Whatever angle one decided to look at it, the sins of late Pa Obafemi Awolowo image loomed large, discernable enough in the formless clouds of our Country’s firmament. The story was, in all ramifications, very similar to that of the Creation recorded in the Book of Genesis Chapter one verse one. In the beginning, Nigeria’s political firmament was without form and void; and darkness engulfed everywhere. The British Colonialists were all over the place. They had replaced the earlier Portuguese explorers. Their Spirits, like of the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters, in the formation of the Earth, were also hovering over Nigeria’s political firmament.
That the British upstaged the Portuguese at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1844 to scramble the formless land area today known as Nigeria is not even the kernel of the story, but that late Pa Awolowo’s holistic developmental agenda. Pa Awo had seen the entire geographical landscape, which is Nigeria today as one huge land of all possibilities. He fell for that Utopian dream. It never worked. The designers of the geographical incongruity never intended it to work. So Pa Awo failed. This is still not the kernel of the whole gist here today.
Although, I had earlier wanted to write on my perceived many foibles, outright failures, and the unpardonable sins of the man many loved to addressed as a ‘sage’, ‘visioner’, or ‘statesman’, late Pa Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987). This would have been my remembrance of him 33 years after his transition of mortality for immortality. I had to change the subject radically, but retaining the foibles that produced the thunderous alarming thoughts that crept into my mind. I had just finished writing on the ‘Godfather who never sleeps’. Late General Sani Abacha had from his grave continually, donated humongous sums to the successive Nigerian governments since 1998. So far, over 5 billion USD have been ‘withdrawn’ from the surfeit of indefinable banks’ accounts he helped open for the country, in case – a raining day comes, a day like this, when it will rain cat and dog. The dark-goggled General has, indeed, been utterly magnanimous from his 6 feet’s residence!
And suddenly, when the country was still basking in the euphoria of the latest withdrawals, from another newly discovered surreptitious account, a news alert came via a cable network news of another discovery of two other surreptitious accounts in France and United Kingdom. The nation only could chuckle. It is becoming a shock, rather than a piece of cheery news. But before the nation could fully cogitate these new discoveries, a more shocking alert flashed through from the United Kingdom. This time around, it is not about any slushed funds anywhere or any other financial maleficence by a public official. Rather it was a statement credited to the British Prime Minister regretting the British withdrawal from the Continent of Africa as Colonial Imperialists.
Mr. Boris Johnson had allegedly called for the new 8-year‘ recolonisation’ of Africa by the British. When I tried to Google check Mr. Johnson, I suddenly found out that he’s not making such a garrulous statement for the first time. Writing in The Spectator newspapers of February 02, 2002, the same Mr. Boris Johnson has claimed that ‘Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism’. He traced the solution of the ‘mess’ Africa is to the fact that Britain and other Colonial masters were forced off the shores of the Continent. ‘The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore’, he wrote.
Here an obvious foible of late Pa Awolowo came to mind. One is tempted to ask: Why single out the late Premier of the Western Region of Nigeria out of all the notable nationalists, some of whom are far older than him at the time of the struggle for Independence? Pa Awo is not been vilified nor crucified for his role in the struggle for Independence by the natives. Rather, his role in planting the ‘mess’ whose the very author, the British are now using to mock us.
The escapades of the Europeans in Africa, from the dark days of the slave trade to the refined engagement of colonialism, left a deep mark on the psyches of the Continent. This spanned over 400 years, from 1600 to mid-1900. In between these centuries, Africans suffered all sorts of degradation in the hands of the Colonialists. The Yoruba people of the South West, Nigeria had to coin a refrain to describe their lifestyles: Aye l’oyinbo o je ku. Whatever the status or level of the so-called ‘Queen’s Official’ sent here, the life larger than the Queen herself. They despoiled the lands, they violate the gods, rape the moral bastion of the people. They with a bitter taste in the mouths of the locals. Hence another refrain: Oyinbo o ni kuro nilu, ko ma su si aga.
Now not yet 100 years they left, Mr. Boris Johnsons perhaps, had just read the escapades of his grandfathers in Africa, now dreaming of having a slice for his sons. For this, I lay the blame squarely on the table of late Pa Obafemi Awolowo. My reasons are quite simple.
First, as the Premier of the Premier Region, the late Leader had the opportunity to work the West out of ‘the mere geographical expression’, now called Nigeria. He need not fight or bicker. He only needed to look away from the Centre and concentrate on the West. Papa did not do this, rather. He went on to author a most fundamental book on how to achieve a Federal Structure for the Country. His book recommending, Federalism for the Country became the basic guiding document for the Colonial Masters who were bent on bequeathing an unworkable system on the Country. Both achieved their aim, Pa Awo got his bogus federalism, while the British too got their wish to put together a rickety structure. The land suffers. People suffer. Pa Awo later regretted. The British gloated. But today, the British are nostalgic about the exploits of their father’s past. They salivate another chance, even for another eight years of imperialism, of recolonisation.
While successive leaders’ actions and inactions might push one to review the entire process of Independence and the prospect of a damning verdict of ‘too early’, yet, if one opens the pages of the Apartheid regime in Southern Africa, he would immediately purge himself of any such thought. To date, Zimbabweans are still reeling under the vestiges of Colonialisation. The problem of that country may take another century, if not more to sort out. Mr. Boris Johnson would have none of these, but another eight years to come and totally liquidate the Continent.
It is striking significant that most of these African countries found their sources of wealth, gold, diamond, Crude Oil, Gas, et al after the departure of the colonialists. It is very much doubtful if these essential sources of easy income were to be discovered while these imperialists were here, the tendency is that they would have stayed put, perhaps forever. After all, most of them left when they felt the raw materials they needed were gradually going into extinction.
But still, our leaders and our people generally give the likes of Mr. Boris Johnson the flip to come out hard on us. Our conduct both within and outside the country really leave much to be desired. African basically lack discipline and self-organization. If the Whites are now capitalizing on this, we should not blame them. Rather we should re-examine ourselves and pick-point those factors that always pushed forwards the negatives narratives in us and deal with it.
A Continent that produced the likes of Ramoni Igbalode a.k.a Hushpuppi and flaunts him without shame. Hushpuppi hobnobs with the mighty and the low in Nigeria’s political scene. His social parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates is always flooded by who-is-who. Yet no one bothers about his source of fabulous wealth. Just, he has arrived. Such character is a black blot on the Continent’s white linen.
And such men and women, abound, all over Africa. Living larger on crooked means. Characters like this helped stunted the growth of the Continent. Hence giving Mr. Boris Johnson the leeway to suggest another round of raping and defilement of the land.
The official megaphone of the British government, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has never exercised any restrained while speaking about official corruption in Nigeria. And that is corruption both the British government and top citizens helped sustain. Africa will become free when her leaders realize that moving their people’s monies to Europe and America is tantamount to helping those countries’ economies to grow, and subsequently, killing theirs locally. And that is when no Mr. Boris Johnson will come up with a new plan for recolonization, and also, then would the major foible of late Pa Obafemi Awolowo be no longer remembered.
Afolayan Adebiyi writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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