The United Kingdom recently held their general election on May 7th 2015 where Prime Minister David Cameron has been re-elected under the Conservative Party. Voting took place in all 650 parliamentary constituencies of the United Kingdom, each electing one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. Among the MPs who won seats in the new Parliament were 4 Nigerian politicians; Chuka Umunna, Helen Grant, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor.
These fantastic four Nigerian-Britons have climbed up the British political with Umunna, Grant and Onwurah also winning seats in the 2010 elections.
But what does this mean for the Africans living in the UK?
According to a survey done by the European Union, there are an estimated 7 to 12 million people of African descent and black Europeans in Europe (out of the total of 742.5 million people living in Europe) and they are particularly affected by racism and discrimination across the European Union. They are however considered a minority on the European political agenda. The United Kingdom is especially notorious for their discrimination on blacks with a report stating that black people in the United Kingdom are on average six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.
This hits home for Helen Grant who reports that she has faced discrimination due to her half-black background while living in the UK.
With Afrophobia being a real issue at the moment in Europe, the rise of these Nigerian MPs is likely to cause a change no matter how small, in how the rest of Europe views people of African descent. All these MPs have lived their lives fully in the UK. However, Onwurah had a brief stunt living in Nigeria before the Biafran war sent her, her mother and siblings back to the UK leaving her father behind in the army. The fact that they have lived as half-blacks in the UK means they understand the problems their fellows go through daily and are more qualified on a personal level to deal with these issues. However, time will tell whether they will make a tangible difference for Africans living in the UK.
As compared to the rest of Europe, though, the UK is a step ahead. In countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, the ‘Zwarte Piet’ (Black Pete) figure, a traditional character in Saint Nicholas celebrations perpetuates colonial stereotyped images of black people. ‘Blackfacing’ and stereotyped representations of black people are the result of a long European history of negation of Africans and black people’s humanity, rooted in the legacy of slavery and colonialism. They reinforce deeply ingrained negative stereotypes of black people and maintain power structures within European societies, leading to high levels of discrimination.
Umunna, Grant, Onwurah and Osamor, while being the current pride of Africa and more specifically Nigerians, clearly have their work cut out for them. High hopes and expectations are being invested in them and the African community worldwide has their eyes peeled on them.