Professor 'Layi Abegunrin, Department of political science, Howard University, Washington, D.C. provides us with additional ideas on how to move forward
I my own humble way I beg to join this lively and insightful discourse on how our continent-Africa can move forward and take control her destiny in this 21st century. I commend those who have contributed to these debates and the efforts of the moderator of the forum.
However, all the projections concerning Africa look grim and hopeless. The cover page of The Economist of May 13, 2000 reads "Hopeless Africa," and most of the UN reports on Africa are projecting hopelessness, and yet all these are not far from the truth. All the portrayal of hopelessness and despair need not become self-fulfilling prophecy. If the African leaders and their governments care to do something about it instead of continuously begging the international community, especially the western powers to come to our rescue. External assistance can become a catalyst for change only when such assistance is received to complement Africa's own plan for transformation. Such a strategy is an absolute necessity, particularly when weighed against Africa's past history. Caring about Africa is an imperative obligation and responsibility that African leaders and their governments cannot escape from. Africa's marginal position and underdevelopment in the new global order of this 21st century provides a compelling occasion to reorganize African political systems and economies, to defend Africa's sovereignty, and to strengthen the continent's capacity to become more serious and assertive in international affairs. For us Africans to continuing bemoan and complain about the negative effects of global forces without taking the necessary counter-measures at national and regional levels will do little to ease the pain of marginalization and underdevelopment of Africa. Africans and we Africans in the Diaspora including all of us in this forum must know that the oppressors will never make change; the oppressed themselves must bring the change they desire. Fellow Africans, it is the African peoples who can and who will liberate themselves, and not the bunch of rouges and corrupt leaders, those leaders that George Ayittey called "Coconut Heads and vampires" ruling many of the African countries today. How many of these corrupt African leaders have left office voluntarily without being forced out or die in office? It is high time we learnt from the Iranian experience of 1979, the Republic of Georgia in October 2003 and lately Ukraine in December 2004 experiences. The African civil societies need to be educated to know their God given democratic rights in economic, social and political life. Only the African masses can liberate themselves from their underdevelopment and mis-rule of the African political leaders and undemocratic governments. As Martin Luther King, Jr. succinctly put it "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Foreign aid from the West, which was supposed to lift Africa from underdevelopment and undemocratic rule, has in fact done more to keep Africa down, poor and disempowered her peoples. Dependency on foreign aid has severely altered the African leaders' psyche, with greater impact than a century of missionary education/or miseducation. According to President John F. Kennedy's famous inaugural address of 1961, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," has been wrongly interpreted by African leaders. The African leadership interpretation is "Ask not what we can do collectively for our continent, but ask what our former colonial masters can do for us." The beggar mentality of African leaders, African elites and almost holy worship and adulation of Europeans, no matter what their rank and level of education, and elites' rejection of anything African from locally produced consumer goods to African doctors and professors- are all testimony to how deeply ingrained the dependency' mentality of Africans. African leaders and African elites need to wake up, decolonize and revise their colonial mental trap, as the first and most important step towards emancipation of the continent from over dependency. After almost 50 years of independence, with all our natural and human resources, Africans should by now be in position to be able to government themselves and be in control of their destiny. To deny the possibility of our self-transformation is to give credence to the so-called widely held western view that Africans are an inferior race with very little appreciation of the values of democracy and progress.
Independent is not just flag flying but it must be shown in the performance of the leadership and their government must be open, accountable and deliver the public good to its citizens.
As it has been suggested in one of the contributions to this forum by Dr. Udogu, "we need to organize a Global and World Conference of Africans in Africa and the Diaspora. The purpose of such a forum should center on some of the excellent issues that have been raised in the contributions to this forum and other issues that are helpful for development of Africa." We should make our deliberations/resolutions in these kinds of conferences available to the African news organizations and the civil societies in the continent.
For how long are we going to be pampered by the Europeans? We must grow up. Africans should find solutions to African problems.
Fellow Africans we have been writing and speaking big, big grammars and we are good at it, and should practice what we preach. We Africans in the Diaspora should be catalyst to African development, and not play the game that "if we cannot beat them we join them," because we have witnessed many of our colleagues and friends that once they get back to our home land, they easily join the "Coconut Heads and Vampire groups," the same system they were criticizing and attacking while outside it.
Our leaders and governments need to change their way of doing things. The first mark of an independent Africa is political leadership. Nobody will respect or take Africa seriously if her leaders refuse to take responsibility for their own actions or inactions. Africans should be able to stand up and claim credit when they do things right and accept responsibility for their wrong doings.
Fellow Africans, the quality of leadership in each African country matters. Honesty, accountability and transparence can get us closer to our dream of an Africa free of poverty, underdevelopment and undemocratic governance than greed and corruption. Respect for Africa comes through deeds and actions; commitment to our African values; social justice; commitment to innovation, hard work and merit based on performance; commitment to protecting our sovereignty; commitment to African unity; and commitment to promote and defend African values, democracy and the rule of law.