My friend once asked me to go on a cruise ship for a 2 week holiday but I turned him down. I reminded him that the last time my ancestors went on such a trip, they ended up in plantations. In those days, people were hunted down, killed, maimed, captured and forcibly taken to lands afar; to work as slaves in plantations. They were abused, misused and later refused by their slave masters. They built what is now known as the civilised western world. From plantations, rail roads, roads, industries and right down to great cathedrals and churches, our ancestors built these monuments in the western world. Meanwhile, Africa as a continent did not only become stagnated, but was culturally and socially disembowelled while the Western world developed. Slavery and slave trade has, and will forever remain the darkest mark on the history of mankind. Interestingly, you will never hear of reparations to the continent. It is true that the abolition of the slave trade was promoted by abolitionists like Granville Sharpe, Thomas Clarkson, William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano; to name but a few.
Despite their humane and well-meaning drive to abolish the slave trade and slavery for human dignity and liberty for all, the death knell came, thanks to the economic expediency of the industrial revolution; when man was replaced by machines. The slave drivers realised that importing human cargo was no longer economically viable. They knew that “you can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.” It made more sense to employ them back in their home countries; hence the stampede for the Scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885. This later ushered the clamour for independence by individual African states. The rest is history, but a new Africa was born. Enough of the history lesson, but and AFRICA WAS NOW FREE. ARE WE?
If freedom or independence of Africa has taught us anything, it is that “dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty”. Slavery was a dreadful condition, but no one ever dreamt the day will come when many will be willing to go back and be slaves. We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. During the days of slavery, Africa was ruled by kings and queens. Their spheres of influence were determined by the valor of their armies. The more regions you conquered, the bigger the kingdoms, the bigger the loot and bigger the human cargo for sale to the slave masters. In those days, our ancestors were forced against their will, to traverse the vast oceans to work on the plantations. Today, history is repeating itself.
And that is where the paradoxical irony of African independence begins and ends. Slavery still exists, but it now applies mostly to women; and its name is prostitution. It used to be slavery, today it’s called human trafficking, the second largest and fastest growing organized crime worldwide; as if it’s different. The difference today is that we believe in “slavery with every luxury, than freedom with a crust”. Some logic has been given to the adage, “better to be a slave in heaven than a king in hell”. Do you blame them?
Unlike in those days when our ancestors were forcibly and brutally harvested from our kingdoms, today it’s not only voluntary but it feels vocational. Sadly ironical is the fact that these journeys don’t come cheap. There are stories of people selling their family heirlooms to pay thousands of pounds to their traffickers. The social media and TV documentaries continuously chronicle these horrible odysseys; not only to highlight the perils of these journeys but to also deter would be “adventurers”. We see hundreds of young and abled bodied men and women dying from drowning; in their “senseless” bids for “a better life”. The shores of the Mediterranean coasts are littered with the bodies of our children. From Libya, Spain, Italy, Malta and right down to Morocco, the fishermen now have a different catch. They are faced with the traumatic, gruesome and unenviable task of fishing out dead bodies from the seas on a daily basis. This senseless loss of lives in the Mediterranean seas has become a daily feature of our news bulletins.
Despite the efforts made by individuals, governments and the European Union, the battle to stem the tide seems lost. In spite of all the gruesome stories, the inhuman conditions in which some are held in transit, and the near certainty of death, our youths remain desperately determined to make these journeys. From the comfort of a leather sofa, it is tempting to castigate these people as psychotically suicidal; for even contemplating the thought of such journeys. By any stretch of the human imagination, you may be forgiven to conclude that it is suicidal to take such a journey. But while eating our cornflakes and munching on our KFCs, let’s take a pause and ask ourselves; “what drives a person to take such extraordinary risks; knowing full well that death is as certain as day and night? ;and to pay for the “luxury” of such risks beggars belief. Do we need to pay for our own death?
So when you finish gulping your cornflakes, please answer this simple question; who is to blame? Our queens and kings have been replaced by Presidents and Prime Ministers. These leaders have perfected corruption into an art form, than Michael Angelo would envy. As a result of their pervasive corruption, their misrule, mismanagement of our resources, their ineptitude and lack of compassion, and our collective lack of accountability, they have made our communities near impossible to survive. We trusted them with our hopes, aspirations, dreams and desires. But by some political alchemy, they have not only generated a sense of acquired capability for death in our youths, they have also induced feelings of continuous and passive suicidality. It is such a continuum in the suicide spectrum that has made our youths emotionally bankrupt of the fear of death. In a situation where someone sees certain death as a risk worth taking, is nothing short of being clinically suicidal. Paying for certain death? It cannot get more suicidal. Our youths have been driven to a point where they have lost all sense of logic and reasoning
But where does the responsibility lie in all this? The avoidable deaths of our youths lie squarely on the shoulders of our leaders. Because of their bad leadership, corruption, mismanagement of our resources and general ineptitude and incompetence, our communities remain permanently brain drained. Our leaders have made life so unbearable that our youths feel displaced, misplaced, replaced and marginalized in our societies today. They no longer believe that they have a stake in the development of our communities. Sometimes, you are made to think that being African, is a treasonable offence or part of the original sin. They have successfully made it impossible to survive in our countries. It takes a lot to drive someone to such suicidal lengths, but our leaders have done so with such reckless abandon and the conscience of a chainsaw. There can be no higher indictment for their cruelty to humanity than this. Consider it far-fetched, but this is not only genocidal but economic cleansing by remote control. Our leaders are responsible for continual and permanent violation of human rights.
On the other side of the migrant spectrum are the diaspora communities. It is politically correct to label it as “diaspora” but in reality, these communities are made up of people who are now living in voluntary exile. You would not expect anyone to willingly choose the yoke of slavery. Sometimes, it is only the misfortune of exile that can provide the in-depth understanding and the overview into the realities of the world. But today, people in the diaspora have chosen slavery, though the chains are made of gold. But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you anymore; you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself. As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Many of us have lost the psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem that should be the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.
For In the diaspora today, we have exile organizations as our way of replacing the cities and villages we have lost.” There are loads of Whatsapp groups, old school groups, Alma Mata forums, Facebook pages of associations, and many more; all indicative of the subconscious feelings of the need to belong to the motherland. These groups are all littered with feelings of nostalgia and loss. Sometimes, the secret of redemption lies in remembrance
Many in the diaspora who would love to return home; having realized that the streets in the west are not paved in gold; as once thought. Today’s generation of African immigrants cleaning offices has become part of the culture like male circumcision and supporting Arsenal.” Many would like to serve their communities in their variously acquired education, training and expertise. Being in the diaspora sometimes feels like exile is a curse and you need to turn it into a blessing. Many would like to convert the brain drain to brain gain. Sadly, you are made to feel like a “foreign citizen” the moment you step on home soil. The envy, the grudge and hatred towards you is literally palpable. Any room for innovation, new ideas or progress is met with “nor cam poil ya o”. That feeling of both citizenship and exile is not a time frame. Exile is an experience. It’s a sentiment; with all the attendant problems and complications and delight.