The article, “African Evangelists Destroy Artifacts,” written by Dulue Mbachu, for the Associated Press, and published on page A17 of the Washington Times Newspaper of Thursday, September 6, berates the destruction of African cultural heritage, in the manner of burning of idols of worship by Africans. Mr. Mbachu focused his discourse on the activities prevalent in Achina, a village community in the south eastern part of
There is need to differentiate between Mr. Mbachu’s modern day idols of worship and other artifacts, such as the Igbo-Ukwu, Benin and Ife Bronze works, various wood carvings, drums, wall carvings and statues. While the idols assume the role of deity in the lives of the indigenous peoples, the other carvings were of social, economic, cultural, aesthetic and domestic or even other spiritual significance in the ancient cultures that produced them. In essence, the later, more than anything else embodies the socio-cultural and historical legacy of
Mr. Mbachu’s dismay at the destruction of the artifacts is understandably borne out of a desire to conserve what is left of the indigenous culture and values of
Just about 30 minutes drive from Achina, is Okija, a serene village in
Has Mr. Mbachu ever lost any relative of his, or a friend or someone he knows to ritualists? Has he ever seen mutilated and decomposing corpses on the streets of Nigeria especially during festive seasons, with eyes, private parts and other organs gorged out, of innocent citizens on their way home after a hard day’s journey, kidnapped and killed to sacrifice to the “artifacts”. If Mr. Mbachu is a keen follower of
Moreover, in a day when not many Nigerians can afford two nutritionally balanced meal a day, families, who engage in worshiping idols are made to bear heavy financial burdens in the form of statutory sacrifice of cows, goats, chicken and even money to keep the gods appeased or risk incurring its wrath. Impoverished villages organize annual festivities in deference to these gods, where most of their scanty harvests are offered for continued protection and provision. Worse still, is the psychological bondage that adherents undergo out of fear of consequences of disobedience. A most pathetic case is that of a 14 year old extremely brilliant pupil, who was plucked away from school and bundled home to the village by his parents, ostensibly because the idol named him as the next high priest after his late uncle. The family washed their hands off his education and consigned him to a life of making sacrifices and ‘hearing’ from the ‘artifact’ on behalf of the villagers.
In essence, the people who burn idols and shrines do so out of desperation and as a last resort, knowing that keeping the idols spell nothing but trouble. In the cases where the idols were removed and kept in an unsecured Nigerian museum, experience has shown that the worshippers, who see these idols as their source of life, prosperity and hope for sustenance go to any length to retrieve them and continue with business as usual. The surest path to liberation for the communities, who want to be free from the shackles of idolatry, is their destruction or sale to a remote and foreign country. In counseling abusive victims, the first thing adviced is a separation from the abuser, the withdrawal of the abused to a safe house. The place of safety for Africans is severance from the objects that make us kill our brothers, drive us to penury, and has kept us redundant for centuries. Mr. Mbachu failed to note that in all the villages where Dr. Uma Ukpai has convinced indigenes to do away with idolatry, there has been, 0% incidence of human sacrifices, the taxing of poor villagers to contribute ‘food’ to the idol, or the wastage of the African youth in serving the idol.
As Africans, we should be wise to think beneath the surface and learn from our experiences. The story written by Dulue Mbachu, sounded more like what a Western reporter would write about the continent. It lacked depth, and the understanding of the social and cultural terrain, expected of an African. In sincerity, to say that one expected anything else from the write-up would have been foolhardy; for an African writer to be given prime space in the Washington Times, complete with pictures and a map of
What Dulue Mbachu fails to grasp is that thinking and writing like the West robs every African, resident and in the Diaspora, including Mr. Mbachu of every shred of respect in the global community of nations. Until African writers, film makers, entrepreneurs and even students revolt and stop thinking and acting with an expectancy of being validated by the West, the question of progress and development in the continent will remain unanswered. It is imperative for the African to shift his paradigm of thought from euro-centrism, towards first, a dissection of the processes that define him as a human being, in a unique culture, although subsumed in a wider global culture, and from there, ascend towards a knowledge of what should be and what should not be. The artifacts and every other manifestation of the greatness of our ancestors, we must preserve with all our might, but the few surviving symbols of man’s inhumanity to man and continued yoke imposed by our forbears out of ignorance, we must destroy. For only by emphasizing the positive, can we bequeath the legacy of true greatness, which the world must some day come to appreciate, to the next generation.