If you are a resident of the United States you may have felt or noticed the simmering heat emanating from the tension within the Black community. You may have felt the mutual suspicion and objections and the intense competition between the African-American, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino, and the African community. There is also the tension within the African community. In some enclaves and professional sectors, the heat stemming from these tensions can be unbearable. Often times one wonders why people with common ancestry, common history and common life experiences engage in self-immolating, self-defeating and self-hating tendencies. What’s the problem?
Let’s start with Africans. Most Africans I have come to know or communicated with are suspicious of, and love to hate Nigerians. I don’t mean this at the individual level. I am speaking in collective or general terms. Every where I go, I hear Congolese, Togolese, Sierra Leonean, Liberians and South Africans and others speak ill of Nigerians. They hate the fact that Nigerians are “too aggressive,” “too dishonest,” “love to show off their wealth,” and are “always loud.” They associate Nigerians (and Nigerians only) with “419” even when their own nationals have been caught committing criminal offences.
Personally, I don’t know what it means to be “too aggressive.” Does it means that Nigerians have a quicker and better understanding of systems and societies they find themselves in? Does it mean that Nigerians, by virtue of their worldview, education, and experiences, gets acculturated better and faster than other Africans? Does it mean they know how to stretch and bend rules to suit their conditions? Does it mean that Nigerians are generally never afraid or intimidated of their new environment? Whatever “too aggressive” means, they are always grateful when Nigerians show them the ropes, helps them out of difficult situations and introduce them to wider circle of benefits.
To be a Nigerians in some cities and in some ethnic enclaves is to be a pariah. Africans from Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana, Angola, Zambia, Kenya and other East and Southern African countries can’t tell enough of the “monsters and crooks” living in their countries. I hear it every time. And indeed, some Africans are not happy with the fact that Nigerians have a huge presence in their educational system. That Nigerians are the Nouveau riche in some of these African countries is a source of jealousy. Sadly, when confronted, most of these Africans have never associated with or personally known such new-Nigerians. They’ve only “heard of Nigerians” who fit their flawed expectation.
Sadly, one also hears African-Americans, Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latinos complain about Nigerians. The image these Blacks have of Nigerians is not unlike that of other Africans. A Nigerians trying to secure a professional job or contract — if such office is headed by an African-American — will find it to be an uphill task.If no one else is listening to the interview, you may be queried, grilled, toyed with and asked unethical questions just to make you loose your composure. Generally speaking, a Nigerian stands a better chance for employment consideration or a level playing field if the man or woman at the top is a non-Black. For whatever reason, African-American women do not share the opinion of their male counterpart (regarding Nigerians).
Back to Africans: what is it about Nigeria and Nigerians that vexes them? Nigeria is not a global hegemon. We neither invade nor occupy other lands. We do not have expansionist tendencies. We are not even a crusading nation lording over the West African sub-region. And even within the African continent, we have mostly helped, and have been a good neighbor. By and large, all we have done is help other African countries in terms of their economy and or political independence. Even though Nigeria has her own problems we continue to expend time and energy and other resources on fellow African countries.
Without Nigeria, close to 40% of sub-Saharan African countries would have found it difficult to gain independence or be in existence today. Our country remains the lifeline of several African countries. Since 1970 or thereabout Nigeria has spent billions of dollars towards peacekeeping and economic and political stabilization missions. In addition, thousands of Nigerians have lost their lives in the service of these countries. For all we have done and continue to do — is these all we get? Scorn and ridicule and hate?
But really, what did Nigeria and Nigerians do to African-American, the Afro-Latino and Afro-Caribbean community to deserve the hostility that is generality directed at us? If others hate us for the obvious and unobservable reasons, what about other Africans? What’s their problem?