” I love my country I no go lie, na inside am I go live and die…”
I never thought I would sing that song and honestly mean it from the bottom of my heart but I do. Why the sudden burst of patriotic fervour? I’m certainly no card-carrying Government-paid apologist. Neither do I do any undercover work for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism or Foreign Affairs. I’m just an ordinary Nigerian minding my business that had the opportunity to travel to Capetown, South Africa for a Film Festival and Boy! Did I get an education! That is what makes me give my article its interesting title.
First of all, Capetown looks nothing like the rest of Africa…it looks like a better improved version of Europe…complete with the Oyinbos and cold weather. It is breathtakingly beautiful with a lovely landscape, awesome mountain ranges, sea view etc. But underneath its beauty and cleanliness, there is something disturbing about the way of life there. One of the first things you notice is that there are three main races there. There are the Whites, the Blacks and the Mixed Race (as in Half-castes). Big deal you might say. So are there in other cities.Yes but what makes Capetown (and I guess the rest of South Africa) strange is these races stick to their own world. They don’t and I mean DO NOT mix. Whether at work or play. When you walk around you see a mixed couples working hand in hand with their mixed baby. You see staff at the airport, coming out of a building, automatically fall in step walking according to their own race. At the Hotel where we were staying we saw a party going on and you wont believe it. Every single person was half-caste!! I’m talking about between 200 to 250 people. Not one person that was Black or White was there!There is something almost creepy about it. Like you have stumbled into one of those towns you see in the movies…something out of the “Stepford Wives” or “Robot World”. I know that in some foreign countries there are the Black neighbourhoods and the White neighbourhoods, there’s Hispanic and the Asian but still you do get to see the races mix, interact and even intermarry. But not in Capetown and I guess the rest of South Africa. All the races keep within their boundaries. Another thing I noticed was that all the odd jobs, dirty jobs were done by Blacks. All the garbage-carrying, load-lugging and serving. Not once did I see a White woman doing anything like waitressing etc.The only time I saw them working were as Air Hostessess (and only tothose in First Class) or Managers of Department Stores. Of all the indignities I saw, the one thatbroke my heart by far were the shanties. On arrival, after leaving the beautiful Capetown Airport ironically named after the great Freedom fighter, Oliver Tambo, about a few kilometres away are a cluster of cardboard houses! And I mean cardboard! My God! Even in the wilds of Ajegunle, all the houses are made of cement! How can they live in houses made of cardboard and nylon sheets? In a country that mines (by the same Black workers) gold and diamonds?! And I am told casually when I ask the mixed-race taxi driver, that “Oh! Those are the Townships!” No one has to tell me that only the Blacks live there. I continue on to the main town and see the beautiful homes of the Whites, set on well-manicured lawns, the sail boats by the Bay and can’t help but shake my head and quell the feelings of anger that threaten to rise at this injustice. What makes this discrepancy more galling is that it is happening in their land. The people doing it are visitors or invaders. What, pray tell, does it cost the Government to built fairly decent, low cost housing? I’m sure these people pay tax. How can you, Mr. White Man, sleep well at night knowing your neighbour that you seized land from is living as a squatter in a cardboard boxwhile you live in a palatial home? When I had the opportunity to speak to some of the Blacks, they had this resigned air about them as they shrugged and said, ” That’s how life is! My lot can not be changed”. Several times I was mistaken to be an African-American and when I asked why I was told because of my attitude. I also discovered that the Blacks held a lot of hostility towards us Nigerians…of course due to complex. I don’t have to add that my male colleagues were having a field day, sweeping the Black and Mixed Race girls off their feet with money and their braggadocios way of life! But that’s a story for another day!
In all, I could hardly wait when the plane touched down at Muritala Mohammed International Airport, where I was embraced by the heat, the traffic, the noise and the craziness of my homeland, Nigeria. My people…now you see why I sang that song, “I love my country?” Na true and you can call me silly or naïve but I wouldn’t change my country for all the money in the world.