If you read one thing about Africa today, let it be Ikhide’s recent article on ‘The Naipaul in Us’. This has to be the sanest article I have ready amidst the relentless Kony chorus and the already-outdated #SomeoneTellCNN tweets. Ikhide makes you pause and think about how much we are playing a blame game, or whatever sort of a game, ignoring our real problems. As Ikhide writes,
“The African intellectual from the beginning has been frustrated by the constant label of “the other” that is implied in how Westerners view Africa and her inhabitants…. We have abandoned the peasants who spent so much to get us an education so we could get them out of hell. We are in pursuit of our own needs, screw the people. Wine glass in hand, we mouth white words to white-out what we view as our frailties.”
No one is denying that the West has actually made us look miserable in the face of (God?). But this is not a beauty contest. This is a question of pretending to engage in economic development while our faces are fixed on a blame-game with the West. It is a hypocritical game where a part of us is trying to be them, the other part is down on knees begging for a little more aid and another part is on a social media banter with them. It is ok, for us to point out the White-man savior mentality, but is it all we are going to be talking about all year? What sets us apart from that person who believes that a bracelet and a few tweets will stop Kony and save Africa? We have problems, real problems that need solutions beyond twitter rants, newspaper articles and blogposts like this one. Yes, it is quite unfortunate that the West always finds a tear on our dress to come sew. It is unfortunate that they have to make themselves heroes out of us. It is also unfortunate that the only narratives that we are exporting unwillingly are the ones about hunger, violence, poverty and the likes. So we get them to tell positive narratives about us- and then what? Is it going to bring down the cost of fuel? Are we finally going to love each other and stop the tribal cancer that feeds on our nation by the minute?
Ranting to the west is simply trying to prove how equal we are to them. Excuse my pathetic patriotism but you think we are equal? Everywhere you turn, things are messy! Our education system is a mess. We have IDPs on our backyards. We elect politicians who shamelessly loot taxpayers’ money, year in year out. We have people who are going to be hungry come the next few months because while we are busy competing with the West on who among us has the prettier dress, our farmers are busy lacking fertilizer for their crops. Maybe after we are done, we will work together with the White-man savior and flag off a couple of lorries with relief food. It is how we know to help.
If we do not need anyone to make themselves heroes out of us, isn’t it time for us to make ourselves heroes out of our own misfortunes? Not to make this a sweeping statement, there are many who are working hard to deliver us from ourselves, to bring better governance and to benefit someone else other than themselves. Shout out to those who are already doing that – like the group of Kenyans on Twitter who have been going to Kibera every Sunday for the last one year to give the kids extra tuition. Another group has been helping keep girls in school by providing sanitary pads. When your neighbor keeps making fun of you for the torn dress your kid is wearing at school, going to tell him/her off won’t solve the problem. Maybe you need to buy your kid a new dress.
Our house is in a mess, and it is falling down. Whose fault is it that the world is laughing at us? And why does it matter anyway. We agree that we have problems. Let us deal with them. A certain blogger called Ozodi once wrote,
“Everything affects everything. The West does affect Africa; no one is denying that truism. The fact remains that it is those human beings who despite the role played by others in shaping their lives, who accept responsibility for their fate, that tend to be successful in what they undertake.”