The West was and still is the greatest enemy of Africa and Africans. It accomplished this feat by 3-pronged choke hold on the continent, a choke hold it has not yet relinquished. The choke is physical-economic, cultural-spiritual and military. The physical-economic was in the form of slave trade and slavery, which was supposed to have been abolished in the 19th century, but which is continuing even now in the form of brain drain. The cultural-spiritual was accomplished by the introduction of Christianity into the society and turning the African culture, education, languages, and beliefs upside down. The military is self-explanatory and is seen in the adventures in Ethiopia by the Italians, the British in Egypt and Sudan, the French in Algeria, and the British/Boer (Germany) in South Africa among others.
Let’s take a commercial break here. Eastern Europeans and Asians had and have left Africa alone (almost) and if the West had done so Africa would have developed at its pace and along its chosen ways, which would have been different from the Afro-British, Afro-Spanish, Afro-French, etc.
1. Physical-Economic. The physical-economic was in the form of instigating inter-tribal, and ethnic wars during which young men and women were captured and sold to the West as slaves sometimes for as little as a bottle of whisky. Part of what happened during this transatlantic trade has been captured in some history books. It is estimated that over 3-5 million young men and women perished on their way to America and Europe and an equal number perished in the cotton and tobacco farms in America.
The loss of 10 million Africans, three or four centuries ago, is incalculable and Africa has not recovered from it. And the free labor provided by the survivors, is calculable but who is going to pay for it? Even a recognition of the contribution will go a long way in compensating for the evil, but this simple gesture, is still a subject of debate in the West. And if and when the recognition is accorded how about the deprivation of the slaves human rights?
2. Cultural-Spiritual. As bad as the physical-economic stranglehold was, it was not the worst that was done to Africa, the introduction of the cultural-spiritual strangulation in form of Christianity was far worse. I can only think of one word to describe this incident and the word is “castration”. By castrating Africans using Christianity no more Africans were born. African education, African languages, African cultures and ideas, were strictly forbidden and most often described as heathenish. In my secondary school it was a punishable offense to speak Igbo, or any African language. Igbo or Yoruba, or any African language, was not required for our Cambridge certificate, but the Almighty English (French and Spanish, etc. in other countries) was a sine-qua-non. If you failed English, you failed the entire exam.
It is not just the language, one could not be baptized with an African name which is why I am Benjamin today as are the David’s, Christopher’s Victor’s etc., which you see today.
Two Christmases ago I went home and was offered a kola-nut to bless I started by calling on my forefathers as I had seen my uncles and grandparents do in my early life, I called on Aduba, Okorohugo et al to come participate in the communion. When I finished one of the Christians said he would not participate because I invoked “dead fathers” to participate. I asked why it was Ok to call on God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but not on Aduba, Okorohugo, etc. as all of them are dead. I did not receive any satisfactory answer.
The physical-economic took African out of Africa but the cultural-spiritual ensured that those who remained in Africa become Euro-Africans. Pure Africanism was destroyed.
3. Military. The military conquest of Africa ensured that Africa would be occupied; and that it’s politics and resources could be exploited, without any hues or cries. Gold in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, etc. became European products. Cocoa, oil palm, groundnut pyramid, etc. were used to build London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris and the famous cities around the world, but not in Africa. And to make matters worse the African system of government was intruded upon. The Igbo for example had evolved into a democracy, but strong chiefs were appointed for them who became very authoritarian as agents of the colonial powers. It was called Indirect Rule.
What is new?
Nothing really. Independence was supposed to have been granted to African countries. But sovereignty does not mean that the French cannot go into Ivory Coast and oust the government of the day, if France does not like what the elected president does; if he toes a different line from the French government’s line. Independence does not mean that Africans can participate in decision making places where world issues are made, such as the Security Council of the United Nations. Sometimes one gets the feeling that all independence means is that one could wear European suits to work.
Slavery has changed only in he sense that the West no longer has to incite wars, but wait at their doors for Africans to trek across the desert or fly in to West for the West to cherry pick the best. If you have a PhD in physics or strong sinews, you are picked, to the detriment of Africa.
Christianity has spread so much so that there are now more churches than any other establishments such as restaurants, hospitals or schools. You are nobody if you are not a “born again”.
Receiving stolen property is a crime unless you stole from African treasury and bring it to the West’s banks and treasury.
Is there a way out?
African youths are showing that they can compete in all aspects of development. It is possible that time will come when they will be able to rescue Africa from the devastation of colonialism.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
June 15, 2019