Last year I saw a movie on slavery. It was a remarkable cinematic adaptation of 12 Years A Slave; the 1853 slave narrative memoir by Solomon Northup. Like my experience with every slave trade-oriented literature and artwork I had come across, my heart was gripped with sorrow and anger and resentment. I simply hate and detest slavery on all counts. Nothing can justify it; and for me; it’s an evil we must expunge in all its manifestations. In this particular narrative, the plight of Solomon was very touching to me because unlike some who were born to slavery; he was once a freeman.
Solomon was a New York State-born free African-American who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. Perhaps his ancestors were former slaves who worked their behinds off to earn their freedom. Perhaps. But Solomon was a freeman and his freedom was legit. He had a wife, children, and a job he loved. The price for his bliss had already been paid for. His life was pretty much rose petals and scented candles until one day in 1841 when he took up an invitation by two men to play the violin in Washington, D.C. Once in D.C., they drugged him and delivered him to a slave pen where for the next 12 years of his life, he was a slave. He didn’t need to relive the hardship of his ancestors. Yet, because the cruelty of man sometimes comes with such subtlety that it is hard to detect its influx, Solomon was forced to live 12 years as a slave.
Slavery is a terminology too complex for a straight definition due to its multifariousness. Sometimes it is legally justified; at other times it is mystified. Nevertheless, for me, nothing exemplifies the plight of the civil servants in the State of Osun like Solomon Northup’s account in “12 Years a Slave”. Perhaps, like his ancestors they were once slaves – in this case unable to fend for themselves and living off others while they struggled to get their freedom papers; required certificates and qualifications for employment. They went to school, slaved through the unfavorable conditions hovering over the education sector in Nigeria to get their freedom papers. And With their freedom papers came a stable job they’ve learnt to love and devote themselves to. They didn’t mind being called civil servants because serving in the public office was to them, honor and pride that came with rose petals and scented candles. Life was good. They had wives, husbands, and children. They also went about doing their works excitedly until one day they took up the “better life” offer of a sneaky politician. And once he had secured his place through a democratic “arrangement”, he drugged them with white elephant projects and excuses and led them to the slave pen of financial slavery. May be Northup’s case is extreme. Maybe it’s an unconventional comparison. But the reality remains that slavery in whatever form or shade or degree should not be tolerated.
In literature, motion pictures or in any of its modern day forms, with every encounter I have had with the slave trade era has come the desire to fight inequality and all forms of excused evils around me. In the height of my emotions, I remember muttering a self-addressed promise that if slavery ever makes a comeback, I will be at the frontline in the fight against it. With time however, I am coming to realize the convenience of that commitment in contrast with the resolve to go through with it.
Slavery; the root of many evils has returned to dwell within our borders although this time it has evolved and reinvented itself. Financial slavery infringes on the rights of thousands of Nigerians in the State of Osun. This hurts. But this truth doesn’t hurt as much as the fact that those in the position to influence its abolition seem unconcerned. This borders me a lot. It’s like the people of the State of Osun have no covering, no seed of love in these Nigerians to speak against their oppression. It’s like their hospitality over the years has not mustered enough goodwill to aid them in desperate times as this.
Is it that no one cares? Apathy? Seeing people who will generally speak up against oppression and inhumanity keep mute with indifference on this matter hurts. This truth hurts most! Then I ask myself, is one class of injustice and dehumanization more important than the other? What’s the point in championing the cause of freedom and equal rights at the international scene if you ignore the inhumanity perpetrated right under your nose? What a culture of hypocrisy!
I have no interest in trading blames or inundating anyone with information about the self-engineered sterility of the government of the State of Osun. It’s a wearisome, unproductive task. Nevertheless, I call out to Nigerians to take a stand against this form of oppression; let’s start by taking a stand with the workers in the State of Osun. They are fellow Nigerians who deserve equal treatment like workers in other Nigerian states where the system works. When irresponsibility resides in the place of authority it’s the duty of the citizenry to teach what must be learnt. The governor may have failed the workers but we can teach him responsibility. Before he begged to serve as leader, these people had and lived better lives. We must demand normalcy. We must demand a life where they can take care of themselves and their families and be responsible members of their communities.
The people of the State of Osun are not lazy. They have survived for this long but we refuse the continuity of this menace. They are not charity projects. They are hardworking people. They are Omoluabis. They are our people. We refuse to watch our men go suicidal. We refuse to watch our women beg on the streets. We refuse to watch our children grow weak from malnutrition and starvation. We refuse to be reduced to nuisances in our communities because of one man’s lack of shrewdness, sound judgment and financial accountability. Nothing justifies this lingering plague. Nothing excuses or rights his inadequacies. We must disallow this reign of terror. This is evil and in the immortal words of Ayo Sogunro: “Evil comes in many forms: there is no qualification by degree. There is no ‘good’ evil thing. Sani Abacha, Boko Haram, Hitler, slavery – they all fit into the same category of misfortunes.”
Yes, they voted for change because they believed in the strength of its revolution. But now, they doubt the wisdom of their choice. The governor must revalidate the integrity of the #change cause. His #change must begin at home. The workers and people of the State of Osun want their lives back. They deserve to have their lives back. Food on their tables. Yams in their barns. Clothes on their backs. Smiles on their children’s faces. And a partridge in a pear tree or like Seun suggested, “Aparo on agbalumo trees”.
#EndSlaveryInOsunNow #SpeakNow #Dotherightthing
“Every villain has an excuse but nothing justifies evil”- #Shewrites