A Tale Of Three Cities

by Bolanle Aduwo

” 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.

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Martin July 25, 2008 - 5:35 pm

absolutly brilliant article. everyday i meet other africans in europe i am grateful to be nigerian and irrespective of the problems in Nigeria we have it good.

I have spoken to southern africans and even Eastern africans and the way the suck up to white people is baffling. In Nigeria we talk to oyibo to get their money, nothing else, but in these other parts espically Easten and Southern africa the majority of the population live in squalor and poverty. In kenya millions live in shanty towns in Nairobi.

I salute Robert Mugabe for his leadership. I would rathr have my dignity and self respect than money.

Nigerians have dignity and self respect, we value ourselves and believe that no body is better than us. Thats why when we are abroad either in Europe or America we excel. yeah people say 419 yet to be able to be in “Africa” and by no other means but brain power swindle millions off the suposed “superior” race means we are the most intelligent blacks on the planet.

THe key is our mind and how we view ourselves, Our day is coming, maybe not in my life time when we will be the next China.

Look at the Nigerian film industry, in 10 years we are the 3rd biggest film industry and we only have a handful of cinemas.

Look at the Nigerian stockmarket , the 2nd strongest in africa.

Nigerian banks like Zenith, Ocenia bank ranked as top 1000 banks globally. These are majority black owned banks.

God Bless Nigeria!

ihuaub@yahoo.com March 24, 2008 - 11:40 am

Bolanle, this makes for a very interesting read… I keep saying it that sometimes we Nigerians dont reall appreciate what we’ve got. Your article is very true and it calls for our governments in Africa to do more to help the poor and less privileged.

Lawrence December 7, 2007 - 11:14 am

Aunty B, this is an awesome article and i really love it.

Bolanle December 11, 2006 - 2:27 pm

Y'know Jide, I wasnt going to respond to any of your comments but wanted posterity and experience to ans. you but this last comment about takes the cake! Its like the case of the Americans after slavery was abolished, telling the Blacks "to pull themselves up by their boots straps" and get on with life. What do you do when you havent got any boots? Im sure you've heard about the 40 acres & a mule story?! If not find out from any African-American.

To get back to the point…..one, I doubt if you are black or even an Nigerian. If you were you wouldnt have made such comments. If you truly are, pity cos you sound like one of those Blacks suffering from colonial mentality….believing that everythg white is right and Black is bad. There is no way you would pass by the shanties in SA and not feel some form of annoyance if you are Black. You wonder what the Govt is doing and why the Whites had to do that in the first place! You dont feel it in Nigeria coz you know that even if the Indians have taken over Ilupeju and the Lebanese, Apapa you still have VI, Ikoyi, Lekki, and other high brow areas we can live in. The point is why cant they as settlers like amicably with their hosts/neighbours? Why being necessarily wicked by making sure it is only cardboard houses that use to build their houses!! This is not emoting over anything. And it has nothing to do with greed, envy on the part of the Black man. My own is live and let live. Let the eagle perch and let the kite perch too. The land is big enough and abundant enough for all. Till you go to SA and see those townships for yourself, nothing will prepare you for the contrast. It really is a tale is three cities in one.

jide December 10, 2006 - 4:22 pm

Response to #7 & #8:

I don't disagree that poverty among blacks in South Africa is as a result of past apartheid policies.

Well then, how about poverty in other African nations that don't even have European settler populations?

(Nigeria, Niger, Mali)

Or have never been colonised by Europeans?

(Ethiopia, Liberia)

The biggest part of our problems is not being able to rationalise or study cause and effect.

Are Zimbabweans richer now that they kicked out their European citizens?

Did the expulsion of Asian Ugandans enrich their society?

Did Indigenisation in Nigeria propel the Nigerian economy to greater heights?

Until we realise that the most important tool for the 21st Century and beyond is the human mind and its cultivation (via mass literacy and education), we will continue to emote over non-issues.

It is only through this way that we will be able to create wealth, and not be vulnerable to the predations of others.

