Recently, a white-woman identified as Tracy Zille took to her Facebook-Page to lambast Africans. She allegedly disclosed that Africans cannot produce anything apart from anointing oils, prayers and wealthy pastors. While stressing that rich men of God are “Made in Africa,” she boasted: “We produce toothpaste, you produce anointing oil and prayers. Don’t insult me for telling you the truth. We used our money to build universities and science research facilities. You used your money to build big churches and to buy your pastors and prophets big cars and houses.”
In a series of posts on her social media handle which went viral, Zille reportedly labelled Africans as modern-day slaves who relied on the United States, China and other European nations for their products. She maintained that: “Our Research Facilities produced COVID-19 Vaccine. Your Churches produced anointing oil. You buy expensive anointing oil from your churches without any noise but you are rejecting free Covid19 Vaccine from scientists. Something is wrong upstairs.”
According her, “If it was not for us, your mouth would have been smelling like dead rats because even today you can’t make your own toothpaste. So shut up and take our vaccine or die.” She maintained that Colgate is made in USA, Aquafresh is made in Britain, Close-up is made in England, Mentadent is made in Canada, Oral-B is made in USA and Sensodyne is made in Japan while adding that: “The only things Africa produces are babies, rich prophets – anointing oil and prayers because of their heavy reliance on importation.” Zille was also of the view that Africans are not important to the world as such, they must shut up and stop being stereotypical about the COVID-19 vaccine because it was not made to kill them.
She took to Twitter to say that: “This COVID-19 Vaccine should be a lesson to all Africans. You must produce what you eat and your own medication. Now you are left with no choice but to take vaccine from your enemies. It’s either you die or buy vaccine from the enemy. Where are your rich prophets and pastors?” Although there are indications that social media accounts belonging to Tracy Zille are traced to a South African and that they are associated with provoking the public to comment as a way of generating Google AdSense income for the pseudo account holder, we should not throw the baby with the bathwater.
In a previous column entitled “Nigeria: A Catch-22 or Nation of Churches and Mosques?” I argued that we seem to be in an apparent Catch-22 while noting: “It is worrisome that despite our being religious, we are not making any progress. For example, in both Christianity and Islam, some foreign donors would prefer to send aid for the purpose of building a church or mosque in a rural community that has no school. We seem to have lost sight of the giant strides of the early missionaries who sandwiched religious education with civic education and health care delivery.
“As a result, some ‘sacred spaces’ that are meant for spiritual and moral upbringing have become epicenters of radicalization. A situation where the religious teacher is as ignorant as the disciple, learning becomes brutal-indoctrination. While religious centres are increasing by the day, godlessness seems to overtake it. In some major cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar, a Church in the morning or afternoon automatically translates into a beer parlour in the evening.”
There is no harm for a people to be religious. However, when religiosity has no corresponding spirituality and desire to change the individual inside-out, then, there is trouble. Instead of taking advantage of the huge potential in digital technology to turn the fortunes of the country around, Nigeria has not been able to provide ICT-related jobs for its teaming youths who are jobless. Despite being the largest consumer of data in the world, we have a sterile economy.
From Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, Ghana, Guinea, Niger to Seychelles, Tanzania and Togo, African leaders are busy consolidating power while their counterparts in the West are preoccupied with curbing COVID-19 fatalities and inventing vaccines. Africa is only waiting for free ready-made vaccines. Aside from Madagascar which debuted COVID-Organics (CVO), only 8 out of 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest to self-finance their vaccine doses through the Gavi-coordinated COVAX Facility.
It is attitudes that these that emboldens the like of Tracy Zille to ridicule Africa. In a story “Africa’s ‘shithole countries’ say bye-bye to Donald Trump” posted on Thursday, 12 November 2020, The Africa Report remarked that: “The outcome of the US election won’t change the face of the continent, but nevertheless, Africa does care about the fate of the capricious Donald Trump, even if it shows a certain ambivalence.” We live in a society where there is an increasing need for evidence and empirical data in dealing with emerging problems. As such, we must realize that solutions to contemporary problems are found in Universities and Research Centres, not Mosques or Churches.
With chivalry, tactics and team work, we can regain our balance as a people. Instead of indulging in blame game, internal rancor, accusations and attacking the West, we must aim at being on top of our game. It is up to the leadership in Africa to demonstrate to the world that beyond anointing oil, prayer, mega-churches and fanciful mosques, Africa can indeed produce what it consumes. Until, then, we should be prepared for bitter bills that are meant to treat our ulcers.
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor – Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.