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Our Story By Val Amadi

May 8, 2016

There is an African spirit in every black man.

Avoiding all the usual clichés, the Nigerian is an African. We contribute twenty-five (25%) of the black population in the world and I dare say even amongst the slaves (we can logically deduce that at least twenty-five (25%) percent of them are of Nigerian heritage). Slavery being defined in its bare terms with all its features as the use of another man as an economic tool to improve the lot of the owner where an individual may still be described as a slave if he or she is forced to work for another person without an ability on their part to unilaterally terminate the arrangement.

Our story cannot, therefore, be different from the black story.  A story that is replete with wants, lack of development, diseases, lack of basic amenities, poor planning, poor discipline and a culture of dependency.

The average Nigerian lives every day in quest of elitism; clamoring to join the elites. This plays out majorly in the culture of consumerism, poor savings, import dependency and destruction of our own culture just to have a sense of belonging. In the conceited quest to be elites, certificates are acquired not necessarily to add value from education but to belong to the cadre of elites with “degrees”; to meet that need, mushroom, half-baked universities sprout up in every other corner with their products barely able to hold intellectual conversations; the government still owns and runs schools more out of “force of character” rather than as a social need or a policy to ensure that our populace is educated.

We play out our culture of consumerism by the quantum of imports into our country annually with almost all our earnings devoted to bringing in the best cars, clothes, food and even inanities like pens, toothpicks, and hair brushes. The elite has to show he shops at Harold’s and other bourgeoisie shops dotted around the world. It doesn’t matter if in ten (10) years he is broke or his country is; what is important is that he or she is seen with the most recent couture or a designer label. He just has to be elite.

The black story is just this short – a story of a foolish man in a persistent quest to be elitist.

And our government propagates this idea much further than its people when they seek to awe them; they devise and preach “packaged development” to the people with lack of cultural depth and societal ecosystem to birth and sustain the developmental strides which more often than not, are either attempts at creaming off the public largesse or mere tokens being extended to a gullible people. Tokens that they can sign-post as symbols of their “dividend” to the people for giving them power or leadership. The packaged developments often abridged with no long-term plans for either adding to it or extracting the value (often no planned value matrix justifies the project/development ab initio);

In our individual existence, we buy the Rolls Royce and Bentleys that will ply on our pot-holes infested roads and dirt roads. We copy the best architectural designs to build in glorified slums with open drains, clogged sewage systems and diseased neighborhoods in the midst of squalor cities.


In our individual existence, we have to go on vacations in the West and spend a year’s savings to walk the paved streets of the West, spend our savings in their shops and come back poor again to work for another year’s vacation in the white man’s land. If this is not slavery by another means, what is?

In our individual existence, it is a mark of elitism to have foreign products at the dining table, acquire foreign taste of food, drinks and mannerisms (which is a joke as we have now been made to believe that our traditional manners are uncivilized) including the culture of being respectful to one’s elders rather you address them by their first names. In that same existence, we have to drive a big car (the bigger, the better –“my Mercedes is bigger than yours”) to show that we have arrived and now an elite too.

When we seek development, it’s packaged in various sizes without appropriate fit for purpose analysis for either in the now or in future. We cut from the West or East and join to the chequered bits and pieces with poor craftsmanship, at huge unjustifiable price tags and derelict state back home. We often don’t check the expiry dates of the development and end up more often than not being the dumping ground of the archaic or near dead developmental initiatives.

We continually are in pursuit of the infrastructural aspects of development without asserting the basics – education, health, food, shelter and belief in our common existence and nationhood. The softer developmental needs are what we should first seek.

I thus posit that the Nigerian, the black man’s story is still the same; has not changed – the story of slavery. We are still enslaved to the West. We cannot sustain ourselves without them, we cannot stop taking our earnings to their land, and we cannot stop trying to be like them and thus trying to buy their world. We cannot even if we want to because we have imbibed the culture of elitism and defined elitism in the terms of the worldview of the white man in a packaged elitism prism.

Independence is not just self-governance; it includes the rights and privileges of self-determination. We have gotten the rights but also forgot to know that we have to work for the privileges. Unfortunately, the black man still exists in his subsistence culture; a land where privileges are hard to come by because subsistence is the idea of having barely enough to tide one over to the next harvest season. And for those who have poor yield or have not planted enough or have grown greedy; the next harvest will be too long a time, and since they have to survive, they either go begging or plunder the community store.

The story is thus that culturally, we have built a ship; a society for taking from the others to feather our nests. We seek perpetually to be elites irrespective of whose yam we eat or covet; everyone is in a hurry to be the next elite or join the lot that the end often justifies the means as the measure of success has become achieving the aspirational life. The search for the ever-changing aspirational life is our new slavery. 

The black story is that of a slave who knows not that he is a slave and fails to understand that he is a slave.

We have self-governance in Nigeria and Africa, but self-determination of our people is still in the white man’s possession which we have greedily given to him. To my generation, giving our people and coming generations self-determination is the new independence from the colonial masters in an age of globalization.

No nation ever became great by being dependent on others, and none will be. Let’s define that path.