“Every noble dream is at first impossible.”… Thomas Carlye
The African Dream
The silhouette of the African continent today is at best a mirage and in reality a far cry from all that she could really be. I sincerely believe that the potentials of the African continent are not an unfortunate mistake. It is my dream that one day, Africa will be a continent known for excellent, inspiring and transparent leadership. It will be known as a continent of nations that give priority to the rule of law and the demands of equity. It will be known as a continent full of diverse cultures and tribes all co-existing in harmony. It will be known as the continent that holds the world’s greatest natural recourses and her people are better off for it. It will be known as a land for the dreamers, a home for the achievers and haven of happiness, peace and prosperity and mostly, as her people’s most invaluable possession held in trust for the future; for the continent will no longer be a victim of her people.
This article will delve into the obvious shortcomings of the African continent, with particular emphasis on Nigeria. However, it will major on the solution rather than the problem. This solution is what we have branded The African Rebirth Project (TARP).
The African Story … An Irony called Africa.
“My brother, weep not for the crippled that begs alms, but rather weep for the able-bodied man, with strong feet but refuses to walk for his more sufferings begins from the Day of Judgment.”
There are issues in life that could make you cry; of which Africa is one of them. “When I visited Africa,” said a reporter “it felt like they were really a people that God had turned his back on.”
Around Africa, you only need to leave the comfort of your abode and a few blocks away, you would find a man who has not had a decent meal in a week, a homeless woman abandoned with her innocent children, a young girl to whom prostitution is the only means of lively-hood, a little boy with a fly infested tray on his head hawking for his daily bread, or babies unaided who would not live to see this world because they were born with AIDS. Then, you would know that the African story is no fairytale.
As a world leader described her, “Africa is an embarrassment to the civilized world”. Although I may not entirely agree with the extremity of this statement, there is no gainsaying the fact that Africa has given cause for the utterance of such statements as this. Of the entire seven continents, her future, in the view of social experts, is the bleakest. Her nomenclature has now changed from “Africa the Black Continent” which connotes a reference to her skin colour, to “Africa the Dark Continent” which connotes a reflection of her hopelessness.
As captured from the quote above, the tragedy of the Africa story lies not in any paralysis but in the painful fact that she has got feet but would not walk.
In spite of being known for its beautiful environments, exotic wildlife, and diverse cultures, Africa has the ironical distinction of having some of the poorest nations, largest populations and harshest living conditions in the world.
Despite its immense natural resources, the yearly incomes of Africans are some of the lowest in the world. Nearly half of its people live on less than a dollar a day. Conflicts, harsh environments, and corrupt governments have devastated economies forcing countries to borrow for goods and fuel.
The population of the continent is approximately 800 million, and these increasing numbers have endangered the environment and further strained already weakened governments.
Africa is arguably the most endowed continent on earth. She is the proven possessor of the world’s greatest natural resources; from the gold mines of South Africa to the diamond belts of West Africa to her rich oil lands and arable soils. No two continents put together can match her inestimable wealth.
Her location is the most favourable on the globe; hence she has a blessed climate and is relatively free from the natural disasters that ravage other parts of the earth. She has a rich culture like no other and is rich in tribal diversity.
Moreover, the intellectual soundness of her people in not in doubt as many Africans have brought unique dimensions and dynamisms into world technological advancement, the Arts, scientific research, leadership and economy all over the world.
And there goes the African story full of promise, yet embroiled in suffering, rich yet poor; blessed yet accursed; full of light yet called dark; adorned with flair but living in despair.
In almost all African countries, there is deprivation and despondency in the air. Even the elite, who have amassed wealth, luxury or comfort for themselves live in the fear of the terror daily unleashed by frustrated people who are in the majority. Hence, there are civil wars and continuous bloodshed. Over two-third of the countries of Africa are engulfed in a state of unending misery and instability.
Africa and her 800 million people may not be able to come to terms with her own story. Her future may seem so scary if THE AFRICAN DREAM does not soon interrupt it.
