It was the America-based Nigerian academic and columnist, Dr. Farooq Kperogi, who, in a spark of his linguistic eruditions, coined “Cyberia” to portray the demographics of Nigerians, home and overseas, in cyberspace. This word deserves a place in our contemporary dictionaries. First, because these Nigerians are a peculiar specimen for anthropological study—they are so often so disconnected from the political and social reality of Nigeria yet parade themselves as an actual salvation army of its ongoing devolution. And, second, the evil creativities of our countrymen in internet scams, especially their fabled domination of credit cards and “business proposals” frauds, are enough reasons to be in the list of the most dreaded demographics in this classless cyber-world.
My memories of Maggie, Margaret Thatcher, unlike some of my peers, were defined in my primary school days, where we referred to any aggressive girl in the classroom as “Margaret Thatcher”. How we knew that Margaret Thatcher was not a “nice” woman, I don’t know. In fact, even as we crossed into puberty and began making the “biological” moves to woo ladies, our term for the unfriendly ones was “Margaret Thatcher.” We would return from our nightly haunts and declare of a girl we had gone to visit, “Guys, that girl is a Margaret Thatcher o!” We all knew what that meant. Beyond being “aggressive”, it meant “an emotionally dead and self-serving person”. A bit chauvinistic, perhaps, but that was our perception of what the name of that British Prime Minister represented!
Our delayed encounter with relevant histories was due to our skewed curricula. We never came across “Margaret Thatcher” in our textbooks, and thus there really was no basis to justify our hatred for her as school pupils. It was so with our elder brothers who were also too young to pay mind to international politics. The first push to understand Thatcherism was in a 1979 letter by the Nigerian novelist Mallam Abubakar Gimba, collected as “A Letter Margaret Thatcher Never Read” in his book Once Upon a Reed (p. 176, Caltop Books, 2006). In that prescient open letter he wrote to Baroness Thatcher on her assuming power as Prime Minister, he picked at her “abrasive style”, “combative speeches”, uncritical romance with apartheid Rhodesia’s government and racist perception of “Black and Asian immigrants”—counsels she, as time would prove, never heeded. I sought answers, and even studied her apologists’ idealisations, in history books, and the more I went on, the more I felt something tugging at the base of my heart. Pain. And that mental image of an imperial Thatcher was further demonised, through my own rigorous dialectics, to a racist who abetted the dehumanisation of my kind. And that was the simple truth I told my little sister who, unlike many in the cyberspace who had poured out their tributes on Thatcher’s passing, asked to know why I attacked a dead person. “Celebrating Margaret Thatcher,” I told her, “is agreeing that anti-apartheid activism was an act of terrorism!”
Restore History in our curricula!!! It is wiser to be bred on unsavoury truths than discovering that we have lived on falsehoods all our lives! This was why the history of Nigeria’s Civil War is now recounted only through the Babel of ethnic advocates. The same Africans who censor the parts of “Margaret Thatchers” in our history books offer us the evils of the Idi Amins. And, today, we condemn the Robert Mugabes of this continent without acknowledging the noble struggles of their early years. We need to learn from their mistakes, especially now that we are in a pit of forestalled revolution. Much as we skirt the issues that bind us, so shall our striving for cultural, racial and political harmony lead to anarchy.
The Cyberians, I mean Nigerians, who dedicated status updates and tweets to Maggie did so just because the name rang a bell—like me, they had heard the name while growing up. A female lawyer, a truly brilliant person, in my Blackberry Messenger list, even wrote: “RIP Margaret Thatcher, you defined the place of women in the world. You were our heroine, Iron Lady!” Thatcherism, in her forgivable ignorance, is feminist heroism. She didn’t know that Thatcher was against even feminism, she didn’t know that Thatcher, as heir of our colonial masters, tangoed with the apartheid and racist lords and refused to sanction apartheid South Africa and, instead, labelled a leading rights group a “terrorist organisation”. Tyranny has neither race nor gender; abuse of power arises often and simply from the inability of a leader to check his/her large ego and psychological deficiencies.
The uncritical response to Thatcher’s death by young Nigerians, who are the dominant group in Cyberia, is not a new tradition. In fact, intellectual disability is the first noticeable characteristic of this group. This is the same group that would wallop President Goodluck Jonathan’s flawed policies only to read Reuben Abati’s defence and, embarrassingly, accept it as “Good literature!” Abati’s sophistries, which many of us lack the intellect to challenge, are not the only things that bamboozle my generation; having passed out of schools that turned us into everything but intellectuals, our repulsion towards books is understandable. That was how we failed to see the anti-people policies, the wrongly planned demolition exercises, of Lagos state’s Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola which were predicted, though in a fictional place that is unmistakably Lagos, in novelist Jude Dibia’s Blackbird. The novel is a realist’s gander of the gaps between “socio-political” poverty and affluence; Blackbird shows us the lack of empathy for the politically invented paupers and the deliberate apathy to welfarist policies by the political elite [and their allies—friends, families and expatriates], policies that are exactly what we need to redeem this Third World country of ours!
History sharpens our perception and interpretation of events. Awareness of history, which necessitated my psychological solidarity with the American blacks and my ancestral “uncles” and “aunts”, may be the reason why I wasn’t entertained watching D’Jango Unchained recently—a movie that seeks to show that the transatlantic slave trade was not a tragedy. The Quentin Tarantino’s movie is simply an art created to entertain, I know; my humanity, however, has not accepted that parody of a people’s reality. Many Cyberians and Netizens at large may infer, on watching D’Jango Unchained, that “niggers” actually held sway in pre-abolition America. Our disconnection with the past is that bad. I was sad because half a century after the end of most of the European colonies, Africa still hasn’t proven its worth and the reprehensible thieves who have led us have only entertained the racist colleagues and disciples of Pieter Willem Botha and James D. Watson, the politician and geneticist respectively, who mischievously regarded our backward state and atavistic political behaviours as natural and genetic rather than sociological and socialised on the defective educations these leader-thieves received from Oxford and Sandhurst and similar places in the 40’s and 50’s, which they perfected and then taught to their heirs-in-perdition. May God save us from us!
Blueprint Newspapers (12/04/2013)
@gimbakakanda (on Twitter)