Africa in the shadow of colonialism

All over the world and all over history, colonialism has always generated a lot of contentions and confusions. Some political and moral philosophers have always out rightly regarded it as evil; while some others differed in many ways arguing that colonialism is a ‘civilizing mission’ of mercy as the British merchants’ watch word connoted or a ‘religious mission’ as justified by the Spanish conquistadores. However, history had shown that almost all the powers that had conquered and colonized other nations were at one time or the other been under the burden of colonialism. From the time of the ancient warrior and greatest hunter of all time, Nimrod, who built the first ‘kingdom’, man has always desires to conquer and colonize others to build up an empire upon which no sun will set.

For instance, by the late 19th century, Great Britain which successfully had, almost all the nations of the world existing under the shadow of the ‘Union Jack’ was once a colony of the ancient Romans from the city of Rome in present day, Italy. No wonder traces of the Romans could still be seen in the names of several towns, cities, streets and nomenclature of Great Britain as a nation today.

While under Alexandria the Great and Julius Cesar, the entire known world as of then, had been colonized by the Greeks and Romans respectively. Before his death at the age of 33, Alexandria the Great had conquered and colonized the world from the Adriatic Sea in Europe to the Indus River in Asia. While Julius Cesar was even murdered by the seven Roman senators, led by Claudius, who believed among others that the conquest of Cesar over other lands, languages and people would eventually be of no good to the citizens of neither Rome nor the Republic. Then the saying, world over was -“All roads lead to Rome”.

However, from the carcasses of this great powers sprung forth their successors, (as predicted in Daniel Chapter 8, via the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, also a world power in his time) among which, at a time included Africa-the Black Africans?

History as written by the Europeans has been unfair to Africa

Once upon a time, the Black Africans, the Moors (as they are referred to in most literatures) were at a time a world power that conquered, occupied and colonized the Iberian Peninsula and other European territories as far as France for nearly 800 years. For instance during the African Almoravides dynasty (1040-1147 A.D), the empire had absolved southern Spain and Portugal into its sphere of influence at the height of its power. The architectural designs ,relics, and artifacts like ancients coins (e.g. the coin of the Almoravids, Sevilla, Spain 1116 B.C. now in the British Museum) in such European nations and cities of Spain and Portugal, Aeolian Islands, Sicily ,Southern Calabria, in Italy attested to the legacy of the Black Africans while their reign lasted in Europe .

Moreover, the ‘Holy Land’ or the ‘Promised land’- Palestine or Canaan land, which is today a contentious global hara-kiri among, Jews, Christians, Arabs etc, upon which bloods are shed on daily basis and upon which men and armies, statesmen and great icons have ended their career, belonged to the ‘Blacks’! Canaan land was established by Canaan (Gen.10; 19).According to the Bible Canaan was the grandson of Noah, and the son of Ham the second son of Noah. Canaan was noted to have established Carthage, present day Tunisia, in North Africa, Phoenicia, ‘England of antiquity’ among others. While Ham his father, was said to have migrated, southwest into Africa and part of the near Middle East with Canaan’s siblings like Mizraim, Cush, and Phut where they established many cities. Interchangeably, Ham and his four sons had been attributed to be the ancestors of all Africans or the Biblical progenitors of all present day Africans.

Therefore, colonialism is not an exclusive preserve of Europeans nor is it restricted to a specific time or place; from time immemorial stronger societies have always subjugated weaker societies into its newly conquered territories .And contrary to what the European historians would want us to believe, Africa is not the only continent, to be colonized in history. Nor Africans the only unfortunate people, neither an inferior race to be colonized. The Europeans as represented by Portugal, Britain, France, Spain, Netherland, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, (not necessarily in any particular order) were the last of their kinds when the roll call of colonial powers is called. Their reign lasted till the 20th century, and by proxy, till date.

