WHY AFRICA MUST UNITE By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, the shocking exit of Britain from the European Union has compelled me to choose this important topic today. I had voted on Thursday in London to keep Britain in the EU but the proponents of Brexit won the day, unfortunately. Prior to that important day in the British calendar, I had listened keenly to both sides of the arguments. There were no doubts that each side had their valid reasons for wanting to stay or jet out of the union. But I was more persuaded that Britain stood to gain more by remaining in a larger clime than being a tiny insignificant island on its own, especially now that the world has become a global village due to the advent of the internet, social media and information technology generally. All that is now history.
Britain has chosen to take a monumental risk. There is nothing wrong with taking risks. It is part of growing up as a people. They will learn from it in the long run, either positively or negatively. But I love bigger dreams. The USSR was once very powerful but it had its influenced greatly whittled down after its cataclysmic breakup. I’m sure the old people of USSR would wish to turn the direction of the clock backward and bring back those good old days. Russia has been fighting back trying to bully and re-annexe its old family members once upon a time. But it is no longer a simple matter. No matter its regret today, it must live with the consequences of allowing a once powerful nation to dismember itself in a fit of recklessness. That is why all those calling for the collapse of Nigeria as one nation should take a pause and think through the acute frustrations that may have necessitated their clamour for confederation or outright secession and consider the consequences.
I’m almost certain that if a referendum is to hold in Nigeria today to consider a renegotiation of the statehood of Nigeria many would vote for an immediate dissolution without a blink. What is very unfortunate is the fact that this decision would not be based on any hard fact or guarantee that this action would bring long-lasting peace or progress to the reconfigured nation-states. I dare say that whatever entities are created would soon find themselves bedevilled by the same assumed ills that would have caused the cataclysm and collapse in the first place. I’ve always said that if Nigeria should fall into the temptation of falling apart, we may find up to a thousand countries within a country. The reason is very simple. We are all very strong-headed and self-opinionated. We want things our own individual ways. Any other way is no way. That is why we use religious, ethnic, political and social excuses to cause mayhem in our polity when the real reason for our disaffection is our personal ambition and greed. It does not matter to us that the ultimate result of our actions would be to the detriment of the generality of the people as long as we perceive that in the long run there would be something in it for us. That is the way we are. But this selfish attitude must change. Some of the greatest countries on earth – USA, China, India – are all massive. This is not to say smaller countries cannot make it. It is this ‘smallness is good’ mentality that is one of the reasons that I find the success of Brexit in the British referendum amazing. I still cannot fathom how a nation that once prided itself in controlling an empire that spanned almost all the continents of the world would now reduce itself to one that is content to remain in its little corner of the world fighting imaginary enemies. Whatever your view is, at least in their own case you will find that the reason why the majority chose to go the way they did was largely as result of patriotic zeal rather than self-gratification.
My spiritual instinct always tells me that Nigeria was not created big for the fun of it. It was for a purpose, and it is one that we shall realise in the fullness of time. Why should we use our own hands to destroy such a formidable nation because of the rascality of a few people? I love every Nigerian and it never bothers me if anyone loves me in return or not. We can never grow if we allow politicians to separate us for personal aggrandizement. I grew up in the university township of Ile-Ife learning about the strength in unity and diversity. This is not a contradiction in terms. It is what makes cosmopolitan cities and countries survive what would otherwise be loaded time bombs in their corporate structures and existence
I do not know what our students read nowadays but one of my favourite books was ‘Africa Must Unite’ by Dr Kwame Nkrumah, a former President of Ghana. I don’t know what inspired him to come up with that thesis but I was undoubtedly inspired by the position canvassed by him. You can imagine my excitement when the countries of West Africa decided to come together and promote economic ties and freedom of movement of their diverse citizens. But decades after this glorious union, we are yet to take full advantage of that beautiful vision of the founding fathers of ECOWAS. It is pertinent for Africa to embrace the foresighted advice of Dr Nkrumah. Africans should stop waiting for crumbs from donor nations. Africa is richly blessed with human and mineral resources. The expertise required to develop can be sourced from different parts of Africa. I believe that our human resources capabilities are one of the best in the world. If properly harnessed and channelled to productive sectors of the African economy, the people of the continent would be much better for the effective and efficient utilisation of the . The investments we desperately seek in Europe and America can be found in Africa. African leaders must be willing and ready to provide the enabling environment for business to thrive.
