It’s now customary for self-important countries in Europe, North America, and Asia to summon African heads of state to “summits” in their countries’ capitals. The UK-Africa Investment Summit, for example, just ended in London on January 20, 2020.
These summits have now been institutionalized as periodic jamborees to “solve” African problems with African leaders outside Africa. Apart from the UK-Africa Summit, there’s theUSA-Africa Summit, Canada-Africa Business Summit,France-Africa Summit, China-Africa Summit, Japan-Africa Summit, Russia-Africa Summit, Turkey-Africa, and even India-Africa Summit.
At this rate, there’ll probably be Vietnam-Africa Summit or even Afghanistan-Africa Summit someday! Just about any country that organizes a “summit” with African leaders outside Africa is guaranteed full cooperation and attendance.
Yet we insist that Africa is NOT a country but a continent of more than 50 sovereign, independent, distinct countries with diverse, unique characteristics—like every other continent in the world. My friend Pius Adesanmi even wrote an award-winning book titled, “You’re Not A Country, Africa: A Personal History of the African Present.”
If we resent the ignorant, simplistic homogenization of Africa by non-Africans, why do African leaders collectively accept invitations to summits with wealthy and not so wealthy African countries as if Africa were a single, monolithic, undifferentiated country?
Why can’t there be, for instance, a UK-Nigeria Summit?Or an India-Kenya Summit? Or a South Africa-China Summit? Or, for that matter, a European Union-African Union Summit, an Association of South-East Asian Nations-Economic Community ofWest African States Summit, a NAFTA-East African Community Summit, etc.?
I get that because African countries are collectively at the bottom of the totem pole in the global economic prosperity index, it’s easy for wealthy nations to infantilize and inferiorize African leaders into attending these humiliating “summits” in non-African capitals. It becomes even more complicated when you add the fact that most African countries haven’t overcome the holdover from colonialism. In fact, Francophone Africa is still almost literally being colonized by France.
Yes, it can’t be denied that colonialism and economic backwardnessare implicated as the foundational psychological mechanisms for the internalization of inferiority by African leaders, but how do we account for India-Africa Summit?
India, like Nigeria and other Anglophone African countries, was colonized by Britain and also struggles both with inferiority complex and economic problems, but the fact that India can invite African heads of state to its capital for a summit as if it were equal, or even superior, to all of Africa shows there’s a gradation in the psychology of colonially inspired internalization of inferiority.
Until Nigeria overtook it in 2018, India used to be the poverty capital of the world. Even so,according The Week, an Indian English-language newsmagazine, more than 360 million “Indians still cannot afford three square meals a day, which is why the World Bank continues to bracket India with Nicaragua, Honduras, Kenya and Kiribati. On an average, even people in war-torn Libya and sanctions-plagued Cuba continue to earn more than Indians.”
Yet India invites all African heads of state for periodic summits, and they all rush to New Delhi, attired in laughably gawdy Indian clothes specially sewed for them by the Indian Prime Minister, like excited little kids in a candy shop.
To be sure, the sort of inferiority complex that leads people to uncritically valorize the foreign and despise the local, which I have called xenophilia or xenophilic inferiority complex in past articles, isn’t unique to Africans. American sociologists Donald Kent and Robert Burnight called it “xenocentrism” in their 1952 paper in the American Journal of Sociology titled”Group Centrism in Complex Societies.”
European Australians, for example, are said to be beset by an inferiority complex that sprouts from their self-consciousness that most of their ancestors were convicts from England. An Australian social commentator by the name of A. A. Phillips coined the term “cultural cringe” in a 1950 essay to capture the tendency for Australians to“dismiss their own culture as inferior to the cultures of other countries.”
Brazilians are also said to suffer a collective inferiority complex called the “mongrel complex,” which supposedly comes from the insecurity that their racial and cultural hybridity activates. The term was neologized in the 1950s by Brazilian writer Nelson Rodrigues, and now means more than the inferiority Brazilians feel for being racially mixed to the point of not having a unique identity; it also encapsulates the inadequacies Brazilians feel when they compare“Brazil and its culture to other parts of the world, primarily the developed world (such as Europe or North America).”
The term “Malinchism” is also used to describe the collective inferiority complex that Mexicans supposedly suffer. It captures the worshipful reverence that Mexicans demonstrate in their attitudes toward things that are foreign and their corresponding contempt toward things that are indigenous. Malinchism comes fromLa Malinche, the name of an indigenous Mexican woman who helped imperialists from Spain to conquer the Aztec Empire. She later went ahead to marry and have children with one of the Spanish conquistadors.
Africans’ collective inferiority complexis obviously a consequence of their colonial experience. That complex disposes them to be attracted to and to imitate anything foreign, even if it’s not European. That’s why even India, which shares enormous socio-historical experiences with many African countries, can have its own India-Africa Summit. I call our xenocentrism colonially inspired self-esteem deficit.
If African leaders continue to authorize the simplification and caricature of Africa as one country through their participation in every summit they are invited to, our colonially inspired self-esteem deficit will only balloon, and hopes of salvation will continue to dim.
When African heads of state continue to affirm the misrepresentations of Africa as a geographic and culturalmonolith, whenever there’s a problem in any part of Africa people outside the continent will continue to assume that it affects all parts of the continent.
For instance, when the Ebola epidemic broke out in 2014, parents in a Mississippi withdrew their kids from a school because the school’s principal had visited Zambia that year. The principal’s effort to convince the parents that Zambia is miles away from Liberia did nothing to convince the parents to let their children continue at the school. The principal was forced to resign his job.
Tinubu’s Both-Sides-Of-The-Mouth Statement on Amotekun
Tinubu’s run-with-the-hare-and-hunt-with-the-hounds statement on Amotekun pretended to be statesmanlike and evenhanded but it actually only cleverly concealed its attempt to please the Aso Rock cabal.
Why didn’t he exercise this sort of even temper when he asked “where are the cows?” after Chief Reuben Fasoranti’s daughter was murdered in cold blood by people alleged to be herders? Tinubu might well have been right that the woman wasn’t murdered by herders, but he couldn’t have known that for sure since no investigation had been carried out. And he said it when emotions were still aflame.
Plus, herders who choose to murder don’t take cows to the murder scene, which made his sarcastic question at once pointless, insensitive, and unstatesmanlike. Incidentally, it’s the intensification of senseless, unresolved murders such as the one he taunted that inspired the formation of Amotekun.
Tinubu’s neither-here-nor-there statement mirrors the duplicity and opportunism of his symbolic actions on Amotekun. For example, neither Sanwo-Olu nor his deputy, who are both beholden to him, attended the formal launch of Amotekun, and Lagos was the only Southwest state where an Amotekun solidarity rally was disrupted by the police. These actions clearly typify opposition to the security outfit.
At the same time, Tinubu’s minions in the intelligentsia and his battering rams in the news media have come out strongly against the federal government’s—and some northern politicians’—opposition to Amotekun.
In wanting to opportunistically appease both sides in the service of his illusive 2023 presidential bid, Tinubu will appease none in the long run.
The cold, calculating inner circle in Aso Rock is intensely aware that Tinubu’s fence-sitting is an insincere, self-seeking political maneuver to appease them, and the Southwest people who were compelled to embrace Amotekun by the escalating sense of siege that unceasing mass murders by homicidal thugs have activated would be unimpressed by his ambiguity and lack of moral clarity.
People who are neither here nor there end up being nowhere, and, with time, nowhere becomes somewhere untoward.