Essays

Colonialism: the Greek gift given to mama Africa

THE LEFT OVER SAND FROM THE FEET OF COLONIALISM.

If only colonialism like a river water that never remain the same had come and passed, the wounds inflicted on mama would have been healed by now but what I describe as the sand that colonialism brought into Africa has remained and we the children of Africa is helping it to growing to a hill. This is a situation I describe as mind colonialism where an Africa child is ashamed to say I am from Africa, where he or she prefer all that is Europe, where he or she sees all Africa as mundane, obsolete, and barbaric and you can go on mentioning all word in this line of meaning. He joins in this crusade of misrepresentation, misinterpretation, misreporting of Africa, like when “an American is to mention two concepts, apart from famine and drought, associated with Africa and the answer is likely to be wildlife and barbaric. Yet some of us saw our first lion, elephant and tiger in our late twenties in European zoos! As for barbarism, suffice it to mention the high incidence of callous murders, beastly rape, senseless suicides,aborminable moral perversions, brutal tortures, savage terrorist acts, sadistic racialism, lunatic hooliganism that have become the bread and butter of the so called “civilized” world”[9](Ehusani George 1991)

Permit me to say that the “Effects of the European takeover on Africans were considerable. In the short term, the Scramble obviously led to Africans’ loss of control of their own affairs. “Years of intense and primarily European rule spread Western culture, government, industry, religion, and medicine across the continent. The relatively recent exodus of Western powers left the continent with artificially constructed nations and alien forms of government, still dominated by remote economic powers. As the source of human origin, Africa is also the oldest breeding ground of human diseases. Today, ancient diseases and new health problems associated with AIDS, famine, pollution, and social unrest flourish unchecked, demanding the attention of African health care providers and governments. It will take decades, if not centuries, for African people, nations, governments, economies, and ecosystems to establish new ways of living that deal successfully with these challenges. This effort requires the collaboration and cooperation of African traditional, Islamic, spiritual, and Western medical health care systems”

More so it brought enormous hardship to most Africans. In addition to the deaths caused by the conquest itself, many Africans died as a result of disrupted lifestyles and movement of people and animals among different disease environments. Africa’s population did not begin to recover from the devastation caused by the Scramble and its aftermath until well into the 20th century. In the long term, the Scramble was part of a larger process of bringing non-Western peoples into the world economy—in most cases as exporters of agricultural products or minerals and importers of manufactured or processed goods. Colonial governments taxed their African subjects and used the revenues to improve the colony’s infrastructure: building roads, bridges, and ports that connected distant locales to the outside world. Meanwhile, institutions to improve people’s lives, such as hospitals and schools, appeared more slowly. Colonial rule also brought elements of Western culture—from the French and English languages and Western political models to Coca-Cola and automobiles

It is true that the colonialists helped in the development of Africa, but these developments were disproportionate to how much African resources and man power contributed to the development of Europe. In fact these developments were indeed the fruits of African labor and resources for the most part. Rodney Walter in his out pour of African intelligence opined in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, which stands as  GATEWAY OF INSPIRATION AND KNOWLEDGE that ‘What was called the development of Africa by the colonialists was a cynical short-hand expression for the intensification of colonial exploitation of Africa to develop capitalist Europe’.

“The European culture of the late 19th C introduced racism and social Darwinism in Africa.”(Ikechukwu Anthony, 2005) The elevation of the white race above blacks had lasting repercussions in lands with significant European immigration, notably South Africa and Rhodesia. Even more damaging was the inauguration of the idea that the Northern Hamates such as the Ethiopians and Tutsi’s were racially superior to other Africans. Also, one of the most controversial legacies of colonialism is cultural intolerance. White settlers who conquered nonwhite peoples often held the attitude that ethnic and cultural differences define some people as superior and others as inferior. Some colonizing countries began education programs that maintained white superiority by distancing native students from their own culture and history. It was so rapid that by 1913, European powers had divided the African continent into a patchwork that showed little regard for ethnic and linguistic boundaries. This division of society into rival ethnicities has long-lasting negative influence, especially in places like Rwanda and Burundi. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was an offspring of such mentality, where the Tutsi’s saw themselves as being superior to the Hutu’s, and so to exterminate them was a way of ensuring the preservation of the superior race. What will I say of the present genocide in Congo, and if I continue without mentioning the greatest mistake ever made in the history of the life of mama Africa which is the amalgamation of Nigeria” which was “The eventual compromise was the 1954 constitution, which made Nigeria a federation of three regions corresponding to the major ethnic nations”[10] and what happened “Regional and ethnic tensions escalated quickly. The censuses of 1962 and 1963 fueled bitter disputes”[11]

With the dawn of the colonial era, former independent African communities lost their political liberty with the division of the African continent into a patchwork that showed little regard for ethnic or linguistic boundaries. With this, the communities were squeezed into about 50 colonies marked out now by frontiers that took no account of the interest of African convenience. The Somali people were divided into four colonial systems: some were under the British, some under the Italians, some under the French and others under the Ethiopians. We also have some Hausas under the British rule in Nigeria and other under the French in Niger[1]. As a result, people who were bound by ties of cultures, language or even blood were divided by new territorial frontiers, which made them citizens of different states. This is one of the primary sources of tribalism in African Countries, tribes that have nothing in common were brought together to live as one. And today nothing in African history captures her problem of national integration more graphically than the chequered fortune of the word Tribe in her vocabulary. Tribe has been one time accepted as a friend, rejected as an enemy at another, and finally smuggled through the back door as an accomplice.