One of the ways in which the continent of Africa can tap into the rich collection of human talent that abounds within its fold is to positively encourage migration of its citizens from one country to another by removing all impediments and obstacles that would militate against free movement and by implication wealth creation. There is no reason or basis for some African countries to waive visas for European and American countries while insisting African passports must go through the horrendous process of obtaining visas. It is demeaning in all its ramifications. For a start African passport holders must be allowed to enjoy visa-on-arrival facility in every part of the continent. This should be the goal of the African Union. It is gratifying to know that one leader has decided to take the giant leap.
It has been announced and widely-circulated that from July, African passports would now be able to fly into Ghana under a visa-on-arrival program. Nothing could be more reasonable. How can we have an African Union that lacks simple cohesion amongst itself? We must salute the vision of President John Dramani Mahama for pushing such a laudable agenda in this age of global xenophobia epitomised by the Brexit campaign in Great Britain and the emergence of the openly racist and bigoted phenomenon that is Donald Trump in the USA. In this regard, President Mahama has demonstrated an uncommon courage by breaking down one of the walls of superstitions that have divided us for far too long.
Just imagine what Ghana stands to gain by throwing its door open to all African countries. Firstly, tourism will definitely enjoy an unprecedented upsurge. The visionary President of Ghana is not just waiting for this upsurge in tourism he has gone a step further by creating the necessary infrastructural support that would cater for them. This is starting from the airport which is being upgraded not just in terms of bricks and mortar but also by the deployment of state of the art equipment guaranteed to create a first and lasting impression on the western tourist that has been greatly misinformed about the backwardness of the African man. You are first greeted by a screening point which employs computer and laser technology to check your temperature against fevers that may portend that the passenger may be harbouring some deadly disease. Then you proceed to E-gates where your passport is quickly scanned and your details registered electronically. That is not all. On leaving the immigration side you are greeted by several porters ready and willing to assist with trolleys for which you do not have to pay one cedi. The free trolleys are everywhere and in essence you are spoilt for choice. Then comes the icing on the cake in terms of your airport experience. Cool air form strategically and aesthetically placed airconditioners cool and calm you down as you await the prompt and seamless delivery of your luggage from carousels which function properly and whose numbers have been increased to cope with the anticipated increase in the number of tourists and other visitors. As if that is not enough, as a transit passenger you do not have to exit the immigration hall before proceeding to your next flight thus making your trip to even other vistas a seamless one.
Secondly, the visa on arrival scheme will ensure that potential investors would be able to come in at the shortest notice and without much ado. The scheme is therefore such a brilliant move that should be advocated and emulated by others.
To enhance Ghana’s growing reputation as probably one the fastest growing economy in Africa, President Mahama has continued to concentrate on the generation of more power that would drive the industrial and agrarian revolution that he envisages for his country. Although the country has a challenge in getting gas for its power plant, the President has nevertheless been creative in directing increased power output in the country such that the country is now 70% sufficient in meeting its power needs. The President is unrelenting in this regard and is already considering and thinking of ways of implementing other sustainable, alternative power sources as oil becomes a volatile commodity to deal with.
The foreign investor is also assured of a stable political climate. The rule of law prevails and the sanctity and respect for the judiciary is undiminished. President Mahama does not just accord respect to Parliament in faithful adherence to the doctrine of separation of powers, he eschews interference whether direct or indirect in the affairs and internal dealings of the legislature.
Businessmen especially foreign investors applaud his unique style of governance which gives them every assurance that their investment is safe and is not subject to arbitrariness and capriciousness. Governments around Africa have several lessons to learn from the Ghanaian practice of true democracy which is obviously responsible for the economic uplift that Ghana is presently enjoying.
Africa must not go the way of Britain…