A lot has been written and said, and is still being written and said, about a continent long tagged as “dark”. Most of these narratives as you can confirm from foreign media and many foreigners are negative. This dark depiction of the African continent is not an innovation of the 21st century; it is a stereotype and a misconception as old as the earliest accounts of Africa from the lips and writings of non-Africans.
After all, Professor Hugh Trevor Roper, a British historian of Oxford University, confidently and ignorantly declared that Africa has no history prior to its contact with colonialism. John Lock a London merchant and voyager in his fascinating account about Africa in 1561 says “Africans are beasts who have no houses, they are also a people without heads, having their eyes and mouth in their breast”. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is another popular classic tale of Africa from a Non-African suggesting that Africans are lesser beings and perhaps unworthy of dignity and respect.
So, you can see that the modern day understanding of Africa by many westerners is not modern. There’s a trajectory to it. It has its antecedent perhaps in the stories told to them by their forefathers about Africa. The challenge therefore is: while many of these stories about Africa are just untrue; many more are simply incomplete.
Africans are not a bunch of black backward race waiting for white saviours!
Let me state at this juncture that by writing this column, I am not embarking on a novel journey to reshape the global perspective of Africa. Many before me have been on this road. I have only come to join them, as I do not believe that there can be too many voices from Africa telling the story of Africa as it should be told.
I am also not writing this piece out of the spirit of protective patriotism. Anyone who must write a piece on Leadership in Africa must have the decency and the courage to contend that Africa as a continent is bedeviled with a lot of challenges. He must discharge his moral obligation of truth (as he truly knows it) to his readers and posterity.
My fear however (which is the reason why I decided to begin this column by putting issues in perspectives) is that this admission of Africa’s challenges should be taken as a native or indigenous validation of the ridiculous foreign theory of foreign writers. These ethical balance of truth and clarity is important in achieving the goal of this column.
I will attempt not to be sentimental about the issues of Leadership in Africa. Having had the privilege of occupying a position of leadership in my own home country; I am armed with first hand experience of leadership issues in Africa and particularly in my own home country.
My goal as you will discover in my subsequent contributions to this column is to engage Africans both at home and in diaspora on salient leadership discuss in our continent. I will attempt to highlight our problems as I have seen them, suggest mechanisms to address them and also show the hope and the possibility of redemption that I think we have before us.
To our foreign friends, this column will help show them that Africa is not a place of doom as they have long misconceived. We do have our dark side, but Africa is also a land of endless possibilities and opportunities if we summon courage to face our challenges. And because I will be sharing experiences from different African countries, maybe that will help breach the gap in our foreign friends lessons in history and geography: which will be to show them that AFRICA IS A CONTINENT NOT A COUNTRY.