Insights Into The Spectrum Of Africa’s Weaknesses, Strengths And Challenges – Interview


In this interview, Emeritus Professor Timothy Uzodinma Nwala, the Chairman of Alaigbo Development Foundation(ADF) Congress, a Nigerian-based Pan Igbo Socio-Cultural and Political Organization, explains that African leaders have come to the awareness of the unique manifestations of the bleak past, but a lot still depends on the background and character of those in control of their national political affairs in the emerging multipolar world.

Ultimately, all African countries are bound to wake up to a common understanding of the true meaning of their colonial past for the present and for future existence. And in fact, the leaders and the elites have to play their roles as autonomous actors on the stage of world history instead of being pawns in global politics. Here are the interview excerpts:

Q: To begin with, how would you characterize the sentiments and attitudes of African leaders towards the contemporary geopolitical situation? How specifically different is the case in Nigeria?

Prof. Timothy Uzodinma Nwala: The sentiments and attitudes of African leaders towards the contemporary geo-political situation in the world reflects diversities characteristic of a people who seem to have lived in different geopolitical spaces and historical eras. There are commonalities depending on who have been colonized by who and which region has experienced what character of colonial influences.

There may be differences depending on the background of the leaders themselves. There are however some major explosive new awarenesses about the past – about various forms and wreckages of colonialism as manifested in different regions of the world. It is not that mankind was unaware of the horrors of colonialism. Reflecting over these horrors of the past of mankind, what comes readily to mind is that the term ‘State of Nature’ of Charles Darwin reflects truly mankind’s past. Even today, civil governance and the global system have only moderated this bleak past of mankind’s history.

Those of mankind who happen, in some instances and circumstances, to truly manifest what is supposed to be the ideal state of affairs- these are the God-men, but they are certainly in the minority. African leaders who have come to the awareness of the unique manifestations of this bleak past in the image of colonialism do so depending on their history as well as the prevailing political and social dynamics of their countries and societies. A lot also depends on the background and character of those in control of their political affairs.

Q: What are the dynamics, in the emerging multipolar order, for ensuring Africa’s unity set by the African Union? Is Africa disintegrating due to sharp existing political differences in the continent?

TUN: The dynamics in the prevailing multipolar state of affairs reflects the background of the leaders as well as on how currents regional and global struggle impinge on their various countries. The Southern African experience is not exactly the same as the West African experience. That past affects current sentiments and alliances. Thus, the experience of the Southern Africa under apartheid critically affects the attitude of their patriotic leaders in the current global political dynamics.

There are bound to hiccups on the dynamics of contemporary African Union, but the obvious trend is that ultimately all African countries are bound to wake up to a common understanding of the true meaning of their colonial past for the present and future existence. The younger generation of African leaders are bound to return to the heydays of pan-African dream of a united and free peoples playing their role as autonomous actors on the stage of world history instead of being pawns in global politics.

Q: How would you suggest Africa positions itself within the context of these geopolitical complexities and contradictions? Should Africa also strengthen its agency and state institutions into more effective instruments for promoting sustainable development?

TUN: Pan- Africanism is bound to surge rather than wane under contemporary dynamics. Current realignments are geared towards freedom and equality and not towards exchanging one master for another. The songs of freedom is bound to echo and re-echo throughout the continent. The spirit of pan~Africanist of the Nkrumah, Nyerere, Jomoh Kenyatta, Azikiwe and their generation is bound to be the guiding spirit of the new Africa knocking on the horizon. The emerging new wave of Pan-Africanism is bound to conjure a new dynamism for broader autonomy and freedom.

Q: Nigeria and a few other African countries are feverishly looking for a voice on international stage. Do you think BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) association’s membership for African countries could be the saviour and mechanism through which to raise the level of development?

TUN: Yes indeed. Nigeria’s current challenge is that it presently has a leadership which many Nigerians consider as imposed by the dictates and dynamism of imperialist manipulation. The regime lacks self-confidence and is bound to continue to rely on its masters to sustain its illegitimacy. Only who knows how far Nigerians will carry this present burden before it can free herself. The only hope is the possibility of the raging songs of freedom now all over the various nationalities sustaining itself and rejiggering itself to overcome the current forces of illegitimacy and fraud. BRICS is bound to conjure a lot of influence in the face of this longing for freedom.

But BRICS will derive a position purpose if African leaders make it a duty to learn from the lessons of classical colonial and neo-colonial domination. However, I do hope that the impact of the wave of radical freedom and pan-Africanism now raging in contemporary Africa will grow into a dynamic wave of liberation and freedom of the new Africa.

Q: But there are also a number of internal hindrances, for example, poor development policies, bureaucracy and non-transparency, and worse lack of good governance. What are your views here especially when tracking democracy and governance across Africa?

TUN: The immediate post-colonial era in several countries in Africa (especially in the late fifties and sixties of the last century) portrayed immense hope of a new era of ‘love and happiness’). The messianic posture of the leaders played into the hands of the imperialists who preferred puppets to be charge rather than genuine patriotic leaders of the people.

Poor political stratagem made things worse as the patriotic leaders over-estimated their political strength and grossly underestimated the power of the imperialists. This was the undoing of such patriotic leaders like Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and Col. Ghadaffi  of Libya. The later had opportunity to engage in done radical transformation before the imperialists struck.

There were however some leaders who engaged in personal aggrandizements and many cases engaged in dictatorial and ethnic policies and for whom the state was like the case of Louis IV, equated with their personalities -Letat est moi!” There is no doubt that was the case in Nigeria, the leadership was largely dictatorial and corrupt.

Q: Are military coups the surest way to deal with old governance system which is fraught with deep-seated corruption, as it appears, especially in West Africa? Is growing neo-colonialism the problem is these French-speaking countries?

TUN: Three forces were at play in provoking military coups in several post-colonial states in Africa especially in the sixties and seventies. These included bad governance and arrogance of the new leaders, the thrust of neo-colonialism and ambition of other citizens. Often the last two were in alliance – that is to the neo-colonial forces went into alliance with high ambitions, especially those in the military to overthrow those in power. This picture could be seen in all post-European colonial states.

Q: What would be the future relations of African states that opposed United States hegemony and Europe’s exploitative attitudes? Do you also think Russia compared to China presents an alternative for Africa’s development and attaining Africa’s economic sovereignty? 

TUN: Ultimately, two factors explain attraction of Russia and China to the new African leaders. 

The first was the positive role of Russia in the struggle against Apartheid. Many have pointed out that President Vladimir Putin himself, the current leader of Russia was a young KGB officer who worked with the ANC and helped to train their anti-Apartheid forces.

And then, there is no doubt that Russia and China represent a more tolerable leadership than the Western and European countries. As to which of the two presents a more positive alternative, one can only say future will tell!

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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