by Farouk Martins Aresa
We have to be careful when we throw stone into the market, says a Yoruba proverb, it might hit a member of our family. In the case of African countries, many of us had a great childhood experience that turned us into successful citizens throughout world. Sure, Africa today is not what we desired but we must not forget the good times as we cry about the bad times. Even the worst of times made many of us stronger than those that grew up in the best of times.
Nobody can experience war, famine and abuse by dictators and not complain. However, there is no better time outside than we experienced growing up in our countries. It is the only place they knew your name, where you belonged and were cherished. The best you can get outside that same country you hate so much is tolerance and it has a limit. If you get too rich and cocky, they put you into “your place”, if too poor and dependent, they would scone you into senses.
Everything is relative. Those that crossed the deserts, hungry desperate are only too glad to get one or two square meals a day in the land they got into. They must also remember it was not that bad growing up, some years back or even until the dictators took over. We must remember that most African leaders were too obsessed with Independence than be involved in corruption.
As soon as most African countries got Independence, schools multiplied at home and those that went to school outside could not wait to get back home. In the case of Nigeria, Ghana or Kenya we thought one of them would emerge as a regional power. Nigeria had everything it took to be one. Ghana’s Nkrumah never relented to lead. Sierra Leone had well educated returnees spreading across West Africa, so was Liberia with educated children or grandchildren of slaves.
This is not a history lesson, some Nigerians thought the seventies was the best. Others claimed the eighties while some loved nineties. The reason was the availability of schools through which social, religious and sport activities grew. It was not so much about money but about values in people’s lives. In retrospect many of us that were contented and talked about good old days; we actually grew up in what is considered ghetto today. We never considered ourselves as poor.
Anyone denying these in most African countries is ungrateful to our parents, our dedicated leaders and more important to Africa. No ideal place, not African or “native Indian” countries. But it is a disservice to thank wherever you are outside with the derogatory criticism of African countries; especially if you have not contributed to the betterment of that individual country.
Some people built the country we thank every day and some of you contributed to situations we have in your country today. Some of you are children of looters and vagabonds that dare not show up where your fellow citizens gather without being booed or stoned. As for those of us that got our early education in the same African countries, we can never thank Africa enough. It is the place where we were imbued with confidence, encouraged to learned and rewarded for achievement. Many of us forgot how crucial this developmental stage is to all children.
The only way to understand this is to study the educational developmental stages of Africans children in Diaspora. It is an uphill battle that many of them go through such a disadvantaged system and still make it beyond their zip code neighborhood, becoming professionals against all odds. This writer and his friends decided to register at a university as soon as they arrived. They were told to see a counselor because they needed additional subjects to get into this university.
By the British system, all we needed was three subjects at “A” level. Not at that university, they needed 5 grade 13 subjects. Moreover, those of us going into medical sciences or engineering must also have what they called modern math. Well, some of us had “math, math, physics” or “physics, chemistry and biology”. The counselor said we also needed English at “A” level! Sho!!
He told us we must not attempt the new math because it was difficult. We left, laughed and took all the subjects we were missing at “A” levels. We all passed with flying colors as we say at home. The most important point here was how we got the confidence; killed in many. We could not even imagine how many African Americans, Canadians or British had been so discouraged. But these are the children of Nkrumah, Azikiwe, Awolowo and Kenyatta for Sango’s sake!
What Africa has given us, nobody, no matter how highly placed or where we find ourselves, can take it away. As much as we criticize Africa, especially as this writer, no one of us must point to African countries with embellished finger. There are different ways to contribute since all of us can’t be politician, foreign contractor or expatriates. If you have not gone home and contribute your little part after your training, especially those that got scholarships you have compromised your criticism. The cultural difference between you and your kids’ success, is the African fire.
Our Nigerian children complained that since they were born, they have never witnessed regular water and electricity. A change of government, nothing else, fear of Buhari improved electricity. Most of us inherited subsidized schools, medical, religious, sports and entertainment programs without realizing or complaining we were growing up poor because our environment was rich, clean and salaries were paid on time. We were wealthy in values, so poverty is relative. If you enjoyed any of those and you chop and clean mouth, watch out!
Indeed, as we become richer in gold, diamond, uranium and oil; our problems became bigger. Division among us widens and greed took over. In African countries where it takes a village to raise a child are becoming countries of me, myself and I with the survival of the fittest. Nobody but Africans can solve our problems. Thank your hosts and deride Africa as much as you want, your days like that of every dog, will come. Ever wonder about how grateful native Indians are?
We can appease our hosts as much as we want, sing and dance obsequiously, the most they will hand out is a little out of the profits they make in Africa. Until Africans build and rebuild Africa by ourselves, no African will be respected anywhere in the world. If we are so good and brilliant outside Africa, we must prove it inside Africa. Any country where its minorities are destined and programmed for less opportunities inside or outside Africa, cannot claim to be a role model.