Every society needs a visionary but sometimes when Africa is studied critically, one may say in sarcasm that Africa perhaps needs a soothsayer who can warn her as Ceaser was warned of his doom to ‘beware the Ides of March’
Spotlighting on Nigeria
If there is a mirror for Africa, it is Nigeria. It is estimated that one out of every six Africans is a Nigerian. With an estimated population of 150 million people and over 250 ethnic nationalities, Nigeria is the heartbeat of the black race.
If there is a Nation that would redeem the image of Africa in worldview, it is Nigeria. Her acclaimed status as Giant of Africa is well justified in the sense that she is the giant statement of all that Africa is. If Africa has a problem, Nigeria is the Giant of Problems; If African seems ever unable to live up to her immense potentials, Nigeria is an apropos case study on how not to live up to great expectation.
The facts again speak volumes.
Nigeria is the sixth largest producer of crude oil but ranks amongst the world’s poorest nations. In fact, the recent UNHR reports show the Nigerian nation projected to be amongst the five most populated countries in the world, occupies an unenviable 158th position out of the 177 countries ranked for prosperity. Nigeria has the third weakest infrastructure in the world. She has the third lowest life expectancy; she is the third most corrupt and third most insecure place on the world map. For a country that raked in over $320 billion from oil sales alone since 1970, having such an alarming retrogression is a sickening irony. There are many countries, for instance in Europe who do not have up to a tenth of Nigeria’s wealth but her citizens live in conditions ten times better than that of Nigerians.
It is a glaring, albeit painful case of servants riding on horsebacks while kings and princes stagger wretchedly on naked feet.
Reading the Minds of our Heroes Past:
History, they say is the mysterious strength of the future.
It is imaginable that the present youth and the future generations have nothing to look back to in Nigeria. It appears that there really are no models, no real reason for the Nation and as a result, there is hardly a reason to find pride in the Nation and respect for the Nation. It appears that Nigeria was nothing more than a by-product of colonial greed. Hence, the required glue of culture and history that holds a Nation together is lacking in the Nation. It is no more than a geographical expression of a people, it lacks in soul and in spirit.
However, can her soul be found and her spirit formed? At a point just a little over 50 years ago, the diversity of culture and history in the nation was not strong enough to deter members of different tribes bound by nothing more than geography, to find more reasons for bonding together, to find her soul.
But may be they are, but we are not taught about them. Most of what we see in the curriculum of our schools are stories on the different ethnic groups, the different tribal empires, and really little or nothing on Nigeria; a curriculum, whether consciously or unconsciously, that has been prepared to emphasize ethnicity and de-emphasize nationality. Little wonders why most Nigerians are more patriotic to their tribe than they are to their Nation.
What is the purpose of our Nation? What was on the minds of our founding fathers?
Articulating the purpose of our Nation is pivotal to our response to our duties as citizens of this great nation. The only meaningful link between a nation and her people is having a common purpose. When we have discovered the purpose of the nation, we must then align ourselves with it.
Without a strong national ‘Why’, everyone creates his or her own ‘Why’. These well intended ‘Why’s would certainly result in utter chaos and anarchy.
We need to know our history.
Africa, and particularly Nigeria is not a mere geographical expression, it is a people. The state of the Nation is a reflection of the attitude of her people and governance. When I say governance I do not mean exclusively those holding public offices but her citizens as a whole.
It is said that madness is doing the something time and again yet expecting a different result.
If we continue to be as impassionate as we have always been, if we continue to think as are have always thought, if we continue in our insensitivity to indispensable values, if we do not explore the new terrain of thoughts, it would be rather amusing to expect a new Nigeria.
The sorry state of the nation would never change until her people speak out for a change. We have been silent for too long, allowing the cold hands of fate chart the course of the Nation to an irreparable national wreck.
I read a quote in a book by John Mason that said, “silence is golden, but at other times it is pale yellow”. The silence of the Nigerian people at the state of the Nation is unattractive.
Nigerians today has cultivated some anti-progressive habits that would only plunge the nation further into her abysmal state.
1. Lack of Sense of Ownership
I was in a taxi in the city of Port Harcourt one sunny day. In the heat of the traffic, the lady by my side bought a pack of ice-cream from one of the hawkers on the road, when she was through with it, she threw the wrap out of the window and I said “you shouldn’t litter our environment with your waste”
Politely she answered me “Na your house?”
