making headlines in the western newspapers. At most they would become saints of Africa only in Britain whereas they would not be known by the people they claim to be fighting for because they are actually not fighting for the suffering people in Africa, but fighting for the affluent wicked leaders who are enjoying the distraction of attention from their atrocities. The fact that North Africa, which is mostly desert region, produces more food than the entire Black Africa ought to help anyone who really cares to appreciate the real fact that the Black man's problem is more psychological than physical. The fact that countries like Nigeria, Central African Republic, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and many more which do not suffer any known serious natural disaster are unable to produce enough food for their population ought to cause people like Bob Geldof to rethink about their unreasonable campaigns. What Black Africa needs most is to take responsibility for its failures rather than uninvited advocates like Bob Geldof distracting and deceiving the people to look elsewhere for the cause of their problems. One cannot shy away from the fact that European colonizers created modern Black African states to fail, but it would make a more productive sense for Black people to begin to take blames if we truly accept that all humans are equal. Blaming the west for every thing including the inability of shameful Black African governments to dictate favourable terms in the trade of their own products is most unfortunate and suggestive of Black people as vulnerable human specie which needs to be cared for by the stronger ones rather than people who are capable of developing on their own.
The noise about Trade justice appears to be based largely on ignorance and sycophancy rather than on real facts. One wonders what immorality that exists in western governments granting subsidies to their farmers when Black African governments have never been barred by anyone from doing same especially when some of them enjoyed buoyant economies in the late 1970s. Nigeria has since about the last 5 years become more than four times richer than it was in the preceding 10-15 years, but the only thing it has got to show for it is on wasteful projects and more affluent life styles for its government officials. Who is to blame for the fact that some local government chairmen in Nigeria not even to mention governors are richer than Tony Blair in terms of real cash and assets here in Britain. The often-cited cases of Ghana or Kenya in terms of poor pricing of their hard earned cash crops are still not weighty enough to make any clear sense about anything called trade justice. The main problem with western opinion leaders is that they choose to say what they want to say no matter how stupid it may be and blind themselves from things they have chosen not to see or say because it would not fit into what they want the world to believe. They would pick on two narrow examples and use it to explain the curse of the entire Black race. One cannot deny entirely that there are trade barriers, but the greater problems lie with the people. The poor quality and poor finishing or packaging of African products are inexcusable. Black African states must organise themselves first before they can become serious players in world trade.
Generally, it is hard to see how the concept of trade justice applies much to a country like Nigeria, which has virtually all the agricultural and mineral resources it requires to be great, but had since abandoned agriculture upon the curse of crude oil? What had lack of trade justice to do with Nigeria dropping from the world's largest producer of palm oil to the bottom of the league and equally losing its large share of the production and exportation of groundnut and cocoa? What has trade injustice (if there is anything like that) got to do with the fact that inept and corrupt Nigerian governments had frustrated the growth of agriculture by allowing their cronies free importation of cheaper agricultural produce from abroad? Furthermore, what has trade injustice to do with the fact that Nigerian products have to be branded made in India or made in Italy for them to sell high among Nigerians? Nigeria can be used as a mirror and an epitome of the Black failure because it is undoubtedly one of the most endowed countries on earth and as such anyone who tries to find any nonsense excuse for her must be affirming the racist notion that Black people are eternally primitive and unable to organise themselves.
The main problem with these entire hullabaloos about saving Black Africa is that they tend to confuse people and obscure the problems on the ground. Black Africans are the most backward people in this world because they have failed to build anything near civilised societies and the west tries very hard not to allow this happen ostensibly to ensure they remain exploitable. One believes that the most important ingredient of a civilised society is the existence of law and order by way of an effective and efficient legal system. Without organised and reliable justice systems western countries would not have been as great as they are today. Most Black African countries lack effective and efficient legal systems to not only protect the citizenry in terms of criminal justice, but also in terms of civil justice particularly in disputes arising out of business transactions. The main reason why there are no big businesses among Black African individuals is not that any human race is less endowed with entrepreneurial skills, but simply because Black African individuals just like any other cannot depend of bare trust for one another to enter into serious business partnerships as there is no effective justice system to fall back on in the event of disputes. Hence, it is no surprise why most Black African economies are still at the primitive level where every individual is on their own and the markets are mainly at the level of weekend car boot sales in Britain. The reason why Asians control both the African food stuff and hair attachment businesses in UK for instance is not because Asians or any other human race are more business inclined than Black people, but because Black individuals are emerging from semi-primitive backgrounds where modern civil justice systems are grossly inefficient making it difficult for individuals to forge productive business partnerships or co operations with one another because of fear of being fleeced. There would have been millions of Black African Richard Bransons, but for the non-availability of effective legal protections from fraud and other unwelcome practices. Which court would a party, which has been cheated by his business partner, go to get redress in a place like Nigeria? Over the years indigenous creativity and entrepreneurship have been killed because individuals are drawing on their every day experiences of cheatings and frauds and resenting to pulling their resources together to form stronger businesses.
