Things are bad and getting worse in the land? Don’t give up, don't stay away...

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." ....Admiral Stockdale

Flying from USS Oriskany on a mission over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, Stockdale ejected from his Douglas A-4E Skyhawk, which had been struck by enemy fire and completely disabled. He parachuted into a small village, where he was severely beaten and taken prisoner.

Stockdale was held as a prisoner of war in the Hoa Lo prison for the next seven and one-half years. As the senior Naval officer, he was one of the primary organizers of prisoner resistance. Tortured routinely and denied medical attention for the severely damaged leg he suffered during capture, Stockdale created and enforced a code of conduct for all prisoners which governed torture, secret communications, and behaviour. In the summer of 1969, he was locked in leg irons in a bath stall and routinely tortured and beaten. When told by his captors that he was to be paraded in public, Stockdale slit his scalp with a razor to purposely disfigure himself so that his captors could not use him as propaganda. When they covered his head with a hat, he beat himself with a stool until his face was swollen beyond recognition. When Stockdale was discovered with information that could implicate his friends' "black activities", he slit his wrists so they could not torture him into confession.

Stockdale was one of about eleven prisoners known as the "Alcatraz Gang": George Thomas Coker, George McKnight, Jeremiah Denton, Harry Jenkins, Sam Johnson, James Mulligan, Howard Rutledge, Robert Shumaker, Ronald Storz and Nels Tanner. These individuals had been leaders of resistance activities while in captivity and thus were separated from other captives and placed in solitary confinement. "Alcatraz" was a special facility in a courtyard behind the North Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, located about one mile away from Hoa Lo Prison. In Alcatraz, each of the prisoners were kept in individual cells measuring 3 feet by 9 feet with a light bulb kept on around the clock, and they were locked in leg irons each night. (1)

In a book by James C. Collins called Good to Great, Collins writes about a conversation he had with Stockdale regarding his coping strategy during his period in the Vietnamese POW camp.
“I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
When Collins asked who didn't make it out of Vietnam, Stockdale replied:
“Oh, that's easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."
The Africans in Diaspora have a lot to learn from Stockdale. Indeed, the leaders are failing the citizens and corruption is at its highest level. To hide their inefficiency, African leaders manufacture conflicts, controversies and unleash violence on their own people. If they are not breeding and arming militants, they will be fermenting ethno-religious war among their people. These conflicts variously empower them further as the citizens descend into deeper into poverty while the gulf between the rich and poor widen.

Yes, leaders on the continent have been holding their people hostage and pillaging the land. Yes, many of the people have been willing accomplices in the game by becoming tools in the hands of their own oppressors. They rig in favour of their own oppressors, voted along ethno-religious sentiment and constitute themselves as thugs for the politicians. There are always people colluding with these leaders.

However, we cannot deny the fact that there are many who desire positive change and are working for these changes. They may not be in politics and may not be famous; we see them daily through the little works they accomplish. These are the hope of Africa. These are the people we should be looking up to and used to raise the bar of expectation while working toward dismantling the cabals that are holding the rest of us hostage.

There is no point fretting over how bad things are at home. Yes, things are not the way they should be. Every great nation passed through their difficult time somewhere on the road to greatness.

It is not enough to abandon your home perpetually because miscreants have taken over it. Do everything possible (aside destroying the home) and chase them out. Don’t stay away! Things are bad, and some are going bad, but our land will not go worse if the good ones among us decide not to give up.

However in hoping for better days ahead, we must retain our ability to combine realism with optimism. Like Stockdale put it, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." There is a gulf between dream and fulfilment. It is called action; it makes the difference. It is not enough to hope in better days ahead while we are in deep slumber. There should be conscious efforts toward reaching the goals and we will record measurable success, no matter how small if we have focus, conviction and determination to see it to logical end. If we have decided that we will not commit suicide and that we will reach our goals.

A toast to all African in Diaspora (and those at home) who keep nurturing hope about motherland and are doing their possible best to bring goodness to the land. Don’t relent and don’t allow yourself to be frustrated. When the stories of success are written, your names will be etched in stone.

Remain focused, don’t stay away!

E go beta!

NB: This piece was originally written to selected friends in Diaspora 

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