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It took me years to gain admission to study Law at the University of Lagos, Nigeria for so many reasons. When it appeared then that my dream of becoming a lawyer will not come true, a respected relative advised me to give up going to school. In his own wisdom, there were people who did not make it to schools in life but turned out to be successful. I replied him 12 years ago that my decision to go to school was not to just acquire degrees; flaunt intimidating CVs or just to make ends meet as he understood the essence of education. I wanted to go to school to be able to ‘think’. If one is able to think, he will become a social engineer and problem-solver with immense contribution to the development of his environment.
I grew up in the ‘90s reading about Africa’s challenges like poverty, hunger, child mortality, maternal health issues among others, that the world summed up in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is worrying that at this age; we are still helpless in managing our challenges. We brag a lot about natural resources deposited in Africa but many African states are still ranked among the poorest in the world. What a paradox? Africans are known to be great scholars across the world but where are the effects of being among the best in terms of development in Africa?
Since Ebola struck in Africa, we have been thrown into confusion and helpless situation. The way Africa has managed this killer virus in the last two months has presented us to the world as people still living in the ‘stone age’. While I was worried thinking about some states sluggish reactions and lack of proactive measures to tackle this deadliest virus that kill people days after contraction in the last three months, my law teacher was devastated about the state of things and our persistent lack of development. She had got a message where Africa was described as ‘the entire continent comprised largely of backward thinking people.’ The sender claimed we were busy praying, calling on God as usual instead of following the American steps that developed a cure and treated their people without recording a death. It would amount to laziness for me to start channeling my energy to disclaim this bitter truth or attacking the purported writer-in order to justify our sorry tales and suddenly become a defender of Africa.
This hypocrisy, lazy excuse that our democracy is nascent after five decades of self government in justifying slow development is the bane of our development. On issue of religion, we are very religious in Africa and I think this should be a blessing to the believers. Of course I believe in God and I pray. He answers my prayers and I know God is a miracle worker. But it is high time we understood that there are things God will do and there are many things He will not do for us because he has given us the power to do them by ourselves. The God I know is a miracle worker not a magician. He will not drop vaccines from heaven for one of us to catch and share among our sick brothers. Hundreds have died of Ebola in West Africa but the two infected Americans got drugs flew quickly by their government to save their citizens. This drug, we praying Africans now must still buy.
Africa is desperately in need of help. Ebola is just one among canker-worms eating us deep at the moment. What about leadership challenges, human rights abuses, corruption, poverty among others? We do not need President Barack Obama to remind us again that Africans are the key to solving Africa’s development problems. I am not against Africans looking for help but the point is how far we have helped ourselves in the aforementioned subject matter. While I understand that Bi lateral and Multi lateral agreements foster development, it is lazy to think all Africa can offer the world at this age is just crude oil. As stakeholders in African affairs, we all have strong roles to play in changing the current state of dear continent. While religion and traditional leaders should preach interfaith tolerance and development, the Professionals among us should begin emergency research with developmental outcomes and deliverables. African leaders, democracy and development are not all about elections. If our leaders failed to accelerate youths’ empowerment for sustainable development, the youth may not be equipped enough to take care of them when they become old.
Fellow young Africans are we going to watch Africa bleed to death and utterly annihilated from the surface of the earth? Will my own generation also fail? I don’t think our children will forgive us if we pass our forefathers’ challenges to them to solve for us. This is the time for us to think and take the hard route to solve our problems not only that of Ebola. Young leaders, we can be at the forefront of the change needed in Africa. It only requires innovation, ingenious activities and consistent records of feat. While political thuggery engagement can only limit one’s dream to rise to the top, we should be sophisticated enough to demand and desire proper electoral process, right to development and dividends of democracy. Spending our valuable time on social media platforms spreading gossips, stories of Imams or Pastors promising to cure Ebola virus with salty water, Bitter kola and other untested and unconfirmed drugs are signs of intellectual laziness. If you still think there is an obstacle in putting all we have learn’t to bear in Africa, you must be one of the lazy intellectuals who are educated but regrettably unlearned.
Adeola Austin Oyinlade is a Nigerian lawyer, President of Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative using law as a problem-solving tool via ‘Know Your Constitution’ and ‘#KnowYourRightsNigeria’ projects. He is a resource person to the African Union Commission (Youth Division) and tweets via @AdeolaOyinlade.
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