So the macabre showing continues. The world is outraged at the latest slaughter. Dead is George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minnesota. The backstory is sketchy. Apparently the deceased presented a potentially dud cheque at a store, prompting the shopkeeper to invite the police. The police take him away in cuffs with little to no fuss. We see this much on camera, but what happens next is not very clear.
A white police officer is seen pinning him to the ground knee-to-neck by the full weight of his body. They ignore his pleas and threaten passersby with pepper spray should they try to intervene. This unusual choke-hold carries on about 8 minutes. During this time, the pleas stop, his eyes shut, he goes limp, and is pronounced dead shortly after in the hospital.
Predictably there has been an outpouring of outrage within America and beyond. Riots have broken out in Minneapolis, and in many other cities. Celebrities have not been left out. Ex-NBA star Stephen Jackson has come out to demand justice for his ‘twin’ whom he ‘loved dearly’ (never mind that this filial affection between prince and pauper had no bearing on circumstances leading up to the dead man having to present a bad cheque, but I digress).
As far afield as the Caribbean everyone great and small is chiming in. TV hosts, radio personalities, everyone is fuming with righteous indignation about the ‘injustices against the black man in America’. My Facebook newsfeed is similarly abuzz with my Trinidadian friends waxing lyrical about this killing and other injustices.
I will go on record to say I believe the officer who killed George should be tried for murder. I do not know the extent of provocation there may have been between the shop and the police car, but whatever it was does not justify the animal treatment they visited on George Floyd. The others should similarly be tried to the fullest extent of the law based on the extent to which they participated. Otherwise I elect to opt out of the outrage party now playing out, and here is why.
A friend of mine tagged me to a Facebook post she made which was essentially a polemic against Trump and me. In it, she accused President Trump of being responsible for the killing, and accused me of sharing part of the blame for being a ‘Trump worshiper’.
When I asked her what Trump had to do with anything, she said he was passively in support of that kind of behaviour. I had to politely remind her that impugning a man’s character that you hate based on evidence that is circumstantial at best, is wrong.
What is my point? This friend of mine had nothing to say when I put up a video with Nigerian soldiers discharging live fire into a body of IPOB protesters at Aba. This is particularly relevant because she is a retired soldier of the Trinidad Army (TTDF) and is familiar with military rules of engagement. She would have seen the hapless victims fall, and the rest flee in terror, but it was crickets.
I put up frame after frame of corpses slain at the hands of Fulani herdsmen. You see, these marauders do not merely kneel on your neck. Should they choose to shoot, then consider it a coup de grace. Otherwise the preferred execution is to carve up their victims like ham.
None of these gory images was enough to draw any reaction from this my friend who now wants me to be outraged at a killing in America. Time will fail me to enumerate videos I have put up with; young men being forced by Nigerian soldiers to swim in gutter sewerage while their bare backsides are belaboured with koboko. Or little children and grannies being viciously clubbed with batons by police in Zimbabwe for the crime of attending church service in spite of a lock-down order. And as usual from my Trinidad friends, silence.
We say in Igbo that how you stack your wares in the market will determine what prices they command. The shoddy treatment we mete out on each other is evident for the blind to see. The highest homicide rates in America are among blacks, and that almost always at the hands of another black man.
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In Trinidad the most dangerous neighbourhoods, places like Laventille, Sea Lots, Beetham Gardens, etc., are majority black. When I had just arrived here, one of my new friends offered me 2 parang tickets (parang is a Trini Christmas concert). I couldn’t get anyone to take me there because of the concert locale- Laventille!
We do not fare better with our leadership corps. Our bosses in the motherland do not think enough of us to provide a smooth ride from Enugu to Umuahia. Not that it stops them from allotting money to the project every year.
The African government in Trinidad supervised the large-scale retrenchment of foreign healthcare workers from government hospitals. They conveniently tied the renewal of contracts to the possession of permanent residence permits (Green Card in America). They did this knowing well that the Ministry of National Security (charged with immigration matters) is under no constitutional time restraints to process said permits.
It was a clever masterstroke- you got sacked without actually getting sacked. What is interesting though is that while the Africans have struggled, the Indian workers who qualify for residence have been quietly sorted.
In neighbouring Grenada (a majority black country), suitably qualified Nigerian migrant workers are no longer being processed for permanent residence. It is something to do with our birth certificates being insufficiently authentic. You guessed it- somehow their peers from India do not have that problem. Majority black country, African government.
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Medical graduates from only 4 Nigerian universities are allowed to practice in Trinidad and Tobago without any further evaluation. They are UNN, University of Benin, University of Lagos, and University of Ibadan. All Indian schools on the other hand are of such high quality as to preclude the need for any examination.
As a Nigerian desiring to visit Trinidad, you are required to pay a refundable N560,000 security bond as part of your visa requirements. This is separate from the visa processing fee which is non-refundable. You are still almost certain to be delayed at the airport when you arrive, and stand a good chance of being arbitrarily denied entry and sent back.
The reasoning makes sense on the face of it. Trinidad is a small country with very little geographical depth and can easily become overwhelmed by 200 million despairing Nigerians. The argument falls apart however when you consider that India with its 1.4 billion inhabitants has visa-free access to the same country.
The reader by now has noticed a pattern. The Igbo say that when the lizard falls from the iroko tree, he nods his head in self applause. We also say that the rejected man does not reject himself. We as motherland Africans belong to an orphan class over whom I have shed every tear that I have to shed.
Forgive me if I have none to spare for George, as compelling as his case may be. We can have this conversation again when we demonstrate a readiness to band together as brothers. Until that day I will have to leave with this quote from Bob Marley-
‘Fire is burning
Man, pull your own weight!’
Thank you, and have a great week ahead.