Last month, I became privy to an observation that reminded me of something that had strongly registered on my mind while I was in my country of Cameroon some five years ago.
What I observed at that time in Cameroon was an unfolding of a reality that would completely shatter all ingrained illusions I had nursed about Africa. As for those illusions, they were my pet peeves, nursed and pampered in an unconscious bid to afford myself the legal-right to lax and not think critically about Africa. How could it not but be easy to condemn Africa to mediocrity, cowardice, and incurable mental and emotional backwardness than take firm mental journeys through history, scripture and the very suggestions of nature as we see around us? It was easy not to question how other regions of the world, other peoples, other civilizations… had gone in circles of development - sometimes descending into depths of mediocrity for centuries, and at other times rising against all odds onto unmovable stature of honour. It was easy not to burden myself with the fact that no matter how extreme a reign of terror, no matter how intense the viciousness of a tyrannical power, those things always inevitably passed away leaving others, often of finer sensibilities and keener understandings, to inexplicably or sometimes explicably, take over.
To my humble defense, however, those illusions that simmered within me were not unique to my mind alone. They were imaginings shared by many Africans, others who, like me, were too lazy to look beyond the seeming reality of the present. Neither were they reflections far from the musings of those non-Africans who found great comfort and disguised (sometimes undisguised) pleasure in the seeming pettiness, retarded, skewed, warped and lazy thinking of Africans across the globe.
In Cameroon, however, my ideas began tottering. I was there, first and foremost, to observe the appropriation of mobile telephony. What I found was a breed of Cameroonians - specifically the youths - exposed not only to the temptations and sordidness of unknown cultures, but freed from the constraints of tunnel thinking… I found Cameroonians challenged by bold and inspiring ways of thinking, Cameroonians fired by fearless modes of action, Cameroonians informed by novel ways of reacting. The bad aspects of exposure received through ICTs (mobile telephony and the internet particularly) showed themselves incontestably to be subject to inevitable change, while the exciting possibilities created by new ways of thinking, new ways of appreciating, original modes of reflecting upon the self , etc seemed to take roots in people´s psyche - as though seeds dug in grounds no one realized to be fertile grounds … seeds unseen underground waiting only to burst through the upper crust like explosive arrows.
That explosion I observed last month at a small gathering in Den Haag. About 20 or more Cameroonians gathered there, not to chit chat or drink refill glasses of beer, but to pray. These young men and women, parents and children gathered there to pray for their country Cameroon in preparations for its October elections, and for all of Africa in the continent´s bid to rid itself of its underachieving stain.
But the point is not the prayer that these Cameroonians and friends came to pray. The point is the type of prayer these Cameroonians came to pray. The point is what these prayer points suddenly began reflecting about Cameroon and Africa (as other Africans joined that prayer team. Ghanaians as Nigerians and others were in one voice too).
Where Cameroonians in the past had petitioned, begged, groveled in the presence of God for a pittance of assistance, these Cameroonians seized the authority given to them by a good God and demanded the peace they and their country men and women craved. These Cameroonians thanked and danced rather than gripe and slump.
Where Cameroonians in the past had questioned their lot, cried foul and decried their sufferings, these Cameroonians assumed responsibility for the type of leaders they and other Africans had; they shouted out their hope and belief for their country/ies in the face of the insurmountable burdens weighing their minds about conditions in their country… these Cameroonians rejected any suggestions of suffering of any kind remaining a permanent part of the experiences of fellow Cameroonians and Africans.
At that prayer meeting, there was zero proclivity to self pity or self-victimization. There was zero example of resignation, fear or confusion. These Cameroonians and their other Africans families were bold, braced, prepared and dogged. They were resolute to rise out of wherever their countries had sunk into.
As I observed the praying men and women, I saw that their determination was one defiant even of death. Seeing this, I eventually realized that I had been blind and retarded in my ideas to have thought that our problem in Africa is ignorance, self-degradation, self-pity, laziness, laxity, stupidity and uncouthness.
Now I know that, if anything, Africans are growing ever more and more bold, determined, capable, clear-headed and focused. With this knowledge I know now that whatever come of the Cameroonian elections, Cameroonians will not be halted from their evolving route, and whatever happen to and in Africa, Africans will continue rising in stature and strength, and one day, one foreseeable day, a great giant will rise, called Africa.