(By Chuks Valentine Augustus)
“I had always heard that Lagos was a land of opportunities, though I had never been there. Then, the story my friend told me gave me the first impression that we were still under some colonial rule and slavery. He and a friend of his had worked for a Chinese company – No, I would rather say laboured for a Chinese company, whose boss, a Chinese, had no regard for the Labourers who were Nigerians. They were made to do hard labour, paid far less than they deserved if their input was taken into account. They faced sack whenever their boss wanted to dispense with their services– all with the connivance of a few Nigerian officials in the organisation.“
REFLECTING on the picture and stories we were told about slavery in Africa, I keep asking myself, “Are we actually free from slavery?” Daily events and activities happening in the country today are capable of getting even a historian of very high standing confused. If our leaders are truthful to themselves, the country and to their Creator, I am sure they will agree with me that we are still slaves, dependent and under indirect colonial rule even after claiming to have gotten Independence from the British in 1960. I believe that even our colonial masters would wish they were still directly our masters, considering what is happening in the country over 50 years after our Independence.
Independence, as much as I know, connotes sovereignty, autonomy, self-rule, self-determination, freedom, liberty, and so on. In Nigerian perspective today, I am convinced what we have is paper independence. I stand to be corrected otherwise how does one explain the fact that almost everywhere you turn, all you see is a colonial master milking Nigeria dry.
Back in 1997 when I just left secondary school, I wished to come down to Lagos with a close childhood friend of mine who was a year ahead of me in school and age. I had always heard that Lagos was a land of opportunities, though I had never been there. Then, the story my friend told me gave me the first impression that we were still under some colonial rule and slavery. He and a friend of his had worked for a Chinese company – No, I would rather say laboured for a Chinese company, whose boss, a Chinese, had no regard for the Labourers who were Nigerians. They were made to do hard labour, paid far less than they deserved if their input was taken into account. They faced sack whenever their boss wanted to dispense with their services– all with the connivance of a few Nigerian officials in the organisation.
Yes, for the sake of international friendship, mutual benefits and economic development of our dear nation, we heartily want foreigners to invest in Nigeria; but must they enslave us the second time? Must our own brothers, sisters and leaders sell us to them again?
One of the slavery days’ stories we heard is that these white people came here, gave our fathers mirrors so they could see themselves through it, in exchange for our brothers and sisters. I can imagine the joy of the founding fathers of our nation and indeed every Nigerian of that time when Her Majesty, the Queen of England, proclaimed Independence. I can imagine the shout of “free at last!” on the lips of Nigerians on the streets of Nigeria, rejoicing over freedom from slavery and colonialism. Little could they have foreseen that the yoke of enslavement would return sooner than later in another guise.
Today, the larger part of our wealth, which is oil, is controlled by Europeans, represented by their companies which, with the help and co-operation of our government, politicians and capitalists, like our fathers in the days of yore, through their uncompromising corrupt practices, take our crude oil to their countries to refine. They decide for us the quantity we would get and how much we should buy something that belongs to us. They never cared to develop their host communities. No wonder the Niger-Delta militants have been so unrelenting in their campaign for justice. To make matters worse, our government sees nothing wrong with this dastardly act.
Another and a worse agonising situation is the fact that even we Nigerians still enslave ourselves. Oligarchy and unbridled capitalism have taken over our coveted democracy. The issue of contract employment in our labour market today calls for probation. Although, I have never been to Ghana, stories I hear are that their government is sternly against contract staffing, on the argument that their people cannot be slaves in their own country. However, here in Nigeria, contract employment is done with impunity. Business organisations employ capable brains, make them work for several years without promotion, no improved benefits of any kind, yet they make them believe they are doing them a favour. What is worrisome is that our government has not deemed it right and necessary to enact laws that will protect its people and put an end to this Refined Slavery. There is a Yoruba adage that says, “The son of a meat seller shouldn’t be eating bones”; also, “the son of a cloth seller shouldn’t be putting on rags”. Issues like this have made us suffer want when we actually have plenty such that this has led to brain drain from our great country. Many of our youths no longer find hope of making a success of life in their own country, consequently leading to many seeking succor beyond the borders of Nigeria. We have lost a good number of our best brains in this process. It is high time our government did something about these problems bewildering the good, loyal and patriotic citizens of our country. It is high time something was done to totally free us from this slavery and colonialism.
In as much as I love and will always love my country and be a good citizen, I still believe we are slaves in our own country.
Chuks Valentine Augustus.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”