The 3000 pieces of Africa

The problem with Africa, first and foremost, is Africans, with all our about 3,000 ethnic groups. Basic science.


When the Colonialists came to Africa, a lot of the time, their first guides were most probably black freemen. The people they bought slaves from, were also black freemen.

They didn’t have to divide us, we were already sliced into tiny bits like cakes at a wedding. All they had to do was eat, and eat they did.

Those were the words of King Goodwill Zwelithini, in South Africa three weeks ago. These words, whether misinterpreted or not, sparked a chain of xenophobic (or is it afrophobic?) attacks on foreign black individuals and their businesses. People were burned, machetes worked their thing, and businesses were looted.

I met a Ugandan model last week, I didn’t even know she was Ugandan until she said so. It’s a miracle how people can differentiate between one black from another black, considering how hard it is to tell what lemon is ripe or unripe.

Africans will say, “Oh, that black is too black, it’s like the absence of light”. We’ll say, “He’s not my country man”. If it’s the same country man, “he’s not my tribe”. Same tribe, he’ll say, “different dialect”. Same dialect, he’ll say “that family of theirs is strange”.

It’s like primary school maths class all over again, where we have to divide and divide to the smallest possible whole number. That’s the only maths we are really good at, not the maths of economic growth.

Because of our self-righteousness as Nigerians, many of us have turned a blind eye to our own ills, saying things like how we “regret helping South Africa through the apartheid”, as if that should be like a trophy. Any help rendered to a part of Africa, is for all of Africa.

Still on self-righteousness, many people are condemning all South Africans for the statement of just one king, and the actions of less than 5% of South Africans.

Someone said earlier that “What Yorubas did to Igbos with their tongues in Lagos in election season, is what South Africans are doing with hands. Same thing.”

About a week ago, The Oba of Lagos said some provocative statements against Igbos in Lagos. Many people defended his statements, with their tongues of course. Some people even went on to justify it, saying “what the Igbo people do in Lagos, they can’t do in Onitsha”. Others said, “Igbo people are taking over all the businesses”. A South African said something like, “the things the foreigners can’t do in their country, they are coming to do in South Africa”. Another said, “They are taking our jobs”. Now tell me, how different are we, really?

Make no mistake, this is not to say that the xenophobic attacks shouldn’t be condemned, but the tribalism too should be rebuked completely.

Still on that statement and self-righteousness, another person said it would be harsh to say ALL Yorubas defended the statement of the Oba of Lagos. The truth is, there are more South Africans condemning the violence and protecting foreigners than those engaging it. But we are calling out all of them, saying we’ll boycott MTN and DSTV, as if they are handing out vouchers to people carrying out the violence.

Every process goes through three stages. First, it is a thought, then speech, then implementation with the limbs.

They really are all the same, except that how we have chosen to express them are different. The Oba’s statements are just as terrible as King Goodwill’s statement. Local tribalism is just as horrible as racism or Xenophobia or whatever ism or schism you choose to call it.

In the end, these lines that divide us are not birthmarks. They are taught.


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