‘Rescue Thyself: Change in Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come from Within’ by Sylvanus Adetokunboh Ayeni

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By Adewale Oshodi

The state in which the African continent, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, is should give everybody from the continent cause for concern.

Despite being blessed with abundant human and natural resources, the African continent, which is the second largest, is the poorest of all the six continents of the world, and it is like a ‘beggar’, looking up to the other developed continents for survival.

This reality is definitely what brought about Sylvanus Adetokunboh Ayeni’s book, ‘Rescue Thyself: Change in Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come from Within’.

The author, a retired neurosurgeon in the United States of America, believes that for the continent to thrive, there must be an awakening, and this book, without a doubt, is a positive contribution to issues that have been addressed and solutions provided for the continent, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, to develop to its potentials.

The three-fold aim of the book, according to the author, is to first, discuss with several constituencies about the necessity to find alternative pathways to solve the monumental problems facing the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The second aim is to remind the future generation of leaders from the continent that everything needed for the prosperity of the respective countries in Sub-Saharan Africa had been provided by God and what is needed is only to work towards achieving a prosperous continent with the resources already made available by God.

The last aim of the book “is to admonish citizens of Sub-Saharan Africa, especially the leaders, to search their inner core and reflect very deeply on their past, present and future. To remind them that life anchored on the pursuit of money, material wealth, power by any means, and failure to care for others and love them as oneself is hollow, empty, and meaningless”.

This third aim of the book summarises the problem countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are facing. It can be said that the majority of political leaders on the continent care only for what they can gain from public service, and not what they can offer. In this scenario, how does one understand political leaders from impoverished countries that survive on foreign donations, earning more than politicians from the same donor countries?

Ayeni’s book also hits a target with some youths, who, to a large extent, do not value the culture of hard work, but want to enjoy the good things of life. One then wonders what the future will hold if those who are to carry the baton are also not on the right path.

However, the author’s personal experience of his contributions to developing the educational sector in Koro-Ekiti, Kwara State, his hometown, makes him realise that there is a significant disconnect between the compassion and good intentions of the development gurus, the philanthropic organisations, and foreign aid aficionados and the realities of the lives of the poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He further believes that developed countries, international institutions, and foundations, will not solve the problems of Sub-Saharan Africa, but can only facilitate the process put in place by the citizens themselves to solve their own problems.

The book has three major sections, with the chapters grouped in each of the sections. The first looks at Sub-Saharan Africans and Detrimental Misconceptions, while the second focuses on Fundamental Requirements for Change, and the third concentrates on Looking Inward.

The first chapter, The Pitfalls of Misconceptions of the Creation of Mankind, laments the mentality of black Africans and the belief of their limitations.

In this chapter, the author highlights his conversations with a friend of his in the United States, focusing on how the late Singaporean prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, was able to develop the city-state to a booming global economy.

The author was, however, to hear from his friend that, “but we blacks cannot do these things”. This, definitely, is a misconception that is hindering the development of Sub-Saharan Africa, as many have simply resigned to the fate that the continent cannot be at par with developed economies of the world.

This chapter also highlights the influence of religion (Christianity and Islam) on the people of Sub-Saharan Africa, with the author summing it up that the continent needs leaders with a true understanding of the commandments and statutes of the Creator.

In the second chapter, The Pitfalls of Misconceptions of the Purpose of Life, the author, while quoting Dr Vikto Frankl, one of the survivors of Nazi concentration camps, says that the true purpose of life is to give oneself to a cause or to humanity.

He, therefore, blamed the grave issues affecting the failed nations of Sub-Saharan Africa to the issue of lovelessness, selfishness and wanton disregard for the truth.

The third chapter, The Pitfalls of Misconceptions of the Essence of Nationhood, highlights the profound leadership crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa. The author says, “The profound deficiencies in virtually all aspects of development in these nations can be traced to an absence of altruism and a lack of a sense of nationhood. There is a very troubling paucity of knowledge about true development among the so-called elites and leaders. The leadership in most of these failed and failing nations is saturated with narcissism, selfishness, cronyism, thievery, and mammoth corruption.”

The author, in Section two, Fundamental Requirements for Change, discusses the need for visionary leadership, the people’s roles in using politics to create change and the state of infrastructure in virtually all sectors.

Looking Inward, the book’s third section emphasises the solution to the problems facing Sub-Saharan Africa. The author believes no one will develop the continent for the people except the people themselves.

No doubt, Ayeni, through the book, has shown the pains burdening him with the state Sub-Saharan Africa is, despite the fact that everything needed to make it prosperous is already available.

The book is, therefore, recommended for members of the political class in Sub-Saharan Africa, political and developmental scholars and students, youths, who are the continent’s future leaders, and everyone who wants to see a prosperous Sub-Saharan Africa.

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