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What next for a lady at the age of 52?

Tuesday 4 August 2015

August 2, 2015

The birthday candles were blown on 25th May and the lady’s name is Africa under the institution called African Union (AU) which reached a 52 year milestone since its creation as Organisation of African Unity that later became AU. Life, for most women and men for that matter, begins at 40. It is understandable therefore that Africa’s youthfulness could attract the attention of young and old ‘talents’ alike. The reality is that this youngish lady called Africa under the institution AU is and is not a cougar. Currently led by the South African Madame Zuma, some heads of state that make up its governing body are barely 10 years younger or 40 years older.

So what? Yes, I agree that age is not the issue. However, one pertinent question that many on the continent and the world over would be asking is ‘what next for a lady at the age of 52?’ As if to respond to the question, in Nigeria, you have had a peaceful transition of power and at the helm is president Muhammadu Buhari reputed for his merciless onslaught on corruption. His years in the Nigerian military also add to his credentials to take on Boko Haram who in a potentially fatal coordinated collaboration with Al Shebab and especially ISIS could replicate the spiralling and chilling violence across the middle east in Africa if nothing is done!

Is it a new dawn for Africa then? While there is tangible effort being made to promote growth across the continent, democracy is at stake in quite a number of countries. Poverty and instability rage on to the point that the 52 year old girl has had to let go of her children turned migrants who despite the chances of survival across the sea being next to none, they still decide to leave everything they knew and take the giant leap into the unknown. Some do not make it to Eldorado that is Europe. Those who do pose an immediate social concern in their host nations prompting the upscaling of rescue operations and an overall European response to what is called ‘the migrant crisis’. But to the 52 year old lady, these migrants will later constitute the diasporan population that she, at a later stage, will turn around and say ‘come home to invest, your country needs you!’ This is not new, it has featured in the last US-Africa leaders’ summit and such talk will no doubt continue to ooze through the lips of genuine people and demagogues alike.

But what does Africa need to ask herself? Perhaps the three related questions that should be asked are: why do these people leave their countries in the first place? When/if they go back, what sort of enabling environment whether political, economic, judicial and democratic awaits them? Will it be the kind that a billion or so others who never left the continent continue to endure? I will use my 2 upcoming publications to discuss what I believe is making the 52 year old seem so ugly, battered and unattractively monstrous for her age and suggest what she can do to reclaim her position as a pearl of a lady.

In The Unexpected Homecoming (London: AustinMacauley Publishers), I discuss in greater detail a real life story that also includes how a project went pair shaped and to everyone’s surprise, the prosecutor exonerated Oscar Kopongo Kabata and his family forcing me to place the matter under the civil court that moves at a snail’s pace.

What does the above example show? The above brief illustration epitomises both individual and institutional frailties, a crisis of trust that has come to define life in Africa. I was failed by individuals who conned me and an institution that abdicated its duty to administer justice. But not all individuals are like that. Some, as we have seen in largely youthful protests across the continent, are demanding greater transparency and engagement with their institutions to ensure that they reflect their dreams of transparency, rule of law and others. What has been missing in Africa therefore is that subject/institution engagement where subjects/individuals’ fear in seeking greater engagement decreases while African institutions’ levels of self-scrutiny increase. It is that conjunction or recursive intertwining of decreasing fear on the part of the population met with increasing self-scrutiny on the part of African institutions that I argue in Africa through Structuration theory – ntu (Cameroon: Langaa RPCIG). I will, in due course, call it the FS (fear and self-scrutiny) methodology of structuration but the story starts here. Taking the argument even further, there I suggest that the British Antony Gidden’s social theory of institutions being the medium and product of people’s actions is comparable to the African way of life or philosophy called Ubuntu.

The point is? Hence, underneath ‘the migrant crisis’, ‘the security threat of Boko Haram and others’, ‘the blatant violation of human rights’, ‘poverty’ and ‘the Ebola and other outbreaks’ lie the real problem of disengagement between people and their institutions that I fully unpack in the above works. So, in this rather brief but concise presentation, you have my answer to the question ‘what next for a lady at the age of 52?’ What should be the overall basis of Buhari’s potential military success over Boko Haram and the emergence of the continent? My answer is ‘Return to – ntu leadership or what Antony Giddens calls structuration theory and pay attention to the FS methodology of structuration that the likes of Mandela practised!’ If not, ‘the migrant crises’ for example, will perhaps continue not because Africans want to run away from Africa but because they want to live in the closest environment to the kind of Africa they want.

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