The Many Faces of Slavery and Imperialism

By Philip Amiola
The world was recently taken aback by news of a London-based Nigerian doctor, Emmanuel Edet, and his wife who were found guilty of enslaving one Ofonime Sunday Inuk for 24 years. As pathetic as the case is, it is only one of many such cases, most of which never come to light. Ben Cooley touched on this when he revealed that Hope for Justice – the charity he heads – has liberated more than 70 slaves this year alone. Education is supposed to liberate us and help us become more rational. However, as this revelation from the UK shows, education as we have it is apparently not enough.

Now, it is easy to identify physical slavery and kick against it, but how do we deal with mental slavery? Unlike physical slavery where there is an oppressed and an oppressor, mental slavery is more of a wilful – or perhaps unconscious – subservience to a perceived superior entity. It’s a subtle reinvention of imperialism. Nigeria gained independence 55 years ago. But are we truly a sovereign state or simply an independent colony? Do we really have an identity independent of the West?

I shake my head each time I see helpless hustlers clad in suit and tie, sweating profusely in the hot tropical sun. Who says you can’t dress like a Wole Soyinka or an Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to attend a job interview? Who restricted native attires to Fridays? Think about it. We’re so “independent” that we even celebrate foreign holidays we know nothing about. As long as it is a US or UK thing we jump on the bandwagon.

Yes, some of these holidays are great; for example, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Thanksgiving. But if we would like to adopt them, why don’t we come up with our own instead of gate-crashing as it were? Having said that, the real issue is not about holidays. We seem to have a predilection for Western norms and culture over and above our time-tested values. That’s the real issue.

Yes, we may need to improve some aspects of our culture and traditions but we cannot afford to discard them altogether. Yes, we may need to adopt some practices from the West but we should adapt them to suit our peculiar situation. To take embrace Western culture in its entirety is to erode our values and deny our very essence. How well has that worked for us thus far? Isn’t it obvious that we need a change?

Philip Amiola wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria.

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