Sweet harmony of columnists.
Starting from the top, I have long been an avid follower of Anver Versi and a huge fan of his opinion pieces. From his days at African Business, through his two incarnations at New African, he has always struck me as a lucid Afro-optimist on the one hand, who is not hesitant to apply the stick where it is deserved on the other. Well versed, Versi. Then again, I'm Kenyan, so there's a chance I'm biased.
But it's not just him. Some issues of NA exhibit near-saturation levels of sobering sense. So, for example, whenever I feel like a spot of 'white man bashing', I head straight for 'Baffour's Beefs'. Yet, surprisingly often, he has just cause. A recent piece had me Googling 'Gulf War II' to see the role august media houses like the BBC had in cheering on that particular misadventure.
After that, one can choose to go for Kalundi Serumaga, who often starts deceptively innocently before ending with a sting in the tail! Or hearken to the old-world charm and left-field logic of Kwame Muzawazi (but, is it left-field logic to look at our current way of life through the eyes of African culture? Or should that actually be mainstream--the basis upon which we sieve before we receive input from others?).
Clayton Goodwin unobtrusively sheds wisdom. And while the columnists department is yet to meet the one-thirdgender rule, not to mention sufficient youth participation, it is noteworthy that Winnie Odinga is almost single-handedly holding this brief.
Bassist at the back
So there's a whole lot of music one gets from each instrumentalist in this lyrical ensemble that NA has put together. But allow me, this time, to point to the bassist at the back. The guy who sets the band's harmonic foundation. The 'Last Word' columnist Onyekachi Wambu and his 'Back to the Future' articles. I have to admit it took me some time to notice him. Like a good bassist, he helps keep the band in rhythm but in a way that makes it seem like everything you're hearing is just normal. Until you listen closely.
You see, Wambu looks like those quiet guys you meet sitting in a corner at the bar who you presume are not up to much particularly, until you make the mistake of sitting next to them and asking what they are thinking about. That's when you realise they have been reading every single person who has walked in through the doors. If you don't believe me, just take a closer look at his photo on the last inside page ...
Wambu's last piece in the February edition of NA is a classic example of his ability to quietly 'shine the torch' from the corner of his seat, bang onto the pickpocket making off with a patron's wallet. It illuminates who has been stealing our present, as well as our future hope of a decent life in Africa. And our role, as the citizens of Africa, in this heist. It puts the glare on how our leaders have been picking our pockets; while we have perhaps wilfully allowed ourselves to be distracted with loud masquerade.
A charade that the West is increasingly putting aside the politeness of the visiting guest to point out. But, as the article posits, until and unless "wisdom breaks through" for the clapping viewers being robbed blind by those they cheer on, there is only so much that others can do.
Be it Western multinationals expropriating capital and minerals, Chinese traders flooding our markets with subsidised goods and fish stolen off our waters then sold back to us, then using debt to leverage off prized African assets like air and sea ports or Eastern European betting companies 'sponsoring' sports--they are all doing what they see African Presidents and prime ministers doing: robbing the cheering, clapping African audience blind.
It's the best game in town. So come to Africa now, because that's where the funkiest music is playing. As a friend once told me of the African nation we hail from, we speak of our own country as though we are viewers of it.
Which leads us to the question Wambu all but shouted in his article: when will "wisdom break through" for the African Child? When will the African viewing public, clapping on this charade set up to plunder them, a charade conceived by their so-called leaders, and oh-so-ably supported by a motley crew of carpetbaggers from the East and West, see what lies behind the curtain, and demand collective change?
I don't know when. But I do know, and believe, that it is articles like the one penned by Wambu and, in various tones and timbres, his fellow NA columnists, that shall help bring that day closer, that much closer.
So to Wambu, and to his worthy columnist colleagues at NA: more power to your pens, more string to your strumming. For you and you and you over there at the back, are playing the right kind of sounds.
Thank you for your kind words. We shall always endeavour not to disappoint thefaith you have so lyrically placed in us.--Editor.