Here on our shores, when the buffalo of history knocks us down, we lie flat on the floor, and permit the ants of poverty, the maggots of marginalisation, and rats of oppression to climb over our prostrate bodies. And all we do is complain. Complain and complain. We lie among maggots and complain. We blame the buffalo, the long dead buffalo for our woes. We blame history. We complain. We wallow in self-pity. And what do our own leaders do? Yes, our drivers ! What do they do? They wring their hands to their Universal Community for aid; they use the same hands to wring our necks. They tie us, even in our prostrate state to poles of debts. They spread-eagle us. They tie our hands to baobabs, poles apart, our legs to birch trees miles away, then they milk us with traditional and modern equipments. Suction pumps! They vacuum clean us. Yes, they milk us dry! And what do they do with our milk? They drink as much as they want, fritter some away, and keep the rest in other peoples’ refrigerators while we slowly die of thirst. And when we faint, they sprinkle some cold water of aid on our ashen faces to revive us for the next milking session. See Seseko, the driver from Zaire, he drove the bus into Ituri forest, abandoned the passengers, then went away by air into the desert. And his brother. Amin from Uganda! He harvested heads, fed the crocodiles of the Nile, then took off to Arabia. And Abacha, the driver from Nigeria! He dipped dissident passengers in the oil wells of the Niger Delta, and then took off to heaven or hell via India.
Do you blame some of our fellow passengers who jump out of this African Bus? Those who repeat history of their own free will? I mean those who attempt to cross the desert only to perish in it. Yes! The sweet crude of tomorrow. And those who become fish food when their pirogues capsize in this same Atlantic where their ancestors perished. They repeat history. Fishitarian Aid history. They are the willing modern day Fishitarian aid workers! Can we blame them? I say no. The problem is with our leaders. Our African Bus drivers. They prefer to drive their colonial masters, not their own people. We are far too insignificant to be reckoned with.
Our leaders suffer from deep inferiority complex. They feel inferior in the presence of their colleagues from other cultures. When others show off their GDPs, their economic growth, the wealth of their countries, ours show off their personal wealth, the sweat and blood of their tin nations. They compare themselves to the poor president, the president from a country with very high GDP, a developed country, and in their mega minds, they think: “At least I am richer than him, so I can speak with him. Yes, I can dine with him. I will speak importantly. I will show him that I am rich. I will buy ten chalets in his country. I will flood their banks with my money. Yes, they will know that a black man can be rich. I will showcase my country with my money; I will live in their comfort; I will enjoy their food, their roads, their electricity, their water, their wines. Yes, they will know that a black president is richer than their president. Yes. I must show them that I own my country, the people and the treasury.”
Our leaders are Goliaths of our time. We are their David in his tiniest malnourished state. And these Goliaths slay David for sport, for fun and they get away with it. Forget about David killing Goliath. It has never happened on our shores and it will never happen. And see! Our people pray everyday that David will somehow rise up from the dead and one day, slay Goliath. They do not know that David has died many deaths in the hands of our Goliath. David is a veteran of many deaths on our shores.
Goliath kills David
And we the people, the property of our leaders, we the small Davids, bury our heads in the sands to play it safe. We become presbyopic, we only see very far, far back into history. Recent history, last week or last month, last year or last decade are dangerous territories. We beam our blame lights on centuries long gone. We point fingers at the distant others. We leave today for our leaders; we leave tomorrow for their sons and daughters. We struggle with the very distant yesterday, harmless yesterday. We blame all those we saw yesterday, those that did good we choose to forget. We remember only the bad ones, because we have to have a scapegoat, a release, someone to blame for our woes, someone harmless, someone far away into the past, someone who will not come in the middle of the night to arrest, to kill, to maim, to torture.
And to save our sanity, we invent images of a glorious past, when we and the dinosaurs ruled. We concoct dreams of our lands running with milk and honey. We romanticise tyrants, those that bartered twenty of us for a horse, and those that sold us off for a bottle of gin. It is good therapy, it keeps us sane, but like all medicines, it has a shelf life. It is becoming impotent and the threads are coming loose. What shall be the next medicine? Tell me. Tell me, my brother. Just look at our situation my brother. Can you see what we have become? When people talk of death of children, we come first. Before they reach the age of five, our children die like flies sprayed with DDT, and that is if their mothers survive childbirth. See, pregnancy has become a dangerous disease that wantonly kills our women. Young men and maidens are not spared from malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS. We beat all the world records of calamities and even set new ones. What kind of existence is that?
Why do you think people take pirogues and head out into the sea? Why do you think people dare the desert to find their elusive happiness in the West? Why do you think people scramble for green, blue and yellow visa lotteries? My brother, they are running away, running for dear life, from these shores where the only thing that works is nothing. They sacrifice dignity to save their lives. They accept tenth-class citizenship just to survive. They know they are going into self-slavery. Though the slave merchants have since gone, the merchandise still finds its ways to new buyers, in factories, tomato farms, and many in the streets as cheap prostitutes. Sad! Sad! But everyone has the right to run from disaster, even if he does not get happiness in his destination. Move away from disaster. Run as far as your legs or your pirogue can take you. That is the philosophy of survival. Run! Tell me, why should people glue themselves to the decrepit seats of this African Bus? The Bus is a disaster.
And when people jump from the Bus, our leaders and their friends call it Brain Drain ! People are running away from this roving disaster and some call it brain drain! Brain drain indeed! Looks more like brain cure to me.. Brain drain! The cheek of it! See, ANJ our current leader has just created a department for “Les passagers à l’Extérieur” in order to monitor their money transfers. He says he will tax the transfers in order to buy spare parts for the Bus. He talks about the importance of the remittances of the “passagers à l’Extérieur” for the economy. His economy. He pockets the taxes and then turns round to talk about brain drain. If the brain does not drain, what is he going to do with it?
(Excerpts from "When civilization Kicked Us in the Face on the African Bus" By Abimbola Lagunju)