You have been quite of late, my brother. What happened?
You, what happened? I never knew you to be tongue-tied. What happened to you?
My brother, our elders say when matters passed the stage to shed tears; we should just sit down and look.
What matters? Why do you want to cry?
No one is crying; it is a proverb.
Ah, you know that I’m not into these your African proverb things.
A great pity that. You really could learn a lot from them.
But you didn’t answer my question.
You always try to be clever, ah. See the way you dodged my question by employing one of those hard to understand proverbs of yours.
Proverbs are actually quite easy to understand; if only you will listen carefully. They are the vessels that our elders used to convey words that are too heavy for ordinary conversations. Some of our elders say that proverbs are the horses of languages; if words are lost, we use proverbs to search for them.
You are still meandering, my brother. The simple question is: why have you stopped writing about the situation in our Africa?
And I try to tell you that writers occasionally need to pause, step back and watch what happens around them.
Why do they need to do that? Does it mean that you’ve ran out of ideas; of things to say?
Ah! On the contrary; there are always plenty to say. But because there are plenty things to say does not always mean that they have to be said. One always has to remember that we a pair of ears, pair of eyes, but only one mouth. A wise person advises himself on when to open his mouth and when to shut his trap.
And what do all these mean?
It means that, as our elders say, a wise man is like a nail; his head should keep him from going too far.
You are just impossible with all these proverbs things. I was thinking that since you are fond of criticising our leaders in Africa, their performance at the recent United Nations General Assembly is occasion for you sing their praises for once.
Are you for real?
Why; didn’t you watch them?
I did, but what did you find so joyous about their performances at the UN. Apart from Pa Mugabe, which African leader made any sensible contribution?
You! I thought Ghana’s president performance was sterling. Didn’t you listen to his robust defence of Africa and his condemnation of imperialism?
And what did he do afterwards?
What do you mean; what did he do afterwards?
He called on the World Bank and the IMF not to stop their support of Ghana and ask American investors to come and invest in Ghana.
And what do you find wrong with that; is he not right to try and woo investors to Ghana?
Don’t make me laugh…
What is there to laugh about?
Don’t you know the English expression about wanting to have your cake after you ate it?
Do you always have to talk in riddles?
There are no riddles in what I tell you; the meanings are quite evident for you to see. I wish African leaders will stay at home, rather than go on world stage only to make total fools of themselves. Their appearances at these world stages only increase the contempt the rest of the world has for us. Look at that one from Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan. Why on earth does he have to travel all the way to New York to deliver that insipid address?
But our leaders have to engage with the world, don’t they?
No, they don’t. No one forces them to engage with anyone. But as things are stand today, our leaders only make complete fools of themselves at these meetings, since absolutely no one take anything they say serious. They also manage to ridicule us in the process. As they say in Nigeria, rich men are talking and a poor man said he has ideas. What type of idea could he possibly have?
There you go again with sweeping condemnation.
Well-deserved condemnation, if you ask me. Can you imagine Mali sending a delegation to New York and these guys stayed in hotel that cost US$10,000 a night. And you and you tell me about sweeping condemnation. It is the unconscionable actions or inactions by our leaders that condemn them, not anything that I say. The truth of the matter is that our leaders continue to make us the laughing stock of the world. You said Ghana’s president condemned imperialism and all that. All jolly and well. But who will take him serious when, in one breath he stands up to condemn American imperialism and, in the next breath, he mounts the rostrum to plead that American investors should come to Ghana? Who is insane enough to take Goodluck Jonathan serious when he asked for direct foreign investment? Who wants to invest a hell-hole that Jonathan presides over?
Do you call Nigeria a hell-hole?
We can pretend all we want, but the sad truth is that Nigeria is a failed state in all but name. What should be more important to Mr. Jonathan: going to New York to talk gibberish at a UN Assembly or bring some sanity to the Nigerian body polity and to the Nigerian economy?
But you also wrote somewhere that no nation has managed to solve all its problems.
And who talks here about a country solving all its problems? Problems are part of human and national life. It is true that no nation has solved all its developmental challenges. I talk here about governments solving life’s basic problems. We talk here of clean water for majority of citizens. We talk here about adequate electricity to power the few disarticulate industries we have in Africa. We talk about citizens having enough food to eat. We talk about the provision of security for citizens so that they can sleep well at night. I do not even mean that all these should be comprehensively provided. I talk that governments should make it its main business to be seen to be doing its best to do so.
