The Mind Builders in Africa

02.01.2017

As Africans went formal through the acquisition of western education, a critical question of that era is, before the “independence” of most African states when its much needed man power is being trained; was it the lack of interest or incompetence in the sciences, engineering, medicine or technical education that was responsible for the absence of science based on technological inclined technocrats? Or was it designed with that outcome from inception? If you go with the former, I will say just as it is common in the education parlance “there are no bad students only teachers”.

There was another aspect to the chaotic disposition of Africa in relation to education and ideology, lets establish once again that during the era of the struggle for self-rule by many African states it was at the height of the cold war, and antagonist and protagonist on both sides sought to shape the African psyche, though the Soviet Union had no colonies in Africa she played a vital role in the drive towards independence for many African states with both human and material resources, one out of the many support the Soviet Union accorded to prospective African technocrats and leaders was the socialist ideology for those who came in contact with the Soviet Union. This will shape internal squabbles for what model was appropriate towards nation building, as others of the earlier educated Africans that studied in western Europe and America returned with a capitalist psychology and pursued capitalism as the most preferred model for nation building, while Soviet influenced African leaders preferred the socialist model, hence the conflict of interest.

Africans strong affinity for individual achievement in contemporary times can be traced back to the colonial era when personal achievement was given precedence over and above collective, cohesive community development as Africans welcomed and held onto consumerism.

This can be attributed to the fact that the first individuals that came in contact and were comfortable with the colonial masters, had a sort of automatic status upgrade from whatever low or despicable level of society to a new status as intermediaries between the white maters and their black subjects, add in personal goals, selfish desires and Africans were turning on themselves for a “prestigious” footstool of their oppressors, and thus the quest for personal achievement at the expense of whoever and whatever began, this I believe sowed the first seeds of corruption that is so endemic in Africa today. As said earlier that most African cultures are communal as oppose to an individualistic form found elsewhere, this communal entity is the platform on which cultural laws which are about boundary-maintenance, which later fundamentally informs notions of morality that in turn inform legislation and nationhood.

Africa's cultural fences are the bastion to African self-definition and determination Africa and Africans seemed to have gotten lost toward a more holistic based approach to nation building as against individualist self-centered designs, and if  by any chance Africans manage to break away from their self-centered dreams (living by European,  American or any other developed country’s living standards and lifestyles only with its luxuries) ethnic, regional and religious inclinations then overtakes and supersedes any considerations, we then become Totsi, Hausa, Ngas or Koikoi, Zulu and not Kenyans or Rwandans or nationals of our home countries, but no we are and will be clouded with sentiments such as this, ethnicity being the most divisive of them all. With Christianity and Islam forming the most widely adhered faiths on the African continent, along comes the differences and hostile relations that exists between them over the centuries; it’s no wonder a lot of African countries can’t find common grounds to co-exist and develop their nations.

To illustrate the deep level of how these sentiments and cultural inclinations run I will give two scenarios, during the second half of my middle education (secondary/high school) I transferred to the northern city of Bauchi 120 km away from my home city of Jos, and as most northern states of Nigeria Bauchi was predominantly Muslim and during the school assembly before teaching hours come in, we were expected to recite the national anthem and pledge which is a kind of ritual for most schools in Nigeria, I then noticed and heard a classmate of mine who stands next to me (as we are arranged according to height) reciting the national pledge as “I pledge to Islam my religion…” while I recite the nationally acknowledged national pledge as “I pledge to Nigeria my country to be faithful, loyal, and honest…” one then wonder how many students and pupils pledge to their ethnicity, region, or religion in their hearts?. Also as I was listening to professor Lumumba the former anti-corruption boss of Kenya deliver a speech he recounted his experiences as the head of that agency and a Kenyan, he said that “Africans profess the blood of Christ but the blood of ethnicity is thicker than the blood of Christ”, as he sums it up in his many experiences. He shared a story of how he arrested a cabinet minister on charges of corruption, members of parliament from the accused minister’s ethnic extraction paid him a visit on the same day and told him that “his claim to fame was that he was in the business of finishing their tribe/ethnic group, as they acknowledged that he was a thief but he was their thief, he was a thief but he is theirs and he should not be arrested” corrupts individuals are claimed and often protected by their ethnic groups, and if the charges a pressed on, they shout and cry foul, that they are marginalized and or witch hunted because they are members of a different ethnic group. 

Thus the quest for individualist achievement and its celebration by the individual’s tribe is responsiblefor Africans' love for self-aggrandizement that was given birth to by colonial experimentations or designs, has been encouraged, institutionalized and even protected with sentiments of ethnic groups, religious and regional unions, associations etc. This situation has created scenario where most Africans pursue the path to personal growth as against national growth, today you find African billionaires who are surrounded by poverty, pain and penury without any remorse or vision of galvanizing the people to and around a national cause towards national development and wealth creation to all citizens in their countries, and because they have been encouraged by the society, they are more concerned with their personal projects (individualistic views) mostly at the expense of national projects and goals. 

