There is a saying amongst my people that the unheeding ear falls off with the severed head. Such adage as this comes in handy when one is to consider the present state and the likely future of the African continent with regards to the indifference of its governments on issues affecting their neighbours.
At present, the UK has been deporting African nationals quietly and without publicity. On the first of February, forty one Nigerian deportees arrived the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos – although according to news sources, the number was expected to be eighty three. These deportees have been torn from families, place and a life they have come to know for up to fifteen years or more. Most of them are reportedly unable to trace any families down here in Nigeria. Anyway, Britain is for the Britons and for none other. It is not my place – an inconsequential foreigner for that matter – to dictate to them on how to run their show. All the same, my take on the recent spate of deportations from the UK is that some ‘squatters’ will have to make room for UK’s returning workforce as she concludes her exit from the European Union. But then, how on earth did Africans get to this state of flight and deportation? How come we are always caught in the cross-fires of events? How come we are always destined for the trash cans whenever some others get to do some house-cleaning? Why is this so? Perhaps a shift in perspective will provide some answers. And it is answers I seek to unearth.
How on earth did Africans get to this state of flight and deportation? How come we are always caught in the cross-fires of events?
It is generally held that people travel across borders chiefly for economic reasons. Agreed. People travel to unite with loved ones and family. True. And when there is an exodus of whole populations, it is mostly to escape some threat to life. This is not a case particular to Africa and Africans, but it is, and has long been a problem associated with Africa. Hence it is worth discussing:
Had African governments paid more than a flimsy attention to their neighbours’ problems, the issue of refugees and illegal migrants would not have been this much a problem. But many African governments are grossly irresponsible to their citizens. If but they had been otherwise, their citizens would not be wooed overseas at moments of convenience, only to be shooed and bundled away when their hosts get jittery over too many African folks stampeding the walkways and ‘at a time when things are not so alright’. Some instances may serve to buttress my point, I believe.
Let us take a look at Libya. Comparatively, the Libyans fared better under the dictatorship of Muammar Gadaffi. But African governments stood aloof whilst things were spinning out of hand. And then the Western powers did some housecleaning for the Libyans, Africa, and probably, humanity. Muammar Gadaffi is no more. No democratic rule has been able to fix Libya ever since. No dictator even. Not the other African leaders. Not the gangs of gunmen and human traficking cartels running the Wild Wild West that is now Libya. And has the West fixed Libya? Will they? Well, I don’t know. But one thing I know is that Libyans now risk the Mediterranean on their way to a hope that looks only European.
What has Africa actually done for Congo? What did they do while the number of Rwandan massacred piled up in the 1994 genocide? I know of nothing they did, only that at some point, the West fled down to Africa to quell the bloodletting gone too far amongst Rwandan savages and promised that ‘never again’ would they let such madness get out of hand. Where was the rest of Africa in all of this?
And what about Zimbabwe? What has Africa ever done for one another without first requesting a nod of approval from their ‘former’ colonial masters? Why would African governments sever economic ties with Zimbabwe, a brother, all because the Western powers wanted it so? Well, I don’t belong with diplomatic circles. I am naïve and ignorant of the stakes at play in so sensitive an issue as Zimbabwe. But I have a question: are Africans thought to read, dress and appear enlightened but never to reason? Yes, Zimbabwe must have stepped on very sore big toes, but should not the fox be chased off first and then the hen reprimanded for frolicking with such an unlikely bedfellow?
Are Africans excluded from the right to self-determination?
Consider the present and sustained tension in Cameroon. The minority anglophone south suffers continued marginalisation at the hands of the majority francophone north. They seek secession. They will need a referendum, and a chance to chart the course of their own destiny. But would ever such matters concern other African governments so preoccupied with longevity in power? And if I may ask, are Africans excluded from the right to self-determination? The European colonial governments carved up the continent amongst themselves as though it were one large chocolaty cake garnished with islands of cherry. They did so without the consent of Africans, neither did they pay any regard to ideological or cultural compatibility of their ‘shares’. This they did at the Berlin Conference, an act which in every sense is utterly criminal. And as much as successive generations of Africans continue to build upon this criminal basis, then for Africa, there is no destiny, no course, no future.
A little over forty years ago, Nigeria waged a thirty month-long war to crush the secessionist Biafran Republic. In every sense, it was never a war but an annihilation of an ethnic group. A genocide, the proportion of which makes Rwanda's genocide appear like a picnic by a bonfire. American citizens protested this protracted genocide. European individuals protested. An American youth set himself alight in an attempt to draw attention of the United Nations delegates to the plight of civilians in faraway Biafra. Frederick Forsyth was shocked at his first-hand experience in war-ravaged Biafra. He couldn’t bring himself to believe the world’s conspiracy in the ongoing annihilation of a people. A people who are Africans. My people. He became an atheist afterwards, for he believed that if there was a God, He surely would have intervened over the plight of the innocent Biafran children and women dying from kwashiorkor, bullets and bombs. But where was Ethiopia in all this? Where was Ghana and all her pride in enlightenment? Did not Egyptian mercenary pilots drop bombs onto civilian dwellings, bombing marketplaces, homes and schools all over Biafraland? Did not mercenaries from Chad and Niger receive pay to decimate the Biafrans?
The agitation for the restoration of the Republic of Biafra has come alive again today, and the Nigerian government is yet again repeating a bitter history. Her law enforcement operatives have shot into crowds of peaceful protesters demanding for their legitimate right to self-determination. They have executed and maimed defenceless individuals, and not an eyebrow has been raised to this continuous bloodlust. Many Biafran agitators are languishing in prisons and secret dungeons all over Nigeria, even till this very moment. But where is South Africa? Where again is Ghana? I can’t mention Ethiopia what with their handling of the Oromo issue. Where is Kenya, and all those African governments with their assumed air of responsibility and high-sounding diplomatic ambitions?
I shall not go on to lament the indifference of African government over their neighbours’ issues. I believe other Africans have their own woeful tales to tell. But I must draw attention to Nigeria of today, a land which God alone in His infinite Wisdom has planted me, and Whose ways I must never question. Nigeria has been a country on the boil for way too long. African leaders have paid no attention all this while. But this is a country numbering over one hundred and seventy three million people. Imagine this number of refugees pressing across regional borders.
Let the ears heed a warning because if the head is severed, the ears will fall with it to the ground...