Tunde Fagbenle: 12 Years A Slave and MKO Abiola’s fight for reparation

by Tunde Fagbenle


It was my opinion on the current hit movie, 12 Years A Slave, the latest reminder of the gory years of slave trade, the sad lot of the Blackman, and the historic injustices the “White” world had meted out to Africa and her peoples.

I posted something on my Facebook (FB) status some days ago. It was my opinion on the current hit movie, 12 Years A Slave, the latest reminder of the gory years of slave trade, the sad lot of the Blackman, and the historic injustices the “White” world had meted out to Africa and her peoples.

The reactions to it from my FB friends came in torrents. It received instant “like” from hundreds, and some folks shared it on their own status, drawing their own share of reactions from their own group of friends. The contributions ranged from the deep to the shallow, from the profound to the silly, from the intellectual to the dumb.

A contributor who stood out amongst all for the profundity of his message, one made more intriguing by his profile as an Oba (“Royal father”) was HRM Oba Dokun Thompson, the Olooni of Eti-Oni in the State of Osun.

The contributions below provide food for thought. Hope you enjoy them.

I wrote:

“I have gone to see ‘12 Years A Slave’ here in London! It is a sad film, even if slightly overhyped. But nevertheless, it left everyone, black and white, in the audience speechless and in mourning. It was pin-drop silence with most people glued to their seats right till the credits ran out. As viewers left, there were no murmurs, no shuffling, just silence.

It got me sadder and infuriated, the level of atrocity and inhumanity perpetrated against the black race over 200 years! Blacks were treated worse than beasts of burden, and many would have wished to change places with dogs, for even dogs enjoyed some dignity. In the hundreds of thousands, blacks forcibly taken away from their fatherland were thrown overboard, into the wild seas as food for sharks, for being ill on the boat or just for their looks; women and young virgin girls were raped and then brutalised (as ‘compensation’!) and, in many cases, still killed; ad nauseam.

Got me thinking, how what blacks were subjected to over hundreds of years made what the Jews suffered in the holocaust pale to insignificance, comparatively. And, without disrespect, hearing all the hoopla on the holocaust and how the whole world is made never to forget it, and the unending reparation to the Jews, etc. makes me wonder, if it had been a section of the white race that went through what blacks suffered, wouldn’t the world have found a way to some global reparation for them, damning all the sophistry that have been deployed to argue against its feasibility or rationale for blacks?

Makes me remember and miss MKO ABIOLA the more. He fought valiantly for reparation to the black peoples of the world; he fought with all he had – money and intellect. Unfortunately, he died. And with him died all noise on reparation for blacks. Rest in peace MKO.

Let’s hope “12 Years A Slave would start something.”

Emeka Esogbue (EE): Slavery is as old as man and till date, child trafficking is still very common. While not justifying or trivialising the cruel and illicit trade, we must also blame our African brothers and sisters who encouraged and participated in it because of greed and selfishness. One of the reasons the late MKO Abiola’s reparation project on slave trade failed was that for every African slave taken out of Africa, African merchants were duly paid. There was therefore no need for Africans to demand further compensations from Europe. It was a sort of trade that involved buyers and sellers, and both benefitted. In fact, European merchants never captured slaves themselves. Slaves were handed them on payment by our African elders and merchants. Now, two of the ways by which slaves were got were by frequent raids organised by Africans and invasion of other communities by African communities. That greed and selfishness can still be found in African leaders today where billions of money is stolen daily leaving their subjects as paupers.

Abiola Falayajo Jr. (AF)F: Emeka, may I slightly disagree with some of your positions in the sense that there were Jews who supported Hitler. Have we seen or heard anyone using these Jewish traitors to justify the holocaust?Why are they telling us to forget and move on from the slave trade tragedy?

Abdul Hakeem (AH): Emeka, so it’s okay for Church of England, The English Royal family, Tate & Lyle, et al to get compensation for slaves lost after the abolition?Or better still, it’s okay to let armed robbers go because they bribed your ‘gate-man’. Silence in the face of tyranny is, in its own right, an evil act. Israel got compensation (even up till date), Germany got compensation via Marshall plan, Japan got compensation after US atomic bomb, etc. The result is the building of infrastructure that is evident today. For Africa to move forward, we must first be cured of that disease called ‘Mandela Syndrome’.

Oba Dokun Thompson (ODT): Emeka, you have very valid points but the question ‘who sold them?’ is not the approach. My question is very simple, was the person who did the selling the owner of the item being sold? Legally, can you sell what does not belong to you? All over the world when you buy stolen goods, what happens? Is it merely looked at as trade or handling of stolen goods with the buyer treated as an accomplice of the seller?

EE: The period under study was characterised by anarchy in which the strong overpowered the weak. Therefore at that time, there was absence of legality. In many cases, the owners sold while in some other cases raids were conducted, wars were organised too.In essence, the transatlantic slave trade was a ‘trade’ by every known standard because there were exchanges of articles in human form. It was the biggest trade of that century. Empires like the Old Oyo Empire and Benin Kingdom depended on it for revenue generation and interestingly, an end to slave trade was one of the causes of the collapse of Oyo Empire like many other empires of that time.

ODT: Emeka, thanks very much but we are going back to history here and very fine details. The collapse of the Oyo Empire was as a result of the jihad and the taking over of Ilorin and environs. Slave trade started after the discovery of America to build the new country. The British did same to the Irish to build what we see as Gt. Britain today. I am not talking of reparation in the MKO sense. I am simply saying why can’t we seek justice when we are wronged.

Look at the case of Syria, which is very recent; because Russia and China put their foot down, the tone from the west has changed completely. Let us not be fooled, terms of engagement with them is not on equality basis. Yes, slaves had always existed and exist till date. I am not bothered about that.

What I have a problem with is the inhuman treatment of a fellow human being, that is the problem, and the double-faced and holier than thou attitude of the powers that be. Let us call a spade a spade, period.Is apartheid okay? Is slavery okay? Is segregation okay? Is racism or discrimination okay? We would be living in denial if we say all these don’t exist and for me it is neither here nor there but when you treat people worse than animals, then there is a major problem that needs to be addressed.




Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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