In other words, colonialism is as old as mankind itself. Nations, kingdoms, empires had risen and nations, kingdoms, empires had fallen. The entire recorded history of man is strewn with the wreckage of the great civilizations which had come into prominence and suddenly as it came, declined and crumbled under its own weight into mere memory of man. That has always been how the story of the world, nay! Mankind goes.

African was the Cradle of Civilization?

Without being found guilty of contradictions, this is the continent where mankind first came forth into reckoning and existence as asserted to by immutable, incontrovertible evidence. This is the cradle of mankind-the home of civilization. Genetically, all people having descendants today had the same receptor protein of today’s Africans. That is to state scientifically that, 1.2 million years ago, the skin colour of all creatures was dark, like the present day Africans. The emergence of lighter skin color or white people is as a result of low levels of melanin occasioned by the migration of early man’s migration to less sun-intensive regions in the north where low vitamins D3 levels were a problem.

Before Europe, Africa experienced civilization

This land once gave rise to the greatest empires of yore, when the European nations were still in her primordial state. While the Barbarians (500 A.D) and savages-the ancient Anglo-Saxons (who invaded and created the English nation in early 500 A.D. ),the Jutes (400 B.C),the Vikings (800-1100 A.D) permeated the Europeans nations with their blood thirstiness, Africa had evolved and maintained complex structures into highly organized societies and more sophisticated population with specialized social strata; Africa has one of the world’s oldest civilizations, Egyptian civilization (5500 B.C) and Kerma civilization or Ta Setu (3000 B.C). The Ethiopian Empire of Aksum (300 B.C), the Songhai Empire (1464), Nok Culture (1000B.C), the ancient city of Ife (ca.800), the ancient Kingdom of Zanj (980 A.D), the Kingdom of Buganda, the Kitara Empire, all attested to the fact that African had developed a cosmopolitan city-state long before the creation of most European nations and long before the emergence of Europeans in Africa. Monuments, obelisks, of Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, highly specialized sculptural relics ‘of bronze, copper terracotta figurines’ and pavement traditions of Ife, the great pyramids of Khufu and Giza, the relics along the Nile valley from down East Africa to Cape Town by the fringes of the Mediterranean among others are marks on the sand of time that attested to giant’s steps taken in Africa centuries before Now.

Africans once ruled the world in almost every human endeavour!

This is the land where the titans once trod, bestrode and bequeathed to humanity the greatness that life could ever offer to humanity. Once upon a time there was Maheru Imhotep, a historic figure, who was the chief and father of architecture and medicine. Before Christ, there was Queen of Sheba, a powerful African monarch, from Ethiopia, who swept King Solomon off his feet, with her beauty, gait and wealth. What of Cleopatra, who dazzled two of the greatest emperors of Rome with her outstanding beauties and skills. There was also Shaka Zulu, a Zulu king, a military genius and a

great empire builder. Yaa Asantewaa, Queen of Ejisu, Ghana, who led the Asantes in war against the British in 1900. Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. Queen Nzinga, Queen of the Mbundu people of Angola, a fierce anti-colonial female leader, who fought the Portuguese in the 17th century to abolish slave trade.

While at a time in world history, the center of the world’s scientific knowledge was situated in Timbuktu- the famous world class University of Sankore, in the fabled city of Timbuktu headed by an African, Ahmed Baba Es Sudane (or Ahmed Baba ,the black)who was a great scholar and intellect in the 16th century.
And at other times the world’s largest and most famous library was in Africa, the Ancient Library of Alexandria, Egypt, which functioned as a major center of research and scholarship in the world by 300 B.C. It was in this Library, that the scientific method of enquiry was first conceived and put into practice by man, and, hence meriting honourably, the term –‘Birthplace of the Modern World’.

