Not long ago, my attention was caught by a radio
news item about Africa. As I had come to expect,
it was not good news, and it was not presented with, nor did it deserve, respect. It was something of a joke. This
was the announcement of the death of President Eyadema of Togo
whom it described as the longest serving president in Africa (or maybe the
world – I forget which). Then it gave another detail: Eyadema had died from a heart attack, even as he was about
to be flown to Europe for treatment. And it concluded with the
information that Eyadema’s son would succeed him as president of Togo!
This event brought me once again face
to face with Africa’s leadership charade. What do African leaders
envision for their countries and their people, I wondered yet again. Have they not heard that
where there is no vision the people perish? Does the judgment of history on their rule mean anything to them? Do
they remember how a man called Mandela who had spent 28 years in prison for South Africa gave up the presidency of that country – a position that he so richly
deserved – after only 4 years, and made way for another and younger patriot?
Why do African leaders choose bad models like
Kamuzu Banda instead of good ones like Mandela? Have they considered how Mugabe has ruined the cause of land distribution
by a quarter century tenancy in power? If Eyadema stayed that long
because he was that good, why was there no hospital in Togo
to attend to his condition? Did Eyadema who had given nothing but bad news to Togo since the 1960s imagine that the solution to problems created largely by himself would be solved
by a dynasty of Eyademas? Which reminded me of another First Son, the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea
seen around the world on television as he shopped extravagantly in Paris for
expensive clothes. Unfortunately, he seemed no less a bum in the suits he was trying on, than out of them.
Africa has to get serious. I think we have fooled around long enough. And Nigeria, which has enough human talent and material resources to lead the
way for the continent has been frittering away precious, providential time.
Chinua Achebe Foundation Inc © Interview Series Project Nigeria: A meeting of the minds
will attempt to transcend the present discourse of cynicism and pessimism
concerning Nigeria by engaging some of the nation’s most distinguished and respected minds, in robust, intellectual, public conversations.
The interviews we have planned are not intended
to project the views and opinions of myself or my foundation or necessarily people who think like me. It will present
the thinking of serious, independent-minded Nigerians who, like millions of their fellows in all walks of life
and all corners of the land, yearn for the promise of a stable, safe, democratic, humane, and prosperous nation.
The aim is to increase conversation among us and bring together the thoughts of reflective men and women on our
condition and what we should do about it.
The Chinua Achebe foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing international
understanding about Africa’s vibrant intellectual and cultural heritage.