And I got the message.
Nigerians feel irrelevant in the scheme of things that pertain to how their Nation is run. Apparently, it appears as though there is a selfish cabal that controls the Nation’s affairs to the detriment of our own well-being.
There is no sense of ownership amongst her citizenry. Everybody is of the opinion that the “Government” owns the Nation and the “Government” is wholly responsible for her failure or success. The “Government” is in debt of a good means and state of lively-hood to the people. They may be right, but those in the government are not aliens, they are Nigerians with the common Nigerian’s ideology and problem.
Yes, we have a right to proper governance, a dignified peaceful and healthy lively-hood but in the words of Finola Bruntun, the wife of the Irish Prime Minister John Brunton “Now is the time to recognize that for every right there is a corresponding obligation.”
We all own Nigeria but for administrative purposes, some of us hold public offices but primarily no Nigerian has more right of ownership to the nation over the other. Therefore we all share equally in the blame or praise for the failure or success of Nigeria.
As inspired by the book by James Allen “As a man thinketh”, we can only become a great nation when we the people of the nation would cease to whine and revile and begin to seek for that hidden justice that controls all nature. We ultimately get what we deserve.
It is obvious, that when an organization is privately owned, it soars higher than one that is government owned. Nigeria has become a no mans land. And so nothing works. We so easily forget that the nation is not tangible, each one of us is the object of her existence, each one of us is the only proof that there is Nigeria, for there really is no Nigeria without Nigerians.
So we are vital to the very existence of the Nation. And we must be aware of the injustice we do to ourselves when we relegate “ourselves” to the background oblivious of the potency of our relevance to the nation. For when nobody works consequently the Nation can not “work”.
2. An Attitude of Selfishness and Disregard of Servanthood
On the first hand, Nigerians act according to personal interests without regard to those of others. Selfishness is a trait that comes with Myopia, we can barely see beyond our nose. This is what is reflected eventually on a very large scale when we hold public office.
Even when we at the helm of affairs in organizations, some of us hardly have the interest of the organization at heart, they just generally exchange services for a mere mercenary fee, utilizing our positions to exploit our organizations. It is this selfishness that it is the root cause of nepotism and tribalism, it has thrown merit out of the window, “connection” now plays a more vital role than “qualification” This has the compound effect of low standard results and no body cares.
It is this selfishness that caused Nigerians to disregard the pain and the inhuman conditions in which their fellow-men exist in. The government may come up with policies and cause irreparable damage to the present people of the nation while a chosen people benefit from it. The masses, in order to get comfort for a while whether in terms of food or other material things, care less as to what they do, even if they have to deprive each other of what they already have through any means possible. It is this same selfishness that makes us not to stand in the queue and wait for our turn. Because of this self-centeredness, we think everything comes in short supply so if we don’t beat the queue we won’t get it. It doesn’t matter who else doesn’t get it as long as we get it in spite of how much time they might have put into getting it.
This myopic sight of the Nation as a result of her selfishness has led to Nigeria parading herself in dance to the ridiculous melody of ignorance.
There no doubt that Nigeria is a land of promise. By virtue of her inherent greatness she ought to be an economic giant of no mean repute but rather she has been caricatured as A land so fertile and wealthy yet her citizens are dressed in rags and in a bid in partaking in the small good they can see they grab one another’s throat through the antics of tribalism, corruption and robbery. There is enough treasure for everyone buried in the ground, but for lack of knowledge, Nigerians have become content with killing themselves to get the little that the short-sight can see. Opportunity abounds but instead of bonding together, till and cultivate the rich field called Nigeria, we fight over unlimited resources. Hence Nigerians disappoint God and embarrass the world and advertise their ignorance. We celebrate ignorance and mediocrity. In a bid to be selfish, Civility has been slaughtered on altars of ignorance, Nigeria prosperity is daily crucified on the trees of selfishness fostered by illiteracy.
