Editor’s Note: In this article written by Buchi Obichie, she notes that most of the ethnic agitations within Nigeria and the African continent at large are products of colonialism by the white man. She urges Nigerians to direct their anger at the right source, drop the weapons against each other, and sit together to build a great nation. The writer also notes that the problems caused by the white man must be faced squarely and fixed, for things to get better.
I wrote an article previously about the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, and quite a number of people went up in arms. I find it odd that some people would even assume that I am somehow against the agitations of the Igbo man in Nigeria. As a person of Ibo descent, I do understand how the Igbo man can feel marginalized and out of place in this entity called Nigeria. I am not against the Igbo quest for equality; even though as I stated before, I do not believe Biafra is the answer, nor do I believe that Nnamdi Kanu is the messiah. But while we are still on the subject of ethnic agitation, I would like to consider for one moment, the very source of all the hate we are witnessing around us.
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I have always been a reader of books. I am not one of the most intelligent people out there, but I do my best to stay educated in my mind. What I don’t know, I try to find out, if it is important. I recently read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. And as much as I didn’t quite appreciate all the ‘Christian bashing’, I came to understand the psyche of the man Malcolm, and developed a new found respect for him. As I read the words of Malcolm X, I began to reflect upon our own struggle here. Malcolm referred to the white man as ‘the devil’. I may not go as far as calling him that, but I can clearly see how the name fits, based on the white man’s past (and even present) actions.
We are divided as a people, largely because of the white man. The British came and left disaster in their wake. They met a land filled with people of various ethnicities, fluid in the mobility from one part to another, but distinct in their cultures and traditions; and in their selfish interest, decided to merge these peoples together. Nigeria was an ‘economic project’ for the British; and after ransacking this land, they left us to clean the mess.
You see, the white man has always had a modus operandi. Wherever he goes, he seeks out a particular group, and puts that group above the rest. He gives that group just a little more authority; never equal to his own, but more than the rest- enough to make this particular group turn a blind eye to his evil actions, and go against the rest. He does this so he can strengthen his economic and political position within that state, and also so he can keep up his façade of morality. You see, by favoring at least a segment of the populace, it becomes easier to beat his chest and blow his moral horn saying, “Look, I am not a bad person”…and then, that group will concur! This was called: divide and rule!
In Nigeria, the white man did it with the Hausas.
Now let it be known, that I have no hatred for any particular tribe, but I try to speak truth just as I see it. The Hausas were the ethnic group most favored by the British, and they got the choicest positions. So even when the first prime minister called a census, the northern oligarchy conspired to inflate the figures of that region in order to give the north more authority in the new nation, with the blessing of the British. And as the rest of the country watched the blatant injustice unfolding in almost every segment of society, the roots of hatred spread deeper in the ground.
The white man has done this all around the African continent. In 1994, Rwanda had a brutal civil war that in the words of one scholar ‘would prove to be the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the 20th century’. In just one hundred days, 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered! Rwanda was colonized by Belgium; and just like the British did with the Hausas, the Belgian colonial masters singled out the Tutsis and favored them above the Hutus. Naturally, a deep divide emerged amongst these two peoples and when the hate reached the boiling point after the departure of the colonial masters, a civil war broke out.
In Kenya, the British did the same thing with the Kikuyu and Luo tribes. As one article in the Washington Post put it, “the British had spent decades trying to keep the Kikuyu and Luo divided, quite rightly fearing that if the two groups ever united, their combined power could bring down the colonial order”. All around the African continent, the white man left trouble in his wake.
Why are we fighting against one another? When Africa fights, the white man laughs. He looks at us and calls us ‘these unruly, uncivilized people’ meanwhile; he is the source of most of our problems. Even when he eventually speaks of peace; he does not do it because he loves us, but simply because he does not want our problems to become his. If war breaks out in Nigeria, it would be a catastrophe, and the white man knows it. A nation of close to 200million people- it would be a humanitarian disaster on the largest scale. It would be a disaster the white man cannot look away from because after all, this is the largest African nation! If anything goes wrong with Nigeria, the entire African continent would be affected. That is a problem the white man does not want on his hands; and so, he appeals for calm.
But regardless of the white man’s sins, Nigeria now has to clean up its mess. And we have to start first, by channeling the anger towards the right source. Now, this does not mean taking up arms against the white man, but it means dropping the weapons we have picked up against ourselves! What would it take for us to see, that the ones who brought us these problems in the first place, have now left us to ourselves? Can we sit and talk? Can we find a way to rectify these problems that this white man brought us, without chopping off our own heads? Can we recognize that we are stronger together than apart? Can we clean up this mess?
So, one group was favored to the detriment of the rest, but we are all still siblings. I have 3 brothers; and when I say I would take a bullet for any one of them, I sincerely mean it. As we have grown older, we have realized all the more, that when we stand together, we can overcome almost any challenge. We may carry grievances amongst ourselves from time to time- side eyes at my younger brother- but as a cardinal rule, none of us ever goes against ‘blood’. We try not to give any outsider ammunition to be used against any one of us, so we never let cracks show in public. We have come to realize that when one person rises, we ALL rise and when one person falls, we ALL have a problem. We are siblings till the end!
When will Africa (and Nigerians in particular) begin to show the white man that we are stronger than every groundwork he laid to tear us apart?
Nigeria will need more than just words to be fixed. We will need to make tough decisions. The nation is stronger together, but it certainly needs to be ‘restructured’, if we are to truly rectify the white man’s wrongs. Each region must be treated like an equal participant in the affairs of the whole. Are we prepared to make these tough calls? We must be. Because with every passing moment that we tear each other down, we give the white man even more ammunition against us. While Africa burns, the white lands prosper. For how long will we be fools?
This opinion piece is written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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