We will not get anywhere by seizing the property of white South Africans or throwing out Lebanese, Zimbabweans or whoever we percieve to be the whipping boy for our problems.

Repartrations for the Slave Trade even if paid, will be off no use either.

We will not even have any goodwill, which is essential to our progress.

Have we suffered from European predation?

Yes we have.

I don't deny this.

Then what next?

Banish the envy, hatred and revenge and tackle the hard work ahead.

chinenye December 7, 2006 - 11:45 pm

I salute ya'll

Like Ma Big sista said there is no place like naija, be it yankee or europe or asia, naija still remains the best among all, just that the greedy people in govt dont want it better for us all. But still i tell my dogs that naija is the best in the world, we dont practise the racism here and imagine in a country where we have more than 3 tribes and thousands of languages? yo sef think am…

Anonymous December 2, 2006 - 8:04 am

Excellento! I loved this piece immensely but it did make me wonder where these mixed races come from if indeed blacks and whites never mixed. Oh well! What can I say. Thorougly enjoyed this and hope to read more from you.

rubyadu@yahoo.com November 30, 2006 - 8:43 am

Thanks guys for your comments….really appreciate them. I just want to take time to react to one or two of them…

AWouba I feel you…I dont know happened but to the Black Consciousness groups. I hope they passed on the torch and it didnt die out with them. Hope this generation is not seduced by the Hiphop Culture, Kwaito Music, MTV etc to notice that they need to wake up. Just Me you are too right. My sentiments exactly. Dont you notice they are already doing it in Nigeria? What with rise of MTN, protea Hotels, True Love Magazine West Africa, DSTV etc. Dont get me wrong…Im not zenophobic…but you need to notice the little things before it finally takes you over…but one things for sure, Nigerians are one of the most volatile people to rule!! They wont let you rule them that easily…they will fight you every inch of the way. Abi I lie? 'Nuff said!

SMJ November 29, 2006 - 10:14 pm

Nice story. Some humans are greedy and like to take what is not theirs by force while some human do not appreciate what they have until it not there anymore.

There was a story sometimes 2-3 years ago about a caucasian man that was deported from Kenya to Britain. In Kenya, he had a mansion with several housemaids and gardners. When he was deported to Britain, he can only afford to live in a 10 ft by 16 ft apartment. No luxury again, he cried.

Leadership, honesty, patriotism, and hardwork is what we should pray for in all African countries. We can do it better if only the thieves among us are not allowed to rule.

I love my country, I no go lie…

God Bless Nigeria.


Virginia, USA

attorneylady November 28, 2006 - 3:19 pm

i love the discussion this article has spurred…..

JUST ME thanks for the warning, is there anything nyou in particular are doing to change the course of nigeria being run by oyibo

A Wouba November 27, 2006 - 9:39 pm

Jide you better read your history books about Africa!!

Bola you said some of the Blacks you talked to appeared resigned to their fate.I find this puzzling.The entire Black conciousness movement led by Steve BIKO was to make the Blacks not to accept this status quo.The greatest weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.Black conciousness strived to make the Black South Africans be proud of who they are and not accept the apartheid garbage.Thus we have the Soweto Uprisings and the burning of many hated pass books etc.I guess I'm wondering:have any of these Blacks even heard of the Black Conciousness Movement?

attorneylady November 27, 2006 - 2:46 pm

Interesting read….wish you wrote more..i definitly feel your anger and bewilderment regarding the white/black issue in South Africa, although I've never been there…

Jide, are you for real with your comment? What can of rationalization justifies or changes that the whites in South Africa are where they are and have what they have because of the force they used against the natives there? Whites do not belong in south africa. Why do you act so noncholant? Do you think the black Afrcians like the conditions they are subjected to??? Do you think it is because of motivation or determination on their part that they are inferior in class and status to whites in their own HOMELAND???? – the invaders? Why do you reason that the blacks have the jobs they have because of lack of education? Have you stopped to think that systematic efforts to keep the black South Africans different and treated unequally than their white peers may be the reason why blacks hold certain jobs in South Africa? The way black people like you reason sometimes is rally amazing. That is why I respect people like Mugabe, he gets my respect anyday and anytime….Kick the whites out of (South) Africa.

