By Babatunde Jose
A man’s true worth lies in his confidence and personality which is greatly nurtured by his culture. Man is essentially the product of his culture. It beats and moulds a person into a particular shape. Culture makes one think, speak, dance and behave in a particular manner. It’s culture that makes one Kanuri, Jukun, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Alago, Tiv, etc. Yet, this culture, though parochial, tends to be temporarily dynamic: Hence, it is not static. Unfortunately, we lost it. Our culture, tradition and language have been supplanted. We are a people without a God and our tradition, culture, values, mores, attitudes and dispositions have become desolate and windswept. We are living in what a sociologist referred to as a spiritual vacuum or emptiness. It is this spiritual deficiency and erosion of our culture and traditions that account for our backwardness and lack of development. Our religion is a syncretism; while we profess Christianity and Islam, deep down, we are African in our thoughts and belief system. Like a rudderless ship with a spinning compass in an open and hostile sea; we waste so much time and space arguing and discussing mundane religious issues that do not add any value to our wellbeing as a people. Our language which is the bedrock of our collective values, tradition, and history has been jettisoned. Like a lost sheep, we are unable to go forward or retrace our bearing. We think in a borrowed language, learn in a foreign language, speak in a foreign tongue and sing a foreign song while dancing to a foreign tune. For any race that jettisons its language and culture, development becomes a mirage. Try as the British did, India refused to forego its language, its culture and its tradition. Neither did it abandon its God. China too stuck to its language, despite millennia of imbalanced contact with the West. The same could be said for Japan and Malaysia. All these countries and many others that offered resistance to Western Cultural Imperialism have succeeded in advancing and crossing the Rubicon. Some have even become nuclear powers such as North Korea, Iran, India, China and Pakistan.
So, why is the Blackman suffering today? Why has he remained glued to poverty? And why is he poor, both materially and spiritually, despite abundant resources and the march of science and technology surrounding him? What have we gained with our borrowed Bible and Quran? Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang, in his famous piece: Why Blackman de Suffer! It goes like this: Kanginni koko, kanginni je nje: (An underground spiritual game.) Why black man dey suffer today; Why black man no get money today; Why black man no go for moon today; This is the reason why. We dey sit down for our landi jeje; We dey mind our business jeje; Some people come from far away land; Dem fight us and take our land; Dem take our people and spoil our towns; Na since den trouble starti oh (huh, huh); Our riches dem take away to their land; In return dem give us their colony; Dem take our culture away from us; Dem give us dem culture we no understand; Black people, we no know ourselves; We no know our ancestral heritage; We dey fight each other every day; We’re never together, we’re never together at all. The old rascal was speaking the truth.
Any person with passion for the African culture today will believe that, the very material, spiritual and aesthetic fabric of African people had been destroyed by western civilization.
The colonial masters arrived in Africa with their own culture and languages, which Africans consciously and unconsciously imbibed. In the process of accepting the new culture and language, they forgot to sift carefully and select the important and discard the less important ones. They forgot the existence of their true culture and language: The perfect slave!
Today, many people are even ashamed to speak their local dialect in the public. They prefer to speak English because they believe that is the best language to speak. What an aberration! While in school, we were penalized for speaking our language which they termed vernacular! Our cultural heritage has been watered down by western civilization. Gone were days when life was treasured and values were welcome and held with high level of respect.
Developments in India, China, South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Dubai and Qatar will elucidate our point. These are countries that have defied the Whiteman’s definition of others as backward and underdeveloped. Using their own languages to master western science and technology, most of them today not only manufacture cars, planes and ships, but now rank among the nuclear nations: All in a spate of less than fifty years.
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend