WRITTEN BARR. EMEKA EKPOKOBA
Currently trending on social media are horrendous pictures and video clips of young Africans being tortured,
brutalized and subjected to all forms of physical and psychological abuse before being sold into slavery in Libya for as little as 400 dollars , which is less than the price of a cow in Nigeria. Another trending video clip shows a cargo of seventeen young people squeezed into the back seat and boot of a saloon car, intercepted by security men while heading for Libya, from where they hoped to embark on the journey to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
Most shocking is the fact that one of these Libya-bound passengers was sharing the very limited space with her baby! Unfortunately, many of these young ones either get scorched to death in the sweltering heat of the desert or get entombed in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea thus ending their dreams for the better life. Some of them are brutally murdered and their internal organs harvested for use in foreign hospitals. Yet, other shocking pictures show these young fortune seekers tied up, hung upside down and repeatedly flogged with wire cables before being sold off into slavery.
Now, the questions that must be answered by African leaders, since, according to history, civilization began in Egypt, which is in Africa, what is it that European leaders have done or are doing to make their domains so attractive to African youths? What acts of commission or omission are African leaders guilty of; acts that have made Africa so blest in terms of human and natural resources and a climate that is the envy of the rest of the world to remain perpetually in the 3rd world?
The answers are not far to seek…corruption, greed and sit-tight syndrome. It is only in Africa that constitutions are routinely tinkered with by pliant legislatures to perpetuate maximum rulers in power. It is only in Africa and perhaps some parts of South America that those in power view their positions as an unending meal ticket and a blank cheque for insane wealth acquisition.
Trillions regularly disappear into private pockets while public interests suffer. The unending goodies flowing from public office make most African presidents unwilling to quit. While they grow more rotund in stature, the state grows leaner and its population hungrier. Young Africans grow to maturity and suddenly see the bleak future facing them with no jobs and no likelihood of securing any in their countries.
Just recently one of Africa's longest-serving Presidents, 93 year-old Robert Mugabe, was forced to resign after 37 years in power, the only President desperately poor Zimbabwe had ever known since independence in 1980. His wife, Grace, derisively referred to as Gucci Grace because of her expensive tastes, regularly went on shopping sprees to Europe while Zimbabweans wallowed in poverty.
In order to challenge African leaders to provide what Nigerians call dividends of democracy for their people, a British/Sudanese billionaire, Mo Ibrahim, in 2006, instituted a 5-million-dollar prize for "Achievement In African Leadership" to be won by any African former head of government who is adjudged to have creditably acquitted himself while in power. Regrettably, the prize has been won only four times, the last being in 2014.
The investigation demanded by European and African leaders into the booming slave trade in Libya is therefore most welcome. Beyond mere platitudes and grandstanding however, African leaders must put on their thinking caps and resolve to do whatever it is their European counterparts have done and are doing to make Europe so attractive to young Africans.
They must resolve to use Africa's human and natural resources to better the lots of their people. They must realize that leadership is a sacred trust and that at the end of the day, everyone will be held accountable for his deeds or misdeeds. Above all, African leaders, at every level, will do well to always remember these famous lines in the Bible, “When the righteous is in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people mourn”