It is of no more contests or dispute that most of the first sets of outstanding scientists and philosophers in antiquity and recorded history had their teeth weaned in Africa or were from Africa or passed through Africa in their quest for knowledge. The world greatest mathematician and father of Geometry-Euclid was born and raised in Africa. Similarly, Theon and his son Hypatia, acclaimed as ancient mathematicians and scholars, were from Africa. Philo of Alexandria (20B.C -50A.D), one of the ancient philosophers and a contemporary of Christ was raised in Africa. Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, origen, John Philoponus(A.D490-AD 570,he was noted to have proposed –The theory of Impetus, which was the first step towards the concept of Inertia in modern Physics. And a major influence on Galileo Galilei, the acclaimed father of modern science) and several others were from Africa. Plato at a time was said to have sojourned to Africa, before establishing the ‘Academy’ in Greece. Africa gave to the world -Astronomy, Chemistry, Architecture, Agriculture, writing system, iconography and several branches of human knowledge. All these clearly defeated the argument for ‘civilizing mission’ used as justification for colonization.

Africans occupy strategic place in shaping the present World

In modern time Africa had given birth to giants, whose acts and arts continue to bedazzle and enriches humanity. This is the continent of Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegalese writer and one of the world’s greatest historians. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, a living legend and one of the rare personalities to be honored and celebrated on the Broadway. Wole Soyinka, a compendium of greatness and sagacity in Literature and the first African to be awarded a Nobel Laureate. Phillip Emeagwali, a supercomputer genius, who made the internet a reality. Benjamin Olukayode Osuntokun, an outstanding authority in Medicine and the pioneer of tropical Neurology, most especially-Neuroepidemiology, and ataxic neuropathy. Felix Konotey-Ahulu, a Ghanaian doctor practicing in the United Kingdom, the world’s greatest authority on sickle cell anemia. Victor Anomah Ngu, Cameroonian doctor and discoverer of an Aids vaccine, VANHIVAX. Nelson Rolihlahia Mandela, one of the worlds’ most revered statesman. All these are evidence that Africans are not inferior beings to any race.

The Berlin Conference and Scramble for Africa; Colonialism

In 1884 during the Berlin Conference in which Africa was carved up among European powers, Bismarck’s (the convener) plan was not to help Africa but to help Europe from being locked up horn to horn, in another war over Africa because of the aggressive scramble for Africa by the Europeans .The Berlin conference had as its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, which was the formalization of the scramble for Africa, ushering in a period of heightened colonial activities on the part of the European powers and simultaneously the destruction of African nations’ ability to develop sequentially a thriving ,autonomous societies. Joseph Conrad sarcastic and satirical reference to the Berlin Conference as ‘The International Society For the Suppression of Savage Customs’ in his novel –Heart of Darkness is therefore justified.

The Hamitic Hypothesis; Are Africans accursed?

The question that is pertinent to be asked today is where and how is it that the Africa fell from great Olympian height into the abyss of chasm and depravation? And thereby conforming or accepting unwittingly, the erroneous –Hamitic hypothesis-‘slaves of slaves’, or ‘servants of servants’; which was merely a scientific racist’s allusion, logical absurdity that was invented as a tool to justify slavery and eventually colonization. Of the Biblical account of Ham nothing is related except his irreverence to his father, Noah and the curse which that patriarch pronounced not on him but his fourth son- Canaan (whose third son Jebus (Gen.10:15-16, Judges 1:21) established present day -Jerusalem).The other sons of Ham “Cush, Mizraim and Phut”, who together with Ham, established the cities that later formed the continents of Africa were never at any time cursed.

Is it a Case of ‘The Lost Glory’?

When Germany’s Leo Frobenius, an ethnologist and archaeologist, travelled to African city of Ife, Western Nigeria in 1910, he exclaimed to have found the mystical ‘Lost City of Atlantis’. Today that lost city is finally lost. Africa’s glory is now departed from its confines-ICHABOD (1Sam 4:21).

Then, like the societies of Europe during the Dark Ages, once came a time when darkness came and the continent of Africa lost all its glory into oblivion and obscurity. A continent that once ruled the world in almost every facet of human endeavours then suddenly became a by word, a bird of prey and prized spoil of war for any contending powers and army of conquest; The Europeans, the Arabs and now the Asians.

