Editorial: Nigerian Slaves From S/Africa to Libya



Nigerian returnees from Libya are still telling horrible stories from that once glorious North African country of incorruptible men and women, now termed arguably the worst slave camp in modern times, courtesy of the destruction let loose on it by Western powers recently.

The stories range from forced labour and rape to exploitation and imprisonment. This is unfortunate and condemnable, particularly in a claimed global village in which expected inalienable right of and respect for mankind is been framed interpretatively by many regulations, statutes and laws governing financial crimes, war crimes, human trafficking and violence.

Expectedly, global reactions and condemnations of the crime following the distressing accounts of immigrant Nigerians have been pouring from the main culprits who planned the disaster long ago.

Anyway, not until the CNN’s shocking exposé of the crime did it become a “terrible case of man’s inhumanity to man”, to paraphrase the surface reactions by many governments and the United Nations Secretariat, whereas many NGOs within and without Nigeria had been making this “ terrible case of man’s inhumanity to man’, a subject of public discuss for several months.

This is why it was an NGO, the International Migrations Organisation, that was ready to airlift the first batches of dejected and abject illegal immigrants from Libya back to Nigeria. Then the United Nations followed. All the while, Nigeria, their country of origin could not act until after it held its weekly National Executive Council meeting and agreed to “summon the Nigeria Charge D’Affairs in Libya for proper briefing of true state of affairs,” according to Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs in a briefing with State House Correspondents in Abuja, after the meeting, recently.

We find this belated, knee jerk reaction unacceptable. For the obvious reason that few months ago, within the same year, Nigerians were subjects of Xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Does this mean that government functionaries did not fully appraise the South Africa situation, which parallels the Libyan experience in motivation, hatred and greed?



Indeed, like in the Libyan case, the government was slow to act in South Africa. In fact, it took a sharp disagreement between Mrs Abike Dabiri-Eruwa, Presidential Adviser on Diaspora, who was quick to react politically and Onyeama, who, for no clear reason, logical or motivational, chose to tread diplomatically, with even open denial of the deaths recorded in that fiasco.

We do not and can never subscribe to the law of the jungle in resolving issues but we think every matter must be treated in context. The moment President Jacob Zuma of South Africa stated that the attack had economic undertone and failed to condemned it outright, Nigeria should have swung into action to rescue her citizens. In Libya, it is hard to see the reason for diplomacy when it is factionalised and presided over by three different militias, (one in Tripoli, another Benghazi and yet another in Sitre), regardless of the faction supported by the Western powers, often for their commercial interests. Perhaps sensing trouble, the Nigeria Union in South Africa in a telltale statement issued last week, urged their compatriots to tread carefully.

Even so, we think the issues of human dignity and justice thrown up by such degrading events deserve global attention.

We therefore support the move by world leaders to call for and attend remedial conferences on human trafficking and illegal immigration. But it must go beyond the usual photo ops and communiques which such conferences are noted for. Talk is a gainful part in looking for solutions to many challenges posed by human conditions of existence but Heads of Governments must realise that if they continue to allow the prevalence of the policy of might is right in the handling of social, economic and international relations in the place of justice and equity, worst rates of “ terrible cases of man’s inhumanity” would continue to plague the world.

For one, the traditional definition of a slave is anyone who is destitute of kin. And civilisations have witnessed one form of it or the other. But societies the world over have always found ways to assimilate the unfortunate segment of mankind, either through religious conversion, marriage into royalty, decoration for show of commercial prowess or share bravery in war, until the advent of capitalism in the era of the obnoxious slave trade of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries in the Americas with its profiteering.

This cold,  calculated, commercial, profit making trend turned slaves into chattels and sub-human beings in the eyes of their owners.  Since then a dark and unrestrained ego was unleashed on the world and has been hunting every land where capitalism is driven solely by the profit motive and unchecked or controlled by compensatory welfare packages and the rule of law. In the event, the rule of law has become a major  way to address issues of inequity and forms of discrimination in modern democracies.

Policy makers, government heads, may have to re-read the tales coming out of Libya and see if the related greed, hatred, incidences of rape, violence, exploitation and injustice have not become global vices currently stalking the world.

Given its recent nasty history, Libya is therefore a fitting metaphor for where these “terrible cases of man’s inhumanity to man,” are coming from.

Nonetheless, we think each country must take the initiative to resolve this ugly face of mankind where these atrocities are parading with fanfare. We can change the world one man, one nation, at a time.  In doing so, we urge leaders seek always to place the interests of their people at the centre of any initiative, policy and programme and agree to respect and enforce laws on nature.

Elected and appointed officials must embrace due process, transparency and accountability in their dealings while cases of impunity, abuse and misuse are left to the administration of law. We also believe is time world leaders commit to global action and cooperation on issues of ecology and humanism, which can and will restore human dignity, justice and equity to mankind and keep the world safe from all forms of discrimination.

In Nigeria, we urge the ruling elite to start treating our people as Nigerians, as citizens, first and foremost, and to cultivate the capacity for showing common solidarity to anyone faced with degrading treatment within and outside the country.

Politics is an existential art, not a partisan contest fed by ethnic jingoism, sectarianism, nepotism that is considered right for any price, resulting in pervading ethnic mistrust, acrimony, violence, rape, hunger, kidnapping and cry of marginalisation across the land.