ARE WE ALL AFRICANS???
By Amusa Afeez Onireke.
The fact that we are all living in the same continent does not necessarily mean ‘we are all Africans’. The indigenous proponents of Pan-Africanism like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe of Nigeria to mention but few had acknowledged this fact long ago but they were sympathetic to the fact that, Africans had to unite and foster the spirit of continental nationalism at the wake of post-independent Africa.
An indisputable explanation of this is that “we were all Africans because of the common interest in the struggle for and attainment of independence; that is, until the craving for independence was born, we were not ‘Africans’ but Ibo, Kikiyu, Balunda, Yoruba, Egyptian, Somali, Hausa, Bantu, Libyan, Berbers, Nupe, Khoisan and Zulu”.
Many ‘thanks’ to the western mapmakers for heinously sketching us out as African continent in the world map. Perhaps, arguments have been made by scholars such as Melville Herskovits who refers to the description of Africa by the Geographer Royal of France in 1656 as a ‘peninsula so large that it comprises a third part, and this the most southerly, of our continent’.
Herskovits himself, furthered, ‘And a case can be made for the thesis that North Africa was in a sense, an extension of Europe for a long time-and, if the connection with Europe was to an extent broken with the advent of Islam, it was only to turn North Africa in to a western extension of the Arabian peninsula and Fertile Crescent rather than a northern continuation of the area south the Sahara” It could be inferred here that; the French scholar believes that Africa is a geographical fiction and not a product of historical continuity because, the Maghreb (North Africa or Saharan Africa) was never part of the black race ( the native dwellers of the sub-Sahara Africa) until they had similar colonial experiences from the European imperialists.
Contrarily, Kwame Nkrumah, the first Ghanian president and a foremost advocate of Pan-Africanism in the post-colonial Africa, argued that the term “Africanism” seems to imply that geography matters more, since “Africa” is a geographical designation. Nkrumah’s claim was supported by Max Bellof’s argument in another context that “It is easier to understand the contiguities of geography than the continuities of history”. This summarily implies that, the inevitability of African’s colonial experience does not symbolise that, geography, which has destined Africans in the same part of the world, should be disregarded at the expense of colours of the inhabitants of the continent.
In the other words, a preference of we-feelings should be given to the fact that ‘we are all Africans'( regardless of colours and irrespective of precolonial histories) rather than the stereotypical thought that some (Arabs) have white skins, pointed noses and curly hairs while others (blacks) have black skins, flattened noses and thick lips.
It can be deduced from the two schools of thoughts that the recent development of auctioning of black people as slaves in Libya and the age long history of black persecution by other races have proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the black people all over the world are, of truth, far from being called global citizens.
Considering the ugly experiences of continual black oppression through Trans-Saharan slave trade, Trans-Atlantic slave trade, legitimate trade, imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism, globalization, white supremacist in the western world(especially the U.S), apartheid in the then South-Africa and the more recent, African inhumane treatment to fellow Africans in the aspects of Xenophobia, regional terrorism and modern slavery in Libya, it is not an overstatement that the black race is an accident of history.
Geographically, Libya is located in the North Africa which is strategically close to Southern Europe. It is separated by the Mediterranean sea to the bottom strip of Sicily in Italy. This necessitated the fact that many Africans, Arabs and Blacks(Majority) have, over the years, been migrating to Europe through the capital city of Tripoli. For instance, the International Organization for Migration estimates that there are over 700,000 to one million migrants in Libya, and more than 2000 have died at the sea this year. Most migrants in Libya are fleeing from armed conflict, persecution or severe economic hardship in sub-Sahara Africa.
Their journey usually begins with deadly trek through the vast deserts to Libya and then involves either braving the Mediterranean Sea on rickety boats heading to Europe or struggling to survive in one of the overcrowded detention centers by smugglers on the Libyan coastline. The worst case scenario is that, the unfortunate black migrants are perpetual victims of forced labour, sexual abuse, torture and other maltreatment by their fellow ‘Africans’ under non-black skins.
Similarly, the Punch Newspaper reported that over 700 Nigerians have returned home from Libya since January this year.
Be that as it may, the problems of Africans, especially, the black people have been characterized in the contextual paradox of two scholastic books written by Walter Rodney- ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ and Igwe Stanley- ‘How Africa Underdeveloped Africa’ respectively. Why? The former firmly believes that the African’s erstwhile overlords, the European colonialists, were the architects of African’s misfortune while the latter holds that the plight of Africans is self-inflicted as larger percentage of post-independent African leaders are greedy and clueless. Simply put, corrupt.
These problems were further compounded by the concept of African prejudices in the classical books of the Greeks and Latins which, invariably, did not treat the black race with contempt. In fact, in many western literature, Africans have been stereotypically portrayed as backward people and sometimes, termed “the accursed race”. All these calculated misconceptions have been traded to and bought by the rest of the world. Kudos to the neo-African scholars for debunking these erroneous perceptions of the black race by re-writing the original orthodox African history. Nay! the west has won. They have perfectly brainwashed the rest of the world that Africa is a dark continent and its people (black) should be seen as ‘objects’ of persecution through their theoretical postulations. An example is neo-Darwinian theorists as evident in the theory of ‘Natural selection’ which posit Africa as lowest in the ladder of human race-Negroid. No matter how the non-black races preach their messages of love, equality and brotherliness to the black people, they still believe, in actuality, that the blacks are victims of circumstances rather than rightful dwellers of the mother earth (which belongs to all races).
Summarily, I believe and want my fellow Africans (blacks) to believe that the ‘gospel’ that “we are all Africans” is nothing but a mere fiction and the black enemies (racists) would never relent until they are successfully satisfied in marginalizing and subjugating the black race in whatsoever means available to them. Therefore, every black people, anywhere across the globe, should believe that, they, for real, belong to one another ONLY. That’s the true Africanism Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela dreamt and fought for.
Yes! The spirit of Africanism is a product of blackness and not geographical confinement with non-black race. Although, not every white man is an enemy and not every black man is a friend, but I repeat, “every black man is a victim of racism anywhere in the world”. Quote me!
Fellow Africans (Blacks) it’s time to rethink our philosophy; to rejuvenate our sense of Africanness, to unite regardless of our ideological differences, to develop our homelands, to wax stronger, and more importantly, promote the spirit of “Blackness” anywhere in this hostile world we find ourselves. By then, we can now unequivocally say… “WE ARE ALL AFRICANS”.
Thanks for reading..
Amusa Afeez Onireke