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Why does #BLM and the justice for George Floyd campaign matter here in Nigeria?


Protesters hold up fists at a gathering in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on Woodhouse Moor in Leeds in northern England on June 21, 2020, in the aftermath of the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in police custody in the US. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

The George Floyd’s case and the historical legacy of injustice that has plagued black people in America and the west for over 400 years are not more important than the structural injustices that we see here at home on a daily basis.

Nigeria needs systemic police reform, and  #endsars is only a tip of that iceberg.  We also experience tribalism, ethnic and religious discord which cause deep internal conflict. Violent crimes and rape of our women and children make apparent the injustices and inhumanity we must seek to rectify at home. However what happens to Black people everywhere affects us all, and we cannot stand immune and silent at this moment when our siblings in the global diaspora need our support.


That pushback of “Why should #BLM to us here in Nigeria?” is essentially asking, “Why do I matter?” Beyond the philosophical underpinnings and aspirations to be global citizens and to recognise God in every human being, the stark reality is that anywhere in the world a Black person is murdered for the color of their skin is a warning shot to all of Africa: our DNA our blackness our Africanness our  Nigerianness is under attack.

Nigerians have a vested interest in the #BLM movement because every time a Black person is killed in America it is a statement that persons of African descent are worth less than other lives and it is a direct attempt to devalue Nigerian lives. 

At this very present moment in time, it is important that we take part in this monumental global conversation alongside the rest of the world on an issue that affects our brothers and sisters. Supporting policy reforms that are pending consideration before the African Union by the Justice For George Floyd Campaign does not minimize the injustice that occurs here in Nigeria, and is incredibly beneficial to all Black lives including approximately one million Nigerians who live in America and will be positively impacted by these laws. 

This campaign is also important as it engages the core issue of white supremacy and structural racism which started right here in Africa with colonialism when white people apportioned our continent at the Berlin Conference without reference to the indigenous people or the owners of the land. That original sin and the various traumas caused by the colonization of Africa and the slave trade that spread our people throughout the world still reverberate today and still affect all of us globally. The brainwashing that allowed America and Europe to justify their genocide and racist exploitation of Africa and her people can be seen in the way Mr. Floyd was murdered. These white policemen felt that his African blood, his African skin, and his African heritage were worthless. In essence, our blood, our skin, and our heritage, that we are worthless. 


Finally, it is important to say that American history has kept the Black man disenfranchised for 400 years and taught them that they are the lowest beings with the only lower beings being us Africans.

Unfortunately, this “history” as told by America and Europe has only served to institutionalise racism and justify negative dehumanising actions. This is one of the core reasons The Organisation of African Unity, (OAU), was established in 1963; to fight the dehumanisation of Black people in Africa and liberate our continent. Although the task was more or less fulfilled with the liberation of South Africa in 1994, the task cannot be considered realised when Black people continue to be butchered around the world because of their pigment. And since The African Union, (AU), has already recognised that the Diaspora is part of Africa, now the AU has to complete the final task of liberation by becoming a leading voice in the global advocacy against structural racism.

In this regard, Nigeria must return to leading this issue as it did when we led the dismantling of Apartheid. Nigeria led the anti-apartheid movement and we should lead the global campaign for the dignity of all Black people and support the Justice for George Floyd global movement and #BLM. It is our sacred duty as Nigerians and Africans to be our brother’s keepers and advocate for all of black humanity, that is the measure of leadership and that is our duty.

Oluwatoyin Salau, a 19-year-old student and social activist living in Tallahassee, Florida was murdered sometime between the 10th and 14th of June 2020. Although Toyin was not murdered directly by police, they enacted another form of racism against this Nigerian/American girl by blatantly deprioritising the investigation to locate her and thereby devaluing her life which contributed to her death. The police showed how little they cared for a Nigerian life in America when over a week after Toyin was first reported missing, police dogs inadvertently stumbled across her body in an adjacent plot of land, while they were actually searching for a white woman who had just been reported missing a few hours earlier. 


Ironically, Toyin had been fighting for all black lives in America and on May 29, 2020, the first day of protests in honor of George Floyd, Toyin spoke to a reporter for her local television station about how African immigrants in America, like her own family, needed to be sensitive to African-American history. She said “We are doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot. We are doing this for every Black person. Because at the end of the day, I cannot take my fucking skin color off…everywhere I fucking go, I am profiled, whether I like it or not…” (Samantha Schuyler – wrote in an article published by The Root).

Toyin had lived a life knowing that her life and the life of her family and every Black person did not matter to police in America. She had been made to understand that she would be profiled and discriminated against whether she was American or not, whether she was Nigerian or not. All that mattered to the police was that she was Black. Toyin knew that the extrajudicial killings of Black people must stop and that is why she vehemently fought for this cause in the last days of her life and it is for Toyin Salau, for myself as a Nigerian woman, for my daughter as a Nigerian girl, that I write this article. As a Nigerian, Black Lives Matter to me, Toyin Salau’s life matters to me, and my life and the life of my daughter matters. 


In June of this year, I spoke with Benjamin Crump, Esquire, George Floyd’s lead attorney who lives in Tallahassee, Florida where Toyin was murdered and asked him why her life mattered to him and he told me that “Toyin was a Black Nigerian American woman who deserved to live just like that 74-year-old white woman deserved to live. The police refuse to protect us Black people in America because of the color of our skin, our DNA, and our African inheritance is systematically devalued. Toyin came here from Nigeria and fought for us, and I hope to send a message to Nigerians that we will fight for her life, honor, and the dignity of Nigeria’s daughter here in America.”

The Justice for George Floyd and #BLM movement is a moment that will go down in history and Nigeria should be part of the conversation. Africans have been found to constitute a significant part of the immigrant flow and represent a sizable number of immigrants that permanently reside in the U.S. (Darboe, 2003; Kamya, 1997). In a recent U.S. Bureau of Census report on foreign-born residents in the United States, African immigrants numbered 364,000 out of 1.6 million foreign-born people of African origin living in the United States (Rong & Brown, 2002). Nigeria is the largest black nation in the world and new research shows that over 50% of the global Black diaspora of more than 175 million are originally Nigerian, not only must we be involved we are already involved and it is more than fitting that one of the founders of #BLM is a young Nigerian-American woman. Supporting the #BLM movement and the Justice for George Floyd campaign is a stand-in defence of Black humanity, it is a stand for our African DNA, it is a stand for ourselves. And as we stand for ourselves, let us bring our own issues in Nigeria to light by globalizing the conversation. Supporting this movement gives us a universal platform and the opportunity to shine a light on our injustices so the rest of the world can support us and stand in global solidarity.


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