Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Race Relations In Nigeria

The world has just witnessed America handing it's mandate to a black man for the first time in its history. This election has made history in several ways, shattered many records, and gone a long way to restoring America's image abroad.

In the aftermath of the election, I have to ask myself several questions about racism in its many forms, especially as it relates to Africans and Nigerians in particular.

I read a book by Wilbur Smith where he described attitudes of Africans towards each other as racism. Looking at his explanation for his views, I found myself forced to agree with him.

Racism does not merely involve skin color, though that is its most common and easily identifiable form. It is also the form easiest to galvanise protest against. However, when people use racial sentiments to avoid sanctions for their violations of the law, by making statements such as "It's cos I'm black, innit?" that does tend to make skin color racism (in a way) more and more acceptable.

However, if we look back at our own histories, our ancestors never had any problems conquering and enslaving each other because of the color of their skin, which was predominantly black. There was no such thing as "African brotherhood" because they were too busy trying to create larger and larger empires.

The coming of the Europeans with their colonial governments provided a brief distraction from the vicious business of conquest, and gave the blacks a "common" enemy. The whites called them savages, and worse, and enacted their own conquests, using their juju of highly advanced weapons. Realising that they actually needed some of these "savages" in order to rule, they encouraged us to learn to read and write, and they utilised our men as soldiers in their wars. These men came back having seen that the whites actually weren't as superior as first thought, and the seeds of the independence movement were sown.

Well, we eventually got our independence, which allowed us to refocus on the most important issue of the day - conquering each other yet again. This time, using more sophisticated methods than full blown warfare.

You see, it is easy to characterise discrimination in Nigeria as tribalism, or whatever fancy name you want to give it. The simple fact of the matter is that it is Racism. Peter Pan, in his book The Complete Nigerian, tells us that Nigerians refer to those from different tribes as being from different "countries" and he's right.

America, a predominantly white nation, yesterday embraced a man of African (not even African-American) paternity, and declared him to be their President, by a crushing majority. In Africa, Obama would have been told to go to his father's country if he wanted to be President. And we are all black, aren't we?

In Nigeria, it remains impossible for an Igbo man to seek election outside the south-eastern part of Nigeria. A Bini man would do well to confine his political ambitions to Edo state. So far, only the Yourba and Hausa races have been permitted to rule this country, and talk of Hausa President Yar'Auda's ill health prompts shivers amongst the Hausa elite at the thought of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, a man from a minority race, becoming President in his stead.

Is it because the majority races in Nigeria do not refer to the minorities as coons, porch monkeys, jungle bunnies, jigaboos, or niggers that we are inclined to say there is no racism? Is it because we have yet to catalogue any category of expressions as racial slurs that we are inclined to say there is no racism? Is it because the discrimination occurs between people of the same color that we are inclined to say there is no racsim?

In America, you can come from Poland, Russia, China, Japan, Nigeria, Uganda, England, France, Germany, or where ever, and even if you are not American, your children born in America and holding American passports will not be denied their rights to seek office, or better their station in life on your account. Because, like Barack Obama pointed out repeatedly, there is only the United States of America.

That is their greatest strength, and until Nigerians realise that there is only the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and that this ragged patch of Earth is our home, and begin to resist the same old politics of division, we will NEVER see any Obamas.

10 comments:

Chxta said...

God in heaven. Na true you talk.

What interests me is the fact that the glass ceiling behind which we from Africa were hiding as well has been shattered. We have no place to hide anymore. That idea is so blog worthy...

mypenmypaper said...

In Nigeria, you can come from Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Maiduguri, Jos, Port Harcourt, Ondo, Ogun, Illorin, Benue or where ever, and even if you are Nigerian, your children born in Nigeria and holding/not holding Nigerian passports will be denied their rights to seek office, or better their station in life on your account. Because, our past Presidents have pointed out repeatedly, there is only one Nigeria, but everyone is on his/her own.

R.E.II™ said...

i dont think this has anything to do with black or white man...I think you have got the whole thing wrong. America is not about that.

Monef said...

I agree with many aspects of your post. There is racism inNigeria pure and simple. That said, there is plenty of racism in America too. During this campaign we saw some of the most derogatory racist propaganda paraded about.

The difference of course is the respect for democracy and the letter of the law. The willingness of a collective group of people to rise up against conventional wisdom and claim what belongs to them. That is what Nigeria is missing. Principles.

Cho said...

Politics normally gives me a headache, but with the current state of events I have had to come to terms with the fact that I cant stick my head in the sand forever. Things need to change in Nigeria for us to get a sliver of what we travel in hordes to enjoy abroad.

My personal grievance is the power issue, if that little issue can't be solved, how can I dream of a Nigeria that respects my fundamental human rights? Obama would NEVER have won in Nigeria without political thuggery and god fathers.

I hope the times comes when a woman can think seriously of leading this country. Right now its a fat chance. Because we haven't even come to the stage where a person from any tribe in Nigeria can rule in peace without other tribes feeling marginalised. When will we realise its not where the person comes from but what character he has that will make the person a true leader of our great country?

I wonder.

Buki said...

Nepotism in Nigeria is something we are all guilty of promoting. Amongst us, we have so many stereotypes that we keep passing on from generation to generation and unless we can stop this...the trend continues. In Lagos, where people of all tribes and cultures have lived for decades, you still hear things like "ibo people are like that", "yorubas are wicked" etc. Why the cliches and stereotyping? Children who can barely write can tell you that they are being bullied because they are hausa...and so on. We are one colour, one people, generally eat the same food and drink the same water from the same piece of earth but we discriminate amongst one another. Our leaders who should try to unite the country have now turned nepotism into a political tool which they brandish at will to suit their depraved ambitions, and stupidly the common poor man and the angry middle class man fall for this vice and continously stereotype thier neighbour to thier own detriment...
Can an OBAMA thrive to the top in all of this madness? I wonder...

African Woman said...

Thanks alot for the great post
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Val said...

I strongly believe that a woman should give it a trial to rule Nigeria. “In every successful man there's a woman”. Let us put racism behind for a while and forge ahead with Obama lady, of which I know there are lots of God fearing women in Nigeria who can take up the seat and eliminate all those color, tribe, and racism viruses and install an unbreakable progress code for real in Nigeria. Nigerian Government should discuss this issue in the panel room; obviously I already have the clue of the outcome of the meeting. I’m not keen about the outcome but I strongly believe that whatever is designed for Nigeria, will definitely come to stay. It’s just a question of time and the blue/secret light will unfold, then Nigeria will come back to embrace a new and fresh living prepared for them.

Tayo said...

Well Said

Jyde said...

Nice article. But Yakubu Gowon and Aguiyi-Ironsi were neither Hausa or Yoruba.

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