Change, Politics

Who Made It Anathema to Move On?

The only time a competitive swimmer can benefit from having a weight attached is during training when strength is being enhanced. Beyond that time, any swimmer who chooses to compete with a weight attached, except where the competitors are neonates, would have to be content with negotiating the terms for the last place, or if the weight were weighty enough, risk injury or even drowning. As physicists would say, such person would have a lot of displaced water from flapping arms but hardly any directional displacement. This seems to be the condition of the African community.

It is no longer news that Queen Elizabeth II is gone, having lived for 96 years, far more than 95% of everyone who has been born since 1900. She also held the medal for spending 70 years on the British throne, lasting more years as ceremonial head than most people currently on earth would live. But this is not the news.

Elizabeth’s death, as expected, unleashed a torrent of emotions from people who saw her as the best thing since the invention of fire, and those who viewed her as the worst of all monsters to have ever existed. As they would say, “to every person, his (or her) cup of tea”, but while I can understand someone saying, “good riddance to bad rubbish”, I draw a line at someone wishing her “excruciating pain” upon hearing that she was likely to die. While some persons might argue against the wished pain, some others strongly assert that any “Black person” who does not wish the worst on Elizabeth is “under the shackles of colonialism”, “ignorant of history”, or “defending their stomach”. Let me now speak as a Nigerian.

Nigeria has been nominally independent for 62 years, during which our leaders have been Nigerians. If after all these years, we still blame the Brits for our backwardness, then of all people, we should be the most miserable. Of course, understanding geopolitics and the machinations of nations regarding national interest, there would clearly be continuous attempts by external parties to control our country’s trajectory. However, one begins to wonder why this same external control failed to suppress China, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and others from undergoing development. Did the Brits put a gun to our leaders’ heads or exploit our own incompetence and greed? Even Iran under a sustained regime of sanctions is arguably more advanced scientifically than Nigeria and has a much larger economy.

Let us come to the argument that the Brits sponsored the Biafran Genocide in 1967 – 1970. How many decades have gone by since then that we have not still become El Dorado? Are we the first country to be devastated by war that we cannot get up from the trenches? Is the Civil War or the dysfunctional federal political structure crafted by British colonial rule the reason why most successive state governors in the South East (and all across Nigeria) since 1999 have been fundamentally inept? Now, I am not downplaying the pain that people may feel, but someone who was not born before 1970, or was a toddler then should not claim to feel pain like those who suffered the brunt of the destruction.

Regarding pain, there is another angle that could unleash Pandora’s Box. I understand that an Igbo person could see Elizabeth as an embodiment of evil who supported the Nigerian federal troops in killing fellow Nigerians. But can we take a step back and ask how the “ethnic minorities” in the erstwhile Biafran territories view Ojukwu and other Biafran promoters? Do we want to ask about the atrocities that the Biafran side unleashed on non-Igbos in the Niger Delta? Are we unaware that before Biafra, Isaac Adaka Boro had declared a Niger Delta Republic which was promptly crushed by Ojukwu on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria? The same Ojukwu would then go on to declare the Republic of Biafra. I grew up hearing about the oppression and killings by Biafran forces, which motivated other tribes in “Biafran territory” to support the “Nigerian side” covertly and overtly (despite suffering from both sides), but I think I am sensible enough to not arrogate pain to myself, nor start hating Ojukwu nor any other Igbo person. I was not born during the war, so no matter how well detailed an image is painted, I refuse to assume hatred by proxy.  

Our proclivity to hold on to the past is symptomatic of a zeal to avoid accepting any responsibility for our actions. Hence, we have many Blacks shaming the Whites for slavery, while gleefully ignoring the Blacks who captured their compatriots and sold them to the Whites. Maybe we can argue that those sellers had their hands tied while tying fellow Blacks for sale. We also ignore the many African communities who held slaves for their own use. Maybe slavery is only bad when it involves a White person, which would mean that we lack agency and ascribe a higher moral standard to some persons because of their skin colour. Again, we gladly accuse the Whites of racism, whereas we have tribes that view some of their own as “outcasts” or view other tribes as beneath them. How is racism evil while tribalism is a virtue?

The essence of this diatribe is to say that we need to know when to draw a line and move on. All the talk about seeking reparation from the Whites or some apology or holding today’s Whites responsible for what predated their grandparents would take us nowhere. First, any reparations would “likely” be stolen by corrupt officials, and any apology from the Whites must be accompanied by an apology from us to others whom we victimised. Alternatively, we can look to the Chinese who suffered under the Japanese but are today writing their new story and charting a path to development. If we keep on with the blame game and vitriolic bile, we will go nowhere. Like the swimmer with a massive weight attached, our noise would merely amount to lots of displaced water but no distance covered. 

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