“For you to fix the world, you must fix Africa, and for you to fix Africa, you must fix Nigeria…you must fix Nigeria…” This came from the then-President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan to his American counterpart, Barack Obama, in late 2013. In an interview, the former President of Ghana Jerry Rawlings appealed the British and the West to help Ghana and Nigeria. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo practically lived in the White House during his civilian reign at Aso Rock. Not too long ago, Nigeria’s new President, Mohammadu Buhari, opined that Nigeria owes Britain and the U.S. gratitude for NOT allowing the previous President Jonathan to rig the 2015 Nigerian presidential election. Immediately after getting a grip on the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, its president Sirleaf Johnson flew to the U.S. Congress and basically genuflected how sine-qua-non is the United States to the existence of Liberia. Sometimes it is like these African leaders are saying to the World, “We cannot survive on our own.”
Their utterances and attendant actions betray a mind of the people lacking in self-confidence and belief in oneself. In short, a beggar’s mind. Now let me ask you, have you seen a successful beggar before? In our daily lives, one of the important ingredients goading success is the mentality that believes in one’s own ability, which drives an individual to do for himself first, then to seek for help confidently. This “come and help us” mentality has landed us in a plethora of policies that do nothing to benefit African society but the society of the people that prescribed them. Our leaders and their advisors, due to this mentality that we must go and seek help outside whenever we experience difficulties, have intentionally and inadvertently bargained the lives of Africans away when signing bilateral agreements with foreign countries, the West in particular. We have become so deferential to these foreign entities now including China, that we take whatever they give, hook, line, and sinker. I see this in my line of work in an International Trade and Commerce, US & Global immigration practice. I have seen an African public official come to Washington, DC and sign an agreement that is binding upon his country, without having legal counsel present to advice on the document.
This problem does not stop there. Most of the so-called technocrats who are supposedly advising these leaders also have this mentality, despite the fact that most are so knowledgeable. I spoke with one recently over lunch. Immediately, our conversation went to world affairs vis-à-vis Nigeria’s situation. This man, an amazing intellectual with a good grasp of world affairs, opined that the US was derelict in its duty by not helping the Nigerian government fight against Boko Haram. He went on that Buhari came to the White House and returned to Nigeria empty handed. I shot back, how is it a duty of the US to help another country? Did he understand the meaning of sovereignty? I queried him to see if he understands that the US does not assist other nations without having their own interests.
Relationships, especially from one country to another, are based on mutual interests and benefits. You should be the best advocate for your own interest so when you are seeking for a relationship, you find a way to seek your interest in that relationship. I asked him to tell me what plan, not just hope, specifically did Buhari bring to the White House for which he sought help. He could not answer logically. I added, what has the Nigerian government done to battle Boko Haram? How do you expect help when the potential helper cannot see you have tried to help yourself first? Despite the brilliance of this technocrat, I was baffled that he expected help, unrestrained, from the US to Nigeria as if the US were Santa Claus, granting gifts out of the goodness of his heart. If we our people have studied the body language of US government, it is such an open secret that US interest comes first in whatever US does and they make no bone about it. And frankly, that should be the way our leaders and people should think, i.e. African’s interest first.
Unfortunately our leaders seek help from the world thinking the world powers are not predators looking at every opportunity to cushion their bottom lines. There must be a paradigm shift, a mentality shift, if we and our African leaders expect Africa to grow to its highest potential. If we are to see a great Africa, we cannot have a beggar’s mind. A belief in our own ability should guide our relationship with the rest of the world.
— From Eleniyan’s Ponderment.
Eleniyan is a legal practitioner in Washington DC metropolitan with focus on international commerce and trade, and US and Global immigration.
Photo credit: Google, Keep calm studios