Most often, the colonial government exploited the people and their natural resources. Only a very small share of profit was given to them. The colonies were used as sources for the raw materials and markets for the finished goods. This badly affected the native economy as this period of carnage went on for a very long time. The money that was generated by these colonial governments did not benefit the people of the colony. Many African countries are still on the ride in this regard. Colonialism caused many problems for former colonies. The economics of old colonial systems linger, especially in former exploitation colonies, where these nations struggle to overcome depressed economies and archaic class systems.

We still hear of African oil producing countries like Nigeria, taking their crude oil for refinement in western countries after which they are brought back to Africa for sale. Unfortunately, these African countries have refineries or at least can afford one.

When the industrial revolution of the 19th C and 20th C brought increased exploitation of Africa due to the European demand for large quantities of raw materials, imperial overseers geared the economies of Africa towards exporting raw materials. Egypt produced cottons, Rwanda-Urundi was almost completely dedicated to growing coffee, and Upper Volta specialized in palm oil. Basing an entire nation’s wealth on one commodity in this way would have debilitating effects later. These monocultures left national economies vulnerable to price swings, making economic planning difficult. These colonial policies are directly responsible for many of Africa’s present problems. Many scholars have argued that this is the cause of institutional hunger in Africa. These export crops were actually imposed on Africans; as a result they lost some of their foods meant for their subsistence. Many African countries are still to trace their way back.

“The genetic code of the new African states was already imprinted on its embryo within the womb of African colonial state. The colonial government was one in which the bureaucrat was absolutely king. In the absence of meaningful development among the legislative, executive and judiciary, the task of administration and adjudication, as well as the formation and implementation of policies were in the hands of the bureaucrats. The colonial administrators were like elites, a chosen few who did not need to keep in touch with the lives and interests of the ordinary people, who were regarded as being at the lowest level of being after the lower animals, incapable of rationality and insensitive to their environment. Many African leaders now conceive themselves as chain minorities very often clung to power and privilege, advancing individual rather than corporate economic and political development. In this, one sees the roots of the dominant hegemonic and patrimonial nature of many African governments”. (Ikechukwu Anthony 2005)

The true effects of colonialism are psychological. This is because domination by a foreign power creates a lasting sense of inferiority and subjugation that builds a barrier to growth and innovation. Here comes the issue of mind colonialism which many term eurocenticism. Many Africans have lost confidence in themselves and in their abilities. This has been extended to indigenous industries; whatever comes from the African is tagged ‘inferior’ by other Africans. This ranges from simple machines to simple things like clothes, furniture, bags, shoes, belts etc. Indigenous industries now prefer to tag their products ‘made in USA’ or ‘made in China or Taiwan’, giving the impression that local products are not of desirable standards. Inferiority has turned our eyes to be ‘outward looking’ rather than ‘inward looking’. This is the statement from a ‘colonized mind’, “African youths are in dire need of Africa role models…I hope that, that day will soon come when Africa’s youths will not have to look beyond the continent’s frontiers for role model”[12]. In response to this I say Africa is suffering from too much role model just that we use the western criteria to define who is an African role model which is another area of mind colonialism, I am not waiting for such a day but it has come with people like wole soyinka, chinua Achebe, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah, Philip Emegwali etc. in fact this article cannot contain the names. It is believed that the firewood of every community cooks their food so let us use the Africa criteria to vet our role model, using African values like justice, communalism, honesty etc these a portrayed is such igbo belief system like igwe bu ike that is strength in many,ofo oji ogu ere,eziokwu bu ndu etc

Colonialism has been described as a moral vice and a cultural bully of the Europeans, clearly elucidating the vices of the western culture in Africa. When the colonial masters came, they gave us the impression that they were a superior race. In French colonies, through the principle of ‘assimilation’, they tried to stop the indigenous languages of colonies, which they considered inferior to the French Language. For the French colonial masters, they looked forward to a day when all their colonies would speak one language, namely French. In British colonies, English was taught at schools. As such, many Africans have grown with the impression that their language is inferior. Days before now important books were written in many African vernacular languages and dialects but it is very disheartening to find out that today our libraries have been emptied of vernacular books. In many homes vernacular is forbidden. It is in this regard that Leonard Senghor said that ‘African misfortunes have been that our secret enemies while defending their values made us despise our own’.

What will I say to leave what as Africans began to see their traditional poetry, including freelancing with songs, dancing, and theatrical renditions as pagan. “the gradual disappearance of the spiritual values that gave traditional African societies their identity and the sense of meaning and purpse, our cultural values ranging from the sense of the sacred to respect for life and elders, respect for marriage institution, premarital sex, virginity, honest labor and communalism, are being submerged with the appreciation of the alien culture of materialism, nudity and hedonism”[13]. We are loosing a great deal of our cultures, as the average Africa tends towards the acquisition of European values and qualify for what the Igbo thought system describe as onye ocha nna ya di oji ie a white man whose father is black. On the level of ‘cultural diffusion or borrowing’ “Today the characteristic African humaneness, personalism, hospitality, wholesome personal relations, and the overwhelming sense of the sacred, have been infested and obscured by the cankerworm of western materialism and individualism”[14].

I have only this for the African as well as myself using the words of our illustrious and great son of mama in the person of Nelson Mandela “Africa has long past a mindset that seeks to heap all blame on the past and others” let we the hope of mama cast new light of hope because mama has erred out of ignorance let us not be beaten again because we own the absolute freedom to craft our own ideas for the problem of own place for it is now time to find indigenous solution.

In attempt to tow the line of wole Soyinka’s thought pattern “we are people of African Ancestry living in the denial of who we are .we have lost our strength as a people. We are losing our children to systems which mis-educate them. Our families are disintegrating before our eye…the answer to our social dilemma is the resocialization of our people into the value system that affirms our spiritual being. Our ancestors are calling us home back to our cultural selves for we are an African people”[15]

Egbufoama Chike

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