When George Udezue was in high school in the 1950’s, he was filled with fervent idealism, an optimism nurtured by expectations of Uhuru, freedom. Total but responsible freedom. For Nigeria. For the black man. For Africa. Fanned by the nationalist struggles of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, he and his fellow youngsters dreamed of being in the vanguard, “for the creation of a new destiny for Africa”.
Africa, they believed, had been in darkness for more than six centuries, culminating in the odious slave trade and colonialism. They, his generation, were going to be the knights in shining armour cleaving through the darkness of oppression, routing the oppressors and restoring the light to a grateful pan-African citizenry.
Today, Udezue, fondly called Udez Baba by his friends, has lost his naïve idealism. He now joins Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka in describing his generation as a “wasted” one.
Like the biblical rich man who comes to a recognition of the errors of his earthlife only when in the nether regions of the beyond and wishes to reach out to the still struggling spirits in the earthplane, Udez Baba, in gerontocratic wisdom, is desperate to reach the now young ones of Africa with his message; a message of dire warnings, a testament of how he and his generation went wrong, and a prescription for Africa’s rebirth. He has encapsulated these in a compelling 246-page book, titled Let Not the Darkness Come.
Whether the young ones of the Sub-Sahara African States (SSAS), his target audience, will listen, will be confirmed in time; and by the developmental outcomes in the future. For Udez Baba, his personal accomplishments as a scholar, politician, engineer, Rotarian, and family man are not enough to cover the collective failure of his generation.
This failure is aptly encapsulated in the development disaster of today’s Africa, a disaster that Udez Baba considers himself and his generation responsible.
In 17 chapters, plus an introduction and an epilogue, the author candidly marshals out his argument, beginning with a historical appraisal of the developmental pattern in Africa. His writing is lucid, unaffected, devoid of confusing technical jargons or lazy colloquialisms. There are also none of the dubious “international” statistics with which pseudo developmental “experts” feel compelled to use whenever they write about SSAS.
Like a man with an urgent message, he goes straight to the point. His testament, he says, “is written so that all Africans, particularly the young, and the elites, and those that have helped bring about the dire straits in which SSAS now finds itself, will be reminded of what has happened. And act that the darkness over Africa does not come” (italics his).
What is it that happened to destroy Udez Baba’s idealism and his early hopes of a socio-political and economic utopia for Africa?
As he records it himself, Africa’s dawn at independence in the 1960s was filled with tantalising promise. Like an undulating ripe udara, the star-apple fruit, atop a verdant branch, or the beckoning shimmer of a crystal-clear mountain spring, Africa sparkled with great promise. But the udara was plucked by unseen hands just as they reached out longingly for it, and indeed some of it even turned out to be rotten within; the mountain spring shimmer was only a mirage. Udez Baba identifies the rampaging, “genocidal” masked hands as Western neo-colonialism and the rotten fruit within as the “neo-colonialist quislings and apologists (who) sometimes wore the garb of civilians, and at other times, of coupists and soldiers.”
His generation was not alert to the early signs of the approaching darkness, of continued plunder, of the determination of the colonialists’ never to give up their cheap sources of wealth. Like the biblical five foolish virgins, who could never keep their lantern of longing for the holy flame alive, Udez Baba’s generation slept the revellers’ sleep. By the time they were beginning to wake up, the wolves among them were fully in charge, rampaging with blood and money lust.
As Udez Baba puts it: “The tactics and thrust of the neo-colonialist attack on the SSAS were so carefully camouflaged – using SSAS people to loot and economically hamstring and incapacitate the region – and was not discerned or understood early enough to enable mobilisation of the struggles to prevent the havoc now wreaked on Africa by my own generation.”
The early signs were indeed there. And the author points to a few of them – the dastardly murder of Patrice Lumumba and the insistence of the “departing” colonialists to hand over power only to “safe hands” – hands that would allow them continued and unfettered access to Africa’s treasury of resources. Under the guise of the Cold War struggle, they enthroned and supported the Mobutus, Bokassas, and Amins of Africa. Under the same Cold war guise, they “rendered in-operational, the indigenous African experiments at autonomous national reconstruction in Amilcar Cabral’s Guinea Bissau, Sekou Toure’s Guinea, and Nyerere’s Tanzania.”
Lest you get the wrong impression, Udez Baba’s Let Not the Darkness Come is not just apocalyptic cry of alarm and anguish. Or buck-passing “neo-colonialist” bashing. It is a well-thought out treatise pin-pointing the author’s views of where we went wrong and what can be done.
He identifies Africa’s technological and productive inadequacies; its “dismal, inept political leaderships; human, economic and resources mismanagement; natural disasters, epidemics, diseases and famine management inadequacies; fratricidal wars; dire poverty; and, the HIV/AIDS” pandemic as the harbingers of the threatening darkness over Africa.
But he says all hope is not lost, though “regretfully, the struggle must now be undertaken by Africa’s newer generations, under more difficult and unfavourable world conditions, if SSAS are to survive.”
Then he emphasises: it is better that the fight be now engaged, for there is a good chance of winning.
Some of his background research and solutions have been distilled from Leopold Senghor’s Negritude, Fani Kayode’s Blackism, Kwame Nkrumah’s Consciencism, and Julius Nyerere’s Ujamaa. But Udez Baba brings to bear his keen scholarly insights and posits, in a dramatic new way the key issues in Africa’s survival conundrum. These are:
The articulation of a viable philosophical framework; the rate and speed necessary to address the problems; the great magnitude and scale of capacity building and mobilisation; the necessary discipline for sustainability; and, the people’s active participation.
He offers Africa’s youth an understanding of the past and present problems, and gingers them to push and fight for the new leaderships and structures that will be necessary to create positive changes. There are useful analysis of the OAU, AU, and NEPAD; and the proposal for PFAD (Partnership for African Development).
Udez Baba’s critical self and pan-African examination in Let Not the Darkness Come is a commendable effort, an effort that should command prominent display and study in Africa’s schools. Soyinka recently urged us to We Must Set Forth at Dawn. Udez Baba’s testament passionately pleads that we must dispel the looming darkness. It is a timely plea.
• Poet, Journalist and Literary activist, Ken Ike is the Co-founder and Slam Master of the Abuja Literary Society.. He’s at: email@example.com.