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Still on Prof. Uju’s death wish for Queen Elizabeth



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By Owede Agbajileke

The takeaway from Prof.Uju Anya’s reaction to Queen Elizabeth’s death is that we shouldn’t let our emotions get the better part of us. We should learn to have high emotional intelligence. There is no justification whatsoever to wish a 96-year old woman ‘excruciating pain’ on her deathbed.

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Queen Elizabeth II was born before colonialism which had taken its roots across the world. adsbygoogle || []).push({});

History teaches us that the six principal powers involved in modern colonisation of Africa are Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
She grew up with it and followed the footsteps upon becoming queen in 1952. Good enough, the longest-reigning monarch in British history had talked about the ‘difficult episodes’ of colonial history prior to her demise. The Siamese twins of colonialism and slavery have not only been condemned by international scholars and museologists but they unanimously agree that keeping stolen items is immoral and outright illegal. This explains why we have witnessed the return of looted Benin priceless artefacts from Europe, 125 years after with more still being expected.

Professor Uju Anya’s acerbic statement was needless, to say the least. Thankfully, Twitter has removed the offensive tweet while the Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, where she works, has distanced itself from it. Commendable.

We weren’t the only former British colony. Over 90 countries including the United States, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, Ghana, Malaysia etc were all colonised by Britain. But today, Nigeria is at the lowest ebb among the aforementioned states in terms of indices of governance. For starters, the current life expectancy for Nigeria is 55.44 years, as against Ghana’s 64.68 years.

Data sourced from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) listed the Top 10 Nigerian Imports in Q2 2022 to include: Petrol (N948.8billion), gas oil (N357.4billion), wheat (N242.7billion), machines for reception (N105.1billion), jet fuel (102.1billion), used cars (N96.8billion), sugarcane (N94.5billion), medicaments N93.6billion), polypropylene (N53.4billion) and diammonium phosphate (N51.3billion).

More shocking is that between 2015 and 2018, Nigeria spent N26 million importing wooden toothpicks from China and Germany, with just about five toothpick manufacturing companies in the country at the moment.

Our leaders have impoverished us. Life has become ‘nasty, brutish, and short’ (apologies to Thomas Hobbes) in this clime. Sixty-two (62) after Independence, we are still importing sugarcane, medical tourism is on the increase due to lack of foresight from our indigenous leaders to get the health sector right. We have remained a consumer economy while our universities have been shut down for seven months and counting due to the prolonged ASUU strike, $16 billion was spent on power as of 2007 while Nigeria still grapples with erratic electricity supply. These are definitely not the fault of the West but our leaders who promised us Eldorado. Let’s put the blame where it belongs rather than blame-shifting.

In 2013, I took an excursion to Badagry, Lagos State to have an insight into the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Facilitated by Nigerian foremost travel writer and winner, 2010 CNN/Multichoice African Journalists Awards (Tourism), Pelu Awofeso, the trip afforded me a rare opportunity of seeing firsthand historical landmarks like Nigeria’s oldest storey building, first Nigerian church, The Point of No Return, Mobee Royal Family Slave Museum, Velekete Slave Market, Sail Harbour Resort and other colonial/slave trade relics.

One of the sad reminders from that evergreen journey was that without the active collaboration, involvement, participation of the Blackman, the Whiteman/West wouldn’t have succeeded in exploiting Africa through slave trade/colonization. Our local chiefs sold our fathers into slavery and acted as willing collaborators for a pot of porridge. Africans were either captured in warring raids or kidnapped and taken to the port by African slave traders and exchanged for sugar, iron, tobacco, gunpowder, mirrors, knives, cotton, beads and other produce brought by boat from Europe.

In his book “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles,” British author, journalist and Director, Royal African Society, Richard Dowden chronicled how colonial rule had damaged and discredited Africans’ traditional leadership and political system. Traditional rulers had become identified with imperial rule and Africa’s new nationalist leaders knew they would need to be replaced.

But as profoundly captured by Reverend Father Oluoma John of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja (@Fada Oluoma), colonialism wasn’t all gloomy after all. “The colonialists came with education, health, alternative system of government, modern technology etc. They helped eradicate evil practices like the killing of twins and the subjugation of the girl child. Before the colonialists came, Africans were killing themselves too. There were intra and inter tribal wars, villages were raided, women and girls raped and taken. Most women today who are educated and doing well in the corporate world could have ended as one among many wives of a typical African dude”.

Colonialism also stopped unfavourable cultural practices like human sacrifices, Abobaku (a king’s servant who has the responsibility of dying with him when he joins his ancestors), burying royal fathers on the severed heads of seven strangers, Osu caste system (a traditional practice in Igboland that discourages social interaction and marriage with a group of persons called Osu) which is still in vogue in some parts of the country. Unfortunately, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains prevalent with Nigeria accounting for the third highest number of women and girls who have undergone the practice worldwide.

It is a sad commentary that 62 years after Independence, we are still holding the UK government to account for the ‘great pains’ of colonialism when we have had 16 indigenous leaders in Nigeria.

Few decades ago, the Nigerian Naira was a very strong currency, so strong that as of 1979/1980 55k could fetch you about one dollar ($1). Today, the Dollar to Naira parallel market exchange rate is between N690 and N705.

Within the same period, over 40 companies were operating in the country. These firms which were either state or partially-owned by the Federal Government include: Delta Steel Company, Bendel (now Delta); Ajaokuta Steel Company, Kogi; Volkswagen Nigeria, Lagos; West African Portland Cement Company, Ogun; National Salt Company, Ogun; Nigeria National Paper Manufacturing Company, Ogun and Nigeria Transformers Limited, Ogun.

Others are Nigeria-Romania Wood Indusries Limited, Ondo; Leyland Nigeria Limited, Oyo; Oshogbo Steel Rolling Mill, Osun; Jos Steel Rolling Mill,Plateau; Sokoto Cement Company Limited, Sokoto; Aba Textile Mills Limited, Imo; Electricity Meters company Limited, Kaduna; Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited, Kaduna; Batagarawa Steel Rolling Mill, Kaduna; Super-Phosphate Fertilizer Company, Kaduna and a host of others. All the companies are currently in comatose or have ceased to operate.

A child born in the ‘Year of Africa’ (1960) is already a grand-father by now but at 62, we are still crawling/moving at a snail’s pace, yet we blame our former colonial masters for our woes. The bane of our challenge in Africa is bad leadership. This is manifested in the level of our development since we attained independence.

Decades after independence, most African countries are suffering in the midst of abundant natural resources. This explains why some African are seeking all means to ‘japa’ to the same Whiteman’s country we blame for slave trade/colonialism. Professor Uju readily comes to mind.

If after six decades of Independence, we still heap our blames of Nationhood on our former Colonialist/slave masters, then it is not out of place to tag us an unserious lot. It is high time we faced the reality of our bad leadership and the key to this is electing good leaders who have the interests of the people at heart. Fortunately, the 2023 election is few months away to make that choice.

Agbajileke is an Abuja-based journalist


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