Another trait that selfishness comes with is unjustified pride and disregard for servant hood, every body’s concerned about being served, but no body wants to serve. Nigerians actually pride themselves in the acts of being served and despise those that serve. We have a thwarted perspective on leadership, we tend to rule and not to serve, meanwhile, the truth is that the higher the leadership position the greater the obligation to serve. We are all looking out for what Nigeria would do for us, what Nigeria would make out of us. It is my opinion that great nations come from great people; they don’t necessarily make great people. In the words, John F. Kennedy “Ask what you can do for your country not what your country can do for you.” So let us begin to think of how we can serve our nation and make it great and not join the thoughtless majority in ravishing her, because the truth is that our nation can never rise above the collective personal greatness of her people, for the rewards of an almost general greatness of the Nigeria people would accrue to all.
3. Insensitivity to Values
The very values entrenched in our National Pledge are the very values we are most prone to disregard. To be faithful, loyal and honest, to serve with strength, to defend her unity, to uphold her honour and glory, to look to God for help in all of them. There are certain values that are sacred and indispensable if a great nation is to emerge. Faithfulness, loyalty, honesty, service, strength or courage, unity, honour, glory or dignity.
These values are woven into the fabrics of every civilized society throughout history and comprise the roots of every institution that has endured and prospered. These values should be the very essence of our reforms and existence as a Nation.
These values are obvious to any one who cares to see their presence or absence, they surface time and time again, and the degree to which the nation recognize and live in harmony with them moves them toward either survival and stability or disintegration and destruction. These values are not esoteric or mysterious, they are self-evident and can be inculcated by any individual, and they are supposed to be part of our conscience and consciousness.
Fairness, for instance, is the very foundation of justice and equity. These two offspring of fairness have been neglected in our nation, and so many personal interests have interrupted the course of fairness.
Integrity and honesty, which is the basis for trust, have been relegated to the background absolutely, thus mistrust rules that even well-meaning attempts by well-meaning Nigeria are received at arm's length from the public at large at first few instances.
When people hold public offices, without prejudice to the exceptions, they handle it with no sense of responsibility, transparency and accountability to the public and to conscience. Therefore the word “Accountability” has no meaning anymore.
Excellence has been mortgaged for undue personal gain. Corruption, embezzlement of government funds and company funds, kickbacks on government contracts are practised by many Nigerians are perceived as normal. People get into business transactions with so much suspicion. Civil servants are neither civil nor servants, because of this lack of responsibility, laziness has now become accepted in the guise of bureaucracy. So nothing works at all, or even it works it works at snail speed.
Dignity is another value that has been despised, Nigeria as a nation has become a beggar and almost a parasite to the other developed nations, her citizens have no shame anymore, the police have no shame in public display of corruption and brutality, even university lecturers have no shame either. Our sense of dignity has been so thwarted that we actually take pride in begging and despise work. Every work that earns a man a decent wage should be done with dignity, but it is not so, hence we have our young men, waiting on uncles to send money or help get a job in some already established firm, and no sense of entrepreneurship, because they see the initial teething stage of any business is not dignified. This is a misplacement of values.
We would love to compromise on integrity to have “our” way, rather than walk gallantly with dignity even though unfavourable.
Most important of the aforementioned values would be Honour, which is a word that sums up almost all laudable virtues such as integrity, honesty, dedication, loyalty etc. Men’s word being capable of taking to the bank is not the case anymore. Men have no value for their words, promises are made to be broken, words are spoken to be dishonoured and nobody cares.
We need to give voice to our conscience, and reawaken these values, for a national character is not merely an ingredient of the success of the nation, it is foundational and catalytic. It is 'character' that communicates most eloquently. In the words of Emerson “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I can’t hear what you say”.
We must kill selfishness and become more sensitive to certain values, we must build a value-cultured nation.
Against The Thorny Spiral of Silence
“In an unjust society, silence is a crime”
If there is one thing Nigerians are very aware of, it is their problems, we are very analytical about the problems and who is to blame but that is as far as we go. We remain silent about the solutions and accept the situation as status quo. This is the reason for THE AFRICAN REBIRTH PROJECT (TARP); challenging this bleak status quo and not aiding this unconscious spiral of silence we have formulated by our mute response to the National irony. In an attempt to build a new face of Africa, we would have to assume multi-dimensional foci.
