We must go back to the beginning to find ourselves. Each country has to ask why they struggled for independence. Because as it is now, the paths we have followed seem to be leading us nowhere.
This could probably be because most countries after independence just took off from where the colonisers had left. We took off as if there had not been anything wrong. As if we were just fighting to take over power.
Looking back today, it becomes clear that none of us ever bothered to sit back and ask why people died fighting. Why so many sacrificed so much. The euphoria of being independent and of being led by black men blinded us to real issues that needed to be addressed before embarking on the journeys of rebuilding nations.
Again, looking back today, there are no signs of nation-building anywhere on the continent. There are no new paths created to bring forth a new African man and woman and child. There was not any new thinking.
Each one of us proceeded along the same path where we did not want to be dragged. And we are here today. Still swearing at ‘imperialists’. Here today still blaming the West and Europe. We are here today, still uncertain of the path we want to take because this path we followed blindly has not led us anywhere.
Just take a look. At independence, our leaders emerged from the bushes and moved into state houses that were bastions of oppression. Then they wasted no time in discarding the army fatigues for Italian suits. The next day, they were airborne. All this before sitting down to talk to the people. Ask them what they want.
This should not mean they were not supposed to move into state houses. Or wear suits. Even flying. The problem is that most of them moved swiftly and quickly to assume the role of emperors. While they moved into state houses, nothing was done for those who could not move into such houses. With time, the problems grew until today when we feel and think that this continent is cursed.
Today we still have leaders who drive around the countries they have been ruling for 20 years and still show surprise that informal settlements have grown. That there are still jobless people. That the roads are in bad shape.
Imagine after more than 30 years of failure to deliver, some leaders still make the same promises about jobs, housing, schools, roads, and many others. Most of the things they were supposed to have dealt with when they took over power. It is as if every year is a new year.
Most probably the closest we ever came to a leader who was keen to charting a new path, creating a new African child was Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso. He stemmed out corruption. One of Africa’s biggest threats ever. One of the scourges that will bury Africa if nothing is done.
Show me a president, dead or alive, in power or retired who has not been linked to a corrupt act and I will show you a man who has never been a president.
But Sankara reduced ministers’ salaries. High and ridiculous salaries are, like corruption in Africa, another act of selfishness on the part of those who assumed the roles of those whom they had fought.
Sankara’s State House was a small brick house. His clothes simple cloth garments made in Burkina Faso. And from cotton grown in Burkina Faso. He rode a bicycle. And the most expensive car he ever drove was a Renault 5.
One of his simple solutions was: Grow your own food.
While today we have people, who castigate imperialism while they act and live the life of an imperialist, Sankara once said: “Look at your plates when you eat. These imported grains of rice, corn, and millet – that is imperialism.”
So, look at your president when he complains about imperialism today. His watch. Where he goes for holidays. Where his children go to university. Those shiny shoes. That starched shirt. And the cigars, whiskeys, and suits. All imported. Foreign-made.
Ask them why they cannot put in money to grow local food and industries. Create jobs in the process. Ask them why they move around with seven or six cars in an independent country? Cruising around in dark-tinted limousines from imperialist countries.
We may not have self-made cars in Africa, but we can afford to choose the cheapest. Cars not for luxury but necessity. But we can grow cotton in Africa. We have tailors in Africa. We can make clothes in Africa. Do all these things and create jobs in the process. And stop exporting jobs to ‘imperialist’ nations.
Sankara declared once: “Let us consume only what we ourselves control!”
Looking at ourselves today, how much of our lives, economies and governments do we control?
If we continue on this path, we will only create a frustrated, disillusioned, impoverished, angry and hopeless African child.
*Wonder Guchu is the author of The Gods Sleep Through It All and other five books. He holds an MBA in Leadership and Sustainability from the University of Cumbria (UK). Currently, he is the Eagle FM station manager. These are his views.