"This is the story of my life. I am a black man and those that share my skin color know what a burden than can be.
It is the shame of centuries of slavery for which even a decent apology is too much to expect and the pain of knowing that of all the races, you are arguably the most undeveloped (or the closest to the natural state of man). When you read statistics like ‘one in ten black men in America are in prison’, or that while ‘blacks constitutes 13% of America, half of Americans prison inmates are black’ you shudder.
I recently started reading African American history (Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston are my top picks) and subsequently engaged my American friends on this topic. I am just beginning to understand the damage to the psyche of the African American male. My ignorance of the peculiar state of the ‘non immigrant black’ in America became glaring after my first hand encounter with some of these people.
Then again, I am African. Black, proud and straight back [Martin Luther King (MLK) Jnr., my back is straight- nobody is riding this back]. The poorest continent on earth with 3.5% of global trade in 2008, a place where a quarter of the countries are involved in war or experiencing post war conflict, where millions are murdered each decade for daring to speak a different language or practice a different religion and millions more die yearly from preventable diseases. In my continent, the leaders live a life of luxury in palatial homes, travel in private jets, receive medical care in the best hospitals in the world while the rest (80 %?) live on less than a dollar a day. I come from Africa, humbled and shamed.
In Africa, we have bright spots, economies that have shown signs of sustainable growth, societies that seem capable of governing themselves.. We have South Africa, Seychelles , Mauritius , Botswana and Namibia but I am none of these. I am sub Saharan African where share of global trade declined from 6% in 1980 to 2.6% in 2007, where some of the most gruesome mass murders, rapes and heartless mutilation occur daily, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Uganda to Zimbabwe. Yes, I am a black sub Saharan African and I get very sympathetic looks when I travel, from the Arab cab driver in Sharjah to the discerning Australian doorman in Melbourne- it is the same look of pity.
And then I am Nigerian. I am the kingpin of fraud, a carrier of hard drugs, a murderer of gifted writers and environmental activist, a thief! I am single handedly the world’s most corrupt nation; I am Africa’s largest producer of a most valuable resource and her greatest waste of human talent. I am a quarter of the black race and half her problems. I am a Nobel and a Pulitzer Prize winner and yet half of me cannot read. I am a thousand doctors in exile and a million perishing patients at home. I am Nigeria, the giant of Africa and a shame to behold.
And yet again, I am a northerner! A ‘hausa-fulani’, a ‘northern apologist’ and a ‘mallam’. I am a dozen failed presidents and a thousand crooked ministers. I am a murderer of Igbo traders, a street urchin and a beggar. I carry the burden of the ruling elite, the military junta, the feudal lords and the religious cults. Yes, they call me a northerner and they say I am the problem of the nation. I am the one who built Abuja with stolen wealth, I refuse my people immunization and silently decreed illiteracy so that people will not read and understand.
I am the man that counts my cattle and adds it to the population of my people, the same man that collects the ’soft earned’ oil money from the Delta to buy luxury homes in Dubai . It is I that is renovating petroleum institute with more than $100 million dollars so that the ninety percent of my people who till the land can get better produce. I am the northerner, the unschooled, the corrupted, the lazy and the most ’stupid’ and yet I am the ruler of a quarter of black humanity.
A Negro and an African, a Nigerian and a Northerner and, yes most definitely a Muslim. I carry the burden of the world on my shoulder yet I stand straight. I stand with my head held high because I am truly all that I have been called but I am far more than that. I am a man. I have my principles and a clear objective. I seek to live an ethical life, a life of impact. I am hard-working, I read, I listen and I talk. I think. I think Ngozi is good (brilliant) and Ndidi is bad (disastrous), I hold Bode Agusto as exemplary and Bode George a shame, I know Sanusi to be straight and Shamsudeen a sham. You see, I am beyond the north, I am more than the nation, I am better than the continent and black is merely the color of my skin.
Next time you talk about the northerner, I want you to know that you are talking about me and that I am more than the sum of failed leaders with ethnic agendas (How an agenda can be considered ethnic when it subjugates 99% of the same tribe beats me). Next time you call on the north to step aside, remember you are asking 99% of my people who are nowhere near Aso Rock to step aside- from their desert encroached farmland and their dry muddy wells, from the tree shades where their children are taught the alphabets and the irrigation canal that has found a home in a luxury estate in south Africa. You are asking for my silence in the face of tyranny, a tyranny that killed my children before it gave your offspring dysentery but I shall not be silenced. What you are asking is that Nigerians should be made to shut up because Nigerians are fraudulent- we will not be silenced even if a million Nigerians are fraudsters and drug barons. Even as my sister from Edo is walking the ’street’ of Rome , so shall my brother from Benin be crowned an Archbishop at the Vatican . As you seek to crucify UMYA (Umaru Musa Yar’dua), so you shall seek to enthrone Ribadu (these are difficult times so we must lower our standards).
The north produced Buhari & Babangida; we are also responsible for Major Abubakar Umar and Major Al-Mustapha. This system produced Ken Nnamani and Andy Uba. Africa is responsible for Mandela and Mugabe; and both Mobutu and MLK Jnr. are black.
You see, I am a northerner but not “that northerner”, no! I am not the northerner who engages in ‘nocturnal meetings’ to take complete control of my country. I am not the northerner on whose behalf these meetings are held and in whose interest these crimes are committed. I am that other northerner, the one whose uncle cannot afford fertilizer; whose niece has no school to go to. I am the northerner that Nigeria needs because I am half the nation and none of its problems. I am more than seventy million men and women waiting to be unleashed, raising my voice and voting for change."