Taking a dive into history, Alaafins in Oyo Empire would be despised then if they were effeminate or frivolous; they had to display grandeur, strength and courage. Alaafin Abiodun who ruled between 1774 to 1789 (15 years) established a golden era in Yoruba history, which is orally recorded in songs like :L’aye Abiodun, mo da ‘borun meje… meaning: “During Abiodun’s accession I could afford seven shawls” (shawls signified aristocratic status and still used by the Freemasons today in Yoruba land.)
Ewuare, the Great of Benin Kingdom (1440 to 1473) was a physician and powerful ruler in the kingdom. He subjected Yoruba towns of Ekiti, Ikare, Owo and as well the Ibo country of Asaba under Benin rule. Ewuare built roads to link the capital seat to far flung areas under Benin rule. He encouraged work of art in wood and ivory designs, which are still evident in Igun Street in today’s Benin City. There was textile production and Benin influence reached as far as Lagos (with the exception of Badagry) at his time. When the first European visited his city, Ruy de Sequeira, in 1472, he was very impressed by what he saw (according to his diary).
Examples of productive kings are abound in African history and apart from pastoral farming, there were industries that engaged in iron works, leather, pottery, bronze works, textile and such stuff required of an emerging society (which Europe too passed through prior to her Industrial Revolution).
There were big markets in towns like Kumbi-Saleh (Capital of Old Ghana before Ghana moved downward to her present location), Gao, Kano, Timbuktu, Old Oyo, Ouidah (now Whydah in neighbouring Benin Republic), Kumasi in today’s Ghana, Benin City in Edo, if we will not take our time by listing more commercial cities abound in the coastal cities of the Niger Delta.
With the introduction of cowry-shells during the 14th century, it became easy to transact business on a large scale in most parts of West Africa (The first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah had named the country’s currency after the indigenous word for cowry – cedi). Rulers of the local areas where markets were located also collected tolls and taxes to run their empires or kingdoms administration.
Gold and salt were also mineral resources in places like Teghaza in Songhai Empire before it fell to Morocco after protracted wars by Arab streaming in from North Africa. Caravan routes were also established for merchant travellers who did business with the gold mines of Walata in Old Ghana, river ports of Gao, Timbuktu and Jenne on the River Niger. More routes linked south of Tunisia through Ghat and Agades to Hausalands of Kano and Katsina. The oldest route linked Tripoli to as far as the Chad basin.
Let us leave history and stare at the face of today’s Kilimanjaro, representing Africa. She is poor: no doubt about it. Not in terms of resources (human or mineral) but in terms of catching up with the rest of the world. There has been an upset of things. If… if is the only thing we can say for now: If…. if there had been commercial trade between Europe and Africa things would have been different.
But the European in his crass sanctimonious belief of cultural prejudice, interrupted what could have slowly evolved today;
Ghana and Oyo would have grown into states, as well with Benin Kingdom and Tokolor Empire. There would have been wars, like the intermittent wars that assailed Europe from the time of the Tudors, through Napoleon and to Hitler, before the whites too finally got together to solve the problem of empire imperialism with sovereignty and treaties.
African states would have grown into agreeing on pacts, and developed into modern states with widely-spoken languages like the Akan, Hausa and Yoruba languages that were rapidly spreading despite different tribes coming under the influence of the languages as results of trade and migrations. Well, the milk has spilled, it cannot be undone.
With independence still comes neocolonialism and for years, Africa was the battlefield for Soviet and America tussling for market and ideological superiority. Now it is China and America. What Kilimanjaro now needs are devoted leaders who are visionary enough to LOCALIZE GLOBAL STUFF, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME GLOBALIZE OUR LOCAL STUFF.
Enough of being the grass being trampled upon by the heaving elephants battling to make use of our human resources, like they did during the slave trade and like they did during colonial times when they shipped away sacks of cocoa, palm oil and groundnuts for UAC, Leventis brothers and so on…
However, each of us in our houses, cars and right inside our craniums need to start arming our minds in readiness for the war that will stem out stagnancy that will leave us behind the moving train of modern transformation, yet not totally flood our home with the tsunami of foreign dependency in ways that fatten them and impoverish us; LOCALIZE THE GLOBAL and GLOBALIZE THE LOCAL… Ours is the wealthiest continent in the combination of human or natural resources!