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Opinions of Saturday, 30 April 2011

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Wiredu’s fence and the scapegoat

By George Sydney Abugri

I heard the booming baritone of Archbishop Duncan Williams declaring with great animation on a radio clip the other day, how the time had come to rise and secure our borders against the enemy. Which borders? What enemy?

The archbishop must have been speaking in a spiritual and scriptural sense but I could have sworn that it was an apt message cut out in time and space for the particular benefit of Colonel Gbevlo-Lartey, the national security chief and immigration boss Peter Wiredu.

Experienced security operatives like the colonel must know all there is to know about fences. Fences and doors fascinate me no end, Jomo.

Fences are meant to keep something out of a place or keep something in. It is called security, see? A fence needs an opening or a door to regulate exit and entry whenever what has been fenced out needs to be allowed in and what has been in fenced in needs to be let out.

International Humanitarian Law places an obligation on us to open our territorial borders to people fleeing war, but hey, there is such a thing as door flung too wide open, isn’t there?

Being an amateur anthropologist, it is impossible for me to be xenophobic, but wait a second, Jomo: In very recent years I have seen so many strange outlandish types in town. I have been given to wondering which of the other remote planets in far outer space they come from.

Now I am getting even more uneasy: With the commencement of commercial oil drilling, all manner of characters from around the globe are pouring into our mighty republic.

The Arab world is one big explosion of volcanic fire, displacing and spilling large numbers of people across territorial fences including ours. Election related violence has seen some of our neighburs fleeing here.

Then there is the invisible but heavy traffic of sub-regionally networked cross-border bandits who have been terrorizing our towns, cities and highways and giving Commander Paul Quaye snooze-less nights.

All that presents us with no mean challenges pertaining to food security, internal security, housing and sanitation and appropriate medical management of the sudden importation of huge zoos of all manner of lethal viral organisms and infections.

We shall need some extra-budgetary cash and expertise for relief efforts, disease surveillance and the maintenance of security. The question is, how can we expect any help from the West when we are blaming them for teh current chaos and for all the woes plaguing our continent in very the first place? Africa’s poverty and under-development have been blamed partly on the slave trade and the controversial map of Africa which the colonialists drew up which has since left us fighting over territories. The West has been blamed for interfering in the politics of the continent and for unjust global trade practices that leave Africa perpetually short-changed in the world economy. Many Africans have their minds so firmly fixed on the historical role the West played in our present predicament, that they seem to think what we Africans have done or are doing do to our own continent does not matter .

The slave trade was certainly in my view, the greatest singular act of human cruelty and moral aberration of all history and creation. It stole our dignity as a race and robbed our continent of the human resource capital we needed to develop.

Why did the scenario not play out in reverse, Jomo? Why did we not sail to Europe and the Americas capture white folks and ferry them here to work on our cocoa farms and gold mines?

That way, we would have exploited THEIR labour to create wealth, enjoy a high standard of living, build beautiful cities and industries. It would then have been a reverse case of white folks flocking to Africa to look for jobs and a decent life, while grumbling about Africa being responsible for the under-development of Europe and America.

What did the merchants who captured our ancestors and carried them away to slave for them do, that we could not have done, Jomo?

The Europeans built ships, distilled rum, manufactured guns and fabrics drew up some maps, loaded the ships up with the stuff and sailed to our shores, right?

They then distributed the booze and fabrics to traditional rulers and slave raiders who captured and sold our ancestors to them to cart off in the dingy holds of the ships, crammed far tighter than sardines.

We could have distilled a thousand million barrels of African rum for a similar voyage to Europe. We have enough timber to have built a handsome fleet of ships from here to the Gibraltar. We had skilled gunsmiths who could have manufactured colossal loads of guns for the voyage.

Why did we not? On hindsight, it was probably because we are a very unobtrusive and temperamentally docile race totally lacking in the spirit of trans-continental adventurism of the time. So the problem is genetic? I don’t know, Jomo: Since our cardinal concern is to determine the causes of our predicament, it would be prudent to examine all the possible causes including those that may offend our racial dignity or sound downright stupid or far-fetched. For example, a psychologist called Richard Lynn and a political scientist called Tatu Vanhanen have collaborated in the writing of two books, “IQ and Global Inequality” and “IQ and the Wealth of Nations”

The books argue that genetics and race do play a role in explaining the differences in incomes and quality of living among the world’s nations. The duo start by defining the principles of economic growth and what human intelligence is. Then they explain how the necessary data was collected and the national Intelligence Quotients {IQs} of various nations determined there from. Lynn and Vanhanen have based their conclusions on a study of racial clusters of national IQs: Six East Asian nations in the study all had IQs between 105 and 108. Twenty-nine European nations covered in the study had IQs of between 92 and 102. The 19 nations of sub-Saharan Africa in the study had national IQ’s of between 59 and 73. The last time someone tried to link Africa’s problems with the level of our cognitive abilities many African nationalists threatened to seek out and lynch him. Let us leave emotions, cultural and racial price out of it for a second and hear them out. If they fail to make sense, we can tear up in a thousand pieces or at lease punch huge holes in their arguments.

It is difficult to refute their argument that human intelligence is a determinant of people’s incomes: A nuclear scientist or computer software genius would certainly earn a dramatically much higher income and enjoy a standard of living many, many worlds away from that enjoyed by a shoe shine boy or fish monger, wouldn’t they?

Should we keep portraying ourselves as hapless victims of a cruel historic past and an unjust world economic order when the evidence abounds that we have not been able to break out of the poverty trap since independence mainly because of bad governance and unbridled corruption?

The list of corrupt African dictators who have sold their people down the river and left them scarred and impoverished is a long one:

Old Bob Muggie, Omar al-Bashir, Hissiene Habre, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Meles Zenawi, Sani Abacha, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Idi Amin, Obiang Nguema, Kamuzu Banda, Siad Barre, Charles Taylor, Arap Moi, Frederic Chiluba and of course the one and only Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga! Where do external forces fit in?

Hey, Jomo, come indoors for minute moment will you: That time is money and wealthy is no fluke is it? Yet it is abnormal in our part of the world not to arrive at least two hours late for appointments, meetings and very important events. We actually proudly proclaim to the world that we are strict adherence to something called “African time”.

So if the West religiously keep productive universal time while we prefer our African time and our economies stagnate, what have our Western scapegoats got to do with it?