by Farouk Martins Aresa,
What happened to the Back to Africa movements in Diaspora? Are you kidding, not even those Africans that were born there go back home anymore. There is this famous actress that claimed she has been to Africa, seen Africans and she is no African. Nobody wants to identify with the losers. There used to be a time when people would beg you to return home before you kill your mother. Now there are so many old Africans that would rather stay put in Diaspora for medical.
Little did we know then that comfort in predominantly Yoruba Western Nigeria where world’s ethnic groups were tolerated would dwindle. The story of First In Africa was created in the West Region. Unfortunately, it has since become ancient history from which their children only pray to recover. Fellow Nigerians laugh at their Yoruba brothers and sisters today challenging them to repeat their glorious past in the fifties and sixties under Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Western Nigeria was the place other Africans in Diaspora were very proud of and could settle comfortably forgetting where they came from. These were days Back To Africa Movement was popular in Europe and America. They knew they had Africa they could return to. Many of the educated professionals that could or not use their skill chose to return to Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria among other countries but the glamor and Africa’s Firsts added to their comfort levels.
During the same time Kwame Nkrumah must be acknowledged for his encouragement and support not only to Nigeria but to all Africans struggling to empower themselves by fighting for Independence. It was a period Nkrumah, Zik and Awolowo encouraged and brought back many scholars from Europe and United States. Some established in Nigeria as Justice Alexander and others as Marshall later Justice of U.S Supreme Court and Harvard’s Bu Bois in Ghana returned.
Western Nigeria was able to achieve many firsts in Africa through the skillful management of Yoruba leaders led by Awolowo. These accomplishments do not sound or feel glamorous in the modern age of smart phones. The Government of Western Nigeria was able to establish free education, free healthcare, industrial estates, agricultural estates, cocoa cooperative boards and never the least of which most Africans were proud of were those not seen in black Africa.
Liberty Stadium became first of its kind in Africa, First Television was established and Radio stations increased. One of the tallest, 26-storey Cocoa House in Ibadan; Western House was built in Lagos. All these when Action Group, the party led by Awolowo were in opposition entire period. Awolowo refused to move to the Federal Capital but Chief Lodoke Akintola represented his Party in Lagos. Little did we know we were living in the best of times.
Western Nigeria was made up of mostly Yoruba ethnic group but attracted Edo, Ijaw, Togolese, Ghanaians, Liberians, Hausa and Igbo indigenes as well as East and South Africans, Lebanese, Arabs, Europeans and Asians. Western Region extended as far as later Mid-West and most of Lagos State. Apart from East and South Africans with special scholarships, everyone was well treated with access to all the social and economic privileges. So go west young man Go to West.
One of the pride of Yoruba was the fact that they were always held to a higher standard above and beyond the tolerance or accommodation afforded by democracy. In a game of numbers, it was not surprising that Awolowo remained the leader of Government in the West. So it should be Yoruba’s pride that non-indigene challenged Awolowo. It was unheard of where majority of the people and the parties supported and elected Awolowo. It’s a display of tolerance of others.
Western Region happens to produce a series of Firsts In Africa among it equals in Nigeria. Little did we know that would become past history. Awolowo made the first mistake by abdicating his role as manager in the West by moving to the Federal Capital. It was the Beginning of the End that dealt a fatal blow to Western Nigeria. Personal rivalry within the leaders of Western Region on whether they should form alliance with either North or East degenerated into chaos.
Odumegwu Ojukwu reminded us that it was immaterial that Awolowo did not become the Prime Minister or President of Nigeria. What was important was that he accomplished more for Western Region than any other Premier for their regions. People confuse leadership and power with service. Unless we move ahead as a people, our leaders have not achieved anything. Our individual accomplishments lead to power and in many cases to greed that corrupts power.
We are yet to see such accommodation and tolerance anywhere in Africa or such acceptance of Africans elsewhere in the world. Taken for granted, enmity and impunity diminished tolerance in the West, is sad to say the least. More disconcerting is how Africans treat one another from within and outside their country. South Africa became caustic as they perpetrate vile atrocities on their fellow Africans, especially Nigerians, with money spraying guns in need of brain-reset.
There was so much hope for Nigeria as the giant of Africa where most African leaders have lived at one time or the other. We had great future ahead of us and the British, not only knew it, they were intimidated by the future rivalry that might pose economic disadvantages. In negotiating for Independence, they were determined to leave poisoned pills, so Nigeria the giant of Africa could be economically dependent using internal cronies. Nkrumah called it Neo-Colonialism.
It boils down to the fact that nobody claimed a year ago was better or yesterday than today. We have lost a great deal of good dedicated people willing to sacrifice for the betterment of their countries. While others formed economic union like NAFTA and European Union to trade and avoid wars, Africans engage one another in country of rule or self-destruct and xenophobia.
Unfortunately, we have not learned our lessons. Power and greed have overtaken many African countries where individuals’ privilege to accumulate wealth surpass the rights of the people to infrastructure and daily bread. Politicians’ sense of entitlement to loot the country is so strong; they defend it with democracy, due process, rule of law and order. Dancing naked to the world.
Western Nigeria has lost its glory. Their children now aspire and look up to politicians stealing the country blind like the rest of Nigerians. Yoruba are themselves so desperate, they have little tolerance or accommodation left for the rest of Nigerians, Africans or Diasporas. Nigerians flock to other countries where they are jailed for drugs, money laundering, abused and disrespected.