At the time most African states gained independence in the late 1950s and 1960s, just a few had enough university graduates to fill a standard primary school classroom.
International transport and communication was limited, and the idea of the world as a global village was not yet born. The cold war, which so polarised the world, was raging.
Yet the colonial masters, either through coercion or negotiation, handed over power to their subjects.
Southern Sudan today, though still massively underdeveloped, has more university graduates than several countries combined had at the time of the colonialists' exits.
Scholars of international repute such as Prof Taban Liyong' and Prof Francis Deng come from Southern Sudan. Seasoned leaders such as Joseph Lagu, Dr Riek Machar, Salva Kiir and Abel Alier, come from the region, and are still alive and presumably eager to continue to serve their people should they opt for independence.
The region is blessed with vast resources sufficient to transform it if well managed. It has oil wells, the mighty River Nile, gold deposits and rich agricultural land which has lain waste for decades due to politics and war.
To Sudan President Hassan Omar al-Bashir, however, South Sudan is ill prepared for independence and is destined to face instability if it voted to secede from the North in a referendum beginning Sunday (January 9, 2011).
President Bashir was quoted telling al-Jazeera TV station that the South did not have the ability to create a stable state or provide for its citizens.
I cannot, by any stretch of imagination, pretend to hold brief for Southern Sudan, but it is my considered opinion that President Bashir’s position is way off the mark.
There is also a mark of hypocrisy, inconsistency and ill-will. Just a few days ago, while on a visit to the Southern Sudan capital of Juba, President Bashir was unequivocal that he would respect the verdict of the people, even if they opted for separation.
What has changed so suddenly as to erode the capacity of the Southerners to govern themselves? Was Bashir, upon his return to Khartoum, put under immense pressure to articulate the position of certain vested interests?
Could the Sudanese President be a master of double speak, so schooled in telling different audiences only what they wish to hear, as opposed to what they should be told?
Nearly all sub-Saharan African states (Sudan included) are suffering instability not because of lack of enough qualified personnel to run them.
They are doing badly because those in leadership, either legitimately or otherwise, have a warped idea of their privileged positions. They have elected to serve their selfish interest as opposed to working for the welfare of the majority.
If Bashir and his predecessors had been committed to good governance, even the referendum would not have been necessary in the first place.
To now admonish the Southerners on their inability to govern themselves, is a futile effort coming too late in the day.
President Bashir should probably be offering lessons on how to maintain good neighbourliness should the two Sudans go their separate ways.