Renaissance Of Africa’s Identity At Crossroads
Of late, there has been intellectual uprising against our former European Missionaries and Colonialists. We blame them for series of anthropological, social and political misdemeanors which Africa suffer.
Instead of chiding the man in the mirror, we are busy shifting blames. It speaks volume on how cheap the content of our character is, as a people. Simply put, we have unduly criticized our Colonial imperialists for our woes.
I’ve yet to see a better definition of convenient defense of ineffectual psyche in a people. We came out of active colonial rule 59 years ago. And before then, we were already autonomous, in terms of Christian civilization and indoctrination.
The first indigenous cleric of Church of Nigeria Anglican communion – Bishop Ajayi Crowther was made bishop in 1864, while the first Catholic priest of Nigeria extraction – Bishop Anyogu was ordained on 8 December 1930. So it’s more than a century since White clerics granted us free hand to pontificate over the worship of the God of creation in Africa. If we are yet to get it right, then the fault is entirely ours to rue. So what’s the fuss about?
When Europeans arrived here, like everyone who comes from elsewhere into new terrain they had something to say about the way we lived. To them coming from icy climates which required them to wear clothes, our loin skins, (although we had cotton weavers) grass and thatch huts were a pitiful sight of primitiveness. They found it upon themselves to bring us their three Cs: Commerce, Civilization and Christianity,
And so they assumed we had no history, no culture and no sense of heritage. They were wrong (but we could excuse them on the ground that language barrier was unbroken in those days).
But then the likes of Prof. Achebe used literature to prove them wrong. African writers series was so instrumental in clearing up that misconception of the African person.
“Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Achebe would say.
Meanwhile, they had a touch of extremism in their pursuit of self-reinvention of African identity. The then growing nationalism in Nigeria was marginally pivotal on Achebe. At the university, he dropped his English name “Albert” in favor of the Igbo name “Chinua”, short for “Chinualumogu.”
Same goes for Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was on marble to have said “Personally, I believe the European has a god in whom he believes and whom he is representing in his churches all over Africa.” (Excerpt from May 1936 African Morning Post).
He would later drop his English Christian name, ‘Benjamin’. He then legally changed his name to Nnamdi.
These men leading by example pointed the way (creditable or not) by which Africa can disprove the claim that the black man has no history prior to colonialism.
However, it’s a two-way thing. If Europeans arrived here and could neither understand our language nor our culture how else do you expect them to react? It was a daft situation.
They met us naked and clothed us, they met us illiterate and educated us. They met us African Traditional Religion (ATR) adherents and christened us. It took about two centuries for African erudites to rise and launch aggressive emancipation campaign towards rewriting our history and painting our own identity on the global map.
So actually it’s not entirely Oyibo man’s fault. Many factors led him to such unholy conclusion.
Some scholars argued that much before Mungo Park and Lander Brothers could ‘discover’ River Niger, our forebears had been fishing, bathing and washing in it. The only difference is that being illiterate, they could not document their observations of the tributaries and courses of the river. In other words, our people discovered and used River Niger before the Oyibos.
So, they argue that at best we could say that “Mungo Park was the first to document his observations on the tributaries and sea routes of River Niger.”
Today, with advancements in information technology, even unlettered women in their village meeting keep minutes of their meetings. The field of Science and Art taught us that anything not documented was not done.
So having learnt the importance of documentation, we understood why it can only be attributed to Mungo Park – the discovery of Niger.
The crux of this piece was however to address the point that the Whites were wicked by imposing on us their culture and denying us ownership of our own identity.
The truth is that we were (and may still be) our own problem. Someone may be guilty of pushing you down, but the blame of failing to rise up after the fall is entirely yours to bear.
Every here and there you see embittered posts and articles in both social and conventional media condemning anglicized version of everything.
Many have resorted to changing their English names choosing to be addressed by their native names. Many protest against anything the church does and faults the very bible itself as a hit back to the European Missionaries who evangelized us. Many detest every aspect of western civilization, just like the Islamist insurgents of North east.
It’s funny that these misguided champions of Africa’s reinvention still gift hamper packs of foreign delicacies and junks during festive periods. It would have served their crusade better if they lead by example, distributing hamper packs made of Nkwuocha (Palm wine), Ugba (Locust bean paste, Ede (Coco yam), ugu, Ojoko (Plantain), Ji (Yam), Okpa (Ground pea), Oka (Maize) and other homegrown gift items during festive periods.
It would also do them good to present their revolutionists’ messages in native languages, create their own online platform via which they sell their opinions.
It’s a situational irony, seeing an Igbo man dissent everything about Europe and America, yet he uses Facebook and Twitter, (Oyibo man’s franchised platforms) and speak in queen’s language while preaching to his African brothers, on the need to reject European civilization.
Aside the indelible character which baptism imprints in the heart, it’s not enough denouncing your English baptism names; you may have to go to the parish centre, delete your name from their baptism register and jettison everything Jesus! Otherwise, your memoirs will still have it that you were baptized. That’s the power of documentation.
I wonder how it sounds in their imagination faulting the bible simply because it’s Oyibo man’s religious book, yet their native religion has no single documented record. Having benefited from the education brought by the Whites, one would think that these crusaders would have authored a compendium of African traditional religion since independence.
Let it sink deep, Africa’s identity crisis was caused by inferiority complex. Denouncing English names in vengeful anger against colonial ‘imposition’ and superiority is an acceptance of frustration in whom one is. Bearing their name doesn’t enslave you, failing to imbibe the spirit of fraternal love among ourselves and typifying African values does.
We may scream as we wish, but so long as we prefer Toyota over Innoson, we have not yet learnt to demonstrate Africa’s superiority. Corruption has obliterated ethics in governance in our country, so it’s up to us as commoners to live by example.
Until our priests and pastors start prioritizing pious native names as suitable for baptism, we are still inferior.
We can’t justify the jibes we threw at the Whites since we have our own destiny in our hands to shape.
It’s not enough lamenting that we were educated to feel inferior, it’s more important to shake off the complex and live freely like global citizens.
In the final analysis, we have lived all our lives presenting the image of victims of civilization, it’s time we come out pragmatically and fix ourselves, not with revenge in sight but with freedom in mind to kill that mental slavery of playing the victim.
The legendary Mandela who never thought it wise to change his English name as a fighting tool against white supremacy would say “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
Blame your corrupt leaders not the imperialists for your poverty, blame your forefathers who denounced ATR and accepted Christianity not the missionaries. Blame the laxity of your indigenous prelates for lack of inculturation/indigenization of christian faith, not the Europeans.
Condemn your inordinate craving for English language for the extinction of your native language.
Europe and Americas are what they are today by tireless and honest researches by its scientists and social anthropologists. Unfortunately, in inverse proportion, Africa is what they are for their utter lack of same.
Year after year we produce professors with little or no impact in research development, and those who conduct some, do it with duplicity. The rest are accessory to the crime of electoral fraud. Our citadels of learning are para-brothels where sex is exchanged for marks. All these vices are caused by our failings not the Oyibo man’s.
The same people that colonized us colonized Australia, New Zealand etc. We have the onerous task of being broad-minded in our quest to annotate a better image for our fatherland or risk lagging behind in human ontology.
God bless mama Africa!
By Eze Jude