The reason for these multi-dimensional foci approach is because these problems of the Nation encapsulate a disparity of social sectors. And so her solution would lie in a merger of constructive minds spotlighting on the various issues of the nation one after the other through research i.e. drawing from the wealth of precedence and formulating workable strategies for drastic changes.
Right now what we need is to think all thinkable and possible way to cause a change no matter how stupid they may seem, intrinsic in them might just be that atom of wisdom that we have all been waiting for.
So we ought to come together and salvage this nation from this unpleasing scrimmage she has found herself.
The soul of this great Nation can be delivered from its coma, her eyes from the tears and her feet from stumbling again and falling apart.
This is the essence of TARP. Looking at the various sectors of the Nation, including Education, Health, Security, Civil Service, Power and Steel, Police Industry etc, TARP has come up with an attempt of introducing a common value-based culture in these sectors. Putting certain autonomous measures in place with the aim of bridging the gap between our ideals (the dream) and our realities (diagnosis).
Though we may focus on the Nation as a whole in terms of campaigning for certain National policies in the actual rebuilding of the National character, our focus is on the young people of the Nation, changing their paradigm, and putting in alert the voice of their conscience. It won't be long before the ‘Men’ of today would become ‘Men’ of yesterday and the ‘Boys’ of today would become “Men” of tomorrow. It’s only a matter of time and that time is short.” This suffocating senility as expressed by these “men of today” would soon be history, but what would be said of the next generation to take the baton of the race.
TARP in a matter of time will be perceived as a “soothsayer” but our ability to predict the future would not lie in any spirituality of some sort, but in the simple truth that we so predicted because we partook in inventing the future. We merely are enforcing the blueprints of the master plan, for the blessings of our Nation have never been intended by the ‘blessor’ to be a curse.
What is The African Rebirth Project (TARP)?
“TARP is the womb through which a new Africa would come to existence. It is the very existence of the unthinkable hope for a new Nigeria.”
From the quote of Steven Covey in the book 7 habits of highly effective people “A thousand hackings at the leaves of a tree is barely equal to one single strike at the roots of the tree.” The solution of the Nation lies not in an overnight overturn of the various sectors in the nation but rather in the instillment of the indispensable values in the character of every individual in the Nation. It is a demand for our rights from the Nation as well as a demand from ourselves on the carrying out of the responsibilities that come with those rights. It is a very enthusiastic campaign for the individual redemption of our pledges to Nigeria. It is an attempt at pricking the deadness of our conscience and callousness of our hearts as citizens of this great Nation. These would inadvertently result in the restoration of sanity and prosperity in the various sectors of the Nation.
This is not a mere skirmish; it is a big fight, a big fight wherein the players would make history, a history that would be written by the spectators and read by our children with a smile on their faces.
The magnitude of this fight that TARP initiates lies not in any redness of blood to be shed, and it requires no weaponry of swords or guns, but rather, it is the Miracle of a Mind Revolution. TARP is all about a National Mind Revolution.
In the words of Group Captain Samson Omeruah in November 1984 “the mind is an interesting phenomenon, it usually makes the body perform miracles of endurance far beyond its prescribed limit.” Also, Oke Madubuike, Director of studies, psychology school of thought in 1979 said: “sound mind breads a sound people and a sound people breed a sound nation.”
The sad reality of this Nigerian epidemic is that it leaves no ground whatever whereon any hope of some sort can lie save for the similar situations in the History of some other Nations of the world, so if Singapore could come from the state of a third world country, then there must be hope that Nigeria can come out of this quagmire not she has found herself.
Though status quo is often strengthened by history and given credence by longevity. Hence, our father's unenviable thought patterns have offered us this unfortunate situation, leaving us little or no option but to accept. However, TARP is a conscious derailment from business as usual. TARP would not succumb to the unfortunate realities rather TARP would place a demand on the ideals.
This is a clarion call to all young Nigerians, to stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the wide and ancient paths, take note of it and do not follow it where it leads astray. Rather ask again for the good and right path, and however narrow, crooked and full of gallops it may be and have, we should walk in it and then and only then would we find true rest for our souls.
