Critiquing and modifying the Abaka Doctrine Dr. Obechie melts the ideas to six. Sylvester O. Ogbechie, (Ph.D, Northwestern 2000) is an Assistant Professor of Art History whose research is focused on Classical, Modern and Contemporary African and African Diaspora Arts at the University of California Santa Barbara. He has published widely on the subject in all the major journals in the field of African Arts. He is currently working on a book about Ben Enwonwu and the Politics of African Modernism.
I have followed the postings on how to rejuvenate Africa with a lot of interest but it seems to me that we are just passing the buck here. The Abaka doctrine provides the kind of response to national problems you get from your average civil servant: cogent, stimulating but ultimately useless because it does not deal with the real problem and also glosses over the evil nature of human beings in a society conditioned towards corruption and dishonesty. I'm also frankly tired of the kind of "raise yourself by your bootstrap" argument proffered by many on this list, which completely refuses to put into context the condition of Africans in today's world of global apartheid. I lived in Nigeria in the 1970s when corruption was every bit as prevalent as it is today, but its effects were cushioned by the easy availability of cash to fund several ambitious (albeit white elephant) projects. It is true that we must blame African leaders for running the ship of state aground, as one wise man once said. It is also true that many African nations deserve the corrupt leaders they get, when (as Achebe prophetically proved in "No longer at Ease" and "A Man of the People") whole communities clamor for their share of the national wealth and put undue pressure on their children to play the game so that they can bring home the spoils of power. However, corruption thrives everywhere because corrupt people feel that they are not accountable to anyone, not even God. And corruption is not solely an African problem. many Western countries are corrupt like hell, but they have systems that, every once in a while, brings corrupt people to account for their actions. However, in our own lifetime, we have seen these systems fail: the USA has now had two elections that are globally perceived as corrupted, and its financial infrastructure is now clearly seen to be a mere front for corporate gangsters who loot the public fund at will. The increasing crisis of this internal corruption is the reason why the country is waging war with greater alacrity. It is merely using the public mobilization offered by war to distract the population from calling for accountability at the highest levels of government.
Anyone who wishes may note these words for they are a kind of prophecy: THERE WILL BE NO PROGRESS IN AFRICA AS LONG AS THE CONTINENT IS SHACKLED BY AN INTERNATIONAL WORLD ORDER THAT REGARDS IT SOLELY AS A SOURCE OF FREE LABOR AND MINERAL RESOURCES. It is true that accountable governments will go a long way to make African countries better, but the reality is that such leaders are eliminated by the West as soon as they arise (does anyone remember Lumumba or Muritala or any of the other legion of African leaders who were assassinated in the 1960s and 1970s?). All the most egregiously corrupt African leaders have relied on Western support and backing to maintain their hold on power. The example of Mobutu Sese Seko is perhaps the most infernal of all, since he sold the entire mineral rights of the Congo to Western (mostly American and French) corporations. No amount of good government can retrieve these stolen rights from their new corporate owners, whose claims are backed by the coercive power of Western military might. Mobutu, though a misguided tyrant, at least got one thing right, when he noted that American dogs and cats and other pets eat much better and live in better conditions than most Africans ever will. The current world order is devoted to maintaining this unequal structure of power, and they work to make sure that no leader emerges in Africa who will change the situation by mobilizing the people.
So let me say that we should immediately stop this clamor for "democracy." IF democracy does not exist in the country that is supposedly a fountain for democracy, why should we expect it in Africa? I mean, we have seen in the past few years Western countries moving back into their old colonial attitudes, destroying whole countries, killing people wantonly, torturing others, locking up people indefinitely, using sanctions to starve whole countries to death (think of the 40 year sanction against CUBA, whose sole crime is wanting to try an alternative form of government), and even in the US, incarcerating 40% of all males of color to feed its new slave plantation system. These are actions of a corrupt world system within which we keep imagining that somehow, and in the name of some desert tribal deity, miracles will happen and things will suddenly improve in Africa. It is good to have hope, but to hope against hope is to indulge in foolhardiness.
So everyone doesn't think I am a prophet of doom, let me present a few points that can immediately resolve some of our problems in Africa. (I'll use Nigeria for most of my examples, since I know more about that country than others). The situation in Africa is now drastic beyond belief, and drastic situations of this sort requires drastic solutions. If you are squeamish, stop reading here.
