Africa Is Not Yet Free

The sense of fulfilment, commitment, passion and joy that I saw on display all over Africa yesterday as Chelsea Football Club fans celebrated their club for winning the UEFA Champions League is unique. The emotional identification with the club was so palpable. People all over Africa were enthralled.

Impromptu marches were organised in various African cities. War torn nations had a temporary peace so that people could celebrate. There was fanfare. Rich Africans even bought party favours to be shared out as gifts to mark the occasion.

In Nigeria, Aso Ebi (ceremonial dress) fabric were hurriedly printed and sewn. Broadcast houses flashed a blue hue throughout the evening.

I was informed that one city even declared a public holiday, even as many bars offered free drinks to those decked in Chelsea’s colours.

The one that weakened me the most is the thanksgiving held for Chelsea we saw in some African churches today. I literally have not been able to eat since then. And let me confess, I was not going to write on this matter, but I drew the line on thanksgiving. I just had to speak, especially after one testifier said ‘the devil had been put to shame’ by ‘my team’s victory.’

I thought to myself that these people celebrating are not English. They are also not European. They do not own shares in Chelsea FC. If Chelsea is to be sold tomorrow, not a single one of them, or their governments, would be consulted.

Chelsea does not have any investment in Africa, and the owners of Chelsea FC see Africa as only a good market to sell merchandise and TV rights and also to poach Africa’s best football talents.

If 1 million Africans perish tomorrow, Chelsea would not even issue a statement because it has no bearing on them. The only connection these celebrating Africans have to the club is emotional. Beyond that, they have no stake.

I have traveled to every part of Africa. Never have I seen Africans celebrate their own Independence Day the way we celebrated Chelsea yesterday!

And this is a pattern of behaviours we see all over sub-Saharan Africa. An African nation would lose 200 of its own citizens to a terror incident, or a natural disaster, or perhaps to even a man made crisis, and the leader of that African country, and his or her fellow African leaders would ignore it.

And then a misguided terrorist kills five people in France, England or Sweden, and Africa would be thrown into mourning. African leaders and statesmen would issue the most fawning condolence statements. Africans, in our millions, will change their profile photos on their social media profiles to reflect the flag of that country, and the top trends on African Twitter would be #IStandWith(fill in the name of the European country).

Groundbreaking news emanating from the African continent occurs, and we as Africans have to switch on to CNN, BBC, Aljazeera, DW, RFI, etc, because since it is important news, the African newsmaker would invariably prefer to speak through a Western media. And on the rare occasions they deign to speak with local media, they are often rude and uncouth. Meanwhile, that same rudapest will turn to a guy smiley when talking to a White European interviewer from BBC who asks him or her questions they would not dare ask their own leaders (Like ‘are you corrupt?’).

We Africans have to change the way we see ourselves. We must stop looking up to Europe and down on ourselves. If we want the world to value us, we have to value our own selves and each other.

We must stop trying to be what we are not. Today in Africa, I am ashamed to say that bleaching creams sell much more than teaching aids, and more of our investment goes into importing human hair, than into effecting human development.

Our youths, born and raised in Africa, curiously develop a Western accent (maybe they went to America in their dreams).

I first became resident in California at the age of nine. Yet, I still speak publicly and deliberately in my Nigerian accent. For the over 40 years that I have been crisscrossing the world, I cannot count how many doors my Nigerian accent has opened for me. It stands me out from the crowd and turns heads.

Why would an American consider an American accent as something interesting? They have 300 million people already using it. Ditto for the United Kingdom. No. Those guys want to hear another accent. This is the reason why Burna Boy is not so big in Africa, but is a musical giant in Europe and America.

Do not succumb to inferiority complex and change your accent to fit in. What is wrong with standing out? Be yourself. Your African accent is cooler than ice!

And while you are it, don’t change your Kayode to Kay or your Ikechukwu to Iyke. Teach them how to pronounce Kayode and Ikechukwu. I assure you that your uniqueness will open more doors than your feeble attempts to conform. If America can elect Barack Hussein Obama, they can select you without you changing Adaora to daisy!

I am from Nigeria. I travel so frequently that sometimes I wake up in a hotel and have to look at the hotel literature to remember what country I am in. But one thing I always travel with is my Nigeria Airways bag, my Green and White umbrella, and my Enyimba F.C. jersey that I custom made.

I project Nigeria, because if we as Nigerians do not do it, then who will. Who will I ask you?

Inferiority begins from the mind. And that is where Africa has to fight it. And one way we can do this is via our early education.

We program our kids from youth to see themselves as inferior to Westerners by teaching them:

A for Apple instead of A for Akara
B for Ball instead of B for Boli
C for Cake instead of C for Cedi

We must Africanise Africa’s Europeanised education system.

We must stop teaching African children that Mungo Park discovered River Niger, or that John Speke found the source of the Nile or that Richard Lander discovered River Benue. These are not just historical fallacies, they also condition the African child to see himself as inferior to Europeans.

Well, back to Chelsea. Yesterday, I came to the conclusion that whereas Africa is emancipated from physical colonisation, she is not yet free from mental colonialism.

I have spoken my mind. You are now free to go ahead and insult me

#FreeLeahSharibu #RenosNuggets

Reno Omokri

Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.


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