It is a call to young Nigerians, to have courage and hope for a great Nation and then resolve to bring about a great Nation.
It is a call to Nigerians to pray, to think and act, and if it does not work, to pray again to think differently this time and to act again for we must try again and again and again till the Nigeria dream is a reality.
It is a call to all young Nigerians to think of the National ‘Pledge’ not as a mere recitation, but as a debt that we owe our nation.
That when we talk of pledging faithfulness, loyalty and honesty we mean nothing less than faithfulness, loyalty and honesty.
When we talk about serving Nigeria with all our strength we mean selfless service, continuous mind throbbing for the improvement of the Nation.
When we talk about defending her unity, our patriotism would go first to our nation before our tribes; that we would think of the kinsmanship of all Nigerians.
And most importantly when will talk about upholding her Honour and Glory, that the word ‘Honour’ would have its true and undiluted meaning; that the word ‘Honour’ would be our watchword and our ever-present guide; that the Nation Nigeria would be a Nation of Honour and Glory.
As Steven Covey would say ‘we could spend weeks, months or even years labouring with trying to change our attitudes and behaviours and not even begins to approach the phenomenon of change that occurs almost spontaneously when we see things differently. If we want to have significant quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigm.” For before our values would change, the way we see Nigeria has to change first.
In the works of Thomas Kutin in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” shows how almost any significant breakthrough in the field of scientific endeavour is first a break with tradition, with old thinking, with the old paradigm.
So we must stop and look at the lens through which we see Nigerian and Africa, as well as the Nigeria and Africa we see, cause that lens itself, shapes the way we interpret the world.
If we are ever to respect Nigeria, the way we see Nigeria must change. Such demeaning phrases as “is this not Nigeria” in the negative sense cannot stop until we see Nigeria differently. Our society is one that has an imbalance in favour of an orientation toward the past and a deep responsiveness to the dictates of that past.
Even when there is a readiness to initiate social reforms, the ultimate rationalization seeks to establish contact with a stinking ‘sacredlized’ antiquity. We must cease to be cynical and determine to hope against hope. TARP is iconoclastic, therefore our effort is to move Nigeria and Nigerians from a pre-occupation with the past and the thinking of the past and also to some extent from too narrow a perspective on the exigencies of the moment and the future.
Hence we must not look at what Nigeria is or has been but rather at what she ought to be and what our roles are in bringing her to that point, rather than running away from the mess.
We have only one Nigeria, and we must stay together and salvage it together. When we see where we ought to be; when we see ourselves differently; when we see Nigeria as a victim of the selfishness and greed of her people, as a wounded soul counting on our mercies; when we see ourselves not as the victims, but as a solution to the Nation, then our attitude will change.
The reality is Nigeria has become the victim and Nigerians have become the culprits. Nevertheless, Nigerians feel inferior, we have a victim mentality, we see ourselves as victims of the government, thus most Nigerians have an escapist mentality, they want to travel out and secure a better future for themselves and probably their immediate families.
This change in the way we see our Nation, our responsibilities and ourselves would change everything, soon we would develop a dignified and honourable National Character.
So TARP intends to be beyond superficial, and not merely filled with social -image consciousness, techniques and quick–fixes that addresses the acute problems and appearing to solve them temporally, but leaving the underlying chronic problems untouched to fester and resurface time and again, rather, among those quick-fixes is largely the fostering of a National Character Ethics, restoring National Values amongst the “Young Minds of Nigeria”
The Organs of TARP
TARP is a merger of a variety of revolutionary approaches. Her primary focus is on Research and Development (R&D), and re-orientation, for the purpose of inspiring the African dream.
In the words of Samuel P. Hutton in his book Political Order of Changing Societies 1968 “A truly helpless society is not one threatened by a revolution but one incapable of it”. We are capable of revolution without violence.
There are different organs with which we are going to use to foster the revolution and other positive measures are welcomed. Some of these measures are:
1. Nigerians in Diaspora Arm (NIDA)
2. Institute of Celebrating Individuality (ICI):
For full article, references and further details on the TARP project please send an email to email@example.com.
© By Uche Iloka 2006