While still in the Coronavirus holiday mood, let us expand further our intellectual coasts. The desirability or otherwise of the partition of or scramble for Africa which crystalized in 1884 during the Berlin Conference  for the purpose of colonialism and economic exploitation will forever be a subject of debate. What cannot be argued was the rationale which was that countries of Africa should be regarded as bases for exploitation of human and material resources for the development of the colonizing nations. What can be argued yet hardly discussed are two things: even with exploitation, would it have been better for Africa to have remained as it was? Then, is Europe indeed the cause of the current state of underdevelopment of Africa?

I would like to argue, with strong belief that there will be disagreement, that I would prefer colonization at that point in time to remaining independent without colonization (Ethiopia, Somalia, and  Liberia were not involved). Yes, Ethiopia for instance is an African country of antiquity. Civilization started in Egypt and what’s more, in spite of millions, probably billions of dollars sunk into archeology, no proof has established that the first real human beings came from anywhere else other than Olduval Gorge in present day Tanzania. Thus, the oldest evidence of human evolution (other than the Biblical Adam in Iraq which fossils are yet to be found and regarded by scholars as mythological and allegorical) was in Africa; civilization started in Africa; and Ethiopia has very strong mention in biblical history; but what has Africa made of these early starts? Even the mind-blowing oil reserves and natural gas, how many African countries refine crude oil? How many Africans use gas for cooking? So why should Africans complain if people came from late-emerging communities to teach them how to make use of their natural endowments? Should the oil have remained underground till new energy sources make them useless? Now that oil is locked up in Ogoniland due to local opposition, what are they getting?

Meanwhile, imagine that we are told to return to thatch houses and use light from bamboo sticks and throw away twins and trek for several days between villages, etc. These are few of the multitude of reasons to justify colonization  – at that time of course.

Fast forward to post-colonial Africa. The monumental work of Walter Rodney, a Guyanese historian has been a source book that has kept the debate open as to the role of Europe and indeed the West (which must now include China in the East) on Africa’s seeming inability to break off the shackles of underdevelopment and post-colonialism. Rodney in 1972 published a book titled, “How Europe underdeveloped Africa.” His argument at face value cannot be faulted more so if time is factored in. By 1972 Nigeria was just 12 years old as an independent nation. Certainly a 12-year old child even today is just entering secondary school and therefore facing the outside world for the first time especially if s/he is in the boarding house. However, how can anyone continue to point accusing fingers at parents if a 60-year old is still requesting for milk and garri and soup and one room accommodation from parents? That is the reality of the Nigeria project today (Prof J. D. Okoh formerly of Uniport has argued forcefully that Nigeria is not a nation but a country, reason it is facing so much crises of underdevelopment – that point is for another post). This may be the reason some people chose the term ” Nigeria project” rather than Nigerian nation.

Back to the point. How can one explain a gathering of 360 educated and experienced people who first determined their salary which is several times higher than that of the country’s Chief Executive; then currently vote billions of Naira to renovate their meeting venue and another set of billions to buy 2020 model of Camry for themselves?

They rejected locally assembled cars (we are told even those representing Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Ltd located at Nnewi, Anambra State joined to opt for foreign cars). This means the factories in Japan will keep bubbling while equivalent factories in Nigeria (which includes manufacturers of parts and other inputs) will shut down. And we turn our pens against UK for colonizing us and leaving us under perpetual underdevelopment?

Fellow Nigerians, Malaysia by 1961 was worse than Nigeria in economic indices. The people came here and carried oil palm seedlings. Today we import palm oil products from Malaysia. United Arab Emirates which includes Dubai as a province was no more than fishing villages in the 1950s. Today Dubai is the 4th most visited tourist destination in the world after Bankok, Paris, and London and where our current Speaker of the House of Reps (or “rapes” as a homophone) is said to have recently held a birthday party for his mother with 300 Reps in attendance. If it is true (I pray it is not), whether it was his money or public money, the amount could have built a giant factory that can directly employ 100 Nigerians and thousands more indirectly.

Why would anyone point one accusing finger at Europe for keeping the average Nigerian living below the international poverty line of $2 per day (equivalent of N700 per day or N21,000 per month).

The average private sector, small and micro business monthly salary is N5,000.00 which is 14.28 cents a month or 0.48 cents a day! (at N350:$1). Can we imagine this, that UN says no one should earn below $60 or N21,000.00 a month yet we are paying people N5,000 or one fifth of that yet “representatives” of those people are hosting birthday parties abroad?! I submit that Europe is not behind our current underdevelopment. May be it is our “”chi” or god. May be it is our ignorance as we now concentrate efforts in attacking our friends while applauding our neocolonialists including China. Four fingers are pointing towards us for keeping us down. Conclusion: May be we go the extra mile to ignore the lords of the manor. If we as individuals begin to cut our clothes according to our cloth and invest  a little so we become employers of labour and value creators rather than consumers, the Nigeria project may yet become a reality. Don’t listen to foreign analysts who say Africa is the new growth pole of the world. It is but a smoke screen, a diversion. Africa is still a baby after the golden jubilee of political independence. UK and US are only stepping aside while China takes over as the new colonial master. As William Shakespeare’s words on marble must remind us, ” The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” Cassius started that famous quote while addressing Brutus in the play “Julius Caesar” by saying, “Men sometimes have to be masters of their fate.” The fault is not in the colonial masters past and present but in ourselves that we remain servants, hewers of wood and drawers of water. Arise o compatriots. Take your destiny into your hands. Probably if we employ the total quality concept in Management, if you and I are quality conscious, Nigeria may attain the great lofty heights we sing in our National Anthem – by the year 2050.

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