Osuofia In London: A Philosophical Perspective

by Bekeh Utietiang

David Hume a German philosopher once wrote, “I am apt to suspect the Negroes, and in general all the other species of men to be naturally inferior to Whites. There never was a civilized nation of any complexion than White.” As we continue to ponder on this quote, we become more knowledgeable about the place of the African in the mindset of the European or the American. The major argument the colonialists advanced for African colonization was to civilize the uncivilized Africans. Africans today, in the thinking of the West, should be grateful for the impact of colonialism which helped in their civilization. A simple research would show that though colonialism seems to have moved Africa forward, it actually took Africa backward. For Africans who have traveled to Europe and America, they are very familiar with questions such as, are there computers in Africa? Do Africans live in houses? Do people drive cars in Africa? Do Africans have toilets at home? Do Africans wear clothes? Is Africa one big country or village? As ridiculous as these questions may sound, Africans abroad are daily confronted with these questions.

An average American thinks the whole world ends within the boundaries of the United States and is very ignorant of the African continent. Most Europeans and Americans still have the knowledge of Africa depicted in the racial shows of the 60’s. This image has not been helped by foreign charitable and religious organizations working in Africa who continue to present Africa in a bad light to the West in order to gain financial support for their humanitarian work in Africa. It is thus the place of Africans to legitimately defend her identity and seek equality for Africans with the rest of the world. Thus, writes Thabo Mbeki, “This generation remains African and carries with it a historic pride which compels it to seek a place for Africans equal to all other people of our common universe.”

From very humble beginnings, the Nigerian movie industry is growing daily and the attention of the world is drawn to movies produced in Nigeria. Today, you can easily buy Nigerian movies over the internet and in stores in Europe and America. Suffice me to state that my attention was drawn to the comedy “Osuofia in London” by an American friend who wanted more clarifications about the message of the movie. I have argued in some of my previous articles that Africans in general and Nigerians in particular must avail themselves of the modern means of communication in promoting African identity and culture. Black people all over the world are looked down on because of their identity and the false mentality that the black culture is inferior. Through our movies, we are forming the mindset of our audience to a certain understanding. Nigerian movies have always been characterized by marital problems, rituals, crime, and religion. These are problems that plague the Nigerian society. Many producers have been able to offer positive messages from these problems through their movies. These producers must be thanked for the lessons they are putting out for people to learn.

There is a danger to argue that the message of a movie does not really matter if the movie is a fiction. True fiction is based on some reality. The opposite of this would be false fiction. The fictional comedy “Osuofia in London” is unpatriotic to Africa. The movie portrays Osuofia as being more interested in the brother’s wealth rather than the brother himself. Africans are presented in this movie as timid and uncivilized people who have no idea of what it means to use a rest room, a confirmation of what the West believe already about Africans. Mr. Okafor the London based solicitor of Donatus is seen as a corrupt man, another Euro-American image of Africans. Osuofia is portrayed as a dumb idiot who would sign off every of his brother’s property for a kiss from a white lady. To show the producer’s willingness to sell this false African identity to the West, the movie is produced with a Western audience in mind. This is seen clearly in the narrations before and at the end of the movie.

The African of the 21st Century deserves a better image than this. For the Western audience that has watched this movie or will watch it, it is my submission that the “Below Average” African is not as dumb and stupid as the movie wants to make people believe. Most African people today are as civilized as their western counterparts. For the African audience, let us continue to promote our identity as Africans and show Africa in the light of truth to the rest of the world.

Bekeh Utietiang lives in Washington, DC and he is the author, “Afridentity: Essays on Africa.”

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O April 18, 2019 - 9:24 pm

I agree! People think that white women are all we want and they have no idea how much we love our African women! This movie might be true for some Nigerians but definitely not for all nor the entire continent!

chris September 5, 2009 - 6:45 am

i am yet to see part two…i hope it would not be cheesy in quality.

chris September 5, 2009 - 6:42 am

funny… i saw part one and found it hilarious. i like the ‘sense’ exhibited by a so-called village man relative to the educated minds. depending on what you are conditioned to seeing, you will interpret the movie through your lens of indoctrination… now Mr/Ms/Mrs caimhons…your remarks are truly regrettable. educated as you are, one would expect you to differentiate one nigerian from another, just as one caribbean can be distinguished from another.

I refrain from saying more to you, but be decent enough to show good discernment.

