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A global pandemic: Lessons for black-ness – Part 2

By John Segun Odeyemi
08 July 2020   |   3:24 am
What is news to me is my coming to a new awareness, an epiphany of some sorts; while I have argued in the past that the bane of leadership on the continent is based on sad recycling of unpatriotic

Continued from yesterday

What is news to me is my coming to a new awareness, an epiphany of some sorts; while I have argued in the past that the bane of leadership on the continent is based on sad recycling of unpatriotic, unintelligent and uneducated greedy politicians and ex-military turned politician, I now know I missed the point by a mile! Upon a review of the various ‘democratic’ systems across the continent, a higher percentage of the political actors across the board are lettered men and some women. They hold higher degrees from the Harvards and Oxfords –first-class universities of the western hemisphere. In the hands of these ‘learned people,’ African nations continue to exist as pariahs among the world committee of nations.

They all seem to be ingenious only in accruing to themselves public funds from government treasuries and pilfering from the commonwealth. When people are educated and have no moral or ethical compass, an entire nation becomes moribund, destined for poverty and internecine conflicts that leads only to the wasting of lives. Sadder still for me, is the realization, that this umbrage, an assault to decency has been perpetuated by the ruling class only. It has become a paradox that African nation-states celebrate mediocrity while projecting a farcical façade of wellness. And it gets worse because the citizens have been so beaten down into subjugation by the political class that the only thing that matters is the ability to have a semblance of existence; wake up, go to a dead-end job, eat, defecate, a few hours of conviviality at the regular ‘spot’, back to the house where electricity is factually non-existent. Wake up the following day, repeat, continue the circle and wait to die, ignobly.

Many African nations have come to accept a social culture of citizens’ sycophancy to whatever befuddling and belligerent idiocy occupies the seat of power. Paying allegiance to politicians who feed on a trough of classism superimposing themselves over their fellow compatriots who wallow in self-abnegation. In this state of nations with altered psyches, without external subjugation, Africa’s leadership succeeded in a neo-colonization that makes for a double whammy due to unceasing external imperialism.

One can only surmise that blackness and chains are contingent not on external forces but purely by the greed of black leadership and they are kowtowing to the west. These usurpers of nations’ commonwealth are the real danger; the reason black bodies are bent over in unnecessary fratricides, genocides and endemic backwardness economically and in social infrastructures. They are the reason why some perceive blackness as backwardness.

Therefore, the first lesson to imbibe is to understand that whatever anyone else calls the black person, approach and treat blacks, both abroad and at home, is a painful result of how we have portrayed ourselves as consumers who produce nothing. African leadership while jaunting abroad from one country to another, either on medical tourism, family vacations or pursuing properties in choicest parts of these nations to buy and own, portray themselves and the rest of the nation as people only with a propensity for ostentatiousness, an uncontrollable appetite for hedonistic sybaritism. They are the ones who promote an ideology that blacks cannot rule themselves, that our nations lack direction. Worse of all, that Africans do not possess the acumen for progress or management of its human and natural resources. These class of power mongers, slaves to unbridled materialism, and voyeurists of unending ‘enjoyments’ are the open sores of a people. They need to be cauterized or in the direst needs, excised and where needed be amputated.

It is never enough to locate the abysmal dysfunctionalities within an attempt at political, and perhaps, cultural self-definition and identities. African nations and critics such as myself must be willing to self-introspect and hold oneself accountable if one had been a participant in any form or shape in the denigration of an entire continent and black identity. This altruism is the only way of washing off the decades of accumulated sludge of decadence and wastage. Our relatives who by an accident of history are now hyphenated Africans in The United States and in the Americas often time refer to their ancestry in Africa as a people of noble birth, Kings and queens, people of great valor. And that truly is what we were. The world challenges Africans to be more, to regain and remain true to their heritage, one of nobility and valor.

The work at reconstruction, regaining the values of the past must start now. We must resist desultory actions, useless vituperations and time-wasting rhetoric that dies out after its initial eruptions. The continent possesses more than enough of intellectually time tested human capacity for any undertaking that can bring about the much needed social and cultural reconstructions. This is a task that must be done so it becomes the heritage that will be passed on to those whose tomorrow we cannot see but we can imagine.

The current global pandemic is not anywhere new resolved. One cannot even attempt a scientific, sociological or religious prediction of how all this will end. One thing that is clear is the fact that the African continent is caught like a deer in headlights. We are unprepared for anything simply because we have lapsed into handouts from outside the continent. The entire landscape of the continent is a sorry site of successive governments constantly oscillating between demagoguery, broad faced roguery, who in real-time malevolently, unintelligently, willfully squander and botch every opportunity to lift up a flailing, ailing and failing nation. This is the very reason why others, with their preconceived notion, that blackness equal less human will continue to rehash the same assumption. We cannot continue to blame anyone but ourselves for dereliction of sacred and ancestral duties to the African earth and the legs and bodies that transverse it.

Because leadership, (which sadly is no longer its usual African synonym for elders) has been so completely corrupted, the nations are adrift on open sea. We have for far too long allowed others to tell us our own story and give us names that are not our own. I choose to tell my own story; I am as human as the next person not minding rank, language or color. This earth belongs to all of us and we must learn how to cohabit it. I hold myself responsible to be a productive part of any society I find myself a denizen.

I will live fully my blackness and refuse to be categorized any less than human. For black Africans, the ancestors left us, as part of our heritage that “I am, because we are-Ubuntu!” This is our starting point, this is where we must go back to so we can reclaim our humanity from those who see blackness as guinea pigs or less human. As Dr. King hoped and dreamed, I also dream and hope that a day may soon come upon us all, when a man will not be judged by the color of his skin but by the content of His character. The onus for the realization of that day is in the hands, minds and actions of those who are black, proud and true to their heritage.


Rev. Fr. Odeyemi is adjunct instructor, Department of Theology, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.