LAST Wednesday, August 23, 2016 was the day for the remembrance of the slave trade and its abolition. This day was set aside by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in recognition of centuries of man’s inhumanity to man during the transatlantic slave trade. Remarkably, the origin of this event is traced to the night of August 22-23, 1791, when certain African slaves challenged the status quo (the slave system) in an outstanding display of the power of will to obtain freedom and independence for Haiti, gained in 1804.
We draw reference from the Olympic Games, to assert that change is constant. It confirms the status of blacks in our world today; tale of newfound freedom which unites different people, regardless of race. Not forgetting that the most powerful nation of the world, United States of America is being ruled by a black man. Oh, what an audacity of hope! This is the legacy of slavery. The values of these freedom fighters, too many to mention lives forever!
But, who would have believed this could happen during the transatlantic slave trade. However, despite the lingering bitterness, resultant of the pains, we must not fail to praise the gains. The slave trade era is over, but its memories live forever. There are innumerable relics of the slave trade. For example, the name of the coastal town by the lagoon in Lagos, ‘Badagry’, evolved from the dual corruption of Agbedegreme (which means Agbedeh’s farm in “Ogu” language) to Agbedagari and Agbedagari to Badagry by Yoruba settlers and European slave traders respectively.
Remarkably, Badagry is unique in Nigeria’s colonial history. It has the first primary school, St Thomas Primary School, which was established in 1845. Similarly, the Agia Tree was the first place Christianity was preached by Rev. Birch Freeman of Methodist Church. These are good seeds sown courtesy of the slave trade era.
Of note, despite concerted efforts of the international community, the principal objectives of United Nations, to wit: combating racism and racial discrimination, have not been attained. So many human beings remain victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This was brought to limelight by the latest incident of #BlackLivesMatter, the eponymous movement leading demonstrations for criminal justice reform in USA.
Succinctly, this has renewed tensions on the various issues ranging from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. It has been plausibly argued in some quarters that the greatest threat to black people are other blacks due to prevailing corruption, terrorism with high levels of extreme poverty, starvation, child mortality, strife and tribal differences prevalent in our motherland.
Looking forward, the role of the Republican nominee in United States, Donald Trump, who is overwhelmingly unpopular among African Americans due to his stance lately, on relations between police and minority communities and unalloyed support for law enforcement agencies, despite evident shortfalls and accusing the #BlackLivesMatter as primarily responsible for divisions over race, comes to the fore. No doubt, the uniqueness of his ideologies has raised palpable fear on what the future portends for Africans in the Diaspora post-slave trade era.
In view of the foregoing, we cannot but hope for reinvigorated efforts to curb racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance serving as obstacles to the full enjoyment of all human rights locally and internationally. But, it all begins with individuals. Little conducts such as maltreating domestic servants only buttresses the point that neo-slave trade has become the order of the day in our world. Needless to mention harsh economic conditions that has befallen many in our fatherland, making them not better than slaves though without physical chains.
- Ogunjobi is a Lagos-based attorney and public affairs commentator.