Masi November 20, 2007 - 11:58 am

I'm am a South African,I likeNigerian movies. This is a very hilarious movie, but at times its very embarrasing. It has demeaned our identity as Africans, we don't all think of shooting birds when we see them, we don't all wear like that, now the Americans have that wrong impression about u. I understant its acting but its too much.

caimhons September 2, 2007 - 8:19 pm

I regret to say that WEST AFRICA is not civiliised at all, many people from west africa specially nigeria and ghana are found to be agressive, rude and scruffy as well as very ignorant. when living in europe many of them can not integrate, i think the caribbean is much more civilised than africa. also to say that the attitude of many people in west africa is unacceptable and there are many issues in est africa, they always try to make so many differences between people and are way too imposive and narrow minded, in fact west african mentality can be really backwords. there are no human rights in west africa and there is so much discrimination against women and other people, sorry but west africa is not civilised.

wasam March 24, 2007 - 5:48 pm

The movie is just a movie and most Africans understand this, I am a Nigerian and does not feel offended by this movie, you want to know which movie offend my sensibility, the gods must be crazy, there are stark differences between the two.

This movie rather shows how greedy westerners are , that they will be willing to do whatever it takes to cheat an unsuspecting African.

For those non Africans who does not understand it to be a movie then it shows their level of inteligence. Moreover I will rather buy a movie by Africans that depicts Africa in this way than movies like gods must be crazy , at least I am sure that that money is going to develop a part of Africa regardless of how small that part is.

Kenyan January 13, 2007 - 2:42 am

I have watched the movie and I think it is delirious.Most of the people have said what they think of the Movie"Osuofia in London" and I disagree with most of them.Why do Africans wants to be Westernised(Civilized)Why do we want to think of life in a western way.We dont need to feel portrayed by the movie as uncivilized society because as it is that is probably what happens in our society .Myself I dont realy care how the world percieve Africa after wathing this movie.I nearly broke my ribs with laughter.

Femi Ogunyemi December 13, 2006 - 12:54 pm

It is a crying shame when as a race of human beings we cannot laugh at ourselves in times of fortune or misfortune. I have seen 'Usofia in London'it is incredibly funny. Thankfully the average African, European and American is intelligent enough to know that Africans of all grades illiterate or Literate do not behave in this manner.

I draw reference to European and American comedies that portray, themselves in a less than sparkling light. I feel it is an indication of a culture's advancement to be able to take the time and laugh at our past behaviour and thank the gods that we have moved on.

If your friend was concerned about the portrayal of Africans from a film made by Intelligent and articulate Africans (I happen to know both producer and Director and they are perfectly aware of the contribution they have made to world comedy) I would actually be concerned of your friends level of intelligence. He or she clearly as you described is not aware of the world outside his or her borders. You should take the time to educate this person on what exist outside the American borders. Perhaps a couple of lessons on Usman dan fodio, oduduwa and the rise and fall of the Benin empire prior to the arrival of the colonist, then perhaps you would be able to articulate in Africa's defence that one of the world's oldest civilizations existed in Africa before the pompous colonist in their innocent, naive and immature state thought they were bringing civilization to Africans when in fact we are and still are imprinting our culture, Art, ideas and philosophy across the Western and Eastern world

Inkola October 20, 2006 - 4:01 pm

I disagree with most of what has been said above. It appears most of you typify what colonialism has done to our collective psyche – given us 'oyinbo mentality' and an inability to see things from our own perspective, but rather from the western man's viewpoint. You are all more concerned about what westerners think about you than what you think about yourself. For God's sake, its a movie..a comedy! Are we not allowed to laugh at ourselves any more? Is the concept of the 'bushman' – a common, indeed universal figure of fun in our societies – now to be something confined to the hushed corridoors of our homes where no white man can hear the laughter?

It is only a man or woman brimming with self-assuredness that can laugh at himself and not feel demeaned. Osuofia does not represent me. He is a caricature of the African 'village' bush man. End of story. Why you guys have a problem with that is obvious -'Colo mentality'

Anonymous August 28, 2006 - 4:48 pm

I could not agree with this article any more than I actually do. As I was reading this, I was uttering words and as I did so, they would appear somewhere in this article whether it be in a different use of words or not.

Clearly the world (well most of it) is very ignorant when it comes to Africa, we as Africans are generally perceived to be 'barbaric' or 'uncivilised' than that of the western population even those who were born and raised at overseas like myself (London).

Now don't get me wrong, "Osuofia In London" was a very comical film but I only see it as a way to somewhat cheapen and make look better the general rigid perspective of what Africans are seen to be like which to me is itself horrible. If anything, it actually condoned this irresponsible frame of mind.

