“Open your arms to change but don’t let go your values.” – Dalai Lama
Over the centuries, the colours of the world have continued to change; the seas and oceans once blue or green are now grey and brown, the rainforest that was deep green is now golden and grey, the rivers and streams are now being encroached on by salt water and have changed colours to brown and silt.
I may be one of the few in my generation that remembered how it was because of the journeys and explorations that I made, which allowed me to see just how much we are taking from Planet Earth without replenishing and leaving so very little or nothing for the coming generation. Many of the people in the current generation have already gone into denial, tired of listening to my generation stories of how beautiful the earth was.
The history of these changes in colours must be preserved because it makes for a good story to tell the younger generation as they have the immense responsibility of repairing the damage caused by my generation.
The journeys to bring back the colours must start now. I recall one of the many court trials of Steve Biko, the South African activist that campaigned against white rule, white domination and apartheid. In a fully packed courtroom with foreign press, the trial judge asked Steve Biko, “Why do you hate the whites?”
In reply, Steve Biko asked the judge, “who is white?” The trial judge replied by saying, people like me, pointing out to his skin colour, then Steve Biko picked up a plain white sheet of paper showed the judge and said, “this paper is white is that your colour?” The courtroom was rocked with laughter from both whites and blacks.
Colours everywhere have been changing; the land that we stand on has changed, so also the colour of our skin. We now have brown, chocolate and also those that we refer to as whites and coloured. The colour of the land we eat from and stand on is changing, making it difficult for our nationals to compete and carry out the catching up game because of the abuse and degradation we have subjected the land to. In sport, for instance, we reach the height of global competition only when we trade and compete abroad. In science, our nationals and scientists have become part of the space exploration only outside the country but not able to innovate in our land.
In politics, Nigerians in foreign countries are holding ministerial positions and becoming well known in political activism. We know of them by their names as against the type of political rascalism and ballot carrying that we practice in Nigeria.
In our conversation, therefore, we may need to consult the oracles and possibly appease the land before the colour of the land changes to red. If we wait for that to happen, the name Nigeria will probably change and a good part of the continent will change as well. That will take away the hope that was shared by so many Nigerians that, if there was a country likely to become the next United States of America, it would be Nigeria.
The average African, especially in my country Nigeria, will not agree with those that refer to Kamala Harris and Meghan Markle as blacks because of the new yoke known as people of colour. Some time ago, one of my readers wrote to ask if there was a little bit of something in the white man that is missing in the black man.
Over the years, I have pondered over this question but as I started to write an answer the ink in my pen finished because the only way I write is with pen and ink. My take, therefore, is that the changes in colour have affected everybody and everywhere, especially in the continent of Africa. The true answer lies in a conversation we must all have with ourselves before engaging in a major new development based on coping or trying to catch up with the developed world.
We must change the colours of the land, the forest, the seas and the ocean by reforestation, curbing deforestation and desert encroachment, cleaning up our beaches, clearing our drainages and canals, addressing vehicular and noise pollution; just some of the things we can do to give back to the environment that we have plundered.
The effect of only building estates and different infrastructure without curing our environment over the century is that we have started many new developments on a catching-up basis but remained underdeveloped, while those countries and continents that started development after us have come out of underdevelopment to become a global hub and have emerged.
For more than 50 years, we have not been able to come out of underdevelopment and the few landmark projects that were designed to lay the foundation for industrialisation have been mismanaged. Projects like the steel plant, the vehicle and motor assembly plants, the refineries and the Nigerian Airways that was the pride of Africa before Emirates, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways.
Now, most countries that started assembly plants after us are making their own vehicles and cars while ours no longer function.
The one-time opportunity we had to build our own city conceived by us – that is the capital city Abuja – was derailed a number of times. The well-designed original master plan has been abandoned. The plan to build a new city of Abuja came after similar movements of capitals in Brazil from Rio to Brasilia and Australia from Sydney to Canberra.
We were made to understand that some of our professionals visited the two countries to learn from their experiences. Those two countries started their move before we in Nigeria moved from Lagos to Abuja. But the two cities Brasilia and Cambara are looking newer and better than Abuja. What did we learn from history? And why must we continue to distrust and destroy ourselves?
I have written and lectured on some of these topics and, many times, it seems like nobody was reading or listening. I even recall that, not too long ago, I was told by a single mother in her late 50s to stop writing and wasting my time writing the way I do since, according to her, those in authority and power do not have time to read because, if they did, some of the crises we are experiencing today would have been avoided.
She remembered that I predicted over 20 years ago and proffered solutions to some of the crises. I wrote about the encounter with this woman in an article published not too long ago titled “The Incredible Nigerian.” But I have refused to give up on my nation so that I can die happy knowing I did what I could to the best of my abilities and, maybe, someday in the future, history will remember me fondly for being a part of the positive change it is now realising.