by Farouk Martins Aresa
Africa has never been a poor continent, always a honeycomb. It has produced the richest and the most generous folks in history; while enriching others led to its own detriment. The richest human that ever lived was the Queen of Sheba whose wealth was celebrated in most ancient countries and in religious books throughout the world. The closest person to her riches in gold, silver and every unprecedented measure until today was the Emperor of Mali, Mansa Musa.
The irony of their conspicuous display of wealth before or after the main prophets and greatest powers was the reinforced appeal that Africa is the richest continent to plunder by Muslims and Christians. Display of opulence and wealth by these Africa Queens, Kings and now by politicians continues today but at the expense of the African people. When we see, read and hear about the young children of Africa risking their lives perishing in North Africa deserts, we must pause.
These cannot be the children of the Queen of Sheba, Emperor Mansa Musa or the politicians of our time looting their continent to pay heavy taxes on mere vacant bricks, toys, Susies and kids lost to foster parents while young Africans look for a way out from the same land that flow with gold, diamond, uranium, milk and honey. It gets worse, if anyone of them is caught laundering money or any of the materials from Africa into Europe and America, they are jailed big time.
At least in the days of Queen of Sheba and Mansa Musa Africa was respected, there was law and order. Mali markets were known to be fair even to little kids without fear of being cheated. Leaders like S. African Shaka Zulu lived in a system of accountability, check and balances. In the old Oyo Empire, the world’s first system of cabinet around Oba, the check and balances were so strong, Oba could face justice by the show of calabash. That is death by suicide, Oba-Koso!
Consequently, lack of check and balance has left the children of Africa vulnerable to the mercy and caprices of Vagabonds In Power. All expectation on Nigeria to become a regional power vamoosed. We have countries that started industrialization with Nigeria, despite corruption. Like North Korea, India, Indonesia and Brazil only to come and lecture us on how to be viable.
In Nigeria mental deficit problem started way back on the different tastes of Aje-butter and Aje-pako. Some children that lived in oyinbo GRA or Ikoyi in the 50/60s knew those were unfriendly lonely and dry places. You could not find candy, drinks or bread to buy unless someone drove you to town. There was no sport: soccer, ayo, cones, stations, marble or tennis to role. As their kids became rulers, foreign mentality taste grew with unsustainable demands for hard currency.
Their compulsive habits and taste created special class in most African countries. A class where their measure of success is how much is stashed outside their countries or continent, not how much is retained for others comfort at home. Indeed, the reason many Africans want to get rich is to buy luxuries outside where power is regular. It is not to take their people and surroundings out of dark ages living condition of forced generators, lamp and candle usage; into modern age.
Most of us including this writer fought and condemned the restrictions on foreign exchange and criminalization of people who made their money outside during military regimes. We have now gone the opposite way, where few Vagabonds and cronies exhaust our foreign exchange in the name of business depriving our poor of basics. Many of them imitate the so called Aje-butters, even when they knew what it was to be dirt poor like the people they oppressed today.
A case in point is our liberalized insatiable penchant for foreign exchange, to buy what? Any country that demands more money (it does not print) than it can generate by trade from internal boom in products and services are chickens selling more eggs than it can produce. At some point that country has to sell its chickens and promissory note in return for foreign money to buy foreign products it desires but cannot nurture. This is what the economists call deficit.
How many eggs would be left if we sell and consume twice or three times the amount that is laid? This is why the chickens of African are crossing the desert and sinking in deep waters, no matter the risk posed to their lives. They can neither lay enough eggs for poachers and raiders, nor can they get enough corn to feed on in an environment that does not nurture or indifferent.
Mind you, there is nothing wrong with investment in equipment that can increase products and services from which the gains can cover the investment. But consumer items like toys, food that can be grown at home and useless products like “tooth picks”, not only kill local industries, they are a drain on the balance sheets. We are known as Continent of consumers not producers.
We have a double cross here. We waste our natural resources buying and importing finished products as cement, gold, diamond, chocolates, refined oil and spirits while wasting our natural gas by polluting our environment. So we are providing jobs for outside factories, while idling and sabotaging our domestic factories without jobs for our workers and sending them across the deserts to compete in foreign countries for the jobs we export outside to their factories.
Some of us do not realize that outsiders want to sell us genetic modified seeds, buy our land to grow them and sell them in world markets. That way, we will lose control not only on our crops but also land and a say in the market. Our selfish politicians only want instant gratification.
Therefore, the days of blame on colonialism are gone. Nkrumah called it Neo-colonialism that has no stigma or guilt of the past. Individual opulence in the midst of majority of our people in abject poverty and wars has become the norm. It is not limited to one country or region of our Continent; it is pervasive and shocking to a decent conscience. This has become a compulsive pathological behavior without limit or bound. We need colo-mental hospitals.