The Black Man’s Burden (3)
Let us now pause here to consider the crux of our argument. Having looked into our glorious past, how did it come to pass that these same people were now subject of slavery, humiliation and modern backwardness? What now constitutes the black man’s greatest burden?
The famous Basil Davidson tried to provide answers to this last question in his classic book: ‘The Black Man’s Burden’, published in 1992 from which the topic of this write-up is derived. I read this book more than ten years ago and made it one of my rare collections of books because of its lucidity and profound insights into the problems of underdevelopment in Africa. Even though his answers are now debatable against the background of myriad of views about what might constitute the greatest black man’s burden in today’s world, this book can still serve as a reference point for many of our government’s ill-considered policies that have not been able to liberate the country from the yoke of mental and physical backwardness.
The greatest black man’s burden today is
his attitude towards governance of himself and his society. What is his
worldview about himself and his place in it? How much has he contributed to the
development of humanity as a whole? Does the white race not covertly consider
him a burden and/or liability to humanity? What is his philosophy of space and
time in which development processes are carried out in governance and
administration of human and material resources available to him? After liberation
from slavery through the bravery of the campaigns of few of our martyrs of
freedom and countless faceless and nameless victims; and after freedom from
colonialism and modern apartheid in South Africa, what have we been able to
achieve with our liberation and freedom for socioeconomic and intellectual
development over the decades? How do we marry the wasted space and time with
our freedom and/or liberation? These are some of the philosophical and
sociological questions that we have to answer for the purpose of intellectual
Let us briefly take the issue of time. The earliest recorded Western philosophy of time was expounded by the ancient Egyptian thinker Ptahhotep (c. 2650–2600 BC), who said: “Do not lessen the time of following desire, for the wasting of time is an abomination to the spirit.”
Immanuel Kant, in the Critique of Pure Reason, described time as an a priori notion that, together with other a priori notions such as space, allows us to comprehend sense experience. For Kant, neither space nor times are conceived as substances, but rather both are elements of a systematic framework we use to structure our experience. Spatial measurements are used to quantify how far apart objects are, and temporal measurements are used to quantitatively compare the interval between (or duration of) events.
How do we view space and time in this
country? We all agree on how much time we have abused and space wasted in this
country which translates to the opportunities lost in the realms of economics,
politics and social development. Hardly did we gain independence from British
colonial rule than we embarked on Israelite Journey into the wilderness of
military rule. We did not give democracy a chance to consolidate despite the
despicable corruption and inefficiency of the ruling elite then. By the time
the various Dracula military regimes finally left power to return to where they
belong (the barracks) the country was more desolate and despoiled than they met
it. By the time we returned to civil rule again in May 1999, the economic
substructures of the society were weakened and almost about to collapse.
Conversely, the political superstructures burgeoned and became a heavy drag on
the process of economic development and growth. The entire salary package, emoluments
and estacodes of the governing elite became swollen and padded beyond
imagination. In the first place it was meant to discourage the return of the
“khaki boys” who were never brought to public accountability after they left
office. On the other hand, it has become the primary incentive for “do-or-die”
and cut-throat politics that we now play in the country. Citizens are being
motivated to join politics not because of any altruistic reasons or incentive
of public service but to feather their own nests, wipe the cursed poverty from
their lives, among others. It all lead in one direction: corruption and
flagrant abuse of office.
How does our President define space and time? It is very obvious that our president has no philosophical appreciation of time and urgency or does he has political philosophy/management theory of space and time. This is rather unfortunate principally because much appreciation of time is expected from a person who put down a seven –point agenda for the development and transformation of the country. Then wherein lies the inability of the President to appreciate the time factor as a political instrument for effective governance and lending support to socioeconomic development and growth? No one can really tell.
The effects are sinister and devastating on the polity. For our president, time stands still (which is philosophically more correct than any other interpretation) but he walks into time at his own pace – a very slow pace for that matter. The whole nation has gradually come to standstill on this account. We are forced to queue behind the mental go-slow of the president. We wait on the president for months to take decisions that could be taken in a jiffy. Time cannot wait for the seven-point agenda to develop its own combustion power to take off. We must rather use the seven-point agenda to rev the engine of development and growth and catch up with the time lost, so that for instance we can get nearer the goal of Vision 20:2020.It is tragic that we are still sleepwalking in the groove of our mental backwardness. We have misplaced the sign-posts of development. We are yet to get our priority right. This is why we have been hostile to some of our policy makers in recent times. Do let us ask ourselves again: What has been the totality of achievements since the return to civil rule in May 1999? We often like to point to the banking consolidation and the telecommunication sector. Should that be all? Were they not inevitable? Where would the banking sector be today if the consolidation exercise has not been carried out then? (My madam at home cynically tells me that the Nigerian banking sector would have been wiped out in the current global financial crisis