So journalist Alex Preston jetted into town from a posh Western capital. Alex Preston went to a Nigerian city of eerie silence, billowing clouds of dust, darkness and war. Alex Preston wrote a sexy story about a not-so-sexy subject for a sexy magazine. Alex Preston is white.
It is important not to think too hard in dealing with the above scenario. Thinking is a terrible waste of time when there are people to do it for you. In times of battle for example not everyone goes to war. That is why we have armies. In the same vein although in democracies, government is of the people and by the people, we cede our powers to elected representatives who act on our behalf. The above situation has already been covered by some of the brightest writers from our continent. Binyavanga Wainaina wrote a brilliant essay called How To Write About Africa dealing with stereotypes in writing about Africa. Teju Cole wrote about the White Savior Industrial Complex where he found fault with a young white man who tried to save an African country without first understanding the basic issues. And of course one of our brightest writers Chimamanda Adichie gave the moving, now Beyonce-canonized TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story, challenging one-sided narratives, especially about Africa. God bless them for opening our eyes.
So the next time a white journalist shows up on our shores with a local cameraman (because bringing in his photographer colleague from London would be too expensive) and reports however factually, a rotten situation in our country, we must look first to his skin. White people should not jet into Africa to talk about our dark sides. It doesn’t matter that there is actually a war going on and apart from figures, no one knows anything about it. That is our business. It doesn’t matter if our army is whitewashing the sordid war with tales of successes and our journalists are too poorly paid to risk verifying the press releases they get. It doesn’t matter if the said white journalist writes an honest story and stays true to the facts. Any journalist who writes negative truth while being white will be rightly splashed the colors of racist Conrad. And trust me, nobody wants to be Conrad. Not after Achebe exposed his dark heart. Such a journalist will be set right on social media by Africa’s growing online population most of whose middle-class sensitivities will be hurt by stories such as those written by Preston.
And really if you think of it, what is a Borno war to someone with an iPad in Lagos? What is thousands of villagers caught in crossfire between Boko Haram and heavy handed JTF soldiers to a young guy working for a nice international organization in Abuja tweeting from a Samsung Galaxy S4 in one hand and holding a DSTV remote control in the other? Why does Preston think it is ok to shove in our faces the thousands of people that die in Nigeria’s tucked-away northeast war and ruin our exquisite middle-class dinners? So what if most of the body count goes unreported? Isn’t there transformation to report? Surely white people can utilize their impartial accuracy (upon which we heavily rely) in reporting the good stuff. Like economic growth. Like our brand new airports. Our winning the African Cup of Nations. Dangote’s Forbes listing. And his sexy yacht Mariya. Surely.
So how do we deal with guys like Alex Preston when they write shit about us? Simple. Attack him on Twitter. For reporting while white. Trust me, there is no comeback when you bring race into it.