Friday, August 24, 2012

What?! You're Not Getting Married?!!

As a young African woman, I'm always met with gasps of horror and mortified faces whenever I give my answer to the inevitable question posed to young graduates, "when are you getting married?" My answer has always been "never", with the occasional tongue-in-cheek "maybe when I turn 60" to prevent the interrogator from suffering an aneurysm. The next question that inevitably follows is, "... but don't you want to have kids?" to which I reply -"no".

For reasons that have eluded me, Africans think every grown adult, especially women, wants to be a parent. But the truth is, we all don't want kids nor want to be married. At least I like to think so because I don't want to believe I'm the only one with such crazy, 'un-African' notions. To be honest, although I've met some people who just want kids without the marriage baggage, I am yet to meet a young African adult who doesn't want kids and wishes to remain single simultaneously.

Maybe I am the only eccentric, 'westernized' African, or maybe people have just accept the marriage and child bearing chapters of their life, no questions asked,  because it is expected of them by society at large. It's almost like a default setting in our brains that instructs us to eat when we're hungry. You don't think about it, you just do it.

Personally, I believe most people get married for the obvious reasons: to bear legitimate kids and provide them with a stable environment, for companionship, and possibly, last but not least, for self-aggrandizement; be it in the form of the trophy wife/ husband, or the central bank wife/husband. I'm aware I didn't include the almighty 'love' because I don't think one needs to get married because one is in love.

Secondly, marriage doesn't necessarily equal love and vice versa. Loveless marriage, anyone? Therefore, I believe that if you don't want kids, not seeking companionship, or craving an ego boost then marriage shouldn't really be on your menu, unless you just want to jump on the marriage bandwagon with most of your friends, or are caving in to your parents constant nagging about wanting a grandchild.

Call me a cynic, but sometimes I think some girls get married to fulfill their childhood Cinderella fantasy, which invariably includes Prince Charmant and happily ever afters. The problem with the picture is that Prince Charmant exists only in fairy tales, and there's no such thing as happily ever afters. If you're not ready to accept the rough with the smooth, then marriage is certainly not for you.

Incidentally, before one jumps to any conclusions regarding the reasons behind my lack of desire to be bride or mother, I have to say I do have the most wonderful parents in the entire world who are very much still a couple, and if I were to grade their marriage on a scale of one to ten, I'd give them an 8. So no, my decision not to get married has nothing to do with my parents marriage or my upbringing. It just so happens that as a child I never had any dreams of what my wedding cake would look like, or who my wedding dress would be by. I don't even like weddings!! For me, the highlight of the wedding is seeing the bride's dress after that everything else is humdrum.

Another reason marriage doesn't appeal to me is because I feel it's a trap filled with marital obligations. Yes, there's divorce, but I'm not a proponent of it except in extreme cases. I can't for the life of me picture myself living with someone for the rest of my life, or cooking for "hubby and kids" which I find torturous. Plus, I find kids to be an encumbrance if you have an adventurous mental picture of what you want your life to look like.

Am I selfish? Maybe I am, but then again I have the right to be since I have one life and one shot at it to live it to the fullest. I believe if one wants to have a huge career, like I do, then one's husband and kids may have to take a back seat. It's sad, but true. Moreover, I certainly don't want anyone accusing me of abandonment. So, unless you can give me better reasons to get married, I'll thank you to quit giving me the she-is-crazy look when I say I don't want to be a Mrs. or a mommy.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Power Drunk African 'Leaders'

Thus far, Africa virtually has no real leaders. Most, if not all, African presidents lack guidance and completely depend on the power conferred on their office to get their mandates enforced. They have no vision for their respective countries, and as a result can't decide what direction to take to ensure political stability and economic success. It seems all they are adept at doing is looting their country's coffers, creating political strife and meting out punishment to anyone who dares oppose them.

Why would anyone in their right mind want to stay in power till thy kingdom come, especially since ruling a nation is a tough job bearing tremendous responsibility to the people? Sure, the notion of being in power for life is tempting due to the clout, unlimited power and perks associated with the office, but, then again, didn't Lord Acton say, "All power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

In other words, the longer one remains in power, the more likely one is going to lose touch with reality. A befitting example (or victim) of the axiom would be Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, who has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.

Zimbabwe started out promisingly, but has inevitably gone downhill. The country has become a byword for hyperinflation and is a poster child for money supply policies gone awry in virtually all Economics classrooms. A combination of sanctions, failed economic policies and political upheaval has transformed the country from a food basket to a basket case. One would think that the current situation in Zimbabwe and the plight of Zimbabweans would make Mugabe consider stepping down to allow a more capable person reverse the dire situation. Unfortunately, it seems the status quo has only made him dig his heels in deeper.

African leaders are seemingly tone-deaf to public opinion concerning their leadership, be it in the form of elections or protests. Common sense dictates that if citizens are truly happy with their elected leaders, they wouldn't be out in the streets protesting or casting their ballots for the opposition.

Constituents loathe it when their leaders stubbornly refuse to heed public sentiments to step aside, especially when they claim to be democratically elected, which in most situations isn't true and fair. It's like they’re saying to the people, "You can't possible know what's good for you or the country." Perhaps this was the thought Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire and Ben Ali of Tunisia held until they were all ousted.

African leaders should borrow a leaf from Nelson Mandela's book, who arguably is a quintessential leader. He was democratically elected and won majority of the votes in a free and fair election. And if he'd run again, he would have easily won a second term, but he stepped down at the end of his first term demonstrating he wasn't power drunk. Within the short time he ruled, he worked to unite South Africa which could have evenly fallen into chaos as a result of pent-up emotions stemming from the apartheid regime. Instead of relying on the divide and rule technique most African leaders seem to thrive on, he chose the path of peace and unity. Also, he never viewed the presidency as his birth right despite being imprisoned for 27 years for being a freedom fighter.

This is the lesson that African leaders need to learn - just because you found your way to the presidential palace doesn't mean it's your right to remain there until hell freezes over. Hopefully, citizens would realize they're the real owners of their country, and that it's their prerogative to vote out elected public servants who are under-performing.