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Re: Is Morocco redefining Africanness?

I am always grateful for all responses—in writing or through phone calls by readers—to our small efforts on these pages. Such reactions afford me the…

I am always grateful for all responses—in writing or through phone calls by readers—to our small efforts on these pages. Such reactions afford me the opportunity to learn and to make friends, which I always appreciate. After all, what is a writer without the reader? My article last week, which touched on the various shades of grey in what it means to be African and who, in fact, is an African elicited quite a few reactions from readers. One of the responses was sent in by a former senior official of the Nigerian government who prefers not to be named. I have therefore reproduced the slightly edited article below anonymously as I believe it enriches the discussion. Thank you. 

As usual, your back page article on Morocco’s exploits at the Qatar World Cup is both explorative and thought-provoking. While entirely agreeing with you, I am, nonetheless constrained to chip in something which you may find useful in writing future articles. Morocco has a well-structured football programme. Not only that, it is equally a well-organised country and ably ruled (over-righted/ over-sighted) by a ruthlessly efficient monarchy. Therefore, everybody wants to succeed to please themselves, the organisation, the king and country. 

Therefore, the success of Morocco in the ongoing World Cup tournament in Qatar is purely the result of planning, hard work and patriotism which are lacking in Nigeria. 

When Sofiane Boufal told the international media that their win was for the Arab world, including his native Morocco and Muslims, he was being brutally honest and frank. When the coach, Walid Regragui, tried to say that Morocco is African like Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon and Tunisia, he was actually the politician because he wanted to be politically and diplomatically correct. Every country in the Maghreb is only geographically located in Africa but in body and spirit, they are Arabs and part of the Middle-East. Their membership of the Arab League is more important to them than the membership of the Organisation of  African Unity (OAU) which later became African Union (AU). For the coach to bring Africa can also be described as an ‘afterthought.’

From my personal interactions with the Arabs in the Maghreb, they don’t see themselves as Africans but Arabs. They are only inconveniently located in Africa. Consequently, they do unabashedly discriminate against black Africans, even if they are Muslims. Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Sudan and Egypt need to explain to the world why their indigenous black populations are marginalised and consequently not visible. 

Morocco which is the largest home of Jews among Arab countries, gives them preferential treatment in spite of their unconscionably horrible treatment of the Palestinian Arabs while their own indigenous black population wallow in abject poverty. Algeria systematically pushed the Barber non-Arabs to the south of the country. Algeria, a supposedly an Arab and Muslim country, is a big producer of alcoholic wine from its grape vines. 

The indigenous black Libyans had a fair deal when Gaddafi was in power simply because he was obsessed or even intoxicated with the vaulting ambition to become the president of the United States of Africa. The indigenous black population of Egypt are ostracized from mainstream society. True or not, the story swirled in Egypt that President Anwar Sadat didn’t command much respect because of his darker skin. 

The situation in Sudan is most disturbing. The name ‘Sudan’ denotes the land of the blacks. The Sudanese, are black pure and simple. But they reject being called Africans. They are Arabs, pure and simple. If you are not an Arab Sudanese, even with a darker skin than mine, you are a black African and you are egregiously discriminated against. 

That I, as a high-ranking Nigerian official in Sudan, was discriminated against is a fact. One thing about diplomacy is that one tolerates some indignities so that relations are not soured or even destroyed. 

I don’t know the bigot or racist who coined ‘sub-Saharan Africa.’ To me, sub-Saharan Africa refers to undeveloped, uneducated and ravaged parts of Africa. It’s a pejorative term. Africa is Africa. Therefore, why remove the Maghreb; purely the Arab countries in the North? It’s this type of racist behaviour which added to the feeling of superiority by the Maghreb Arabs. 

However, it’s on record that while Algeria fully supported the liberation wars in Africa with arms, ammunition and training, Morocco didn’t. Good enough, Egypt came to the assistance of Nigeria by providing fighter jets and fighter pilots during our civil war. It’s only in 2014 that an Egyptian diplomat friend told me that Hosni Mubarak who later became the President of Egypt was among the fighter pilots sent to Nigeria during the Nigerian Civil War. Morocco didn’t help us. 

It’s the regime of Major—General Muhammadu Buhari (1984-85) which valiantly spearheaded the campaign for OAU to recognise and admit the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara). Morocco, an illegal occupier of Western Sahara, angrily withdrew its membership of the OAU and therefore made futile attempt to join the European Commission. When its membership lasted in the OAU it was in arrears of its assessed contribution and didn’t pay into the coffers of the OAU Liberation Committee.

There are two notorious countries which still remain unabashedly as ‘colonial masters’: Morocco and Israel. Morocco has adamantly rejected to vacate Western Sahara and will not allow referendum to determine the wishes of the people of the territory. Anyone with conscience and humanity in them will not hesitate to deprecate the criminal activities of Israel in Palestine while Morocco mercilessly exploits the mineral resources of Western Sahara, especially the phosphate despite UN Security Council resolution on the matter. 

The Western world callously allow Morocco and Israel to do as they please. Where is the justice and fairness in this world where the powers who should do something have become inactive like eunuchs? 

When, in its expansionist desire, Morocco applied to join the ECOWAS in 1998, a purely regional organisation, it absolutely had no reason to do so because it doesn’t share contiguous border with any ECOWAS member. Because of its fairly developed industrial base and home to some of the European industries, it wanted to penetrate ECOWAS market of 450 million people where the protocol establishing it made provision for free movement for goods and services. 

As an organised country and with a professional diplomatic service which is allowed free hand to function, Morocco is always thinking of how to move forward. It’s precisely because of this, that Morocco and few other African countries are boxing above their legitimate weight while Nigeria is boxing below its weight. Nigeria can regain its lost glory if professional job is given to professionals. In essence, rather than professionalising, Nigeria is politicising. 

Finally, Morocco’s success in Qatar is mainly due to organisation, hard work and patriotism. Nigeria, and other African countries can do the same if they really want. Morocco deserves praise from all corners of the globe and not the Arab world and Africa. But the fact remains that Morocco is an Arab country and its loyalty is to the Arabs and the Arab League and not to Africa or the African Union (AU) unless it desires something which the AU has to support or back. Sub—Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria must learn from the exploits of Morocco. It is no fluke that it has succeeded so far.