The African mind and its perception of the world

The role of colonial efforts and constructs are all too clear when it comes to the state of the mind and views of Africans, but the present state of affairs as it relates to global events, nations and alliances and real, imaginary or perceived partners can be found in the structures and institutions that replaced the colonial structures in Pan-Africanist parlance they are the neocolonial ones, in view of these circumstances most African can be best described as semi-independent states, who have never weaned themselves completely from its colonial oppressions grip, and this grip has been maintained through building on the foundations that has attacked the mind of the African and besieged it throughout the centuries to not only doubt in its abilities to chart a course for its future but continually remind it of that dark cloud that hangs over it and reinforce the feeling of hopelessness, despair and total dependence and crave for these alien values and materials. The tools used for these are:

Education

As nice and wonderful as it seems most African states actually crafted their educational systems and standards from their colonial overlords, Senegalese, Togolese as indeed most Francophone nations of African are trained as French and to be French or British for the Anglophone countries of Africa such as Nigeria, Ghana etc. Thus from the very elementary stage it is implanted in African intellectuals and elites the wonders and beauty of their masters, ideals, civilization, ingenuity etc., and in so doing might cloud and obstruct historical facts to present a perfect picture of the homeland and its affairs, mostly illustrations in class are about Europe. For instance I was in a class and my professor was making a case for renewable energy and he cited an example of one of his numerous sabbatical exchange programmes of UK’s DFID (department for international development) in one of UK’s universities and how the British government through the use of poultry droppings generate a substantial power, and in my four years in the university all my lecturers cite examples of development and advancement with the US, EU countries, Japan and their allies.

In history class the second world war is all about the Normandy landing and the war on the western front and of course the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the eastern front is almost completely absent except at the advance level where it is treated cosmetically with the contributions of the soviets and their allies who lost 20 million people not known by much, and ironically almost every literate person will tell you about the Jewish holocaust which is not comparable in magnitude to Soviet losses in the same war.

I was having a discussion with my course mates just before class and our discussion centered around the heroics of the WW II and I was making a point about the eastern front on a particular battle of Soviet soldiers against the Nazi invaders, which I read on Pravda news about a unit of Soviets soldiers that were attacked using chemical weapons which badly damaged their lungs but still braved on and attacked the Nazis while vomiting blood and their lungs tissue, and the retreating Germans running in horror were calling the m walking dead soldiers; there was complete silence and nodding as I made that point and afterwards a cheers on a point well taken. This can be attributed to in part because of the educational system in most African states being surrogates of western systems, especially their colonist overlord’s.

Media

There is a saying in general parlance that says that “you are what you hear”. Across Africa the majority of its citizens get their news from state media with the radio being the most instrumental in information dissemination with urban centers having a dynamic mix of public and privately owned media outlets, but in media just as in any other institution the template and modus operandi is modelled round the western main stream media.

The relationship does go far beyond copying these corporations (CNN, BBC, France24/Radio France, DW, Sky news etc) to establishing working relationship and experience sharing through staff exchange and content sharing.

Thus global news reports are directly grafted from main stream media sources, it’s funny and appalling that the foreign part of news cast are exactly the same with the news on Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC and co, so if the BBC in its numerous news report, reports of president Assad using chemical weapons on a suburb of Damascus, the NTA (Nigerian television authority) and most BON (broadcasting organization of Nigeria; an umbrella body of broadcasters) report the news as president Assad bombing its population with chemical weapons and this is the situation across the continent, only that each regional news outlet will shape it to reflect regional interest which is the case for north Africa as their report will reflect the interests of the Arab league or GCC (Gulf cooperation council). With sub-Saharan news outlets reporting in line with the former.

One very important aspect of the main stream media news is reporting in local African languages such as Swahili, Hausa, Afrikaans etc., these bring in a wide section of the Africans especially the rural dwellers into the information envelop of the main stream media. In so doing most Africans interpret friend or foe from the perspective of their news sources, knowing the persuasive nature of these outlets you don’t blame them. Being able to watch these main stream media outlets live on TV used to be a status symbol with only the affluent in the society able to assess such channels but with the digitalization process which started in 2013 and is gradually being rolled out across the entire continent more people which hitherto couldn’t assess such as is now possible, as the cost of installing a cable network is cheaper and the market is flooded with such electrical devices, now even more people can watch al Jazeera, BBC etc. There is a considerable number of people who doubt and discredit news from main stream media as they consider them too negative on Africa. For instance some sections of Nigerians who refer to the as “center for negative news” but without an alternative counter weight, they are still in the disinformation cloud.

Movies and documentaries

Growing up in the nineties I had my fair share of movies, even though my parents had no VCR but I was always at the neighbors watching movies mostly from Hollywood. Of course we all know how skewed the narrative of such movies are, the enemy is always the Vietnamese (which we call Japanese), Arabs, and or any nation so unfortunate to be portrayed as the enemy for Africans children in their formative year’s, movies especially the American films are a major component to his development of global events.

The Chinese and Indian film industries do enjoy a huge following but lacked the impact of an ideology for global events, as they are personal stories with no geopolitical linings whatsoever. Of all the Bollywood movies I have watched growing up what I can say about Indians is they are a very vengeful people, though it may take long after you must have offended them, they will still hold on to the hurt for many years and hunt you down, love and songs in their movies increases its appeal to some section of society. Long after their formative years most Africans still stay with their movie genre as adults, till date I still watch American movies and so do my peers, though I don’t believe all they say in such movies I can’t say same for lots of my peers, movies forms an important aspect of educating us on foreign affairs. Some months back I watched a 2016 movie “Independence Day, the insurgence” which was a sequel to a 1996 movie “Independence Day” which I watched in the very late nineties, it was about an alien invasion of earth and a coalition of world powers under the leadership of the US fought and beat back the invaders by nuking the alien mother ship, but all the war planes were F-16s and F-15s not that I knew much about them then, but I curiously asked where were the Arabs, Chinese or Africans.

But what is more striking and shows the level of US-Russia relations the 2016 continuation of the sequel, Russia was absent in a global coalition to fight the alien invaders, but the Chinese and surprisingly an African were key members of the struggle. It’s funny because at the beginning of the movie the US president in her speech said “the world has put aside its petty differences and has come together to rebuild our world and make our world finally free” so much for burying the hatchet. For the African children in urban and semi urban areas there very first lessons of the geopolitical landscape of the world is fundamentally shaped by movies, and where and what and who is portrayed in these movies as the bad guy is what they will hold unto into adulthood, and in many cases this is the only lesson they will ever get.