There is no denying the fact that we Africans have had a raw deal in the hands of some other races who have enslaved, dominated, humiliated, dehumanised and exploited us at various times in the course of human history.
And when any people suffer from slavery, colonialism and imperialism as Africans have suffered, such a people are robbed of their confidence as they are indoctrinated to believe that they are no good which is why they have been conquered in the first place. They are also made to believe that their conqueror has superior intelligence and that God designed it so and that there is nothing they can do about it.
Consequently, victims of domination, dehumanisation and oppression tend to suffer terrible low self-esteem. They tend to lose faith in themselves and in their ability to do something great or significant for themselves not to talk of for others. Simple challenges of life become uphill tasks for them. Just see this fact in operation in all the countries of the Black race.
In some countries of Africa (Nigeria is a good example) there are innumerable sources of water but it is an impossible thing for the government to harvest these many sources, purify or treat the water, pipe it and distribute it to millions of their citizens who are then forced to spend billions of man hours looking for water to drink and to use for other household chores and for industrial purposes . When you hear our governments cry to the World Bank, the UNDP and other organisations for assistance to enable them to provide clean and safe water for their people, you will think that the knowledge and resources needed for water supply are as enormous as what you need to produce the atomic bomb.
We need to pity the Black man because in a country like Nigeria, there is no city, village or town where pipe borne water flows uninterruptedly for even a day! And this is happening in a country that is 50 years old as a self-dependent one!
There is a tendency among some of our intellectuals to blame our backwardness on the effects of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. I stoutly reject such self-pitying rationalisation of our incompetence and lack of determination to do good for ourselves. Slavery ended several centuries ago. Colonialism ended in most countries of the Black world about fifty to a hundred years ago. Imperialism is still in force but with our education and exposure we can overthrow this force if only we develop the willpower to do so. As far as I am concerned we have no excuse whatsoever blaming anybody or any historical reality for our backwardness. The fault is firmly to be found in ourselves.
Why do I appear to sound so harsh on ourselves? One, I resent such rationalisation because it is a part of the reason why we have not been able to move forward. In fact, I plan to go and tell my friends Dr Zoaka and Dr Kabir Mato of the Department of Political Science, University of Abuja, that at the next meeting of the Political Science Association of Nigeria they should jointly table a motion that Africans should stop the teaching of Walter Rodney’s classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. My reason is that rather than firing us into anger to do something to develop our continent and the people of dark skin, Rodney’s book is fast becoming a convenient excuse as to why we are so underdeveloped.
Two, we are not the only ones who have been victims of harsh historical forces like slavery and colonisation. The Americans, the Jews, the Chinese, the Koreans, the Indians and other peoples of the world have, at one time or the other in the course of history, also suffered from human aggression, domination and enslavement.
Yet these people have found a way to bounce back. Fired by a patriotic, and in some of the cases, racial anger, they have exacted sweet revenge by becoming more powerful politically, economically or industrially than their former oppressors. What is wrong with us that we so easily give in to despair and begin to mourn our present state for ever for setbacks dating centuries back?
What is it in us that make us resign ourselves to fate so easily? The sense of helplessness which I see in African leaders and which has been imbibed by the followership as well is so frightening. It is that sense of helplessness that makes them cry for the next American or European to come and help us when we can do those things ourselves. Our progress has been severely retarded by this sense of helplessness.
In Nigeria, when we are faced with a challenge that requires simple engineering skills of no exceptional nature, I hear some of my countrymen shamelessly mourning that the job should be awarded to Julius Berger, the German construction giant. Some Nigerians even go to the extent of cursing the government if a road contract job in their locality is awarded to a local construction company instead of to Julius Berger! And i shake my head in pity for the Black man. We have come to believe that our own people cannot do a good job of anything. And this kind of self-doubt and self hate can be so destructive to a people who have urgent need to develop.
In history, no foreigners have ever come to develop a polity for others to live in in peace and harmony. A people must develop their own society for themselves. They can get the assistance of foreigners. But they cannot depend wholesale on foreign help as we blacks do.
I therefore believe that if we Blacks, especially our governing elite, wake up one day and say we have had enough of poverty and misery and decide that we can develop and even become better than other races, we will do it, to the surprise of many unbelieving souls among us. We are not as powerless as we see ourselves in our minds’ eyes. Mental picture of a thing is what accounts for whether a thing can be done or not done. We must deliberately convince ourselves that we can do something for ourselves without having to cry for others to come to our aid. That era should be gone and gone for good.