Author: Sylvanus Ayeni
Publisher: Hamilton Books, London
Reviewer: Olamide Babatunde
For many, the greener pasture lies on the other side and, in a rush to make it over, no one remembers to water the patch under their feet. First, it is the effort that counts and, as John F. Kennedy has said, ask not what your country can do for you but what can you do for your country. The rot in the sub-Saharan African nations, which seems to have spread like wildfire, impacting every aspect of the economy, did not begin in one day. For want of proper analysis, Sylvanus Adetokunboh Ayeni takes a dive into the socio-economic and historical background of what today is the bleeding condition of SSA.
The retired neurosurgeon in the United States of America, President and founder of Pan Africa Children Advocacy Watch, (PACAW), a nonprofit organisation involved in education of children in Africa who has been involved with the health care sectors for many years offers an admonition. Call it a warning or command, Ayeni’s Rescue Thyself is nothing short of a gospel like truth. Like a way out for a drunkard bent on one more destructive bout, he offers a bandage to the impoverished nations in Africa.
Ayeni, painstakingly, documents an in-depth analysis, well researched and thoughtful recommendations that, if noted by appropriate channels, will be handy in turning around situations hampering the development in the regions of coloured people.
The book’s content is in three parts: The sub-Saharan Africans and detrimental misconceptions, fundamental requirements for change and, the last, looking inward. There are comprehensive details laden in each chapter, from personal experiences to meaningful conversations held with notable persons, current statistics and notes from world leaders, all make this piece a very interesting read.
The author takes a swipe at the leaders, citizens and social institutions of SSA. The discoveries highlighted call for personal and national reflection. While he exposes the rots created by leaders in the region, he allows for the reader to mirror himself through self-examination.
Ayeni attributes this to a number of things in the first three chapters. He traces it to three misconceptions: misconceptions of the creation of mankind, Purpose of life and the essence of nationhood. By the philosophy of the west, blacks developed the erroneous mindset that they are inferior to the whites and as such cannot achieve same great things.
This further degenerates into lack of knowledge of the purpose of life took place. The author then reminds us of the times before the Berlin conference of 1884-1885, a time around the 14th to 19th century when the four major events that would shape history occurred in Europe. While a revolution was taking place, Africa was left out of the renaissance, reformation, enlightenment and industrial revolution age.
Ayeni describes it further: “Rather than mining the depths beneath the earth’s surface or the ocean floor for nonrenewable natural resources, the leaders of these nations mined the brains of citizens of their nations.” What we have from that today is domination set up from solid foundation –a culture that aspired to establish symmetrical relationships between Europe and neighbouring countries.”
Although the author does not seek to trade blame, taking steps back in history seems necessary if a better future could be mapped out. Besides having incurred a ruthless tradition of dependency on foreign aid, Africa, its leaders and people need to snap out of its reverie and take action.
From personal experience, Ayeni states that the unwilling attitude on the part of citizens to challenge the modus operandi of leadership deficit, lack of infrastructure and a declining educational system are the major challenges. The book sheds light on what global opinion has degenerated to, the name calling and misnomers such as “shit hole countries”. SSA is seen as the bleeding beggar with a bowl of alms sitting right behind a heap of opportunities. All he lacks is the will power to turn around and tap into the benefits that would spell freedom from the trappings of poverty. This beggarly attitude, the author says, must desist.
Foreign aid must also be reformed. His concern is that the leaders of the countries benefitting from the aids remain in oblivious to the lack around them. He further makes the case for an inclusive government designed to create incentives towards processing and not reliability on temporary resources. The book lucidly expands on the need for sustainable building block for human development. This shortcoming is why, in the last sixty years, SSA has received about $1 trillion dollars in foreign aid, but is yet to achieve anything meaningful with the aid.
Ayeni proffers solutions to the many challenges facing the African continent. Yes, they are quite numerous yet achievable. He calls for decisive reformation. A few steps at a time may not be easy to severe the chains of dependency it is a necessity that could save the entire SSA future from irredeemable ruin.