And you think that our governments in Africa are not doing their best?
No, they are not.
But you wrote recently that Africa is forging ahead on the right path.
Don’t you see a contradiction there?
No, whatever positive things happening in Africa is due to the efforts of ordinary Africans, who do their best to forge ahead in spite of their governments.
Do you mean that Africans governments do not do anything?
They could be doing something, but not enough that they should be applauded for.
Let’s take the case of Nigeria. It is very difficult not to feel terribly sorry for that unfortunate country where the leaders have hijacked the machinery of government and run what could only be describe as a criminal enterprise. Where else in the world do we have a shameless cabal of thieves collaring the resources of state and appropriating it for their selfish benefits like we see in Nigeria? Few days after Mr. Jonathan made his impish address to the UN; he sent a budget to the parliament where he allocates close to a billion naira for food for himself and his deputy. He made the right noises about providing electricity for Nigerians, but then allocated close to 700 million naira to fuel generator for his governments. Do you know what the real trouble is?
The real trouble is that our leaders are like the naked emperor who continues to dance naked not noticing that he is stark naked.
What do you mean by that?
By that I meant that the whole wide world knows the parlous state of the services our leaders provide for their people in our blessed continent. All the countries our leaders are fond of running to have embassies here, and their staff are well abreast of what happens in our land. Sometimes, they even know more than us. They know everything, and we can take it for granted that they inform their home governments about the true state of affairs. So, we can only imagine the chuckles our leaders elicit in their counterparts who see in them only naked emperors unworthy of any attention or respect…
And why would they be laughing?
They would be laughing when they see leader of a country like Ghana where people still struggle for electricity coming to New York to talk big. They will laugh when they see leaders from Ghana where people still die from cholera hugging the world stage rather than confront the menace of that easily curable disease. And when they look at Goodluck Jonathan, in his resource-allocation attire, pontificating at the UN, they see only a total misfit who is totally beyond irony.
But our leaders have had praises from world leaders.
Don’t make me laugh. Of course, diplomacy demands that they praise them. But do you honestly believe that their hearts are in it? Do you really think that they saw our leaders as deserving of praises? Do they deserve to be praised? When the President of Mali got slapped around by a mob; he was taken to Paris for treatment. The First Lady of Nigeria, Goodluck’s own wife, is being treated in a German hospital. The president of Mauritania is recovering in a Paris hospital after he was shot by his troops. If our countries lack the hospitals to cater for the health of our leaders, who is going to respect us? Let’s get serious. Until we develop the abilities to solve problems that are very basic, no one will take us serious. Take for example the appalling traffic situation on the Accra to Kasoa road. Any responsible leaders would have fixed that perennial problem long time ago. But here we are: our leaders pay no heed as citizens waste upward of four six hours to traverse a journey of about twenty kilometers. This should be intolerable. But our paid officials simply blow their sirens to pave a smooth passage for themselves, whilst the ordinary people suffer from a problem that could very easily be solve by a few road engineers.
But we find those same problems all over the world.
No, that is not true. You may find it, but serious leaders will address the problem as soon as they notice them. My example of the chaotic traffic situation on the Kasoa road did not start today or yesterday. But our leaders looked unconcerned while a problem was allowed to develop into a major catastrophe.
But should that stop African leaders from going to the UN to peddle their case?
What case have our leaders peddled at the UN that benefited us? What case did Jonathan peddle that was designed to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians? To directly answer your question, I say yes, our leaders in Africa should bury their heads in shame. They should stay at home and fix our countries up well before they dare show their faces on world stages. We can borrow a leaf from the Chinese who refused to make any wave on the world stage until they get their internal acts together. The Chinese bided their time, built up their infrastructures and when they were ready, the world took notice of them. The world has to take note because the Chinese emerged as people who have managed to build up an economy that is the envy of the world. They have managed to build highways, airports, hydro-electric dams that could be classified only as world-beaters. That is the great lesson we in Africa ought to take to heart. No one respects anyone who clearly cannot provide his needs. Let our leaders stay at home and take serious the business of building our countries in Africa. When we manage to get our houses in order, we can then emerge to confront the world and demand to be treated as equal. We then can demand a seat on the United Nation Security Council, which is the real powerhouse; and not some General Assembly, which is a mere talk-shop.