Anthony Aduaka, an intern at Spotlight Africa, reflects on the occasion of Africa Day last week and on his dreams for Africa. He believes that as a family of nations in Africa we ought to stop criticising one another and rather spend our time challenging one other towards a better humanity.
I was born on 9 January 1985 into a beautiful family and in beautiful Nigeria. It is a place I have called home for the 33 years of my life.
Growing up, my parents used to talk about how good life was in the 1960's and 1970's. I used to dream about these stories and often tried to recreate them in my own small world. After the euphoria of my dreams, however, I would always return to the reality that reminded me that my world, my Africa, is changing and like Okonkwo, the famous character in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, I knew that things are falling apart. I grew up in this small changing world of mine hoping that one day someone will slow down the change, or that the change will just go away, and life would be just like my parents said it once was.
In 2010, I joined the Society of Jesus after struggling with my own share of these changing realities. As a Jesuit scholastic, traveling from coast to coast, setting hearts on fire with the love of love, as we Jesuits like to think of God, I have had the opportunity to see many countries that make up the African continent. These travels have helped me to encounter different peoples and cultures and to see Africa from different perspectives. I have come to realize that many of the things we thought separate us, have a common interpretative understanding if only we remain open enough to look and to question.
It is only then, in this openness and questioning, that we will begin to see that from the contemporary Nigerian dance steps to the zorabata (the current dance) of Zimbabwe, from the famous chapatti (flat bread) in Kenya to the Umngqusho (samp and beans) of the Xhosa people of South Africa, we can all come together as one family to share in the friendship that makes us brothers and sisters.
In this familial atmosphere, we forget who the stranger is or nwa amala (son of the soil, in Igbo), for the family is bigger than all of our individualistic selves.
This is the Africa I re-dream. A place we will all call home, not minding that I am a Nigerian and another is Zimbabwean, South African, Ghanaian, Tanzanian or Algerian. I invite us to focus on the opportunity that enables us to dip our hands into the same plate and get a share of what mother Africa provides for all of us.
Recently, the African Union (AU) announced a free trade agreement – unfortunately signed by most (but not all) of her member states.
The goal of this deal is to create a “single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business, persons and investments.” Why did it take us this long a time to get here many free minded young Africans ask?
Why do I have to fear taking some cassava roots or maize seeds during the farming season with a few friends of mine over to my mother-in-law’s farm that lives in Ghana?
If Africa is a home for all of us, why should a person be killed for trying to put food on the table for their family? Why should we continue to see each other as strangers when the sweet aroma from the kitchen of mother Africa calls us together in unity?
These questions make me re-dream of Africa as a place where our successes and failures become a shared responsibility that gives us the opportunity to try again and again and again.
Thus, as we celebrate Africa Day each year and march through the streets of our various cities; we listen to lectures and talks from different renowned African scholars; but the question remains: What kind of Africa are we creating? Even better: What kind of Africa do we want to create?
Is it an Africa that continues to blame the West for her economic and political misfortunes? An Africa that refuses to learn from her past mistakes and is continuously eluded by her present situation?
Many of us feel safer among the same people we point fingers at rather than our own brothers and sisters. We prepare ourselves psychologically before travelling to our rural homes for fear of the unknown but are happy to travel across the ocean with nothing but a multi-currency ATM card.
My Africa has become a place where killing one’s brother or raping one’s sister has become a sign of superiority and a thing of pride. Africa has become a place where tales of political violence have become part of our moonlight stories that keep our children awake no more with laughter but with the fear of what the darkness might hold.
Is this the kind of Africa we will be proud to call home? Africa Day should therefore be a day where we ought to stop criticising one another and, instead, heed the call that helps us challenge one other to live a better humanity.
It should be a day when we should all gather to ask Nkosi to sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) and work together so maluphakanyisw' uphondo lwayo (May her glory be lifted high), since every day should be a happy Africa Day for all who live on this continent.
Image: Anthony Aduaka SJ