A few weeks ago, a friend of mine for over 50 years, Alaba Okupe, drew my attention to a publication, Curses and Our Ancestors. The publication was about the curses that our ancestors are presumed to carry and how that may have been passed on to the present generation. I have pondered this over time and I decided to ask my generation these questions: “How much of our history have we preserved?” and “How much of it are we prepared to pass on to the new generations?”
Africa is as old as the other continents, yet it has been said that Africa has no history. It is known as the Dark Continent, not only because electricity is sparse, not only because it is unindustrialised or largely undeveloped, not only because the inhabitants are among the poorest of the Earth, but also because its repositories of history have been decimated and the ones that are left are woefully equipped.
It is a fact that some of the oldest rocks found in the world are in Africa, the oldest being about 3.6 billion years old. Our ancestors, the hominids, have generally been believed to have been around for some six million years and human existence as old as 2.4 million years had been dated in Southern and Eastern Africa, the modern man’s transformation appears to have happened about 300,000 years ago. That means that Blacks have been in existence for a very long time. So, what happened to us? How did we lose our power and rights? How did we become the wretched of the earth?
Africa was doing okay before the advent of the Europeans on the continent. The Egyptian Civilisation has been traced to between 7000 BCE to 30 BCE. As far back as the 10th and 12th centuries, there were universities in Egypt and Timbuktu, present Mali, respectively. So, we had citadels of learning and cultural growth. The arrival of Islamists, and then the European marauders, ensured that our institutions of learning, civilisation and culture were destroyed, records burnt and carted away, and our best and brightest shipped out into slavery.
Who brainwashed us to believe our ancestors bequeathed us with a curse that has prevented us from achieving our aspired goals, aims and life desires to make us feel less of their equals? They did. Knowing how strong our cultural ties are to our ancestry, they capitalized on this to denigrate our past. And we bought it. That is the annoying part, and that is where we failed. That, to me, is our original sin.
Looking over history, we should have been world powers by now. Our famous Igbo Ukwu bronze roped pot is dated to the 9th Century AD, meaning that piece of art is older than Islam in Nigeria, which was introduced in the 11th Century, and Christianity, which arrived in Nigeria in the 15th Century. Very few of us can confidently discuss the complex structure of the civilization of Igbo Ukwu or the more popular Nok culture and its people. But we waste our time crying over our shattered past, blaming our ancestors while enriching the economies and pockets of the same people who created the problems.
Why have we decided to turn a blind eye to the truth? Is it that we do not care or we just do not see it? Several of us attended the best and mostly prestigious universities in the world. In almost every home in Nigeria, there are university graduates. The question is, after all this studying, what is next? We return and withdraw into our shells, depend on the emerging and developed nations for their latest developments and inventions. They make cars, we drive them. They produce phones, we buy them to use. They invent and make planes, we fly them.
True, we do not have to re-invent the wheel, but there is nothing wrong in duplicating it or making new variants. We are well educated, especially in this country, to do that which is modern and beneficial. Why are we not doing this?
The answer lies in the fact that we are still being led both by those who sacked our civilizations and those they have brainwashed. We are led by those who conquered us in wars that we did not start nor ask for. Conquerors have no interest in building anything. They pillage and plunder until nothing is left. They are incapable of adding value. They are no patriots because their allegiance can never be to the defeated.
In all developed parts of the world, governments and civil servants work for the benefit and development of their people and their nations. Colonisation was driven by Western governments. Slavery was the policy of the British and the American governments and states. The Jihad was the policy of the Islamists from the Middle East and lower Asia. In all, the warriors and their protagonists reaped tremendous monetary rewards and economic prosperity for their nations.
These evil deeds were carried out with the active participation and blessings of the governments of the day. But even in the midst of their nefarious acts in Africa, these governments planned, endorsed, and prosecuted industrialization in the West, the Manhattan Project in the USA, the space projects in the USA, Russia, and now China, in India. In partnerships they prosecuted the Cold War and the International Space Station Project, the Internet, the Mars Project, etc. The technological inventions leading to, and derivable from these projects have all proven beneficial to the development of further technological breakthroughs that continue to drive major economies to produce wealth and better quality of life for citizens and others beyond.
Over here in Africa, the West tells us that capitalism is the best path for true economic growth. And that is true. What is also true is that they never partner with us in anything, preferring rather to loan us monies while insisting that we use their nationals to execute the designated projects that the loans are meant for. China accepted this doctrine but decided to develop in their own unique fashion. They first became insular, educated their enormous human resources, then turned them into state-sponsored reverse engineers and hackers of industrial secrets to copy from the West. Today, a bastion of communism has turned its huge bureaucratic machinery creating and aiding the private sector that did not exist 50 years ago. Presently, the economy of China is only second to that of the USA.
Similarly, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, all countries within that block have all pivoted to free market economy with active government directives. Russia today has as many millionaires as some western countries and impressive state wealth too. The point I am making here is that capitalism cannot flourish in the absence of big governments. Governments have the money to attract the best brains, fund research, both short and long-term, and create markets for the products and byproducts of these researches. It is at these success junctures that the private sector normally steps in. We can see these in the participation of the private sector in the US space programmes. We also can see this in the near supersonic speed development of COVID-19 vaccines in America, Britain, China, Germany, and elsewhere.