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The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born: A Throw Back

— by Simon Wale Olatunji, Ph.D

Like the biblical defence of the divine judgment, taken from the universal corruption of the people, wherein God sets forth the justice of his proceedings, and shows, that not from choice, but by the reason of the iniquities of the people—in actions and inactions— that God is compelled to punish the people, Isaiah declared in his chapter 9 and verse 16 as follows: "For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed."

We are always seeking who to blame for Africa’s political instability, public distrust of the government, civil unrests, poverty, economic reverses and failure to attract foreign capital; but how many of us remember The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, a novel written as a strong protest against the vulgar behaviors in the African society? Let me ask all Africans to take a quick break and reflect on that book; written by Ayi Kwei Armah and published in 1968 by Houghton Mifflin, and republished in the influential Heinemann African Writers Series in 1969.

In that novel, the Ghanaian author expresses his disgust on the level of corruption prevalent in Ghana during its first republic under Nkrumah about the same time when civil war was ravaging Nigeria a few years after British's formal decolonisation of the country.

As a Nigerian, I cannot but think of Ayi Kwei Armah’s literary work more specifically in the direct context and light of Nigeria. Whereas Armah has Ghana in mind; but the cancer was better eating the best of Ghana’s big sister—Nigeria. Think about this, from the time Nigeria first became a republic in 1963, to when it first succumbed to military rule after a bloody coup d'état in 1966 through several dispensations and republics, leaders have come and gone; and the irony of Africa’s common dilemma remains truer and truer to the prophetic literary work of fiction—The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born.

Armah’s creative play of words depicted the familiar trajectory of a young woman falling in love with a man that is actually in love with another who is undeserving of that love.

Today, we are all, like the unnamed man, whom Armah referred to as simply “the man,” in his work. We daily engage intense struggle to reconcile ourselves to life in our complex Africa political order. We pray hard and make no attempts to resist corruption—that, unlike “the man.” But the more we tried, i.e., pray harder and make no attempts to resist, the more we sink deeper in rampant corruption so that every nook and cranny of our nation shows it.

The accomplished novelist and cultural activist, Mr. Armah still lives, and he may need a postmodern sequel since the then known Ghana and Africa at large are not anywhere close to today’s Africa’s art and act of real corruption.

We are 55 years after the book was first published, and unfortunately, the phenomenal darkness, destitution, debts, despair, destruction and death caused by the widespread corruption among Africans continue to main unparalleled positions in the committee of nations. And, sadly so, this unfortunate truth is the result of cooperative selfishness of both the inhabitants and leaders of Africa.

And even more sad is the fact that we are not ready for needed change. Every election offers us a new opportunity to make a change; but we make sure we recycle the past. Our corridors of power are filled with “enemies of the State.” We install rulers not leaders, who seek compensatory power not constructive leadership. We are content to elect politicians seeking power to loot national resources and keep us in economic chaos as long as they are able to offer us some penurious electioneering kickbacks. We are too sentimental about personal interests, partisanism and despotism so that we fail to elect the best. And when we have elected them, or they have grabbed the power from us, they do not so to solve the continent's problems, but to make a new age resale of its remains to our past and present colonial enemies in the name of loans.

Both the leaders and inhabitants of Africa fail to heed the wisdom and religious philosophy of ancient Israel, which was declared by the sons of Korah, as follows: "They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches. Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can ever pay enough to live forever and never see the grave. Those who are wise must finally die, just like the foolish and senseless, leaving all their wealth behind. The grave is their eternal home, where they will stay forever. They may name their estates after themselves, but their fame will not last. They will die, just like animals. This is the fate of fools, though they are remembered as being wise. (Psalm 49:6–13, NLT).

When shall Africa begin harness its great wealth of potentials: its unique human resources, and indelible natural resources? When shall we again eat our own food, and adore our own made goods? When shall we resolve our own climate issues that pose significant threat to economic, social and environmental development? When shall hunger and malnutrition cease to be our major cause of manipulation? When shall we be free from our aggravated ultra high levels public debts which positions us in second-level slavery and colonialism? When shall our youth and women emerge through participatory leadership and development? When shall our goal change from anti-corruption to the pursuance of radically progressive continental Agenda? When shall we have good governance that shall ensure that we walk on good streets, are served with good justice, sleep in good lighting, go to good schools, experience a well managed elections, and have a fair share of opportunities? When shall we provide opportunities to the so called "future of our nation," who may be better positioned to revolutionize our fiscal and debt messes? When shall we take advantage of our oil, gas, and other minerals for a next level economic turnaround and political revolution? When shall our murdered youths rise again? When shall the beautiful ones get born?

O what shall we do so that the beautiful future of Africa—the Africa, my Africa, your Africa, our Africa—does not remain a still born child or end up a never born dream?!

From a deep personal reflection,

Dr. Simon Wale Olatunji

August 2023

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