Africa today, is like a keg of gun powder, as result of the effect of slavery and colonialism?

Today, most of the negative tendency and backwardness that are synonymous with African nations had been blamed on the Trans Atlantic slavery and eventually, colonialism. Walter Rodney in his epic book-‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’, Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, pointed out that the evils that pervaded African societies today, were as a result of colonialism vis-à-vis the terrible and repressive nature of administration and legacy left behind by European powers in Africa, most especially those under the bootjack of the Anglo-Saxons. ‘Divide and Rule’ might have worked for the Europeans as a form of political administration of the native Africans, while their reign lasted in Africa, but its bitter after taste continued to destroy the social and political fabric of African countries till date. Let call to mind, the Hutus/Tutsi crisis, the Nigeria/Biafran conflict, the Congo Brazzaville’s conflicts, Angola ,British Somaliland, Ethiopian/Eritrea, Sudan (once an outpost of Egypt, during the British mandate over Egypt) among several others.

Whereas slavery and colonialism had done much less harm to Africa compared to the greater harm done to African nations by the effect of the methods and style of decolonization after the Second World War .No strongman would freely let go its captives. While slavery and colonization had created skewed evolution, revolution and development of societies in Africa, decolonization had created a far more catastrophe, which had resulted in jaundiced political and social structures and heavily dependent economy.

Why is topical issue like bad leadership, corruption, social strife, brain drain among others a catastrophic pandemy in Africa more than elsewhere in the world? After independ

ence from the colonial powers, most African nations had experienced and degenerated to high scale socio-political and economic decadence. The receding or seceding colonial powers (After the nationalism fever of self determination or self-government, prompted by the Second World War, where a good number of Africans fought side by side their white counterparts and came to realize that the ‘Whiteman’ , is not invincible after all, agitated for independence. And more so, encouraged by the U.N Special Committee on Decolonization, often called the Committee of 24) had in most cases in a highly vindictive nature handed over, nations of Africa to a group of excessively corrupt, grossly repressive, critically incompetent and pathologically ‘yes-yes’ Africans who would serve as ‘rookies’, ‘sidekicks’ and ‘proxies’ for the benefit of Europeans’ economic interest through indirect mechanism of control (colonialism by other means) after their disengagement from the political scene of Africa. And in turn, over time, such ‘rookies’ had turned the continent of Africa into a bloody conflagration with many tales of woes. Ludwig von Mises once opined that ‘the worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments’.

And that was precisely the devastating legacy that receding colonial powers intended and bequeathed to emerging African nations. Africa today is an ugly theatre of outright and tragic failure of leadership, no thanks to the dismal legacy of African former Colonial masters. There is hardly any nation in Africa that has not experienced one man made calamity or the other after independence. Some have experienced terrible civil wars, for some it was military incursions that destabilized democratically elected governments and built up hegemony of what is now termed- ‘sit tight’ war lords. While to so many others, poverty, famine and several others man-made tribulations are the order of the day. Africa is hell on earth.

Africa Diaspora; Brain drain and Brain gain

Here then lies the truth about Africa, why so many of its best children are not found within its borders, but outside it confines, a living glory of other nations and continents. Never blame Africans who labour to build the glory of other nations, if they were to be in Africa, they could have ended like Steve Biko, or Gani Fawehinmi, or suffered the fate of Anwar Sadat, Samuel Doe, Samora Machel, Moshood Abiola or Thomas Sankara. Or wasted like Dele Giwa, Chris Hani, Pa Rewane, or Nana Drobo(remember the Ghanaian herbalist that was found dead with bullet holes in his head, not long after he successfully treated a dying French man with AIDS ,who was sent to him from the Ivory Coast). Or worst still they could have been subjected to a living, hopeless walking corpse-‘zombie’, like millions of Africans are today in Africa. The glory that such African children (those in Diasporas) enjoyed in other continents of the world today could have been a shame had it be they were to be in Africa. Presently, 140 million people of African origin are recorded to be domiciled in the Western Hemisphere, compared to the 800 million at home i.e one out of five Africans stays abroad from Africa, the statistics is increasing annually. Africa Diaspora is now a major phenomenal crisis of some sort all over the world.

