How to end Nigeria’s second slavery: Pointers from Felabration 2016
The Black Lives Matter organisation has been dubbed the ‘new civil rights movement and has been credited for reigniting the discussion about racial injustice in the US. The organisation describes itself as ‘working for the validity of Black life’ that is rebuilding the ‘Black liberation movement.’ And the world is taking note.
Black Lives Matters chapters are springing up across the world, athletes, musicians and artists are all becoming more vocal about the continued degradation and dehumanisation of black lives and bodies. The fight for racial equality is firmly back in the spotlight.
Last month a UN panel went a step further by releasing a report declaring the US should compensate African American descendants of the slave trade. The panel observed: ‘the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent.”
For many people the term ‘slavery’ conjures up images of Kunte Kinte from the movie ‘Roots’ or diagrams of tightly packed boats. For them it was a horrible thing that happened many, many years ago, but is in firmly in the past.
Not for the panel, they saw things differently, arguing there is a direct link between the ills of slavery and the injustice and discrimination faced by African Americans today. The report went on to state the ‘profound’ need to acknowledge that ‘the transatlantic trade in Africans, enslavement, colonization were a crime against humanity.’
According to the speakers at the 8th annual Fela debates, on this side of the Atlantic we too could do with acknowledging not only our past but our present, because far from being free from our history, we are still very much enslaved.
The debate, which featured talks from Hon Gbajabiamila, Professor Sophie Oluwole, Adebola Williams, Sister Affiong L. Affiong and Lemi Ghariokwu was centred on the urgent need to create a movement against ‘second slavery’.
Professor Oluwole, the Executive Director of the Centre for African Culture and Development, described slavery as ‘anything that takes you away from your home.’
Nigerians, the speakers concluded are in a state of mental slavery, something worse than physical slavery according to Oluwole because of its far reaching and long lasting effects.
We don’t have to look very far to see the lingering legacy of our colonial masters, it is evident in almost every aspect of our daily lives; our clothing, our use of language, our attitudes towards our own history and culture (ignoring it or deriding it as primitive or ‘fetish’), and our insatiable preference for everything that comes from anywhere but here.
“We are enslaved and we have enslaved our children,” said Hon Gbajabiamila. “We have replaced our values with the values of others.”
And it’s not just our values and culture that are suffering, this ‘second slavery hurts us economically. Our resources continue to be pilfered and the rewards never find their way to the common man.
“Our government steals from us and gives the money to the same people that colonised us,” observed Adebola Williams.
In order to move forward, we first need to educate ourselves, we need to understand where we have come from and where we are now. We need to know and tell our own stories, our history did not start with slavery or colonialism. It’s important we understand this. The first step would be correcting the grave error of removing history from the curriculum, something Sis Affiong L Affiong described as a deliberate because: “People who don’t know their past can’t comprehend or plan their future.”
The best way to do this is by utilising the best tools, one of which is the media. “Media controls your life, who you support, what you eat… the media controls everything,” said Adebola Williams. Credible practitioners should harness this power and tell stories that educate and empower young black people.
Another way, perhaps the most powerful way, is the method Fela Kuti himself utilised music. “Music is one of the fastest and most effective ways of changing the minds of the people,” said Professor Oluwole. “Fela used one of the most effective ways to start a revolution.”
The revolution may have stalled, perhaps now is the time for it to rise again. The Black Liberation movement is being rebuilt all over the world, when will Nigeria step up and get involved?