Unpacking Africa and Africans

2014-03-26 21:35

Today the Continent of Africa hosts Poverty and Corruption: Poverty and Corruption are being consolidated at the highest level of leadership.

There is something in the character of African leaders that seems to make them blind from understanding and realizing that whereas all humans beings are self-centred but there is a higher aim after all to tap into, and that higher aim is the recognition of the fact that the best lived life is one dedicated to serving the public good. There is a need of growth to this level of existence among African leaders.

Okey Ndibe, Foreign Gods, Inc.

As Jeffrey Sachs, the Special Adviser to UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says “the prolonged crisis in Africa; everything comes back again and again, to corruption and misrule”. The whole world is pleading with African leaders that they must simply behave themselves better. A continent so well endowed with a wealth of precious expensive natural resources has absolutely no business with poverty. The agony of Africa along these lines is put into deeper perspectives in the recently published novel entitled Foreign Gods, Inc. authored by Okey Ndibe. Okey Ndibe is based in the United States of America. He was brought to the United States of America from his native country Nigeria way back in 1988 by Chinua Achebe to lead and edit African Commentary magazine. Currently Okey Ndibe is a Professor at Brown University and holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In Foreign Gods, Inc, Okey Ndibe suggests that the African world has fallen apart and is no longer able to provide Africans with the cultural compass with which to navigate the exigencies of living on the planet earth. And because of this, the contemporary African is skewed and dislocated, and therefore operating with poorly understood European cultural parameters. The results for these are that the lives of Africans are in a sorry poor state. The cultures and manners of existence of Africans are still there but they have been rendered relics and some kind of cheap artefacts that can be commercialised and shipped any way you want to. This goes deep, the cheapening and commercialisation of African cultures has also cheapened the lives of Africans - Africans are also commercialised and can be bought with money to do whatever the master wants.

Foreign Gods, Inc speaks of an Africa that has been taken and sold: an Africa with leadership that is impoverishing their countries with avaricious tastes and debauched inclinations, indulging in inordinate squandering of resources instead of nation building. No human being is more miserable and pathetic than the self-centered selfish leader who wants the entire world to respect him but does nothing to improve the lot of his people. Across the world all political leaders while in some ways are corrupt but still they serve their own people - you can see this by noticing how their countries and their people's lives are improved. But with an African leader the case is different.

The personality of a typical African leader is based on shifting sands, more satisfied with the personal accumulation of physical external things hence they see public offices they occupy as casinos.

Okey Ndibe is very seasoned African, and in this novel brings in a wealth of perspectives drawn from his varied and wide ranging rich experience. Throughout his life he has been a journalist, magazine editor, author of short fiction, novels, poetry and political commentary. He also contributes to many other publications, including The Hartford CourantThe Fabian Society JournalBlack Issues Book Review, BBC Online. Intellectually and culturally Okey Ndibe is the son of Chinua Achebe, or you may say a clone of Chinua Achebe. If you have ever read Chinua Achebe, then you will understand the thinking caps of Okey Ndibe in this novel.

Foreign Gods, Inc. in fact seems to be an extension of Things Fall Apart. The fate that has now befallen contemporary African is what Okwonko, the main character in Things Fall Apart refused to fall to, and he chose to die rather than live under the atmosphere and perspectives of foreign Gods. It behooves Africans across the continent to choose their leaders very wisely. Leadership that is deeply grounded in sound ethics and that is driven by great missionary passion of saving Africa.

A Missionary person does not live for himself but his whole life is dedicated to a societal purpose - serving the people, and that is what gives him satisfaction, happiness and contentment in life. How I wish that African leaders can have passion for their people not only themselves and their families.

The new African leaders required across the continent are those who will be be able to craft home grown African solutions to problems, and those home grown solutions must be based on sound critique uncontaminated by hypocrisy and unjustifiable passing of bucks or petty allegiance and inordinate emotional attachments to personalities or the worship of some expired memory.

Sometimes the Continent is crippled by people who just choose to be politically correct. A politically correct person simply soaks and parrots the dominate views circulating in the chambers of the politically powerful; the desire here is to be in the good books of the movers and shakers of the corrupt power configuration of the day. Even when reason nullifies taking sides and agreeing with the powerful, a politically correct person still do it anyway. He can lie big because that reinforces and consolidates his position with the power centres. He is a morally compromised person. He lacks personality and therefore can be purchased, sold and shipped anywhere. It is the desire for money and attachments to privileges that reduce a person to be purchasable.

Foreign Gods, Inc. is an erudite and sophisticated story with complex plots mostly in Nigeria but it finds its echo far and wide across the world in particular every African country. It is because of this that render its meanings complex; I have merely scratched the surface in this commentary. Okey Ndibe has been called by history and good conscience in writing Foreign Gods, Inc.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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