The Upper Crust

Of slaves and slave merchants


With Uche Nnadozie

Nigerians and drama. Well, not quite every Nigerian. Truth is, before the exposition by CNN, Libyans or generally, Arabs have always sold black Africans into slavery. While information about slave trade and its horror always centres around the trans-Atlantic trade involving Europeans who sold Africans to farmers in the New World (the Americas); the truth is that slave trade pre-dated the European merchants. Arabs sold black Africans through the Sahara desert centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans. Therefore, Nigerians should not be alarmed just yet.
All the same, I understand why this report from Libya is shocking. This is 2017 after all. How on earth can people still buy and sell human beings in the 21st century? The other part of the question is, when the same CNN run promotions about human trafficking what do we think they talk about? Slave trade is not just about buying and selling humans as articles of trade- it also include the subtle trading in humans like the activity called human trafficking. In Nigeria, we have various versions of it. But because in this country we are used to praising anyone who ”makes money” as successful, that has beclouded our moral judgement.
The questions we now ask are: is this the first? So long as he or she is feeding his or her family by whatever means, its alright after all, things are tough? Politicians steal money, what have you done about that? And so on and so forth. We also have slaves at home. We call them fanciful names such as ”helps”. Just recently, a woman was reported to have locked up her help and travelled to Europe. The Lagos based big madam, according to the little victim is in the habit of doing this. With a pack of cabin biscuits and a few sachets of water, the little girl can hang in there for a week or more. Our idea of house helps in Nigeria has all the imprimatur of slavery without the cash.
Nevertheless, this is not to say that every household with helps automatically become slave drivers, no. There are many decent families around. But they are in the minority. We know the stories, the sordid details of the activities of families and their helps in Nigeria. To make matters worse, we do not normally see some of the things we do to those who are not our direct offspring as slavish but will not hesitate to point towards Libya and southern Europe. Those laws you reel out when you get a new help about not eating before your family must have eaten, standing in the living room, helps always decked in oversized gowns, helps always doing one chore or the other, no sleeping except the kids are asleep, eating left overs, not to talk except when asked to, always barefooted, etc are laws meant for slaves.
In Libya therefore, what you have is the international wing. Cruel men have seized the streets and communities following the fall of Gadaffi. The country has been incapable of holding it together thence. And where there is anarchy, illegalities and crimes thrive. But who feeds this trade? They are Nigerians. Nigerians are the major suppliers of this human cargo. While the world mourn this tragedy, there are Nigerians smiling to the bank with blood money hailed by their local Nigerian communities and families as having been blessed by God. That is who we are. We are blind to morality. Our morality is officially money. Anyone that displays money before us, has bought our conscience. The moral fabric, value system of this nation is lying prostrate.
The tales of horror by Nigerian returnees is mind thumbing. But that’s just for the cameras. I bet you, more than 70 per cent of those rescued from the pangs of slavery in Libya will find their ways back. Whats the motivation? Greed! Our greed no longer allow us any reflection or contemplation. We blame it on poverty at home, but it is not true. Most of those who take the risk of Libya to Europe are not your everyday poor people. They pay huge money to make the trip. Their families support them to raise enough money that could have been used to sort out a business or trade here. But because Mrs. Lagbaja’s son just sent in money to by land and start building a house then my child must follow too. Any possible way.
But we must note, before I am accused of not liking emigration and the potentials of a better life, that is not what I am talking about. My criticism is for Nigerians who see illegality yet put their feet and arms into it. Travelling to Europe via authorised means is illegal. You cannot use illegal means to emigrate to another country then expected to be treated nicely. My point is that we have become a country very easily attuned to circumventing rules. Once we succeed with our illegality, we make it look like its the next best thing after coca cola. Illegality is illegality. And having orchestrated illegality, every other thing you put on it, is illegality!
Parents should stop sponsoring or giving moral support to their wards who do illegal things. Parents should stop encouraging their wards to engage in yahoo-yahoo. Today, parents, pastors and imams conduct prayer sessions for their wards engaged in kidnapping, armed robbery, slave trade, human trafficking, sex trade, and yahoo-yahoo. Remember, what goes around comes around. Like our forbears often exonerated themselves from the slave trade of that time, today this society is passing the buck to Libyans. However, it is fitting to read testimonies of victims who have confessed that indeed Nigerians are in the mix. It’s a pity. But government should fish out these Nigerians. Government should also go a step further to fish out parents who encourage their wards to commit illegalities in the name of emigration. We urge a carrot and stick in handling this trade. We also encourage the African Union to come up with a holistic resolution of the embarrassing emigration through the Mediterranean.

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