The Pale Strangers Have Come Again

Xi Jinpeng
Xi Jinpeng

By: Israel Umoh

The pale strangers have come again. They have come to Africa, the cradle of civilization. They have landed in Nigeria, the home of ‘black gold’ and home of abundant human and natural resources. They have dark, silver-like hair. Their quint and brown eyes like a squirrel are all over. A mere look: sporty, pint-sized physique, broad foreheads and chins, tell of their nationality. They are the Lis, Wengs, Huis, Chengs, and Zhèngs. The list goes.

They are Chinese from East Asia known as the most populous country in the world.  Like their European counterparts, they have raced to African countries especially Nigeria. They have come to Africa indeed Nigeria not to behold their beauty (which they have not). They have not come to develop but to exploit what has remained of the once-raped continent. They may have come in the hot chase for the scramble for Africa.

Oh! Africa, the beautiful bride courted by many but abused by some. Why were you ever created? The Egyptians pioneered the world known as Black civilization. They built the city of Memphis in ancient Egypt before Greeks built Athens and the Romans built Rome. The same people invented writing- the Hieroglyphics before the Hieratic alphabet. Demotic writing was developed, followed by the Kushite script. The Egyptian ancestors built the pyramids.

Yet, Africans failed to seize the moment. When African leaders turned to territorial commanders and local war generals, the early Europeans: British, Italians, French, Germans, Portuguese and Spanish hijacked and exploited the moment to the fullest. Such potentials of the continent attracted. Human beings turned to slaves, arable land for agricultural purposes, and solid minerals. At the fullness of time, the European imperialists, through the Berlin Treaty of 26 February 1885, sliced Africa into “Portuguese Africa,” “British Africa,” “German Africa,” “Italian Africa,” “Spanish Africa,” “French Africa” and “Belgian Africa.” They changed the Ethiopian Sea as late as 1626 to “Atlantic” Ocean and the Azanian Sea to “Indian Ocean.”

However, the Europeans brought the Holy Bible, dry gin, gun power, firearms exchanged for slaves, mineral resources and artifacts. Seen as articles of generosity, the Africans got them and went into a deep sleep. The strangers colonized and indoctrinated the ‘landlords’ with their culture, education, civilization, a system of government, economy and form of religion. They must have told the Africans that they should desire the Heavenly, not the earthly things. They then took the earthly things to their countries, refined and manufactured and repackaged to Africans who bought such an exorbitant amount to boost their economy and improve their wellbeings. Though the Africans benefited from their missionary visit, the Europeans were and are still the greater beneficiaries of the unholy intercourse. Years after they had left, their ghost continue to hunt dwellers in the urbane and rural areas.

Prof. Walter Rodney in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa captures how Europe destroyed Africa. Again, Edem Kodjo, author of Africa Tomorrow describes the condition of African as “torn away from his past, propelled into a universe fashioned from outside that suppresses his values, and dumbfounded by a cultural invasion that marginalises him. The African… is today the deformed image of others. ” Today, Africa is an old relic remaining for their leaders and foreign collaborators to wash the monument into sea of oblivion.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier must have read those books. Faced with the challenges of population and economy, he like a man who thinks about tomorrow needed a fresh avenue to offload these headaches and discharge them through new canals to butter the bread of his countless countrymen and women in years to come.

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As a thinker and an action man, he thoughtfully framed the country’s foreign policy and hung its interest on the need to achieve African peace and security. He flaunted it as the prima facie to the Africans, but the primary motive of the policy is to further the commercial interdependence and ensure a smooth flow of goods and returns on its investments of the Chinese. As a smart ruler, he rolled out loans and other humanitarian gestures and the African rulers including Nigerian fell headlong without thinking of the repercussions of the unsolicited gifts.

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba readily caught the window of opportunity in Africa provided by his country. Of course, as a businessman, he employed the marketing psychology during the COVID-19 pandemic by donating materials to Africa and Nigeria.

“Our 3rd donation to Africa will immediately be made to @_africanunion and @AfricaCDC. This includes 4.6m masks, 500k swabs & test kits, 300 ventilators, 200k clothing sets, 200k face shields, 2k thermal guns, 100 body temperature scanners and 500k pairs of gloves. #OneWorldOneFight” he said via his verified Twitter handle.

