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If you look across Africa today, the postcolonized African often sees himself as an improvement on his colonized ancestors. In 2016, the postcolonized African looks at archetypes of the colonized African which Chinua Achebe has secured for eternity in the persons of Ogbuefi Okonkwo and Ogbuefi Ezeulu and says to himself: “we have come a long way”. The postcolonized thinks he is better than the colonized.
This, of course, is pure delusion for the postcolonized is quite frankly a fool and a butterfly who thinks himself a bird – apologies to Ola Rotimi.
True, Africa was conquered on the watch of the colonized. But we now know his history of resistance; of subtle, overt, sly, and brazen undermining of the colonizer at every turn. He fought wars where necessary, negotiated where necessary, mistranslated the colonizer where necessary, became a nationalist when necessary – and eventually achieved decolonization.
Eventually, the colonized handed over a free continent to today’s postcolonized. The choice before the postcolonized was to add substance to that freedom and take the continent to the mountain top. We know where this character has taken the continent in fifty years of freedom. The least said of the postcolonized African, the better.
One other thing I like about the colonized, what conferred on him superior moral and ethical mettle vis-à-vis today’s postcolonized African, is the fact that the colonizer’s lies hardly ever worked on him. You see, colonialism was not just violence and conquest. Colonialism was also lies. The colonizer daily had to tell lies and tell other lies to nurture the initial lies. You lied to the colonized about himself and his society in order for divide and rule to work.
You must remember that Ezeulu’s tragedy was not all self-inflicted. You must remember that he paid a heavy price for resisting the colonizer’s lies about himself and his society. The white man tried to lie to him that he is the stuff of kings. The white man tried to tell him that he is royalty. The flattering lies were meant to achieve the white man’s dream of social engineering in Igbo land: create a supreme central authority to make life easier for indirect rule. But Ezeulu refuses to buy the colonizer’s patronizing lies about himself and his society. I will not be king. There is no such thing in my society. You know the rest of the story.
All over Africa, the former colonizer, who now calls himself “Africa’s development partner”, has never quit the habit of trying to tell patronizing lies to Ezeulu’s postcolonized descendants in order to butter their ego and make life a little better for neocolonialism. Unfortunately, the postcolonized African is not cut from the same moral and ethical stone as his colonized ancestor.
The postcolonized African is a fool who laps up the patronizing lies that his “development partners” from Europe and America tell him about himself and his society.
Surely, you remember Baroness Lynda Chalker? Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and the early 2000s, the Baroness, bless her soul, pretty much functioned as the foster mother of the Nigerian political class. She held court over Nigerian affairs from London. Her children in the Nigerian political class ran to consult her over every issue. By the time we arrived at Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, Lynda Chalker had pretty much become the Queen of Nigeria.
Some of our worst and most corrupt elections happened in this era. Even some of the beneficiaries of those egregiously corrupt elections grudgingly acknowledged the farce they conducted and benefited from. Not Baroness Chalker. She would not hear or tolerate any talk of corruption and rigged elections in Nigeria. She justified and excused every evil she encountered in Nigeria. She assured Obasanjo, then Yar’Adua, that those elections were not as bad as people were making them out to be, patronizingly adding that there are no perfect elections anywhere.
Of course the postcolonized fools in Nigeria’s leadership, whose ego she was buttering, never stopped to ask themselves if the lies she was telling them about Nigeria were valid for her own country. They never once asked her if what she was justifying and rationalizing for Nigeria was acceptable in Britain.
Since she said that Nigerian elections were okay because there are no perfect elections anywhere, they never asked her if hundreds of Londoners are shot and macheted by touts working for politicians during elections. They never asked her how many snatched ballot papers she had ever seen in a British election. These are questions that the colonized Ezeulu would have asked her to her face, even at the risk of imprisonment.
Truth is that Baroness Lynda Chalker was raking in millions as a “consultant” from the corrupt Nigerian establishment and was prepared to tell them any lies about themselves and their society to keep the funds flowing. She is British – she knows how to benefit from the inferiority complex of the postcolonized African. After all, she is from the country which manufactured that inferiority complex.
Enter Olisa Metuh, the indicted National Publicity Secretary of PDP who has just been released on bail. The crimes Olisa Metuh and his fellow elder statesgoats in Dasukigate stand accused of would long have seen them facing the firing squad in China or South Korea. For much less in Europe and America, you will not face the firing squad but that would signal the end of your public career. The first order of business in Europe and America is to immediately resign from your present post, keep a low profile, while defending yourself in court.
In those societies, it is impossible to keep your job in the face of such a huge indictment. Yet, Mr. Metuh’s first order of business as soon as the handcuffs were removed from his hands was to undertake the mandatory victory lap of thieves and the indicted – which Nigerian society condones and promotes – before heading out to his office to welcome a delegation of British parliamentarians.
What the visiting British parliamentarians had to tell Olisa Metuh should make every Nigerian overcome their ethnic, religious, and political differences for once and think. They advised Olisa Metuh and his party, PDP, to “protect your brand” in the face of challenges and difficulties. A man stands accused of massive looting of his country’s funds, funds meant to fight terrorism, even giving two million dollars to a lady friend “for investment”, and a bunch of patronizing British parliamentarians go to Abuja to talk about his brand and the brand of his party?
How many times do the members of this British delegation get to visit British politicians indicted for theft and massive corruption to discuss their brand? How often does a British politician get indicted for massive fraud, arrested, jailed, released on bail, only to stroll casually back to office and begin to welcome international delegations like nothing happened?
But I do not blame the British who have gone to Abuja to tell the usual ego-massaging and patronizing lies to the postcolonized about himself and his society. I blame Nigerians for the kind of postcolonial monstrosity they have created and called a society. A society of no consequence. A society where a man waltzes back to office from jail, a hero under the weight of indictment. A society where a Senator illegally goes around in a convoy in the nation’s capital, breaks traffic rules, gets into an accident, and travels abroad for treatment at public expense in broad daylight and has yet to face consequences till today. A society whose National Assembly is a bazaar of former indictees, current indictees, and aspiring indictees.
The British know this about you. That is why they come to you frequently to encourage and rationalize what they will never accept in their own society. That is why they come to pat you patronizingly on the head for creating a 17th-century nightmare that is completely antithetical to 21st-century civilization. I shudder to think of what that British delegation was thinking of us even as they mouthed lies to Olisa Metuh.
Ezeulu would never have tolerated the lies the British told Olisa Metuh.
The Nigeria of 2016 is inferior to the Nigeria before 1960.
I miss Ezeulu.
Pius Adesanmi is the director of Carleton University’s Institute of African Studies, Ottawa, Canada. In 2010, he was awarded the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. A widely-cited commentator on Nigerian and African affairs, he has lectured in African, European, and North American universities, and also regularly addresses non-academic audiences across Africa.
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