The largest empires that the world has ever known are, in order of size, the British, Mongol, Russian, Spanish, Umayyad, Yuan, Qing, French, Abbasid and Portugese empires.
There were a number of other large and notable empires in world history such as the Roman, Ottoman, Greek, Babylonian, Persian and Mughal empires.
The post-World War 1 Soviet empire was massive and powerful and it was followed by the establishment of the post-World War 1 American empire which was equally formidable and which matched it in all ramifications.
The race for supremacy between the two continued after the defeat of Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Axis powers in World War 11 in 1945 and this resulted in the establishment of an unpredictable and frightful bi-polar world, a dangerous cold war and a tense balance of power between them.
The American empire eventually prevailed and it extended its awesome power and influence over the affairs and nations of the world to an even greater level and extent after the collapse of communism and the fall of the Soviet Union and Soviet empire in 1990.
This resulted in the establishment of a unipolar world and the emergence of the United States of America as the most powerful and influential nation and the greatest military power that the world has ever known or seen in the history of humanity.
One is constrained to ask, where is Africa in all this? Have we ever had large empires? Have we ever made a difference on the world stage? What is our contribution to human development and world history? Consider the following.
Though relatively small when compared to others, sub-saharan Africa has had its own fair share of empires in the past such as the Songhai, Ashanti, Oyo, Abyssinian, Benin, Bornu and Sokoto empires. However it is a historical fact that no sub-saharan African power or empire has EVER extended its borders beyond the African continent.
Instead, for thousands of years and indeed up until today, sub-saharan Africa has been the greatest source of raw materials, mineral resouces and commodities for the development of non-African nations and empires and the world in general.
Principal amongst those raw materials, mineral resources and commodities were slaves. And the savage and illicit trade in black flesh brought immense wealth and power to both the eastern and western hemispheres of the world.
It was on the backs, sweat, blood, tears and labour of those black African slaves and the sheer cruelty and unfathomable wickedness that was infilcted on them that many of those great non-African empires were built.
As a matter of fact slavery was to later become the bedrock and foundatiom of modern-day capitalism in 18th and 19th century Europe.
It brought immense and unparalleled wealth to Great Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and many other western Eurpean countries just as it had done to the Mongols, the Ottomites, the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians and others in the past.
For thousands of years slavery has been Africa’s greatest “contribution” to the world and it constituted a large part of our practice, heritage and tradition. Worse of all is the fact that virtually all the slaves that were sold to non-Africans were sold to them by their own African colleagues and leaders.
We were ready to kill our brightest and our best and sell them off into slavery and bondage for profit and for gain. One is constrained to ask, has anything changed? Is this not still the case today?
The implications and ramifications of this evil, self-destructive, peculiar and strange disposition and this sorry state of affairs, for the African people themselves itself, is dire and pitiful.
The fundamental questions that needs to be answered are as follows: if this mentality persists and if it refuses to change or be tempered by enlightenment, religious faith or education, where lies the hope for the future of Africa and what will be her ultimate fate? Can we afford to continue to wallow in self-pity, failure, shame and mediocrity?
Must we build our nations and institutions on the accursed foundation of savagery, barbarity, injustice, tyranny, wickedness, corruption, double-speak, lies, deceit, double-standards, cheating, lying, ignorance, hypocrisy, greed and self-hate? Where will this take us?
O African, are you comfortable with being described as the “dark continent” and the “dustbin of the world?”
Are you satisfied with the way the world views and perceives us? Are you comfortable with what our men and women are subjected to in places like Libya, Italy, Dubai and indeed all over the world? Do you know that slavery is alive and well in some of these places?
Do you know what many of our people are forced and compelled to do in foreign lands just to survive and make ends meet?
When will you get it right? When will you rise up, free yourself from the shackles of mental and physical slavery and achieve your full potentials on the world stage?
When will you become the great men and women that God ordained you to be?
Africa, O Africa, my heart bleeds for you!
Written by — Femi Fani-Kayode