At a time when most African kingdoms were thriving economically in the 14th century, much of Europe was famished and in the middle of civil wars. That was the time Mansa (King) Musa Keita I came into power, precisely in 1312.
While in power, Musa expanded the borders of his empire tremendously. He annexed the city of Timbuktu and reestablished power over Gao. All in all, his empire stretched about 2,000 miles. Putting it into perspective, he ruled all (or parts) of modern day Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad.
The rest of the world caught wind of his great fortune in 1324, when he made the nearly 4,000 mile pilgrimage to Mecca. That voyage came with a whopping price!
Per history, “Not one to travel on a budget, he brought a caravan stretching as far as the eye could see,…it was an entourage of tens of thousands of soldiers, civilians and slaves, 500 heralds bearing gold staffs and dressed in fine silks, and many camels and horses bearing an abundance of gold bars.”
On his stop in Cairo, he spent so much gold and donated so much money that he caused mass inflation that took years for the city to fully recover from the currency crisis! Imagine that!
From the 14th century till date; 2016, he may be the richest person of all time. Why? Musa amassed a jaw-dropping $400 billion during his reign from 1312 to 1337, according to a new inflation-adjusted list which suggest no one has or is any close to such wealth in history!
There’s Mansa Musa in every African leaders. Where’s Mali, his home country today? He had all the opportunities to turn his kingdom to a pride of all African generations but instead; left his people sprawling in poverty.
Recently, the Angolan government spent $35 million to mark President José Eduardo dos Santos’s 72nd birthday. In 2013, the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, gave a personal loan to the government of Portugal when it was facing a credit crunch.
President Robert Mugabe’s birthday has always been marked by fanfare and celebrations, especially this year, during his 90th birthday celebrations, Zimbabwean media reported that the cost of the fete hit $1 million, in a country where more than half the population lives on less than $1 a day.
Isn’t same with Nigerian leaders of today? By any standard, Nigeria’s 170 million population should be among countries that in recent years has launched four satellites into space and now has a burgeoning space program.
Moreover, Nigeria is sitting on crude oil reserves estimated at 35 billion barrels (enough to fuel the entire world for more than a year), not to mention 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Nigeria pays her legislators the highest salaries in the world, with a basic wage of $250,000 (for each legislator), nearly double what British MPs or US Congressmen earn and many hundreds of times that of the country’s ordinary citizens.
Any wonder the ruling elite can afford luxury homes in Maryland, Florida, London or Paris in a society where 95 percent of her citizens live below the poverty line of $1.00 a day.
How did we find ourselves in this self-pity-sentenced situation? We all are accomplices; the leaders and the led. We sold our culture and identification for the embrace of foreign religion. Mansa Musa, in his bid to be a true Muslim had an entourage that is ‘long as the eye can see’, wasting his country’s resources by dashing gold to strangers to impress -that he is da best.
Today, we’re throwing away our culture and identity in the name of modernization. One of the Alayeluwas of Yoruba heritages left his kingdom to visit the ‘world’, was seen standing while the Yeye (his wife) was seated at a function (kind of abomination), seen walking the streets of New York like the scene of ‘coming to America’. He was photographed bowing to the picture of Jesus. Isn’t same Ooni that is said to be a divinity in Yoruba cosmology; he does not bow to any god or anyone. According to Yoruba mythology, the Olodumare/Eledumare created heavens and Earth, sent Orunmila to creat Ile Ife (The Earth). The first Ooni of Ife and subsequent Oonis were regarded as “Igbakeji Orisa“, the custodian of all Irunmoles and Oodua race. So, where does his action leave our revered culture? Or the Olu’wo of Iwo, who was seen sitting on his throne with a tuxedo on a jean pant? If we continue to rubbish our heritage for modernization, even by the progenitors, who do we blame for the second slavery?
So how do we fix what we have broken?
First, we need to invest in education and research. Education will put people on a path towards good health, economic empowerment and employment. It will help to build more peaceful societies and will liberate us from dependency on government largesse. Ebola was going to wipe Africa from the face of the earth but for education and research, it was curbed and efficient researched treatment was administered to the relief of the world.
Lastly, we need to look inward by investing and protecting what is our heritage. Like India, China, Russia to mention but few, protecting their identities allows them to compete in the comity of the world with their unique identity. They are not seen to rush out for Aids or help from USA, they are fixing themselves to development.
There’re still gold (in material and human) in Africa just as they’re bedeviled by the Mansa Musas of today. Investing within will draw the world to Africa without any solicitation. The prosperity of Africa, nay Nigeria, resides within; we just need to confront the Mansa Musas, which in short time, will take us to our desired El Dorado.
Fayth Deleola Daramola
Cleveland, Oh, USA