Africa cannot blame its indigenous religion that has no identifiable or official role in the religious, ethnic and economic problems. The root causes of Africa’s religious, ethnic and economic problems lie in deprecation of its relatively peaceful indigenous religion that has no drive to dominate others and should have been geared to meet modern political and economic challenges. Religion that benefits Africans has been discarded for Muslim and Christian religions that work to the advantages of others at Africa’s expense.
There is much more to religion than many people realize. Every Continent is proud of its own indigenous religion but Africa. The only officially recognized religion in most African countries is either from Europe, Asia or the Persian Gulf. As long as this is the case, there will be unsolvable ethnic and economic problems the root of which we will never get to, within Africa for lack of self-actualization. In other words, we will always call on others to diagnose what is wrong with Africans and import their solutions.
Religious actualization in a country’s economy can be seen in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia; and in India caste system which is a division of labor used to actualize economic growth. So is the Judeo-Christian capitalist system in North America ? In God We Trust. But the suppression of Buddhism in China and any religion in Russia were also used to actualize political and economic growth. Africa lost out on either actualization by suppressing indigenous religion while actualizing those of Muslim and Christian to others advantages.
Hindu, Sharia and Judeo-Christian economic systems culturally enhance the economic base of their societies while China and Russia saw religion as an impediment to their political economy. What is common in all of them is the furtherance of their economic systems. Africa is similar to the communists in rejecting indigenous religion in its political economy but lost the advantages since Muslim and Judeo-Christian economy were established to further their own commercial culture not in the interest of Africa.
Africans also use indigenous religion in praying for good harvest, rain and guidance in our local commercial transactions. Our Esusu banking system and cabinet form of government in Oyo Empire are examples of our neglected political economy.
African is deeply involved in religious and ethnic problems partly because there is no national focus or loyalties to individual countries. Only if the Tutsi and the Hutu had national loyalties, if the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba had national loyalties, indigenous and returned slaves in Liberia had national loyalties to their countries or one religion. True, socialist and communist suppressions might not solve all their problems, it drastically reduced ethnic and religious conflicts while making economic and scientific progress.
It must be noted that the Somali have the same language but not necessarily united by the same religions or the same country. Religion contributes significantly to our outlook in life. Some will argue that foreign religion is just a camouflage for evil of human against human since domination of one another is the real goal. Domination creates a pyramid where most contributions go to the top usually occupied by the conquerors.
Each continent prays to its God for religious mercies and solutions. They pray before assembly, meals and other ceremonies. Whenever there are election, official jamboree, and cultural events they stand up and pray. After any tragic events, most sought console in their religious leaders through atonement, sacrifice and trust in their God. This exact ritual is repeated in Africa today according to the way it is done in other continents but only in the Muslim and Christian ways as the officially recognized religions in Africa!
It is true that African cultural events have never forsaken Oya, Sango and other gods across the Continent. The difference is, they are only tolerated in the land of their origin rather than being the official government ceremonies. So what is in the constitutions of other countries in their continent is only tolerated as cultural events in Africa. How Africa turns against its own religion as solutions to what ails us goes way back.
Many African scholars believe that conversion to foreign religion is the first step into domestication of Africans to soften them receptively to others’ way of life. After the religious emissaries, came traders in gold and slave coasts. There is a universal culture to be polite to strangers but those that were short of goods and resource in their islands and continent knew they had to throw that culture away if they want to conquer others.
Therefore, while those at home were still cordial, invaders put up a friendly face with an intention of depriving their host of their resources. The introduction of religion that is kind and considerate was attractive to clean up evil ways and human sacrifice. Indeed, the evil ways and human sacrifices would only come later in form of exploitation and outright war with far deadlier weapons if resisted.
Foreign religion that displaced keepers of our religion put their traders at top of pyramid to dictate economic stages and exploitation of resources at the bottom of the pyramids. The bottom-line is that whatever is returned from the top as foreign aides enhances more of what is needed from the bottom. What is grown, mined and cultivated are dictated at the top. So, for every million used to grease the bottom for raw materials, a billion must come out as contracts and refined products advantageous to top.
The Igwe, Oba, Obi, Emir and others that used to be the religious leaders lost power to govern their people by the introduction of the secular state. While the secular state is paramount in most countries, special respect is reserved for kings, queens and religious leaders such as in Mecca, Vatican, as in Archbishop of Canterbury. In countries where they consider religion as inoculation to accept oppression, Russia and China relaxed their grips after achieving measurable cultural and economic independence.
Moreover, Africans would readily adopt religion outside the Continent so that they can be seen as contemporary member of a universal society. Do not be surprised to hear Africans using phrases like ?civilized world, society or people? more often than others not realizing the implication of such comparisons.
By: Farouk Martins Aresa.