Friday, March 9, 2012

Africa and The Ideology Predicament

It was the honourable nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who defined a nation as “A unit of humanity bounded together by a common ideology.” In his book, the man died, soyinka explains that nations are defined, not just in terms of geographical boundaries, but also in terms of ideological boundaries, in which the latter is more important. It is against this background that I will conduct my analysis.

According to the Longman dictionary, a nation is a country, considered especially in relation to its people and its social or economic structure, or a large group of people of the same race or language. This definition is quite general enough, and it is convenient enough for the layman, who sees nation building from a narrow point of view, especially when we are not considering the context of national identity. This is not far from the definition of a country as an area of land that is controlled by its own government. Yet, the dictionary is considerate enough to create a distinction between the two; The nation and The country. One is geographical, the other is ideological. An ideology is a set of ideas and attitudes that strongly influence the way people behave. From Soyinka’s definition, it is easy to conclude that people from the same nation should behave the same way. Yet, the reality is a different story today.

Some fourty- something years ago, in the sixties; the great era of African liberation. Most African countries were granted autonomy from their colonial masters and became sovereign nations. There was great rejoicing, and much hope for the future. Africa was now ready to take her place in the league of nations. There was much optimism that the new African nations, having digested the heritage of their European colonialists, would develop at an even rate and at least be able to stand up to developed economies in the nearest future. A country like Nigeria was seen as a beacon of hope for the third world; a world that would become a respite from growing tensions in the tired economies of Europe in the future. The people braced themselves for the task ahead, numerous projects were embarked upon by the pioneer governments, and various political reforms were carried out. At first, everything looked good, the African economies managed to sustain stable economic development for a decade. Suddenly, there came a period of political crises, right from the mid sixties to the later part of the decade. For some countries, the crises started in the seventies and escalated at the middle of the decade. There were civil uprisings, political reforms were overturned, and economies suffered huge depression. Inflation soared at an alarming rate and sub-Saharan Africa was thrown into a serious economic crises that she has never recovered from. Since then, it had been a story of economic recession or redundancy, except for South Africa. It was as if the retreating colonialists had set a time bomb that was detonated in the seventies, and it’s chain reactions still manifesting in the 21st century. By then, the once tired economies of Europe and North America’s easy going economy were light years ahead, while that of the East Asian nations, whom the Africans thought were no better, were already aeons away. It became a sad reality to the world that Africa has been automatically left out in the scheme of things on the globe and it was going to take a frantic effort for her to recover and become a player, that’s if the world is not playing a different game entirely by that time. Of course, the rest of the world tried in their best capacity to rescue Africa. There have been several attempts at salvaging the struggling economies of sub Saharan Africa, with the developed nations, always playing their big brother roles. It seems that by the end of the last centuries, it was clear to them that there was little or nothing they could do, except to benefit more from Africa’s predicament. By this time, the Africans themselves had awakened to the reality that if they don’t help themselves, no one will. Several questions have been asked about why the much promising African states failed despite the efforts of their pioneer leaders. Though, we have examples of struggling economies all around the world, Africa’s case is quite unique, in that it is a crises that has engulfed an entire subcontinent. There have been several suggestions regarding what can be done to save Africa from this mess. There have been many attempts, and they have either failed, or resulted into another crises. The mystery of sub-Saharan Africa’s socio-political and economic misery has become the legendary Gordian knot that has defied all innovations. The most recent of such innovations is the IMF induced and capitalist oriented panacea ; deregulation, which allows for the price of commodities to be free of certain regulations. This, like its predecessors, appear not to have solved the problems, instead, leading to high rate of increase in fuel price and steady increase the rate of inflation in Nigeria, where former president, Obasanjo had instituted it as part of his reform agenda. In the light of this analysis, it is obvious that we have to look beyond the physical reality of the African states as we see them today, and study the African situation in terms of socio-political ideology. We have to see Africa as a people and not as a geographical milieu. This arises the need to differentiate between a nation and a state.