Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

There are and have been many nasty things in the world but slavery must be right up there with other gruesome occurrences like death by hanging and crucifixions.

To the young people struggling to grasp the concept of slavery as an industry, I would invite them to imagine the current transfer system in sports. Players are bought and sold frequently with the details available in the newspapers. However, imagine that each player has a job for life and he receives no pay. The spouse and kids belong to the club and they can be sold at any time a good offer comes in. The player trains hard, regularly plays matches in packed stadia and has his face on merchandise and video games but all the profit goes to the club. The player gets a red card and the club fines him 40 lashes of the cane on the club training ground (on the bum so the scars are out of sight).

He dies and is buried at the local dump. The End.

Sounds unfair? That is what slavery was like. There is an evil greed that makes this state of affairs palatable to club owners. Once the expense of salaries can be eliminated from a sporting club, the profits go through the roof for the wage burden is one of the biggest expenses a major sports club has.

Slavery has been in existence since the world began and unfortunately, just like prostitution the old enterprise continues.

There are about 40 million modern-day slaves today.

The first African slaves arrived in Jamestown Virginia in 1619 and the slaves helped to provide the workforce for the lucrative tobacco, rice and cotton plantations until slavery was abolished in the USA following the Senate’s passing of the 13th Amendment which abolished slavery on 8th April 1864.

Slavery was abolished in the British colonies on 25th March 1807 via the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act thanks to the efforts of William Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano and other abolitionists.

Pope Francis:

Therefore, we declare on each and every one of our creeds that modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking, forced labour and prostitution, and organ trafficking, is a crime against humanity. Its victims are from all walks of life but are most frequently among the poorest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. On behalf of all of them, our communities of faith are called to reject, without exception, any systematic deprivation of individual freedom for the purposes of personal or commercial exploitation; in their name, we make this declaration.”

— Declaration on International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, Dec. 2, 2014

12 Years a Slave was a tough movie to watch and it depicts the brutality that African Americans endured at the hands of their masters. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Solomon Northup was a thing of pride for me as I sat there in that movie theatre almost biting my tongue with popcorn in my mouth. The scene with the noose around his neck (while he stays alive by standing on his toes) still haunts till today. It was great to see a Nigerian, an Igbo man play such a role masterfully.

Another Igbo man had portrayed what the life of a slave looked like much earlier; in 1789 in London. The autobiographical work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The African told of how he was kidnapped from his family home in Isseke, Ihiala, in the present day Anambra State and sold into slavery. His literary work helped to educate the British about the evils of the slave trade and fuelled calls for its abolition.

Olaudah’s book clearly says he was kidnapped from his home along with his sister and sold into slavery. It fits with what you would expect. The local Nigerians did the ‘sourcing’ of humans and marched them to the coast for sale to the European buyers.

I am sometimes surprised at how some Nigerians say the Westerners are to blame for slavery.

They came and took us away as slaves

It was indeed a collaboration of two evil partners; the local leaders and the foreign buyers. When the demand for slaves in the New World grew, kidnapping could no longer supply the large numbers required for the slave ships and raiding parties armed with foreign weapons from their business partners attacked neighbouring towns with the sole aim of capturing slaves. Malaria prevented foreigners from going too far inland so the trade depended on the locals selling their brethren away. Those poor souls must have cried and pleaded but money was involved.  The White foot soldiers would not have understood anyway but the local slave dealers would have known what the captured people were saying while they were marched away in chains into an uncertain future.

I have heard some ex-military officers talk about financial compensation for Africa on account of the many who were taken away as slaves. These are the same military officers that ran amok in Africa from the 60s to the 80s staging military coups and counter-coups all over the continent with no regards to human rights.

I would say all parties did wrong in this sad piece of history.

Today in Africa strange things still go on. Nigerians all know that just like Olaudah Equiano was kidnapped in 1752 the kidnapping continues today.

Young Africans travel across the Sahara with the hope of crossing the Mediterranean in a small boat to make it to Europe. They do this because they have leaders who don’t care for them.

Africa has always traded with foreign partners and with every transaction has been left poor. Yet every country that trades with Africa turns out very rich.

Some say it is exploitation. They are true in some respects. Africa has a lot of minerals that get exported and yet cannot feed its people.

No country in Africa manufactures weapons but there are guns everywhere, not necessarily defending the nation’s borders or protecting the lives of citizens but suppressing the people who live within those borders while the leaders alone deal with the foreign buyers and enjoy the profits.

The Biblical Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery. He ended up in Egypt where he worked as a slave improving the economy. He gained his freedom and strengthened the economy even more.

Who was to blame? Joseph’s brothers who sold or the Egyptians who bought?

Bob Marley:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery

None but ourselves can free our minds

Redemption Song