Guest Editorial

Who is Happy to be Black?

By John Iteshi

On the surface it could appear like the Black race is making significant progress because there are increased numbers of distinguished black individuals in various fields of endeavors. Unlike about half a century ago when there were only a handful of black graduates, there are now millions of them including geniuses making astounding marks in such powerful areas as robotics, aeronautics, super computers and even space technology. Most significantly, we now have black individuals holding some of the most powerful positions at the world political stage as well as a significant number of black MPs in some European and North American countries. The Black race thus appears to have conquered the inferiority jinx obnoxiously created in the past for the purposes of justifying their slavery and exploitation.

However, the progress of some individuals has ironically not reflected on any meaningful development on the ground. Whereas, black individuals have made significant progresses (though mainly in ready made states like the US and UK), the same may not be said about any Black society. The painful fact is that in spite of the numerous individual achievements there is not yet any successful black society anywhere in the world today and most worryingly there seems to be non underway as even the most basic issue like self sustenance has now slipped the most healthy Black African countries with abundant resources. Black people are now seemingly swallowing the statements they had boldly emphasized in the 1960s when they won most of their independences and freedom from colonialism and racism. Even our respected icons of freedom are now appearing to be saying that we are the least able of all races causing one to wonder what sort of freedom they had fought for in the very first place.

Whether it was merely a political freedom to form the governments of their countries or whether it really included total freedom of black people to control their own destinies and above all prove to the White world that they were never inferior. It is hard to appreciate the benefit of the independences of most Black states when life has rather plummeted than improved for the ordinary black man. What explanations can possibly be made for the collapse of the once thriving economies of Black African countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, and Gabon which have abundant agricultural and mineral resources with no known history of any major natural disaster? The fact is that the story of Black people is replete with strange ironies and complications which must not be ignored by those who can act. For instance, a country like Nigeria which was up till the 1980s the world’s largest producer of palm oil has slumped to the point of importing the same palm oil and palm oil products from Malaysia a country known to have tested the ancient West African crop in their land only recently.

Most Nigerians of adult age and with clear memory would recall that up till early 1990s, there were still a number of indigenous flourishing farms and agro based industries spread across the country, but mysteriously they had in less than a decade crumbled. Some people may still remember that such popular brands like AVOP or life vegetable oil (all made from palm oil) or even Taraku Soy bean vegetable oil which knocked out foreign imports only blossomed for just about 5years and disappeared. Even basic food crops which cost nearly nothing to cultivate in most parts of the country are now scarce in the markets and the government has now proudly invited white farmers to take over farming in some of the richest soils in the country. About 14 communities are reportedly being displaced by the government in the North Central state of Kwara to give way for white farmers. This might not sound abhorrent enough to some thoroughly colonized Black people who have been conditioned to believe that only white people have the skills to turn things around, but it certainly will to any enlightened Nigerian who can recall the number of indigenous revolutionary ideas for agricultural development which have been frustrated by the same government which has brought in the white men with messianic receptions to take over their lands. One may even wish to know what any Nigerian government has ever done to encourage its own people into commercial agriculture.

Whereas, most people are quick to jump to the conclusion that corruption is the greatest problem hindering development in Africa, a more critical look at things would reveal the need to look beyond mere acts of corruption as the root cause of Black backwardness. Corruption is no doubt a very serious problem in Black African states, but a more serious problem appears to lie in with the mindset of most black people. In fact, it would be right to say that the greatest hindrance to the emergence of economic super powers among black societies is the seeming unconscious belief among black people that they can never be like the whites or even the Asians. This cancerous notion of black inferiority is largely responsible for the total dependence on whites and Asians for both technologies and ideologies. There has hardly been any black African state that ever attempted indigenous political or economic policies or tried to rely on the skills of indigenous technologists. The story would have been different if Black African governments had been preparing their citizens to copy the technological skills of their European and Asian contractors and afterwards give them similar projects to execute only for them to fail to deliver. Instead we have seemingly resigned to the shameful notion that only Whites and Asians are capable of handling complex projects. The general belief in most Black African states notably Nigeria is that only whites and Asians or ‘oyibos’ as they are submissively referred, deserve to be awarded the most important projects. The usual excuse has always been that black people do not only lack the technical know how, but also lack the honesty to execute serious government projects. One disturbing question here is whether it is rational to just brand indigenous contractors as never-do wells and focus on foreigners who are many times more expensive rather than institute strict rules for ensuring that indigenous contractors who fail to attain the specifications of their contract terms are prosecuted?

There may be nothing wrong with French or Japanese contractors winning jobs in Britain because Britons probably have equal chances of winning contracts in either Germany or Japan, but everything is wrong with the Black man’s story because he is not recognized as competent anywhere else in the world. The question is if Black people have never been and are still not good enough in this 21st century to construct their own roads, airports, presidential villas etc or even to imagine exploring their own mineral resources, when will they ever be? How can any sound-minded Blackman believe it is right that there is no major structure in any major city in Black Africa without a white or Asian hand? It is sad and condemnable that most European people appear to see Black people as some kind of ‘baby humans’ who cannot even take care of themselves and who must depend on their donations or some dodgy loans and debt relief to survive, but the saddest and most tragic however is the fact that many Black opinion leaders seem to agree with this degrading notion by clamoring for more aid for Black Africa.

However, it is no longer sufficient to blame the whites for the underdevelopment and backwardness of the Black race. It is now long overdue for Black people themselves to take responsibilities for their inadequacies and failures. Black people must stop celebrating some imaginary and expired victories and rise to the occasion of fighting the plague of inferiority for there can be no pretence or escape from the responsibilities facing the black race to survive. Every group and individual of Black African decent whether Black British, Caribbean or Black American appears to be affected by the curse of backwardness and therefore must fight together as one people just as we did in the past. We must not forget that just a handful of Black elites from the Caribbean and some Africans who came to study in Europe initiated the struggle for independences and freedom from oppressions, which materialized in our political independences. There was nothing then like Black British or Black Caribbean or whatever divisive and escapist categorization. The Black race has inexcusably failed and we must appreciate this honest fact as a starting point towards regeneration as continued denials or self-exoneration will not help anyone. Black individuals in America and elsewhere might have made tremendous achievements in different fields of human endeavor, but the inescapable fact remains that no society or country of people of Black African ancestry has achieved any significant success in this modern world. We must unite beyond the conferences and talk shops and pick up the unfinished struggle which our leaders had prematurely celebrated its victory. We face the challenge to prove that we are not inferior and this can only be achieved by building civilized black societies and not by mere individual successes in different fields of endeavors.

Successful black individuals particularly those making waves in advanced countries must begin to conference and deliberate on the way forward for the Black race. We must not rely on the colonial masters who are the beneficiaries of our backwardness and mass stupidity to change our fate. An international network of influential Black individuals like the MPs and other respectable individuals must constitute themselves the advocates of Black interests. We cannot continue to rely on the BBC or some image making politicians to cry for Africa.

Not having an international league of powerful Black personalities could have been responsible for the usual inactivity of world leaders over issues affecting Africa (e.g. Rwanda and Daffur). Black people must have their own BBC or Al-Jazeera to inform and sensitize the entire Black world. Black leaders across Europe and America must wake up now and realize the racial fact that Black Americans or those naturalized in Britain or indeed Jamaicans or Haitians are not different human species from either Rwandans or Ugandans and as such share the same inferiority stigma before other races. We must realize and accept the things we can never change which is our nature (as in appearance and origin) and fight the things we can easily change which is our destiny. Black people must wake up and begin to think home.

John Iteshi

Bermondsey London.

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