Rev. Agbali endorses Dr. Kissi's points
This is a classic and beautiful presentation and I have thought about some of the postulations contained herein. Do we need to have an African prototype that is exactly like New York? Wouldn't that be too boring? I feel that articulations like this should make us think deeper and configure profound ways of looking at the issues of African development. In the same way, I have questioned myself and others as to whether the very configuration of the specific political constructs that Africa need to generate should replicate the models of Washington, Paris, and London, among many others.
Democracy and Free Market economy are the contemporary ideals but I guess that it is humans that ensured that these ideals have potency. It is not the ideal themselves but the powers signified and imputed to them by society, are in my opinion, the fundamental broadband that imbues them with powerful significations.
I think that the examples herein should make us think regarding how apart from African leaders, African elites, intellectuals, military officers (current and retired), politicians, reflect as suzerains over the major of the peasants and rural dwellers, as if these later group have no sense and power of their own articulations.
One of the things that has amused me, over time, is the mold in which many American suburbs are trying to create community and natural ecologies- with plants, shrubs, trees- that are almost natural to our African ecology, while for many of us the idea of development for many in some African spaces is to cut down the trees for development. While on a trip to Nigeria in December/January 2004/5 out of nostalgia I went to our residence (staff quarters) in the secondary school my father was a Vice Principal in the 1980s, only to find out that my fantasy diminished, the place did not look like where we lived. I was in this emotional state, trying to decipher whether I was threading in another but familiar universe, when the new occupant came out. I mentioned to him the Neem tree (
) that used to be in the front of the house, and was a fraternal succor in times of heat, and was a great family gathering place, where we shared stories, and he told me that that tree was cut down on the order of the current principal for use in roofing another house.
That tree explained many things to me. First, it showed that such trees that in times past were never considered for such uses has come to replace the Iroko and Mahogany trees that was a familiar sight in my childhood, but have now also virtually disappeared through heightened lumbering activities. Many infants today would hardly know what these trees look like as adults. Secondly, that tree held a lot of memories for me, and somewhat metaphorically I consider it as a fictive friend, as it also witnessed somewhat our personal histories, as its loving natural leaves in providing harbor offered us room to build rapport as a family. In a sense, I wonder at times whether the meaning of our development is building upon the destruction of the best in the African ecology- physically and ontologically? What is Africa losing in the forceful and hasty match toward development, that they fathom is predicated on the operations of the forces of modernity? This is not to say that this is the first time trees have been cut for building or furniture, but the local epistemology had some in-built check regarding certain trees and their usages. Mainly, trees out in the forests are targets for such purposes, and mainly those that are threaning infrastructures around residences then can be cut down. Now, such local epistemological criteria are brushed aside in the pursuit of development. Thus, some indigenous critical and differentiations of uses hardly stand when the typical arguments in favor of painting a modern face through development surfaces.
Finally, I am reminded of former President Bill Clinton's aspiration during a visit to Nigeria to see a "natural state" African (Nigerian) village? In few years from now such "natural state" African villages that possess a nostalgic feel for foreigners (for whatever reason, either out of true nostalgia or out of support for their social evolutionary theory) would be almost gone, and gone forever without recreation. Most still images of these settings, presently considered as despicable may not even be available, to be replicated in museum settings. Even, museums in many African contexts are a museum, so when our past is gone, we shall battle to even recreate it and archive it for the future. I am now wondering what true development is, is it mimicking something that exists somewhere else, or is using a creative paradigm to involve on the creative ideals and objects that already exists? Is it cultural production and reproduction, or is it cultural cooption? I am really thinking now, what we need to do, and where we need to move from here.
Dr. Kissi's observations in this piece offer a crucial modality for assessing our rationalizations and perspectives on African developmental issues.