The pervasive Black African roots mentality, which is indelibly etched on the sub-conscious of many a Nigerians was in full manifestation once again when boxing superstar Anthony Joshua beat his opponent Andy Ruiz Jr. to emerge world heavyweight boxing champion. Born to Nigerian parents of Yoruba ethnicity in Watford Borough of Hertfordshire County in the southern part of England in 1989, Anthony Joshua is a British professional boxer with strong attachments to his African roots. The government and people of Nigeria, his country of ancestral origin, particularly his ethnic Yoruba and his sub-ethnic Ijebu-Remo groups, not only consider him one of their illustrious sons but are actively competing with his nation of birth, Great Britain, for a share in the glory of his gloves. Anthony Joshua’s Nigerian bonafides is also buoyed by his open identification with his country of origin to the joy of his kinsmen.
However, the celebration of British world boxing champion, Anthony Joshua, by Nigerians reveals an inherent primitiveness in African societal structuring. Primarily hinged on his race and ethnicity but not his nationality, the belief by many Nigerians that Anthony Joshua is a Nigerian is a function of mass citizenship miseducation, arising from an entrenched black African roots mentality. Perpetually attached to their ethno-geographic origins and tribal affiliations, Nigerians are mostly averse to the concept of integration and assimilation to evolve human settlements that are hybrids of cross-sections of residents from varied ethno-geographic and religious backgrounds.
Most Nigerians cannot always fathom how a Black man of Yoruba ethnicity like Anthony Joshua can be said to be “British”, simply because he was born on British soil, just as Gilbert Chagoury, whose ancestors are from Lebanon, can be a “Nigerian” because he was born in Nigeria. As far as this category of Nigerians are concerned, to be British means to be White and Nigerian Black. That Nigerians still refer to a Nigerian citizen by birth, such as Gilbert Chagoury, who was born in 1946 in Nigeria to immigrant parents from Lebanon as “Lebanese” and boisterously claim British by birth citizen, Anthony Joshua as a Nigerian is, as pointed out above, a reflection of mass citizenship miseducation arising from an entrenched African roots mentality.
…the black African roots mentality has a more retrogressive effect on the structural configuration of the Nigerian federation. Sentimentally attached to their ethnic roots with an unbreakable chord, Nigerians identify more as indigenous tribesmen than citizens of the state, resulting in a Nigerian federation that is rigidly carved along ethno-geographic lines.
The resort to laying claim to outstanding individuals of black African origin who were born, horned and groomed to success in their nations of residence, by their countries of origin, which was a form of racial validation arising from a persistent victim mentality in a White dominated world, may have degenerated into an unintended form of reverse black on white racism. To support and attribute success to individuals on the basis of their ethnicity, race and geography of origin but not on the universally acclaimed attributes of knowledge, hard work, discipline, integrity, consistency and determination is no less racist than white supremacist complex. And, to attribute the success of Anthony Joshua to the “indomitable Nigerian spirit”, as claimed by Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is akin to attributing the ingenious invention of Wright Brothers to their white race.
Beyond the tendency towards reverse black on white racism, the black African roots mentality has a more retrogressive effect on the structural configuration of the Nigerian federation. Sentimentally attached to their ethnic roots with an unbreakable chord, Nigerians identify more as indigenous tribesmen than citizens of the state, resulting in a Nigerian federation that is rigidly carved along ethno-geographic lines. This primitive pattern of human settlement leaves very little room for assimilation and integration of Nigerians, wherever they choose to reside within the federation of Nigeria outside their places of origin, with unhindered political and economic rights. This has rendered Nigeria a country of indigenes, where Lagos is always Yoruba; Enugu, Igbo; Bayelsa, Ijaw; and Sokoto Hausa/Fulani, with political and economic rights of non-indigenes severely curtailed or non-existent in a clear manifestation of stubborn ethno-geographic territorialism.