‘There’s only one good, knowledge and one evil, ignorance’. Socrates

For Africa therefore to come out of the doldrums, it must as a matter of not only necessity but also compulsion, begin to do what the Europeans did during what is now called the Renaissance period; invest hugely on education-research and knowledge. In other words Africa must make very strong conscious effort to invest into intellectual capital development. In this century just as the last three centuries it is evident that those that would lead the world or those that would not be left behind or suffer similar fate like the reign of the dinosaurs, must be those with ‘brain power’ and not those with ‘brawl power’. The Jews are a little people, but through great investments into intellectual capital are presently leading the entire known world in almost every facet of life. The British Isle is far smaller than Africa, yet the British used their mastery of the sea waves, knowledge of the use of the compass to conquered two third of the world. The Americans touch every life on earth today in every field, not by the abundance of its weaponry in its arsenal, far from it, but by its investments in intellectual capital. The Japanese inhabited an unfriendly geographical terrain, a very small Isle, saddled inadvertently and fortuitously between two seas along a perilous fault, yet the Japanese learnt the arts and science of taming the elements of its peculiar environment through its knowledge and investment in technology. Today, Japan is a world power in technology; the world’s largest supply of electronics, appliances, and maritime equipments had its source from a little Isle in the Eastern corner of Asia, Japan.

No people, society or nation can develop and survive the stormy water of existence without taking conscious and not accidental steps to invest into the development of its population.

Moreover and much more, Africa must deemphasize on material or natural resources, which are the foundation of every societal decay in African societies today and a cause of all the wars and fraternal battles common with the African nations for the past half a century. Laying much emphasize on this, continue to propel men and armies to contend aggressively and brutally for land, power and control and thereby subjecting the continent of Africa to much more agony, despair and poverty. Today, African nations patronized what it has no use for; purchase what it can easily produce with obvious comparative advantage and amassed wealth it cannot sustain. Africa is always at peace with his neighbors, but buying guns and guns for use against its own people! A consuming people, heavily dependent society, that hardly produce its staples and means of livelihood can never survive the brutal reality of the 21st century.

Oh Africa, how I wished you honour your children for your own glory?

To survive, Africa must learn to gather all her children from the Diaspora or from every angle of the world back to Africa. It is believed, that Africans in the Diaspora has the potentials to revitalize Africa, improve themselves and their fatherland. A situation where an African would find pleasure abroad and doom at home must fade away like the reign of the dinosaurs. The Africans of this world-the Barack Obamas, Philip Emeagwalis, Gabriel Eyinbos, Olaudah Equianos, Chinua Achebes, Wole Soyinkas, Felix Konotey-Ahulus, Victor Anomah Ngus etc must all come back home, to Africa that would greatly welcome them and appreciate them.

Wealth of a Nation

Africa must borrow a leaf from the age long political and economic conclusions of Adam Smith in- An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (generally referred to by the short title-The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776), that “The greatness of a nation is not in the abundance of its material resources…” i.e natural endowments like oil, gold, diamond etc, “but in the creative ability of its people”.

Conclusively, Colonialism could not be said to be an outright evil per se in its entirety. History abounds with nations that had come forth from the pains and gory tales of colonialism into astounding fame and glory thereafter. However, the colonialism and decolonialization of Africa is a different thing entirely. As of the time of African’s quest for independence, European nations had almost exhausted all her resources, and Africa offers a ready and willing prey with abundance of untapped resources both human and natural resources too tempting to let go. Therefore, for Africa to realize its dream o

f an independent ‘people’ under God, it must take cognizance and holistic appraisal of its weakness and peculiar history.

Written by
Shola Adebowale
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