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.