Away with them – The Nation

  • Nigeria should erase the vestiges of slavery and colonialism

All over the world, and all through history, people have always demonstrated their resentment of racial discrimination, colonial supremacist and even local authoritarian tendencies in diverse ways.

Sometimes, these have been achieved by peaceful protests and, when peaceful demonstrations fail, they resort to violent protests.

A good example of the latter was the French Revolution, in the course of which French nationals set ablaze the Bastille that they saw as a symbol of their oppression.

Also, there were all kinds of anti-apartheid defiances in South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc, in the heady days of apartheid, to mention a few examples.

The good news is that, today, most of the vestiges that sustained apartheid, thus reminding the South Africans of the better-forgotten apartheid years, have been destroyed.

It is this spirit of nationalism and patriotism that informed the decision  of the Lagos State House of Assembly to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to, via executive order, rename monuments and sites named after colonial masters or beneficiaries of slave trade.

This may seem belated, but it is still better late than never. It is a progressive move towards rewriting the narrative of the colonial and other relics.

And, in deference to the maxim, ‘charity begins at home’, the legislators similarly requested the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to direct the Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture to liaise with the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, with a view to looking at the Listed Sites in the Lagos State Preservation Law Chapter 86 Vol. 1, with a view to removing all traces of slave trade and colonial superiority.

From the speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, to other members, there was a consensus that renaming these relics would correct the erroneous impressions of white supremacy as well as help check incessant racist attacks on Black people across the world.

One of the lawmakers, Mr Abiodun Tobun, said: “We need to delist monuments that depict racism, and promote values and culture, as slave trade is not our culture but a part of our history.

Black people should not see themselves as inferior beings because of their skin colour. We must also encourage our children to know that Black people are superior.” He was too romantic there, for we cannot say any group is superior, black or white.

Another legislator, Mrs Mojisola Meranda said: “We should not shy away from history by maintaining monumental structures for generations to come but existing streets that carry foreign names should be changed if they add no value to the present.”

We agree with the submissions.

Historically, there has always been a trigger for the reawakening of the kind of nationalism that has propelled the legislators to make this kind of request.

After all, we have all been living, seemingly at peace with the relics they are now calling for their replacement or destruction.

The trigger, this time around, was the brutal murder of George Floyd, the Black American who was killed in the process of arrest by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, on May 25, 2020. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes, ignoring his ‘I can’t breathe’ pleas that he repeated several times.

The brutal murder,  in the open, led to widespread protests against police brutality in the United States and beyond.

If a monument is a structure explicitly created to “commemorate a person or event, or which has become relevant to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage, due to its artistic, historical, political, technical or architectural importance”, then, virtually all communities have one monument or the other, Nigeria inclusive. They act as authentic records of history.

Let us retain the good ones and continue to cherish our national icons, heroes and heroines whose contributions to the country’s history and development should never be forgotten.

We must preserve our culture and not those of some foreigners who only came to plunder and dehumanise us. We must be ready to document our history from our own perspective.

Let us do away with monuments that are sad reminders of some of our better forgotten eras, events, persons or even cultural heritage.

President Buhari and Governor Sanwo-Olu will do well to give the legislators’ request the listening ears that it deserves. Indeed, other state governments should be thinking in this worthy direction. Enough is really enough!

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