Dr Folabo Ajayi, University of Kansas, responds to No. 792 by Dr.
Chika Onyeani .
For all previous submissions, see
In broad strokes, no sane, intelligent person will quibble with the
idea of "accepting responsibility for our actions," or even "about
being intelligent on how we make decisions where to spend our hard
And with all his provocative -get me -noticed style of saying so,
DR. CHIKA ONYEANI is neither the first, nor will he be the last to
lambaste and criticize the too many Africans in various leadership
positions but really have not got the slightest idea what leadership
means or how to lead. They rule rather than lead and inverse the
notion of service intrinsic to leadership, to mean that all national
resources- human and material - are at their service and anyhow
There are two major differences between Onyeani and those who have
trodden the path before him.
i) The critics were talking to those rulers directly at the height of
their frightful power, and right there in their domain. Many were
thrown into detention, imprisoned, driven into exile, or murdered
outright or by judicial execution.
ii) The second and more disturbing problem is the language, with the
nature of his analyses. Over and over, Dr. Onyeani uses the same
uncritical language, and biased, myopic and one-sided analysis that
the colonialists, and racists used to justify their exploitative
ventures on the African continent and its people. However, these have
become totally discredited by the 21st century because the greed,
atrocity and incredible inhumanity that overtook whatever spirit of
discovery and the need for labor that served as catalysts for
colonization and the slave trade have been thoroughly exposed. How
they must be happy that somebody else, and who else but a member of
the exploited group is turning back the hands of the clock and
carrying on the work for them so well?
Onyeani's tough talk reminds me of when Justice Clarence Thomas
denounced his sister as the "Welfare Queen" during his confirmation
hearings for the Supreme Court back in the 1990s. It was the days
when the anti-welfare Republicans, strutted the Congress, and no
doubt, Clarence Thomas was telling it as it was - "TRUTH, HONESTY AND
FRANKNESS." He was not afraid to voice the widespread but little
spoken belief that black women use the welfare system to sponge on
the state, The reality is, who thought that a system instituted when
black people dared not claim their rights, that is, if they were
aware they had any rights at all would have so many black women
benefiting from it? No one, not even those who opposed his nomination
in the first place, thought it fit to doubt Justice Thomas let alone
challenge him until a journalist, a white woman, interviewed the
so-called Welfare Queen" sister. What earned the sister this
unsavory crown was for the short period she had to leave her job to
take care of their sick mother -the first and only time she was on
welfare. Since the good Justice was silent on why he did not pick up
the tabs for this family responsibility, we can assume it he was in
the white world trying to get blacks to accept responsibility for
their actions. Well, he is doing the job so well, he has left his
chorus of supporters far behind. Only last week, his was the only
dissenting voice in the Supreme Court ruling that made it easier
for defendants to claim racial bias in jury selection.
I have welfare queen story to demonstrate a fundamental flaw in
Onyeani's motivational analysis. He wants us to ignore the context of
the problem; it is analysis done with a distorted perception. It is
like seeing with just one eye, the clarity is reduced, the vision
fuzzy. In this case, the missing perspective, or what Dr. Onyeani
dismisses as irrelevant, is the historical viewpoint; the ability to
know the past. Taking responsibility for our action does not mean we
have to ignore the past or that the past should not be held
accountable for constructive purposes. To know the past is to gain
strength from it, to understand what went wrong or was done right so
the present can be improved and be better informed for the future.
Let me illustrate. Some years back, I overheard some kids accuse
another black kid of "acting white" because she was trying to stay in
school, excel and generally be a good citizen. I asked them if they
knew about lynching - yes they knew. I then asked if they would like
the return of that era, and they looked at me like I was insane. I
then shared with them what I understood as the origin of the
expression - how it was used by racist whites who felt that blacks
were inferior, not men or human beings and therefore not desrving of
any respect or concession from whites. Black people who made the
mistake of claiming their rights, or aspiring to be humans were
asking to be lynched. The kids were genuinely shocked, they had
thought that "acting white" was selling out and betraying the black
experience, not realizing it was they negating the black experience.
They looked like they would change; I hope they did. I have observed
similar reactions when I do the same historical backtracking in my
It is a pity that generous hospitality, the only positive attribute
Onyeani concedes to black people, and which by the way is also a
virtue in every culture, is dismissed as inconsequential. Onyeani
advises us to reject it favor of self preservation and selfishness.
Unfortunately,. Onyeani has just fallen into the pit he is trying to
avoid. He asks us not to value anything of our own; not to take
pride in what is positive and ours, but to follow the latest fashion
blindly and uncritically.
Dr. Oyeani, all criticism and no valuation breeds low esteem. If
those rulers took just a little pride in their countries, in their
people, why would they stash money in Swiss banks instead of using it
to develop their countries? Why would most of our youths now hanker
over anything American or, European and deride anyhting black as
inferior rather than seek to make them better? Dr Oyeani, why do you
not explore ways of turning black hospitality into something worthy
of emulation, even profitable in the 21st century?
Low esteem is definitely not another problem Africans or black people
need to add to their myriad of problems.