During the colonial days more than a century ago the White men that came to Africa never bothered themselves with passports, visas or ‘yellow cards’ (a yellow-coloured paper testifying to one’s sound health and vaccination data). They came at their own behest and volition in search of new lands and opportunities. We were told historical tales of proxy fratricidal wars for the conquest of the Africans in their ancestral homelands; tales of forced labour and slavery; tales of the systemic employment of ornaments and objects such as mirror, Bible, gold and silver as weapons of subjugation and intimidation. History made it clear that
thousands of black men and women were killed or assassinated in the process of the conquest. Millions more were taken away outside our shores against their wish and others taken prisoners with some more deported! The resistance was as furious as the quest for submission or capitulation.
In the end the imperialists and their cohorts succeeded in dominating the continent carving out countries with little or no regard to tribal affinity and imposing borders and boundaries. They employed the notorious system of divide and rule while the French particularly decreed assimilation. Today Africa remains divided on ethnic lines to the extent that you can see Yorubas becoming Beninoise born and bred in Benin Republic; Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi and Rwanda; the Hausa-Fulani scattered around Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Togo; the Djoulas in Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso etc.
While colonialism has since given way to imperialism and neo-coloniaism it remains an historical crime against humanity. The perpetration and perpetuation of slavery ranked among the greatest injustices ever inflicted on a group of people or race. People of conscience around the world had risen to demand for reparation and Marshal Plan for Africa but the West has been content with providing financial aids and material assistance — a far cry from what is requirred for Africa to rise like Europe did after the second world war. The late Nigerian billionaire domcracy hero and philantropist, MKO Abiola, had campaigned vigorously for reparation during his eventful years sojourning among the living before the June 12 military conspiracy vanquished him. May his great soul and that of his wife Kudirat continue resting in peace!
Some benevolent Western critics had described the many ways colonialism had helped in developing Europe and under-developing Africa! Others had likened same to the greatest crime of the millennium against humanity. The pacific Mandela-inspired revolution in South Africa dismantling apartheid reminds one of how glorious it could be when the majority will triumphs over the minority one, when good triumphs over evil!
Colonialism in all intents and purposes could not have succeeded were it to be today given the mass consciousness, mass education in the internet new-age of possibilities and opportunities for mass emancipation. Our forebears were living in bondage even before the whites exploited them cruelly and mistreated them. Our generation are much wiser and more mobile; we are more connected globally and more knowledge-driven. No white ‘masters’ can ever use our collective ‘brains’ to foster their colonial ambition.
When I wrote “Willing Slaves, Unwilling Masters” some years ago little did I know that Lampedusa would happen hitting global headlines and awakening the consciousness of humanity towards the migration issue. Today, few years after Lampedusa tragically occured taking hundreds of souls down the ocean we are daily being inundated with horrendous news of migrant-carrying boats or ship capsizing and claiming lives of desperate Africans, Syrians, Iraqis and other nationals. There is growing humanitarian crisis in some European countries as thousands of migrants (some with entire family members!) flooded European borders in mass exodus. Among the migrants could be found Africans (especially those from Nigeria, Eritrea, Gambia, Somalia, Senegal etc) and Syrians and Iraqis.
Many from all indications of interest wanted to enter Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Holland via Libya, Turkey and few other entry points by sea. But Libya presents the worst ‘culprit’ in the migration-by-boat crisis. The Libyan tale, post-Ghaddafi, is better told by historians as two rival governments battle for territorial control and international recognition in the cities and towns ruled by arms! Poor black Africans enter Libya through the Nigerien desert where many had met their untimely death even before reaching the Libyan soil. With just few hundred Dollars decrepit fishing boats are readily available — provided by syndicates, local mafians and armed men as they make brisk lucrative business of international trans-atlantic voyage — some perilously. The people-smuggling network is well-funded and highly-organized! They rape their victims and extort money from them! They even kill those unwilling to do their bidding.
For obvious reasons of war and state terrorism of the Assad regime Syrians constitute the majority of the asylum seekers hopelessly and helplessly heading for Europe. The same could be said of Iraqis whose country post-Saddam Hussein has not known peace and tranquility ever since the ‘Sadman’ was deposed and hanged! Bahdad without the late strongman remains a ‘ghost’ city without a watchful ’emperor’.
Syria presents a sorry story of a modern state destroyed by forces opposed to each other, locked in an interminable power struggle. While the armed disorganized opposition want President Bashir Assad ousted by every means possible the strongman (who had fiercely resisted the wind of change that swept some Arab countries in the aftermath of the Arab Spring) is still living dangerously, standing tall in Damascus by fighting off every opposing force including ISIS from every front. The Assad regime has been given a boost lately by the Russian military intervention. President Putin remains a staunch ally of Assad and his fighting jets are daily throwing bombs indiscriminately around bombarding moderate rebel positions and those of Daesh — much to the consternation of the Western world that interpreted events differently.
In Eritrea President Isaias Afoworki has despotically turned his country into a republic of grave-yard silence, one without any opposition. Eritreans take every opportunity that come their way to escape the ‘open prison’ of a society; they take advantage of any international sporting event to abscond in search of freedom and erconomic advancement. While Asmara is a closed enclave where one man in power is playing God human rights abuses occur every now and then much lately like Burundi where presidential footballer Pierre Nkurunziza is not relenting in the crack-down of any opposing voices dangerously clinging to power by terrorist means.
In Nigeria many ‘refugees’ travelling to Europe via Niger and Libya are economic migrants looking for better lives abroad. While Nigeria is relatively peaceful Boko Haram terrorists are daily harrassing and mauling innocent people especially those from the northern parts of the country. Though there is economic down-turn owing to the abuse of power in the recent past Abuja is trying hard to fix the problems of unemployment, illiteracy and mass poverty. In Gambia “Dr, Chief, Alhaji, Prof.” Yahya Jammeh has transformed himself into the new Idi Amin with concentrated state powers and resources. He is not only paranoid but megalomaniacal. If he is not claiming to be curing HIV-AIDS today then he is decreeing that his small land-locked country is now an Islamic state! The Jammeh madness in Banjul is forcing a lot of Gambians out. As the crude dictator digs in he always bares his fangs whenever any attempt is made to counter his medieval tyranny. Uprooting the bloody bushman from the ‘throne’ would take a lot of prayers and bloody coup adventure — something one would consider noble given the saying that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God!
Lampedusa today is more of a metaphor for death and desolation. For those still nursing the ambition of going to Europe via Lampedusa or other illegal routes the candid advice is for them to think twice before embarking on the often perilous journey of no return. No place is better than home no matter the economic and social challenges faced by millions across our continent. With some little more efforts and imagination we could change the African story from negativity to positivity. Let us join hands together, therefore, to redeem our lands! Long live Africa!!
Compliments of the great Yuletide season to all and sundry! May the exceptionally glorious birthday of our Lord and Saviour bring joy to the world and propel us to greater heights in our various endeavours!!