Idang Alibi, Daily Trust (Abuja, Nigeria), October 25, 2007
A few days ago, the Nobel Laureate, Dr James Watson, made a remark that is now generating worldwide uproar, especially among the blacks.
He said what to me looks like a self-evident truth. He told The Sunday Times of London in an interview that in his humble opinion, black people are less intelligent than the White people.
Since then, some of us cannot hear anything else but the outrage of black people who feel demeaned by what Watson has said. So many people have called the man names. To be expected, some have said he is a racist. Some even wonder how a “foolish” man like Watson could have won the Nobel Prize. Even white people who, deep in their heart, agree with Watson want to be politically correct so they condemn the man.
Why are we blacks becoming so reactive, so sensitive to any remarks, no matter how well-meaning, about our failure as a race? Why are we becoming like the Jews who see every accusation as a manifestation of anti-Semitism? I do not know what constitutes intelligence. I leave that to our so-called scholars. But I do know that in terms of organising society for the benefit of the people living in it, we blacks have not shown any intelligence in that direction at all. I am so ashamed of this and sometimes feel that I ought to have belonged to another race.
Nigeria my dear country is a prime example of the inferiority of the black race when compared to other races. Let somebody please tell me whether it is a manifestation of intelligence if a people cannot organise a free, fair and credible election to choose who will lead them. Is it intelligence that we cannot provide simple pipe-borne water for the people? Our public school system has virtually collapsed. Is that a sign of intelligence? Our roads are impassable. In spite of the numerous sources that nature has made available to us to tap for energy to run our industries and homes, we have no steady supply of electricity. Yet electricity is the bedrock of industrialisation. When you agree with the school of Watson, some say you are incorrect because all these failures are a result of poor leadership. Why must it be us blacks who must always suffer poor leadership? Is that not a manifestation of unintelligence?
In the name of international trade, bilateral co-operation, globalisation and other subterfuges, the norm in the world today is for smart people to appropriate the wealth of other people for themselves and their countries. But more among the blacks than any other race, the practice is to steal from their own country and salt away to other people’s country. Is it intelligence that our leaders steal billions of naira and hide in other people’s country?
Anywhere in the world today where you have a concentration of black people among other races, the poorest, the least educated, the least achieving, and the most violent group among those races will be the blacks. When indices of underdevelopment are given, black people and countries are sure to occupy the bottom of the ladder. If we are intelligent, why do we not carry first when statistics of development are given?
Look at the African continent. South Africa is the most developed country because of the presence of whites there. This may be an uncomfortable truth for many of us but it exists nevertheless. If the whites had been driven away after independence, we would have seen a steady decline of that country.
In terms of natural endowment, Africa ought to be the richest of the continents but see the mess we have made of the potential for greatness which God in his infinite wisdom has bestowed upon us. We have proved totally incapable of harnessing the abundant natural resources to become great. Today, there is a renewed scramble for the wealth of Africa. China, our new “friend”, does not bother about the genocide against fellow blacks in the Sudan by the Arabs who control the affairs of that country. They say they do not want to interfere in the internal affairs of any country. All they want is the oil in Sudan to run their industries. Yet, we blacks have not seen the Chinese action as an affront to our sensitivities. Every race takes us for granted because we are so weak and so foolish, if you permit me to say it.
I am really pained by our gross underachievement as a race. Instead of regarding bitter truths expressed by the likes of Watson as a wake-up call for us to engage in sober reflection, we take to the expression of woolly sentiment. For me, this type of reaction is a further evidence of our unintelligence. A man of intelligence recognises genuine criticism against him and takes steps to improve himself in order to prove his critics wrong. But for us blacks, our reaction is to abuse the man who expresses worries about our backwardness.
Other races are deeply worried about us because we are a problem to the world. We suffer from the five Ds: disorderliness, debts, diseases, deaths and disasters. Our disorderliness affects others or else they won’t be too bothered about us. Many are afraid because our diseases could infect them. Polio has been eradicated all over the world yet it is still found in Nigeria here. When they give us money to help us eradicate it, our thieving officials will embezzle the money; the virus will spread and endanger the health of not only our people but other people as well.
Out of a shared sense of humanity, some cannot bear to see how we die in thousands almost every day from clearly preventable diseases and causes. For years now, our people die extremely painful but perfectly preventable deaths from buildings which collapse because they were poorly constructed. How can you tell me we are as intelligent as others when we set traps for ourselves in the name of houses and others do not do so? Some people are extremely frustrated about us. If they have a way of avoiding us, they will be too glad to do so because we are a problem.
As I write this, I do so with great pains in my heart because I know that God has given intelligence in equal measure to all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin. The problem with us black people is that we have refused to use our intelligence to organise ourselves socially and politically.
It should worry us that we do not invent things. We do not go to the moon. Our societies are not well-organised. We have the shortest lifespan of all the races. Something must be wrong with us. Why are we not like others? Our scholars will be quick to say that these are not the only ways of measuring intelligence. They will quote other scholars to adumbrate their point, but the fact remains that we are not showing intelligence. Others are showing it more than we’re doing. If they are not more intelligent than we are, let someone tell me how to put it. God himself must be frustrated with his black children. They must be an embarrassment to him. He has given us everything he has given to other of his children; why are his black children not manifesting their own gift?
A few years ago, the whites used to contemptuously call the Japanese “little Japs”. Today, the Japanese and other Asians have pulled themselves up by the bootstrap and have arrived. No one speaks of the Japanese or Asians with contempt anymore. When people like Watson speak about us in unedifying terms, we should take it as a challenge to prove them wrong by sitting down to plan how we can become world-beaters.
If our political leaders are the reason for our backwardness, we should resolve to get the kind of leaders who will be instrument for our rapid progress. I may not know how intelligence is measured but my limited knowledge of intelligence is that it can also be measured by the kind of leaders a people decide to have. If, for instance, our professors preside over the massive rigging of elections, it means that we do not have very intelligent professors. Such rigged elections will no doubt produce unintelligent leaders. Such unintelligent leaders will do stupid things which will prove that we are not as intelligent as other races. Do I sound confusing or intelligent?
I am ready for some of our ‘patriotic’ intellectuals who will write and abuse me for the ‘outrage’ I have expressed here but I stick to my guns: we lack intelligence and as stated in the Bible, anyone who lacks intelligence should cry unto God who is the custodian of wisdom to bestow some upon him. We should go on our knees today and ask God why we do not appear as intelligent as our other brothers. I am confident God will reveal to us what we must do, and urgently too, to change our terribly unflattering circumstances.