The black African roots mentality has entrenched a culture of discrimination and bigotry on the basis of ethnicity and creed, while constituting an organic stumbling block against national cohesive integration in an otherwise one Nigeria. If Anthony Joshua was born in Nigeria, in any other part outside his native Shagamu community, his story as a British citizen by birth who was fully assimilated and integrated in the society of his residence to such an extent that he has represented his nation in many international boxing competitions, would have been different. The opportunity to rise to his full potentials would have been curtailed drastically as a stranger residing in a state where he is considered an outsider, inside his own country. In a country such as Nigeria, where a state governor reportedly queried the management of the state football team on why there were more non-indigenes than indigenes in the squad, Anthony Joshua would have been rudely woken up from his dream of a world champion by the discriminatory indigene/settler dichotomy that creates a worse form of systemic apartheid that is not premised on race but ethnicity. The seeming inability of Nigeria to evolve from a country of indigenes to a nation of citizens, by deliberately resolving the question of national identity through a mechanism of seamless assimilation and integration of Nigerians wherever they reside, with political and economic rights accorded them, has left Nigeria at the bottom of the pyramid of the evolution of human settlements in the contemporary world.
It is rather opportunistic for the government and people of Nigeria to take ownership of the successes of Anthony Joshua, as it is akin to a family who gave up their child for adoption at birth to begin to lay claim to that child after the adoptive family had groomed their adopted child into a successful adult.
The election of Boris Johnson, a man of Muslim Turkish ancestry as British prime minister did not elicit spontaneous jubilation in Ankara because the current president of Turkey, Recep Tayip Erdogan, is himself of Georgian ancestry. There were no celebratory parades on the streets of Milan when His Holiness, Pope Francis I, who was of Italian origin but a citizen of Argentina by birth was elected as the first “non-European” Bishop of Rome and the first from South America, because sitting in the Italian senate is a certain Toni Iwobi, an Italian citizen of Nigerian descent. Although of Germanic ethnicity, as descendants of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert of Germany, the ruling British monarchy has led their nation of Great Britain to victory over Germany in two world wars (1918 and 1945) and one world cup (1966). And when the murdered journalist, Jamal Kashoogi, a Saudi Arabian citizen of Turkish origin, went to Turkey to formalise his relationship with his Turkish fiancée, he didn’t take advantage of being in his country of origin to sidestep the diplomatic procedures of his foreign Saudi nationality to settle for a customary wedding rite “as a son of the soil”.
For these nations at the top of pyramid of evolution of human settlements, having attained sufficient citizenship enlightenment, Europe is not always White; Saudi Arabia, Arab; and Turkey, Turkmen. The nationalities of a people are not always defined by their ethnicity but the commonality of their collective humanity in a given geography under the universal principle of citizenship. In Nigeria, one cannot be Igbo and Kano, Hausa/Fulani and Enugu, Ikwere and Bayelsa, as well as Yoruba and Borno. Therefore, Anthony Joshua can’t possibly be black, Yoruba and British. He must be a Nigerian. So thinks many Nigerians.
In the contemporary world were nationality is defined by the geography of residence and not always ethnicity, Anthony Joshua is not a Nigerian. He is a black British citizen of Yoruba ethnicity. And if Nigeria were to challenge Britain in any international boxing competition with Anthony Joshua representing his nation, who will Nigerians support? It is rather opportunistic for the government and people of Nigeria to take ownership of the successes of Anthony Joshua, as it is akin to a family who gave up their child for adoption at birth to begin to lay claim to that child after the adoptive family had groomed their adopted child into a successful adult. Rather than gloat over British Anthony Joshua, Nigerians must begin to learn vital lessons of nation building from nations at the top of the pyramid of evolution of human settlements. Nigerians should begin to make concerted efforts at deliberately transforming Nigeria from a country of indigenes into a nation of citizens that has the capacity to groom its own Anthony Joshua under the right atmosphere of egalitarianism, devoid of the clannishness of suffocating provincial proclivities arising from the black African roots mentality.
© Majeed Dahiru