But I guess this is just a film and therefore should be taken lightly but its tiny errors like this that constantly draw setbacks in this world.

titus May 2, 2006 - 12:09 am

Who said ignorance is the problem of the people? Giddy up!! it is the problem of THE PEOPLES. Everyone!!!!! For the people who think they really know are the ones who are the most ignorant. The time for dialogue is over. It is time for talk the talk and walk the walk.

collins April 23, 2006 - 11:42 pm

i think you kinda made several agreeable points about the views of the West on Africa. i also agree with the fact that Osuofia In London is to a great degree, a lopsided portray of a common African. the producer seemed to have been more interested in making money than throwing a clear light on who a typical African is. would my voice had been heard before the making of the movie, i would have suggested that he indicate by writing on the screen at the begining and ending of the movie that whatever was shown on the moview did not represent a typical African, but was only a bunch of comedy. in any case, i'ld rather signal to the world that African, irrespective of what they call us, are the salt of the earth. i have seen it proven on countless occassions before me here in the U.S.

Anonymous March 7, 2006 - 6:53 am


I am litle cameroonian who just met osuafia in london, and really I was very delighted to see how much african people can present with a lot of derision.

I am sure that you are a kind of african who do not assume thier origin. Based on your post I can see that you are very miserable. You are abroad since long time, and you continue to speak about civilisation just by using toilet. I my point of view this movie deserve great audiance in africa and abroad. In africa because it is useful for people living there to understand that the real civilisation are your value and the respect you give to you teammate. And for people living abroad just to know that it is not because someone does not use well the toilet that he is not valuable.

above all, it is the mater of deep value and ignorance.

Oluniyi David Ajao February 5, 2006 - 1:46 am

Nice article, well articulated. I'd write about this on my blog. davidajao.com

Anonymous October 23, 2005 - 8:36 pm

I have watched the movie Osuofia in London and I wept inside of me because my American and European friends out of curiousity watched it with me. Africa (Nigeria) has moved forward but we have danced along to the tunes of the media in mishaping our african image. All that the author has discussed here is simply the truth. There couldn't be a better way to analyze the message.

Anonymous August 21, 2005 - 1:35 pm

The writer of comment 2 and those who reason like him are in urgent need of education. From the colonial era to the cold war period and now literature has always been a tool for national image laundry coercion and subjugation. It only depends on what side of a political or ideological divide you are in.

During the colonial era in Nigeria there were many manuscripts that were sent to England by Nigerian budding authors. But the prejudiced English publishers chose to publish that of Chunua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) and Amos Tutuola (Palm Wine Drinkers). You know why Because these books portray our people as savages (Things Fall Apart) and philandering irresponsible bunch of idiots (Palm Wine Drinkers). The books were also publish to amuse the colonial masters and their people in England.

This is why some Americans and Europeans find it difficult to reconcile the modern literatures with those self-demeaning literatures of the sad ugly past.

Anonymous August 2, 2005 - 9:29 am

"True fiction is based on some reality. The opposite of this would be false fiction."

Fiction is neither true or false. It's fiction !

I can understand your concerns about Afrika.

But to win the case we need good arguments.

Ignorance is the problem of the people.

Dialogue is the solution.


Anonymous June 23, 2005 - 8:41 pm

Osuofia cracked an expensive joke

Anonymous May 16, 2005 - 7:46 am

Mr akinyode, i would beg to disagree with sir on the literature note, the west belive what they belive, and i think with a movie like this kinda send the message home, you would also agree with me sir that nigerians in particular are pugnacious lot, consious and the most educated ethnic minority in america, and are ready to beat the west to their own game in their own backyard, anytime any day. With a film like osuofia in london is very unfair and not true and did not represent us.

nyengi May 3, 2005 - 11:04 am

I totally agree–most of these movies are nothing to be proud of and this certainly was not funny.

omonikea@hotmail.com May 3, 2005 - 10:02 am

Great article, I totally agree. The African section of the Smithsonian has been re-vamped and renovated to reflect the true Africa of today, hopefully people will take the time to find out about Africa for themselves instead of taking what the US media feeds them hook, line, and sinker.

segun akinyode May 3, 2005 - 8:05 am

You got the essence of literature all wrong.It is not only the good,rosy side of life it potrays,the ugly must also be interpreted.You may disagree with the quality or intensity of the interpretation,though

funmi May 3, 2005 - 8:00 am

well said. sometime, we africans are our own worst enemies.


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