Dr. Fadal November 27, 2006 - 2:02 pm

Your article seems candid. Thank you. I read a similar piece a few years ago by a German lady who visited Cape Town on business and unbeknownst to most local white folks, she was married to a black Nigerian in Germany. She was upset with the segregation and bias and subsequently wrote about it. Actions and designs of countries are to a great extent intentional and subtlety reflects the focus or non-thereof of the government. Cape Town has a situation that is intentionally designed as is. It is primarily based on the class structure rather than race. You noted that in your parting paragraph when you said 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!

In all, the mixed race (or any other race at that) is comfortable with blacks (or other races) depending on status. This is a decade old issue of class, power and affiliation. The government could change that depending on their focus. London was similar in the early 80s in terms of the dichotomy and I recall being the only black at the Sheffield mall when I visited my girlfriends family in Sheffield back then. Thinking about it now, it was strange but I was fully comfortable. Good piece.

Dr. Fadal

Asuquo Ema November 27, 2006 - 1:43 pm

I am always puzzled when I read about the so called "Colored" people of South Africa. If these same people resided here in the United States where I live they will be referred to as "Blacks". Here in the United states one drop of black blood simply implies that you are black. No matter how "white looking" you look. A good example is singing sensation Mariah Carey. It's historic. During the days of slavery in the U.S, the white slave masters never acknowledged the children they had with the black slave women and as a result these offspring were just referred to as being black.

We might as well refer to Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis as "Colored" people. Most of them are light skinned and have straight hair. They consider themselves as "Black". Most of these "Colored" people in South Africa look no different than the "Black" people here in America.

The racist white minority goverment of South Africa that introduced apatheid were the ones that created this racial category. The "Colored" people were seen as more genetically superior to the black race simply just because of their fair complexion and nothing else.

In Nigeria being caled a "Half Caste" is a social status simply because you are a rarity among the majority of the dark skinned population. Having a caucasian parent makes you stand out from the rest which others might interpret as being superior. Being called a "Half Caste" automatically implies that you are beautiful, light skinned with straight curly hair. Unfortunately these perceptions arise from the inferiority complex of the majority dark skinned population.

The bottom line is that "Race" is a social construct. It was devised to seperate people based on imaginery criteria like skin color and hair texture.

Just Me November 27, 2006 - 10:32 am

The most important thing to take away from this article is that if we Nigerians keep neglecting our INDIVIDUAL duty to take risk, invest in and improve our country, Oyibo people will soon take over the the economy. Just like in South Africa, we will be rulers, but the REAL rulers will be the owners of the wealth.

Oyibo farmers are in Kwara because we are too lazy to farm. We are too incompetent to build a phone system, so Oyibo owneed MTN runs the phones. Virgin Nigeria is Oyibo. It took Indians to get Ajaokuta Steel running.

If we continue like this, Nigeria will look just like South Africa -physically, politically and economically – in about 25yrs. You've been warned.

Anonymous November 27, 2006 - 6:23 am

Thanks for your article. The issue of race in South Africa is very complex. When I lived in Zimbabwe and attended meetings in South Africa, I was treated very differently and discovered for the first time that I was "coloured" and at home in East Africa, I was just halfcaste… so there was a lot of learning for me… some people were surprised that my father was African and my mother European! something I took for granted

Wayoguy November 26, 2006 - 10:18 pm


I salute you. I have sung the same song, though with different lyrics, from USA, in an article I first published on this website.Our country, Naija, is a beatiful home. It is a sweet place when you consider that historically we are spared the indignity of racial suppression. Many thanks for this article.

jide November 26, 2006 - 5:40 pm

How sure are you that these people pay tax?

Great article but like most Africans and Nigerians you are given to emoting over issues that need to be rationalised.

Why is all the menial work being done by black South Africans?

Could the lack of education be a cause?

"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?"

How do you know the guy seized the land from his neighbor?

Also I need to remind you that the government of the RSA has been run by the ANC for about a decade now.

Lets quit emoting about issues.


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