From the Past




By Uthman Shodipe

IT was the bright dawn of free­dom. The yoke of colonialism had been largely severed across the African continent. Liberation fighters who still wore the scars of battle now assumed the leadership of the infant nations. Everywhere, the powerful refrain of freedom coursed through the African horizon with the graceful vibrancy of spring. The magical ardour of inde­pendence glowed in public discourses and in the nuance of private huddles.

It was the time of hope and great possibilities. Nothing was unimagina­ble. The African dream of old was visi­bly etched in realistic attainment. The imperial masters had yielded to the sus­tained rebellion of a fettered people. Liberty was unloosened.

Without their chains the Africans boldly seized the rudder of state, assert­ing their inalienable right to determine the constituents of national glory, dem­onstrating their comprehension of the path of greatness, betraying the im­moral rigidity of the imperial fraudulence. The African, they held, was not inferior to the white man.

There was a selflessness here which transcended the provisional dazzle of the exuberant moment. There was an infectious stirring of leadership which perceived the national growth far be­yond the limits of their own tenure. Whereas the founding fathers of inde­pendent Africa might have perched on plural ideological rostrums, there was still a sameness in their impassioned rivet to the productive longevity of the state. In their fervid canvass for the su­premacy of a cause, they were still united by a sense of purpose, the coher­ence of will; a dramatic missionary clarity which cultivated the African awareness.

This awareness was uniformly aggre­gated in the profound principle of hu­man equality, the inherent brotherhood of man. There was no deviation on this platform. It was the unhidden refrain which mobilised rebellion against the chains of colonialism. It was the defin­ing enlightenment which empowered the African with a spiritual legitimacy of his pursuit.

Seized upon this liberating elixir, the African was convinced of a ratiocinative balance, the equity in nature’s dis­tribution of its eruditional store. In this appreciative license, the African was born anew, his dignity once trampled now shone in a brilliant eminence, his worth thus kindled in natural confi­dence.

It was this rediscovery of the African essence which ignited the emancipa­tory flame in the imprisoning darkness of Black America. Long held down by the pernicious fetters of slavery, sav­aged by the institutional violence of racist laws, the negro could not vote in a country where his basic aspirations were hobbled by discriminatory hur­dles of the state.

And when the negro who was a non-person in his own country observed the significant roles his African brothers were playing in a continent earlier abused by imperial excesses, his hu­manity burnished in vigorous defiance of a cruel system which consigned him to a segregated anonymity. He de­manded equity, challenged White America to invoke the wisdom of the founding fathers of the Great Republic who had argued in Congress in the dec­laration of independence on July 4, 1776: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – that to secure these rights Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government be­comes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

Today, the African-American who had been motivated by the founding-fa­thers of Africa to engage the oppres­sors in the racist laager of America, is a salient presence in American life. His attainments are obvious in his represen­tation in council chamber, the mayoral chair, the gubernatorial seat, the US Congress, the highest reaches of the cabinet, the Armed Forces and the White House. For the African-American, his conquest is made, his in­dependence achieved. And these achievements yet endure in his significant gains in the economic expanses and the groves of Academia. For the African-American, his country now wears a benign civility, opening oppor­tunities for the actualization of dreams, entrenching the eternal ideal that this is a country called Hope.

Not so for the African. The euphoric possibilities of independence have been eclipsed. The spring of hope had long died. From the shores of the Mediterra­nean to the sun-smitten wastes of the Kalahari, his continent is wrapped in a tyrannical vice.

Nothing works here anymore, save a bankrupt mercenary leadership. For here there are no visions beyond shadowy, bewildering motives. The conti­nent thrives in iniquity, in the rape of truth. Here leadership hovers in vulpine nudgings as famine, terror and war rav­aged the hearths of the helpless.

Even as the African-American waxes in independence and triumph, the Afri­can retrogresses far beyond the stifling of the imperial chains, degenerating into a new, monstrous darkness. He is imprisoned in fear and violence. His suffrage denied by a hideous martial occupation. He is marooned in an un­ceasing bondage. His independence is a fraud.


First Published Tuesday, October 1, 1996.