In fact, the lack of effective and efficient modern justice systems appears to be the pivot on which most Black African problems revolves. The most important thing that needs to be done for Black Africa to survive is to strengthen the structures of the states by way of reconciling the people with the alien State systems which had been imposed on them through colonialism. And this can only be achieved peacefully by building confidences and trusts in the systems. Instead of negotiating about how to rotate political positions among the ethnic groups, it would be more productive to negotiate and reconcile the relationship between the individuals and the state. This is not a text book philosophy, but a commonsensical need for people to seat down and negotiate their rights and entitlements as individuals and about how to co-exist peacefully. It is common sense knowledge that only an effective and efficient justice system can unify different ethnic groups and provide the building blocks for confidence and trusts in both political and business relationships. The reason why there are ethnic disputes and wars all over Black Africa is simply because the societies are not governed by law, and there are legitimate grounds for complaints about the rampant cases of official wickedness and injustices in the systems. One believes that a Nigeria where the Federal government and its agencies like the ever brutal police force would begin to obey every court order and respect individual rights and freedoms would automatically kill ethnic tensions and ethnic politics. Businesses would also thrive better if courts would become more responsible. Loaning systems and all sorts of good sounding programmes have failed in the past because there are no effective civil justice systems to guide against frauds.
Achieving this will not take any special kind of humans to descend on Africa.
Only Black Africans themselves can do it by totally decolonising their minds and realising that the journey to civilisation must start with laying down understandable and enforceable laws in their societies. Black African intellectuals must begin to copy the most important thing from the west, which is that the society must be governed strictly on the basis of law rather than on the basis sentiments. However, one believes that enlightenment is the keyword! Black Africa needs more of political and social justice mobilization than charities. Charities and some rogue organisations which style themselves non governmental organisations (NGOs) must convert from loitering about government offices in search of approvals for some vague projects which only benefits their selfish interests and begin to mobilize the people both to develop their environment and to resist abuses of their rights. Peaceful revolutions can evolve around the continent if people begin to deliberate on how to build a society, which upholds the core principles of the rule of law and maintains public confidence and trusts through the courts. Those who blame corruption and irresponsible governance on the politicians have failed to grasp the fact that the society favours such and that a governor in Nigeria who has not opened a bank account in Europe and made all his relatives millionaires in his first six months of office, would get even his parish priest admonishing him for abandoning his relatives to suffer while he has an opportunity to change their lives. All that is needed in Black Africa is for the societies to be ruled by law not man. Distractions like the current make poverty history campaigns will do no good to anyone. More foreign aids to corrupt governments are a boost to injustice and official wickedness. It is more important for the relief of poverty and diseases for a system to exist whereby resources are equitably and fairly distributed across the country. What Bob Geldof and other African adventurers could not have observed is that the poorest and most backward parts of a given country are those which have not been lucky enough to have their own people in senior government positions to divert the best projects to their villages. This point explains why even if African governments are forced to use the aid funds this time around to build hospitals and schools, the most backward areas where they are most needed may never benefit from them because the minister or governor would prefer them sited in his village. The most neglected areas would remain abandoned until they threaten to take up arms.
Perhaps, the best way that Europeans can help their colonised Black Africa is not by handing out monies which they know would end up in private pockets, but by helping to build the essential foundations needed for the emergence of organised and civilised societies. Throwing money to unorganised people cannot be a genuine way of helping them. But the key problem here is that European leaders appear to lack the moral firmness required to address African issues because they are caught up by the natural justice maxim that â€˜no man should be judge in his own caseâ€™. Europeans have deep seated economic interests in Black African countries and cannot be trusted enough to institute real justice and fair play especially with the eye-opening western media biases in portraying Zimbabwe as the worst of the worst just because a handful of white men where victimised. European colonizers can make poverty history only when they become more honest about issues concerning Black Africa and direct their attention and resources genuinely on the real issues that matter. One concrete way of helping would be to set the same democratic standards for all Black African states. A situation where a higher democratic standard is set for Zimbabwe simply because of the controversial land distribution programme whereas extra-judicial killings are allowed to thrive in Nigeria because the president is a friend of the west would not help to evolve the reliable systems which could make African poverty history beyond Trafalgar square in London. White men must stop lying if they really want to see Black Africa rise.
Furthermore, if financial aid must be granted, they must be directly invested on the people rather than handed to government functionaries who are ever waiting to divert funds into their pockets. Some people will find excuses against this idea, but the real facts on the ground show that only charities directly run by western missionaries and aid organisations have yielded fruits. The Bob Geldof kinds of charities are merely interested in appearing on headlines across the world as saints.
Above all, the responsibility should lie in the hands of Black people. Prominent Black leaders in Europe and North America must unite and wrestle the duty of rebuilding Black Africa from western fame seekers. It is shameful that we have prominent Black MPs and other prominent figures even in the media in the western world yet; racists who disguise themselves as saviours are still manipulating the Black race. Black people in Europe and America must realise that the true location of racism is not in the attitude of some individuals on the street corners of London or Paris or New York, but in the official manipulation of Black people generally to fit the long settled notion of an accursed race which cannot survive by itself. People disguising themselves as humanitarians are indirectly affirming the original white supremacist ideologies, which were used to justify slavery and colonialism, by insinuating that all of Black Africa is accursed and that Black people are unable to organise and sustain themselves.
Black individuals where ever they might be hiding must wake up and face the reality that there is not yet one civilised Black society in this world and there seems to be none underway. We must realize that the strongest way to fight racism would be to prove that we are not inferior. Successful and prominent Black individuals in the western world must wake up to the responsibility of developing Black Africa because every person of Black African ancestry shares the same stigma of failure irrespective of our individual achievements. They must therefore rise now and constitute a forum for enlightening the Black world. The Black race has come of age to have its own BBC or CNN to mobilize its people. Black people must begin to write and interpret their own history by themselves and to develop and define their own socio-economic concepts and ideologies. We must refuse to be inferior not by making noise in the churches but by taking bold and productive steps to assert it by way of building civilised societies.
John Iteshi writes from London
Guest posted on 10-11-2005, 14:14:42 PM
Do you care for yourselves let alone others!