THE WAKANDAN MESSAGE
Okay, so what’s all this fuss about the Black Panther movie? Why can’t people ‘hear word’ anymore? Well, probably because it’s more than just a movie. It’s an achievement. It’s a statement. Probably because it has also broken so many records already. A movie with a predominantly black cast in an African setting would never have been attempted a few years back. It was a risk and sales would have been abysmal. As such, Black Panther, the first black superhero ever and with a fifty year history, has never appeared on the silver screen up until a couple of years ago.
But is that all? No. Black Panther is the ruler of a fictitious kingdom called Wakanda. A city hidden from the peering eyes of world but more advanced than any city in the Western world. Now you get the idea why it’s not too popular? The concept of an African city with superior technology and societal advancement way above the rest yet preserving their culture and tradition won’t be too palatable to many in the West. Yet it is an inspiration to many Africans, especially those in diaspora, who for many years have had little to inspire them, have few heroes, and have heard much to diminish them racially (e.g ‘shithole countries’). There was clearly a need for a rallying point. Some motivation. Black Panther was it. No wonder there was much clamour and support by many organizations like the NAACP who bought tickets for underprivileged black youth in America to go watch the movie. This was to give these kids in the ‘hood some encouragement and belief in themselves: that not all heroes are white and that a black country can also be highly civilized and respected in the league of nations. Self-belief is the first step to success.
The last part struck me. Wakanda. Nigeria could have been the black race’s Wakanda. Many had such expectations of us in the 60s and 70s. We were told and heard as much. Nigeria had such promise and was considered a growing force and threat. Like Wakanda, it is a country of various tribes not always in agreement. Like Wakanda whose wealth is credited to a rare fictitious metal, vibranium, found only in their land, Nigeria has crude oil which they exploited to great wealth during the oil boom era. But unlike Wakanda who used theirs judiciously to become a technological giant, Nigeria lost the script somewhere and is now only a giant by name.
The Black race looked up to Nigeria to prove that Africans can achieve it. Malcolm X, Mandela, Louis Farrakhan, Kwame Nkrumah…they all had hopes. Even the West was worried. We took the mantle, we fought Apartheid without fear, we were a society of proud Africans who even had street lamps in Benin before they became fashionable in London. We were Wakanda and the black community was smiling. Only one problem: we had no Black Panther…or we lost them…so we fell. After the war, things went south and governments have mined our ‘vibranium’ for their personal interest or for their clan’s. The new Nigeria became a myth like Wakanda.
Nevertheless, Nigeria is probably the only African country mentioned in this blockbuster movie…though not for the reason we may have wished. Nigeria has been the most mentioned African country in this genre of movies (Wolverine, Capt. America etc). Perhaps they are telling us something? Nigeria and South Africa now stand out from ‘the country known by the West as Africa’. Thank goodness! We still stand out for individual achievements worldwide but as a country, our governments and politicians have just let us down. The masses are fed soup and they lap it up.
Despite all the corruption and rape of Nigeria’s wealth, like Wakanda, her greatest resource is not vibranium or crude oil but her people who have an uncharacteristic resilience and resolve to succeed anywhere. Nigeria can still be the real Wakanda that the black race needs and can stand as a testament against all neo-colonial odds. All she needs now is her Black Panther.
Maybe…just maybe he or she is still a cub somewhere.