I was surfing my Facebook account after a long and tedious class. I browsed through page and they were all filled with commentaries on the just-concluded World Cup. But one of the pages mortified me; I cannot remember the site, with its headline. It was a warning. It says DO NOT SAY AFRICA WON THE WORLD CUP, FRANCE DID. WE ARE FRENCH AND WE ARE HERE. It is true.
France has just lifted the most prestigious trophy in global football. It is hardly surprising to anyone owing to the individual qualities of the players and their exposure to most sublime nature of the sport across European clubs. But it is only more interesting that France became the first ‘African’ country to lift the trophy, literarily. The outcome of the competition has sent African football supporters into a fit of euphoria due to the racial composition of the French national squad consisted of a majority of Black players. But there is something wrong.
There are two dimensions to this, the positive and the negative. It is really hard to see the triumph of the French national team from a different, unconventional perspective especially with the domination of a single narrative as regards this – the impartial integration of other races into the national team. This is laudable and a symbolic landmark for the raging issue of immigration. It will vitiate the negativity attached indelibly to immigrants from African countries, most importantly in the wake of America’s Trump’s repulsive ultra-nationalism.
But calm down and come to think of it, what does the real Africa stand to gain from this? By real Africa, I mean Africa itself and those who remain in it and are incapable of garnering the prohibitive wherewithal and luxury to switch continents, countries, cultures or even identities. Real Africa, in this context, means the people who are in it and are affected by the unfortunate trap of underdevelopment and progressive backwardness.
This might sound a bit stereotypical but you know the disparity in the distribution of wealth divides the people in Africa into two extremes – the incredibly rich and the transparently poor. Only those who fight hard get to the middle ground, most do not make it there. Africa is not poor but its people are very poor.
The blacks in the French team are sons of immigrants from Africa or the immigrants themselves. Why do Africans have to leave the continent for pastures greener when we are sitting on superfluity of natural resources? Why do Africans have to go away from their homes in search of a new world where uncertainty colours the endeavour? They search for a new home and, sometimes, even skin. Why is Africa not enough to live for Africans and why is Africa dangerous to dreams and aspirations?
Well, the answers are in front of us, starkly nude. We know them: ingrained systemic corruption, death of constructive and visionary politics, vision-and-mission-bereft leadership, and all sort of bizarre conditions that are unfavourable for development of talents and antagonistic to progress. I know, because France is a European country and a historically notorious colonialist country who has contributed to Africa’s Francophone underdevelopment in no small measure, you will be quick to say the people of the country deserve to be welcoming to immigrants.
Yes, they have to be. The world is shrinking into a tiny space where, sooner or later, everyone would be so packed like a tin of sardine, literarily. Yes, that is the inevitable global multiculturalism that is attendant on unremitting scientific and technological landmarks. People can move anywhere, as far as their presence is not injurious to the wellbeing of the host countries. Yes, blacks are not criminals. We have just proven that there is a lot more to the Blackness of our skin than mediocrity.
But when Africans move, why do they move? Why the haemorrhage of talents in search of hope and life elsewhere? Africans mostly move out of the continent because there is a glimmer of breakthrough abroad. How could Europe and the Americas – or any other place for the desperate ones – be the only place for the seeds of dreams to be fertile?
Africa’s best engineers are not in Africa. Arica’s best writers are not in Africa. Africa’s best teachers are not in Africa. Africa’s best sportsmen and women are not in Africa. Africa’s best politicians are not even here in Africa, in our political space but in the cold somewhere telling the continent what should be done while things catapult from the bad to the worse and the worse to the worst and then beyond that. In short, Africa itself is not even in Africa.
Immigration is currently a global hot-button issue and the discourse has become a religion for people of international politics. It is a beautiful thing that people want to move, that Africans want to have the feel of other space, but when they do, should it be that they are running from hopelessness, from covert genocide, insurgency, displacement, their identity and their lives and survival? That five-year-old Libyan boy tucked in the middle of a fibre boat in the middle of nowhere on the Mediterranean Sea – just an unending vastness of waters melding into the sky – going to Italy, what does he have to run from?
And when the boat capsizes and his tiny body floats atop the surface of the sea, bloated with the waters that his parents told him were going to take him to a new life, what explanation do we have? CNN will report his mishap among other casualties and the morbid censure continues.
Do not misconstrue me; I am not particularly against the French national team’s diversity. It is one that gives me joy that even in the world of vociferous Trumps and Le Pens, there is a shade of inclusivity somewhere which is a real blow to the existence of mainstream racism. I am just having another perspective about it all.
France has won the world cup but we all know what happened to the five African countries. None of the five even made it out of the group stage which is a sweeping metaphor for quality of the teams. But the concern is this; the best African/Black players were wearing other teams’ shirts. It is not only in sports, it is in all areas of our existence. The best leave Africa. That is why we are still where we are.
Africa must find a solution, otherwise, the world will leave us behind with so much space that catching up would almost become impossible and Africans will continue to leave for other places while Africa remains underdeveloped.
He used to live down our streets, in Mushin. He was tall and his body architecture was amazing owing to months of dedication in building a mansion of muscles in the hope that he would get a job as a bouncer in a club despite his Bachelor of Science degree. He was content to watch skimpily dressed girls and unruly young boys troop in and out of the gate of the club. He did not mind, he only wanted a job. But then he could not get a decent one. He took to cutting his hair until you could just use his scalp to check the intensity of the sun. Probably, if he looked fierce, he would get the job. A bouncer needed to be fearful, he thought.
Frustration became a part of him like something tucked somewhere in his heart. He wanted to survive and then he heard he could get into Italy through Libya. It was something he would not like to do but he needed to step away from the grave the country was digging around him in a wall of anger and frustration. He began telling people that if they stayed at the Libyan shores of the Mediterranean, they would see Italy! Just like when you stay at the borders of Morocco, you will see the glittering lights that line the streets of Spain!
So, he went to Libya and never came back. He did not make it to Italy. He died in Libya.
Ope Adetayo is a first-year student of English at the University of Ilorin. He is currently engaged as a Commonwealth Correspondent.