The billionaire had, earlier in the month of April, made his second donation to the continent to aid on-going efforts to contain the pandemic.

The items contained in the second tranche sent to Africa included “500 ventilators, 200K suits & face shields, 2K thermometers, 1M swabs & extraction kits and 500K gloves.”

The first set of medical supplies left China for Africa in the month of March, and according to Jack Ma, the supplies were targeted at putting Africa one step ahead in the fight against COVID-19.

“To combat the potential surging demand for medical supplies and equipment in Africa, Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba foundation will donate to each of the 54 African countries, we will donate 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical use protective suits and face shields” the letter from Jack Ma Foundation read.

Unknown to Jack, some Chinese who arrived early in Nigeria had turned to Robin Hoods to spoil his good works and disparage the Chinese policy. For instance, 17 Chinese, 10 locals, and a traditional ruler (Baale) were reportedly apprehended as illegal miners by Osun State Government on Sunday. It may be unfair to crucify the Chinese caught prostituting in Nigerian soil. A local Akwa Ibom proverb says that the house rodent invites the bush rodent to come to the house for merriment. In a way, the ‘strangers’ would not have been bold to visit villages for the exploitation of the solid minerals without an invitation or welcome and tacit support of the locals. On the other hand, the captured Chinese who publication in the pictures looked innocent should have resisted the temptation of engaging in an illicit business, which criminalises their stay in the country. How fair was it for them to have circumvented the established laws of mining and extractive industry which is in the exclusive list of the Federal Government?

There is, no doubt, that all Nigerian states are endowed with solid mineral resources. But the advent of crude oil in the 60s coupled by the myopic thinking of Nigerian leaders at that time watered the seeds of lethargy and laziness among states as they wait for windfalls from the Federation Account in Abuja on a monthly basis to collect their share. Consequently, the government abandoned the mineral sites and pits, and some ill-motivated individuals engaged in ownership-beneficiary intercourse. For example, it is alleged that some privileged Nigerians and politicians Zamfara and Borno and other Northern states selfishly exploit and utilize the mineral resources.

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The same ‘card’ is playing out in other states as some locals working in complicit with some foreign mercenaries exploit the natural resources, sell and pocket without remitting same to the Federal purse. The federal government with its security apparatus has larger blame while the illegal miners- the Robin Hoods share the rest. With the dwindling crude oil price, the government has to aggressively engage in the extractive industry by exploiting the rich mineral resources to boost its revenue profile during this COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the pressure for the release of the Chinese suspects, the Federal government should prosecute them and their sponsors to serve as a deterrent to others.

Unfortunately too, two Chinese nationals, Meng Kun and Xu Koi, were arrested for allegedly offering N100 million bribe to the Sokoto Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission zonal head, Abdullahi Lawal. This was based on alleged conspiracy, embezzlement, and money laundering against Zamfara State officials wherein the construction company had reportedly received payments of over N41billion “but diverted about N16 billion which the commission has traced to some bureau de change operators.” But then, the Chinese who wanted to compromise the security detail might have been errand boys to the ‘big men’ in the society.

Yet, the Chinese collaborators and their sponsors forgot easily that in every act of corruption, millions will suffer. Assuming the road is completed, many would ply and would have benefitted from sub-contracts. It is befuddling that the Chinese agents knowing that corruption carries death sentence in their country would journey to another to learn and acclimatize to the ‘virus.’ Since CCECC, a Chinese company, constructed a well-paved Aka –Nung Udoe Road in Akwa Ibom State, the company appears to have abandoned road construction and conduited into sponsorship of COVID-29 humanitarian gestures. Let Zamfara government step up, prosecute the culprits and the big masqueraders in the failed ‘deal.’

Like the Chinese who are allegedly discriminating against Nigerians resident in their country during the COVID-19, Nigerian leaders must review their policy and stay. The activities of a few could not be used to judge many, but the actions of a few speak the body language of their government. Even the activities of their medics in this country must be closely monitored and action is taken to ward off health disasters among Nigerians. The time some Nigerian leaders were sell-outs should be yesterday. Let the era of falling prey to the antics and diabolical intentions of the pale strangers- those with white pigmentation- who are coming to surreptitiously exploit in order to feather their nests and improve their waning economy be gone. Enough of the neo-colonial rule that perpetually enslaves Nigerians economically and otherwise and stifles meaningful development in the country!