Once upon a time, before the uninvited invasion of Africa by colonists/colonialists and the imposition of their type of Government, our people had their own type of governance system and arrangements which were working for them. They had no political parties, periodic elections which usher in few men who lord over the affairs of the community, competition, or “isms” to fight over. But they had order, sense of community, communitarian standards, socially acceptable behaviours and expectations, and esprit de corp. They had “Ubuntu”, each looking out for the other, certain that one’s survival or death, success or failure, pleasure or pain, was inextricably linked to that of all others.
From our vantage point today, we may argue fairly that the system our people had in place before all the foreign invasions and incursions, including colonialism, wasn’t the best, and certainly wasn’t a panacea for all their ills. It had its own faults. May be some form of hierarchy and class divisions. Imperfections it had without any gainsaying.
But how did we lose such a state where community and not individualism was the lifestyle; where cooperation and not competition was the value; where everyone felt secured and valued as a member of the community with equal opportunities as the rest; where there was no authority with power to punish or reward on whims and caprices?
Where did we go wrong? Did we slide down the abyss due to colonialism and the imposition of democracy as the “best” form of government? Can we blame our meteoric cascading into this doldrums on colonialism that was upped by the industrial revolution and which introduced into our environment private property, wage labour, technology, the division of society into classes, intense competition, exploitation of the wage earner, etc.?
One political commentator, a larger than life person, and some great minds here on Facebook, are wont to arguing that we, guess they means “Africans” or all colonised” people, must “dismantle” ( they detests the use of the term “destroy” as that may require violence and total chaos) their colonial imposed/borrowed systems (political, economic, etc.), structures, laws and every related assortments and paraphernalia. That such dismantling of the foundation on which the systems rest is necessary if Africa is to regain real “independence”, be treated with dignity and as equal partners in the comity of nations and attain some sort of communal actualisation. That the foundation of such structures and systems, constructed mainly to satisfy the needs of the colonialists and their plundering ways, would need a total overhaul if it is to serve the people and their yearnings and aspirations..
Without attaching an “ism” to the political commentators, i want to hazard a guess that they have admiration for “anarchism”, that political philosophy which believes that the political systems and structures, and formal power/authority as they were and now are, epitomised in the “authoritarian” Government and State, should be dismantled as they are “unfit” for human purpose. In their place, they want cooperation and communitarianism, not competition and individualism which they think are injurious to human nature seen as essentially good. They also believe that people cannot enjoy “liberty” without the existence of “equality” of opportunities (political and economic), power and resources. To them liberty should not be an abstract term.
The questions, however, are these:
Where did we get it wrong? Why is the village no longer the village?
Can we go back to the halcyon times, when the interests of the community was primary and individualism was abhorred?
Can we get rid of the modern Government as it is? With what will or can we replace it?
Is a truly equal or equitable society possible, where poverty is heard but not seen?
Can we continue to blame colonialism for imposing on us a political order with a superstructure which is out of sync with our needs and purpose (but served the colonialist very well). Or we are merely a copycat people?
Which should be more emphasised: liberty ( freedoms and rights) or equality? My friend argued that people who are poor, unhealthy, hungry, unclothed, have no use of “liberty”. That civil and political rights are meaningless without the fulfilment of economic and social rights.