Can We Be Great Again? By Alhassan Ismail Mustapha
‘Being a Nigerian is abysmally frustrating and unbelievably exciting’ – Chinua Achebe
Listening to Tonye Cole at the platform in May this year reaffirmed my belief in Africa’s inherent greatness, that capacity for us to inspire nations and to lead again. Mr. Tonye got me thinking, and I asked myself where did we get it wrong? For we are the people whose ancestors built Antiquities from the Nok adorning great museums and galleries across the globe, that society where the Iwo Eleru rock shelter provided stone age documentation for human existence in the tenth millennium and beyond, that society whose bronzes amazed the world with a very high level of technical and artistic proficiency and sophistication which was at the time distinctly more advanced than bronze casted in Europe. That people who needed no introduction to writing as they had their thriving Nsibidi ideographic scripts. Great men and women inhibited this very space we occupy today, our ancestors who flourished and conquered the world with their ideas and innovations, these men and women are verily responsible for the splendor and beauty you witness over the shores of Africa.
From the pyramids of Egypt or Udi to the Kano city walls that lay in ruins to the underappreciated moats of the ancient Benin kingdom, I keep hearing Africa is blessed, monumentally and resourcefully.
From been the continent where scientifically man first set foot upon, to becoming the purlieu whose south is blessed with diamonds and gold, and Maghreb with oil. That old phrase Africa is great is ubiquitously repeated. I ask what we have done with this greatness.
In recent times, indigenous state theorists have opined that for any society to be regarded a state it had to have a combination of the factors of a thriving army, architecture, a thriving religion, social and political stratification, intensive agriculture amongst others. Long before the coming of the colonial masters’ ethnological and archaeological evidence have shown us that indeed our forebears meet and in some cases surpassed these classifications.
If indeed true, how then did we lose all our greatness?
In my observation, it is simple we have committed all seven of the social sins postulated by Gandhi, and we are left behind by nations of the world, just recently Nigeria was placed in the 110th position out of the 143 countries polled in the Global Innovation Index report released in Sydney, Australia. Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Sweden topped this year’s Global Innovation Index.
No African country made the first 39 spot in the ranking while Mauritius, which tops the African countries in the ranking, came distant in the 40th position, followed by South Africa at 53 and Tunisia at the 78th position.
We have lost all the creativity that made us superior; rather still we have become too lazy to become innovative, we are angered when news rooms report all the negativity that there is in our sphere when we adore incompetence and ignore the realities of our problems.
We depend on aid when every disasters strike, rather than focus on mitigating vulnerability by addressing poverty and her sister problems. Emphases continuously have been laid on our challenges been enormous with very little been said about our attitude towards work: well if it doesn’t change, nothing would work.
We have to revisit Sheik Anta Dioup’s call for a philosophical and political movement, which he referred to as the African Renaissance which would help end the violence, elitism, corruption and poverty that continues to plague the continent, replacing them with a more just and equitable order . We have to go back to been creative, support millions of our youths who have ideas but have little or no resources to execute them ; you never can tell if our support would lead to another Chinedu Echeruo’s HopStop.com. We must also appreciate our old values, and reward hard work. While also becoming Selfless and overly ready to sacrifice in the quest to return to our glory days.
“We as Nigerians must remind ourselves that we are heirs to great civilizations: Shehu Othman Dan fodio’s caliphate, the Kanemi Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire and King Jaja’s formidable domain. The blood of those great ancestors flow in our veins what is now required is to build on these legacies, to modernize and uplift Nigeria…”
President Muhammadu Buhari following his swearing-in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29th May, 2015
Alhassan Ismail Mustapha is a trained archaeologist and a freelance writer.
@The_mustyhassan on twitter