Mention slavery and everybody’s hackles rise. It has been barely a century since slavery was abolished worldwide, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. There are an estimated 40 million slaves in the world today in different forms of slavery-from sex slaves in Italy to children slaving away in Asia’s sweatshops and housemaids paid nothing to work like donkeys here at home.
The outrage at the heinous acts that were perpetuated against the slaves who were transported to Europe and the Americas through the Trans-Atlantic slave route is overwhelming. Award-winning books have been written, movies made, songs crooned, talks held on the issue and the impact it has had on humanity. The socio-cultural climate of America and Europe is changed forever because of the introduction of the now free slaves and their children and children’s children into the society. Wounds keep healing, and then are reopened when senseless acts like police violence and racist marches happen. It seems like just as the world is trying to forget that humans were ever that cruel or low to each other, something happens to remind us.
With all the anger distilled over generations, I am left baffled at the relative lack of outrage when modern-day slavery stares us in the face.
It is indeed true. Migrants-mostly from Nigeria and Ghana (two countries which were incidentally also the highest producers of slaves for the Trans-Atlantic slave markets in the 1400s) are captured, penned and auctioned off in Libya.
The most heartbreaking of this is that, as usual, these slaves are being tortured and sold by fellow Africans, with some of the returned migrants even testifying that their captors and torturers were definitely of Nigerian descent. No broda in the jungle, they say.
These migrants are escaping a hopeless future in Nigeria by trying to get into Europe through Libya, a route that has been called the deadliest route on earth. Their hope is to meet smugglers in Libya after they have crossed the desert, who can then help then to get into Europe by sea in search of greener pastures.
They are vulnerable illegal immigrants, and so they are ripe pickings for traffickers. The women and children are sold into sex slavery (and are rarely seen in the photos making the rounds, a situation that is even more troubling) and the men are auctioned off as farm hands. The exclusive report published after CNN correspondent Noma Elbagir and her crew went to Libya in October has exposed this injustice to most of the world, and so did Pogba’s legendary goal dedication two weeks ago. The world has woken from the slumber of entitlement we have been shrouded in, after watching the video shared by CNN where a young man was sold as a slave for just about $800.
Nigeria’s authorities seem to be suspiciously quiet on the issue, but then again what else can we expect from our mostly ineffectual government? What does it say about our country that our citizens would rather walk across deserts, be packed like animals in camps in Libya, slave away and brave the Mediterranean in nothing but a boat just to get away?
The President’s speech at the European Union-African Union Summit seems to me like words that evaporate like wind. This kind of situation needs active, prompt effort by government to repatriate its citizens before lives are lost.
Of honorable mention though, is Pastor T.B Joshua. No matter what you think of the man, you cannot fault his humanitarian efforts. Pastor Joshua has been actively involved in airlifting migrants from Libya, bringing them home and setting them up with money to start life afresh. Other pastors and religious organisations should also take up this worthy cause. It is time to stop preaching at pulpits and start getting our hands dirty. Don’t just grouse about whether tithes should be paid to you, go and do something! Some of these men of God have private jets and aircrafts that can help in bringing our brothers and sisters home.
This is real. This is happening. We need to stop being quiet about it. Protest, petition, lobby, make some noise. Thoughts and prayers can only go so far.