How many roads must one cross in order to be called a man? If it is the case of a Continent called Africa, then in the words of Barack Obama there are four major highways. Many were expecting handshakes and handouts but he hit the nail right on the head and threw the ball straight into our court with the admonishing that how we take it and work with it will be the determining factor in our future development and how we are perceived on the global spectrum.
THE ISSUE OF DEMOCRACY
To say that most African Countries have let themselves and the rest of the continent down is an understatement. They have grossly misconducted themselves and misrepresented and smeared the Continent in shame, negativity and suffering. An era of tyranny, gagging, misuse of power and governing with impunity sprinkled with a dash of Elections every so often, does not constitute democracy. Africa must take note! It is only a whitewash and the decay soon shows when the gloss gets faded.
The continent seems to have its own definition of this great ideology. We flout the rule of law, govern with impunity, trample on peoples rights, prevent citizenry from exercising their civic obligations and rob our national coffers in broad daylight; reaping what we did not sow.
Power corrupts and Absolute power corrupts Absolutely, which is why nation building should be the preserve of the Governors and the Governed for balance and harmony. If truth be told then the one thing that has sunk the Continent low and stagnated progress is the absence or the abuse/misuse of democracy.
It is the lack of democracy that has culminated in suffering, obstacles, hunger, poverty issues and disease eradication; casting nations into shadows of their former selves.
And it is by this same unwholesome attitude to democracy that we identify ourselves to the rest of the world. It has reached a critical point just as other issues affecting the continent has and it was good being given a straight talking to by Barack Obama.
The destabilisation of Countries on the Continent affects everyday livelihood of its citizens right down to Regional and International issues so everybody suffers somehow.
Two major health issues come to everybody’s lips when the continent is mentioned and that would be HIV/AIDS and MALARIA. Now while HIV is a global phenomenon and every Country is on the war path with it we cannot sound any victorious trumpets if we do not get down to the socio-economic nitty-gritty surrounding the disease and look to our own. It has been proven that the problem goes beyond just providing medicine for patients but major policies are still needed from within society and support networks and social welfare obligations that haven’t been met need to be put to the fore to support the ongoing good work of information dissemination about abstinence and protective practices in sexual health.
At a time when most health care facilities leave much to be desired and some citizens haven’t got access and the automatic right to expect it as available when the need arises, then it seems we do have a long way to go indeed.
Malaria on the other hand is a headache that refuses to go away and I stand by what I always say that two thirds of the problem is from within our households and communities as we do not practice the preventative aspect of its eradication by ourselves with good personal and environmental hygiene and Governors on the other hand are more concerned about grants, and loans and handouts which never gets us anywhere because we do give Mosquitoes good excuses to breed all the time. African governments have never treated the disease as a pandemic that needs military style precision in combat. I mean what stops governments from making ownership of a mosquito netting in households whether on doors windows or in bedrooms legally binding just as they would treat a seat belt in a car and allow local councils full scope to tackle the grit and grime of fly tipping, swamps, open gutters and incorporate good recycling and disposal of rubbish and sewerage in communities? Would that not be the most important and preventative stages of tackling the disease in the first place?
The health issue doesn’t stop with HIV and MALARIA but each year millions die from simple curable diseases because of the poverty line and simply because governments have failed their people in not giving them access to good sanitary services, good and safe drinking water and good roads for transport to health centres or the total lack of it in the first place.
Specialist centres in existing hospitals are sparse and even if there are any there is always the small matter of equipment, logistics, funding or even staff. These are some of the foundations that have not being laid and one no WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION can do for us if we don’t put our minds to it. There is a retrogressive cycle in African societies that needs to be broken if we are to make any headway.
And whiles I am on the subject of health, the issue of drug counterfeiting is one that cannot be overlooked. It is one of the major killers and a fast growing criminal activity that needs to be banished as greedy hawks in a bid to fatten their wallets prey on peoples lives with fake and often dangerous drugs in the system.
It is a problem that doesn’t always happen underground but most often licensed Pharmacies and medical practitioners are in on the act. Until Pharmaceutical and Medical boards run spot checks and our Standards agencies and border controls get in on the act to screen what is being fed into people then we fight a losing battle.
The tally of logistics, man power and funding that has been pumped so far into this situation is enough to awaken our senses if we will, to the futility of these wars and the waste involved as these could have been used for better things towards empowering and nourishing our citizens and fostering national development. And the death toll when all is done and the carnage and the restructuring of associated lives and damaged structures leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
But the basis of this awakening lies within ourselves to do away with negative sentiments along the lines of tribe, land disputes, religious differences and ethnic cleansing which have been the trigger for which most of these conflicts come about.
Muddying the waters on the other hand have been rogue leaders who capitalise on their officially mandated hold on the security forces of their respective nations to suppress the needs and the wills of their people; culminating in an overflow of all the unsightly developments and opportunistic elements that come out of the wood work when conflicts arise.
Some conflicts are worse than others, but whether it is total anarchy or indiscriminate trampling of citizens rights and obligations, it still doesn’t bode well for the Continent.
Some critics have been very vocal in their condemnation of what can best be described as the West’s reluctance to rap the knuckles of its way-ward friends on the continent when it comes to it, and on the other side of the spectrum they have been angered by the slow response to mediation in certain quarters when riots were rife.
However another school of thought like the one I belong to would rather we didn’t start these conflicts in the first place.
The West never asks for our troops or our money when they have Internal problems. They don’t pick up arms and sticks and machetes and go brandishing them on their kith and kin. They use their own security and civic interventions and they respect the powers of these organs of governance and their powers thereof. People take each other to task under the constitution and there are checks and balances in society.
If a household decides to bash themselves about and batter each other without having the sense of belonging and feeling of oneness that they are of the same entity, then it is the prerogative of a neighbour if they step in to mediate or not especially if it is going to cost them dearly.
That scenario is a far cry from external invaders when the indignation and anger of bystanders and neighbours can be harnessed into a whipping force against an aggressor and this is where we need to take note and know the difference, for its no use fighting amongst ourselves and then expect succour and mediation from external intervention when the fire of hatred have not being doused amongst ourselves and in our hearts, for then the dying flames are easily rekindled the minute a wind of unease and non resolution blows over it and we come back to where we started.
THE DO IT YOURSELF ATTITUDE AND HOPE
The destiny of our lives in Africa lies in our own hands and the past is long gone. All allusions to Colonialism, Slave trade and certain World orders should not stand in the way of a determined new generation who want a better world for themselves.
That manifestation of hope was standing right there on the dais making the speech and the message was simple; ‘’if you got the will and find a way then yes you can do it’’
There that should do it and lay to rest the feeling that we’ve been hard done by and given a raw deal centuries upon centuries ago.
The opportunities abound but it is in the strategic planning and implementation that we fall short and a culture of always looking WEST and not looking to ourselves hasn’t helped matters either.
The big question and the necessary progression is how we can shake off the blame game, the apathy, the corruption, the denial, the me-myself-and I syndrome and open our eyes to how our individual and collective actions make or break our respective countries. For that will be the day we accept our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses and take the steps towards making our generation and its deeds count.
Barack Obama has spoken. Is Africa ready to listen or is this visit going to be taken for just the honour of him signing the VISITOR TO AFRICA guest book and file it in the archives to gather dust. In Ghana there is a wise saying that the person cutting a path through the bushes doesn’t see how wonky or curvy the path is, until somebody observes it as they cut their way through and point it out. Four major hurdles to overcome in order to take our rightful place on the World stage. What is Africa waiting for then?