Part One of Three: What Is Going Wrong in Nigeria?

The governor of Lagos, Nigeria, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, has behaved outrageously. No one would argue otherwise. It is allegedly believed that this heartless leader allowed armed forces to enter a crowd of protesters and open fire, killing protesters. These were not violent outsiders, but Nigerian citizens who were exercising their right to express their frustration with a government that is allowing members of their own department, and also a select branch of the police force known as SARS, to mistreat people without consequences.

Nigerian citizens widely believe that SARS members abuse their power, treating people any way they want. This group of men has been accused of “extrajudicial killings, disappearance of people, extortion, torture, framing, blackmail, kidnapping, illegal organ trade, armed robbery, home invasions, rape of men and women, child arrests, the invasion of privacy, and polluting bodies of water by illegally disposing of human remains,” according to Wikipedia. While I do not specifically wish death on them, I am happy many leaders in Nigeria and members of the slimy SARS force are getting a chance to experience what it feels like to be degraded as people. They are certainly examples of the worst misuses of power.

Many Americans see African people as “authentically black,” as compared to black African Americans. And this reminds me of an issue that scholars have been debating for decades: if we keep everything black-owned, would it bring increased prosperity to the African-American community? Many advocates say yes, even though many successful black business owners have the money and other resources to live in inner cities, but refuse to do so. Those of us who believe in black-owned businesses nationwide argue that this would increase investment in community resources, tackling drug, alcohol, and mental health issues, and helping to restore the broken family unit.

But suppose we use Nigeria as the model for universal black independence, considering current issues in black America. Looking at things that way, I am uncertain whether an all-black model in America would make that much difference.

For decades, a notion has persisted that blacks cannot succeed because of white power. While racism is a significant issue, we also need to recognize that black “successful” people contribute to the problem, holding down less fortunate black Americans. In her article for ABC, Samara Lynn quoted historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad: “The idea that Black people kill each other is exceptional, or something that can only be fixed by Black people is deeply rooted in the white supremacist past,” he said. He goes on to claim that: “African Americans have had more difficulty gaining the same acceptance that white immigrant groups have because of America’s racist legacy.” Perhaps the problems in our community are rooted in America’s relationship to race. They will not be fully solved until we reckon with that.

But there are other potential reasons that we cannot seem to solve all our problems. Zariah Taylor zooms right in on the issue when she writes for VOX, “What people don’t stop to think about is the root of Black-On-Black crime. Black people killing each other at high rates is a direct output of white supremacy… Crime is a result of socio-economic status, meaning that if you are poor, you are more likely to commit a crime. Black people are one of the two racial groups with the highest poverty rates.”

Taylor then argues that white people are killing their own at a rate higher than “black-on-black crime.” But white people are not protesting that they need to make their community more robust and instead are starting movements based on racism. Whether the root cause is the “white supremacy” theory or a racist economy, one black-on-black crime is too many. We need to find solutions, not just argue over the definition of the problem. Whether the problem is rooted mostly in white supremacy or socio-economic status or another issue entirely, we can all see that African Americans are not succeeding in America the way that other groups are. So we have to ask again, is Nigeria the place to look for answers?

In Nigeria, you would not be likely to encounter a “white supremacist,” and systemic racism is not on their list of challenges. So if they hold the answers, we should see Nigeria’s government raising its people up, undoing any problems caused by racism. And suppose the solution for the United States is a black majority government. In that case, we should see Nigeria helping its members combat and counteract this argument of “white supremacy.” In the absence of a powerful white society, success should be universal. But that is not what we are seeing. Many black Americans think the theory of “white supremacy” is proven false by African Americans who can afford luxury cars, fine houses, and lavish vacations without concerning themselves how they plan to pay the rent, etc.

Many black Americans have grave concerns about the wealthy white people have, compared to black Americans. On the other hand, in Nigeria, protesters do not cry out about how white people are treating them, but rather how their own people are making a mockery of their hardship. Nigeria is run by an all-black leadership, with wealthy individuals steeped in corruption and psychological dysfunction. Who knows what would happen if we had a similar setup? We black Americans might share their experiences and sentiments if we found our black leadership suffering from the same problems.

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