After US-based professor Chigozie Obioma wrote his article, ‘There are no successful black nations last year, I saw no need to respond until a few days ago when I watched an online video showing a group of men, probably Asian, butchering a black man alive to harvest his organs. It was so heart-breaking that I struggled to touch a meal for more than three days. Needless to say, the perpetrators did not commit this crime on African soil nor did they kidnap the victim from the African continent. The victim had been lured to Asia by promises of a lucrative job. Once there, he was turned into a commodity for the scavenging of spare parts for those who have the money to pay for kidneys and other organs. As the knife slashed through his helpless but living body, one cannot but weep for what is the failure of black people to protect one of their own. You cannot imagine a European in that plight.
Just last month, the traditional ruler of the Bini people in southern Nigeria placed a curse on anyone who traffics a Bini woman to Europe for prostitution. One learns that what moved him to act after more than three decades of turning the blind eye was the realisation that some of the girls trafficked abroad were sold to organ traffickers in Libya.
Why would energetic young people from a country as well endowed as Nigeria become vulnerable to such deeds? The reason lies in the failure of the black race to build a nation that can be a refuge for black people. As Obioma put it, “It is no surprise that in the absence of any healthy black nation – in the midst of chaos, senseless wars, corrupted religiosity, violence and economic collapse – African and Caribbean people leave home en masse.”
So, why is there no successful black nation? Or to put it differently, why have black people failed to build a haven, just like China, India, Israel?
It is easy to play the victim and blame slavery (and rightly, too, because Africa was stripped of its best human resources), colonialism (for this disrupted successful African empires that existed at the time), or western interference (count the number of western-instigated coups that swept away African nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah). But other peoples suffered these atrocities. The Chinese and Koreans were once colonised and humiliated by the Japanese. India was once part of the British Empire. Today, these countries have risen from the ashes and taken their place in the world. China is on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy. The Koreans have developed a nuclear deterrent. The Indians have bought some famous British icons like Land Rover.
The reason, missed by so many, is the African lack of the value of the common good. Directly related to this is the failure to comprehend the poverty of private wealth. Other societies have got to where they are because of the shared interest on the part of everyone to subjugate individual interest to group interest. No matter how rich a man is, he cannot build roads or a health care system all for himself.
The absence of value has turned most African countries into a jungle. When people are elected into public office, they do not see their position as being for the common good. They see it as an opportunity to grab their piece of the national cake. As one African once put it, there can never be enough cake for everyone’s greed. This is at the root of the unimaginable corruption in Africa. Nigeria, for instance is endowed with enough resources to have made it into the top 10 world economies. But the capital to achieve that feat has been stolen by a greedy elite. Had they kept the money in Nigeria to build a world-class infrastructure so their compatriots can create jobs, the daughters of the land would not be prostitutes on seedy streets in Italy.
Sadly, the stolen capital is stashed away in foreign banks where they regenerate other people’s economy. Those who have looted have done so because of greed to secure their future and that of generations yet unborn.
Since those jostling for public office are doing so for personal ends, elections become a jungle fight. People cheat, threaten, maim and kill to get into public office. When leaders get into office, they want to die there, not because they sincerely believe they are doing well or that no one can do better but because it is in their personal interest to hold onto power. If the sit-tight leaders had good records to speak for their hold on power (like Vladimir Putin of Russia), one would understand. But even when they are old and infirm, they continue to hang on.
The way to build an African success story is for black people to imbibe the value of the common good. Until we see our personal interest in the success of the group, black people will continue to live in what Donald Trump calls ‘shitholes’. In life, no one gives you the respect you have not earned.