Tony Osauzo, Benin
Prior to exposure to Western civilisation and cultures, the African people lived a communal life that thrived on brotherhood and care for their neighbours.
Co-operation and support were dominant features in the African communal life then. For example, in a community, if a man embarked on the building of a house, the project would attract the support of other neighbours who joined hands to ensure speedy completion of the task. The co-operation and support also extended to farming.
Besides, many development projects in some Nigerian communities today, such as town halls, markets and secondary schools, which were later taken over by government, were built through communal effort. Communal life then also bred confidence and trust among community members such that people were free to eat meals in their neighbours’ houses without fear of any harm.
But the exposure of African societies to Western civilisation, based more on individualism, has negatively impacted on the African communal way of life. As against what obtained in the past in African communities, co-operation and support among community members have taken flight, such that, if a neighbour is in distress, no one cares.
The idea of community members freely entering their neighbours’ houses and eating meals, is now in the past. Indeed, African brotherhood and care for neighbours, which were positive and strong attributes of African communal life in the recent past, have ceased to exist as a result of Western influence.
Today, the world is being ravaged by a killer disease known as coronavirus (COVID-19).
The pestilence has continued to wreak havoc across the world, just as it is claiming thousands of lives.
But pleasantly, the response from individuals and corporate bodies in Nigeria and Africa as a whole to the containment of COVID-19, through donation of huge sums of money and food items to the vulnerable and needy, typifies the African communal response to issues and situations in an African setting. Every one acts to support and protect his neighbour, in keeping with the Biblical injunction that enjoins man to be his brother’s keeper.
In Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu showed the way when he dispatched three lorries loaded with assorted foodstuff to be distributed to the needy in the three senatorial districts of the state.
This was followed by a former Minister of State for Works, Chris Ogiemwonyi, who also sent truckloads of food for distribution to the vulnerable in the three senatorial districts.
Then the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. (Mrs.) Yinka Omorogbe, also distributed food items to 800 people and orphanages in Benin, in the spirit of brotherhood, to cushion harsh effects of the partial lockdown in the state arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other individuals and groups have also lent a hand of support to the needy. These efforts have, however, been tagged political in some quarters.
The African communal approach and the unanimity of purpose displayed towards containing COVID-19 and the support for the needy are positive fallouts and ought to be encouraged. The pandemic is gradually bringing back African communal way of life.