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What America owes Nigeria and Africa

What America owes Nigeria and Africa
July 25
12:45 2023

Today the United States of America (USA) stands indisputably as the most powerful nation on earth. This distinction is manifested in virtually all fields of human endeavour; economically, militarily, technologically and diplomatically. The US leads also in soft power; sports, culture, entertainment, education and in any other area of human activity imaginable.

The trajectory of US dominance of the world began in 1776 when the 13 original states rebelled from the colonial dominance of Britain and kicked the latter out, establishing their independence as the United States of America.

All along the way from its origins as a group of colonial settlements to date as a nation of 50 states along with its overseas possessions, Africans have played a major part in the rise of America. Indeed without Africans who were forcibly brought into America as slaves and made to work the sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations, America would not be what it is today.

Long before the invention of the reaper, the combined harvesters and other cutting-edge inventions that revolutionised agriculture in America, it was the Africans whose rights were denied as slaves that were brutally and mercilessly deployed to work. Long and short of it, the foundation of America’s agricultural revolution which eventually ensured the industrial take-off of America and the country’s rise to economic greatness was made possible by Africans.

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Down the years of American history from its foundations to date, Africans have contributed immeasurably in all facets of life which enables America to claim the excellence and exceptionalism which it shows off proudly to the world.

But has America meaningfully acknowledged this immense contribution of Africans to its history and most importantly has America recognised the pain, hurt and traumatic effects that Africans on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean had to bear for its rise to the greatness that it claims today?

First, let us crunch the dates and numbers.

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Estimating that the first permanent American settlement by Europeans started in the late 1500s and that the first slaves arrived in what is today South Carolina in the 1600s until 1865 when it was officially abolished, it means that slavery existed in America for two centuries continuously.

Estimates vary but the number of slaves that were procured from Africa to America within this period including those who died on the horrendous journey through all kinds of ways must not be less than 20 million. Those who managed to survive the hellish sea journey to America had to begin to endure another life of unspeakable barbarities in the hands of their white American owners who denied them the benefit of humane recognition and treatment. Indeed, during the period of slavery, the statutes of all the American colonial states clearly stated that Africans were not to be regarded or treated as complete humans, thereby freeing their white owners from any compunction or conscience in treating them brutally.

And while Africans who were transported to America were being subjected to the worst form of inhuman treatment possible, Africa, the continent from which they were taken, was being depopulated of the most able hands. This devastation in terms of massive depopulation and the wars that were engendered to enable captives to be sold and taken to America to work in plantations set Africa back by centuries in its quest for development. This invariably rendered Africa weak and unable to resist the forces of subsequent balkanization and colonialism of Africa which followed.

It is a matter of regret that America which was built on the blood and sweat of Africans has hardly taken any serious, constructive steps to engage Africans both in America and Africa to acknowledge and remedy this historical atrocity whose effects are still with us today and will continue into the future.

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Contrast this American attitude to Africans to its treatment of the Jewish Holocaust and the massive continuing support for Jewish issues globally, which in terms of scale was not up to what Africans suffered. Also, take note of the gargantuan scale of meaningful and generous economic assistance America offered for the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War which helped launched the continent onto the path of quick economic recovery.

Incongruously America which has been on the backs of countries like Turkiye, Russia and China on human rights issues and their past historical events has not had the same moral courage to face up to and remedy its own ugly historical past in its treatment of Africans which till today negatively impacts on them globally.

It is time for America to cast off its pretence as far as Africa and Africans are concerned. This continent from which America drew a lot and continues to do so deserves to be treated better. Out of the 10 ethnic groups that were largely taken as slaves to America, six were from Nigeria.

We are not merely talking here about unquantifiable sums in monetary terms that America owes Africans in compensation for centuries of ill-treatment which persists to this day in various forms. We are talking more about the institutional and attitudinal mindset that has remained in the psyche of American governments and institutions over the years of treating Africans and their issues with paternalistic condescension. This informs the puny, token, half-hearted, drop-in-the-ocean so-called assistance America often offers Africa and Africans in contrast to what it does others.

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America should get real and engage meaningfully for both its sake and for Africa. Until and unless it changes its negative institutional and attitudinal approach to African issues, America will continue to bear the moral burden of a superpower with clay feet.

Gadu can be reached via [email protected] or 08035355706 (sms only)

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