1. The West should immediately forgive Africa's debt to Western financial interests, because the existence of this debt is the clearest indication that the Western world are not human or humane. After three hundred years of slavery, one hundred years of colonization and continued control and appropriation of African resources, to say that Africa owes the West a single dime is the clearest indication that the West does not consider Africans to be human beings. I am not proposing that Africa's debt be cancelled as a gift. I propose that we trade it for the endless numbers of African cultural artifacts looted by many Western colonial governments and housed in Western museums today, from which they continue to generate huge sums of money. Let the West keep the artworks in exchange for Africa's national debt. The monies freed up by this transaction will immediately solve many problems even if African leaders continue to be the most corrupt on earth.
2. The Western financial houses should immediately provide African countries with a list of the assets of African leaders who have much of their national wealth stashed away in Swiss banks. I mean, the Swiss live like kings and they don't really get their money from making watches. They get it from appropriating the wealth of African leaders who fall from power. Of Mobutu's 4 billion dollars of Zairean loot, Swiss banks only accounted for less than $10,000 at his death. We know that Abacha stashed more than that amount in Swiss banks of which not more than 150 million has been negotiated for return to Nigeria. In this sense, Africans must hold the Swiss banks accountable as partners in crime for such embezzlement, in the same way that Jewish holocaust victims held the Swiss accountable for laundering money for the Nazis. And the West would assist us in this matter as they assisted the Holocaust victims, were the West not devoted to rank racism that prevents them from giving Africans a fair shake.
3. The West should henceforth divulge the name of any African tinpot dictator who loots his national treasury and stashes the money abroad. Such funds should be seized immediately and held in trust until the leader is deposed. That way, we can use the threat of public humiliation and financial ruin to hold such leaders accountable. Furthermore, such leaders should be tried and anyone found guilty of stealing public funds should be tried for treason and if found guilty, promptly executed.
4. The West should henceforth place an arms embargo on Africa. Africans do not need more weapons and there is no where that easy availabilty of weapons have ever brought peace. If you think it through, Africans do not really need Western weapons to settle their own scores. I mean, the Hutu/Tutsi crisis saw more than one million people slaughtered in a few months using machetes. If we must continue to kill ourselves in Africa, then let's do it with local resources. Also, reducing the inflow of weapons will force African nations to either create their own weapons industries like the Biafrans did during the war, which will bring about the much desired technological advancement that we currently lack. It is true that disempowering the military might lead to a rise in warlordism but how will this be any different from the current warlord behavior of most African militaries. In any case, the West has seen fit to deploy great number of soldiers to protect so and so in many Western countries. The West African Ecomog troops can be used in a similar manner. If such troops contribute to the problem of misrule rather than keep the peace as they are asked to, then people should organize and fight them.
5. Countries like Nigeria with large agricultural tracts should encourage farming as an alternative lifestyle. China built its industrial might with sheer physical labor. So did America by the way in putting millions to work on public development during the Great depression. I farmed as a child and produced enough food to feed my family. The Nigerian government should appropriate much of the land that lies fallow in the middle belt and devote it to agriculture, instead of sharing it among white farmers like the governor of Kwara has done recently. Those who refuse to farm should be left to die of hunger. Anyone who threatens the farming community by stealing or otherwise preying on them should be promptly executed.
6. The West should stop intervening every time some new conflict arises in any part of Africa. The human specie has survived because of its response to conflict. We began our reign over the planet by killing off Neanderthal man. Societies that fight themselves to a standstill learn to live together or perish. While the spectacle of large scale death is unnerving, it is however the way of the world. Any review of history proves that peace is actually an exception to a constant state of war. Societies will continue to fight over scarce resources, as we see in the current American plan to enslave the world to feed its ungovernable appetite. The current political crises in Africa reflects the unravelling of the old colonial boundaries, a process that cannot be stopped or really slowed down. It will inexorably lead to new political affiliations and also to much death and destruction. However, this is also inevitable even if we agree that its effects need to be minimized. Ultimatley, African countries must learn to resolve their differences or perish in the process.
These are only a few points. However, if even the first four are applied, I have no doubt that we will be talking about a new Africa in one single decade. In the meantime, we should stop wishing on a star and face reality, instead of lulling ourselves to sleep on fairy tales about "personal" development. No man, woman, or country is self made, and the non-Western countries that have succeeded have done so only because they have favorable trade and financial access to the West. This access is the true power of the West, which it invokes to crush countries that challenge its hegemony. In 1984, the Naira was stronger than the dollar. Today, it is near worthless. Nothing has changed, Nigeria still has the same abundant resources, but unlike the US, it does not have control over the translation of those resources into wealth. Without that control, we will always be a third world nation. Peace.