Myles Munroe, of blessed memory, opined in one of his lessons that a people can be liberated from their oppressors but be perpetually used to oppression. This, in my opinion, is the sad reality of this country called Nigeria; 58 years after independence.
It is a known truth that the declaration of Independence for a country is not always to say that such a country is independent.
Independence is a gradually attained height which may never be fully realised by many countries. In our case for instance, the head of state of Nigeria was still a representative of the Queen of England until 1963.
The certificate of the University College of Ibadan was still being issued by the University of London until 1962 and the Supreme Court of Nigeria was not the final judicial arbiter for Nigeria; her judgement could still be contested at the Privy Council in London until 1962.
The Republican Constitution of 1963 seemed to bring about the last phase of the pronounced independence with all of the issues mentioned above and others resolved. Then began the inner colonialism which we have not recovered from as I shall exemplify in the following paragraphs.
What do we make of a black race of people with indigenous meals that are best savoured with one’s hand without utensils but who are now tagged barbaric in ways that are indigenous to them?
At a conference in one of the Nigerian universities recently, I made a mess of a wonderful meal of poundo yam and a greatly prepared and spiced egusi because I was somewhat under compulsion to eat poundo yam with cutlery. It was not just that I was not offered a bowl of water to wash my hand; it was clear, although unstated, that such would be institutionally frowned at and individuals around may consider such act barbaric. As I unenjoyably went through the journey of cutting the poundo yam with knife and scooping the soup with spoon, I wished I could dexterously roll the solids to my palm and make the round handful of poundo yam the spoon for scooping the delicious egusi. Hmmmm! What is really amiss?
Need I tell Nigerians also of the many Nigerian institutions, including private universities, that do not allow a native attire even on Fridays? Is this not surprising of higher institutions that ought to, among other things, protect our cultures and ways of life? Even lecturers in the department of African languages will have to be on suits. Amazing! How, for instance, will such universities join with others to clamour for African voice in global scholarship?
I published a paper with another scholar in the Department of Linguistics and African Studies, University of Ibadan, on Nigerian hip-hop, using the Yoruba concept of OMOLUABI as our conceptual framework. This was rejected in some foreign journals before eventually a Canadian outlet decided to publish the paper for its genuineness.
The basis for their rejection was basically that our theoretical/conceptual framework was indigenous in nature and unestablished. And I ask, will a Nigerian university that does not allow a native attire also condemn a western journal for rejecting a paper on the ground of an indigenous conceptual framework?
It is in line with these sad scenarios and more that I conclude that colonialism, unfortunately now at the mental and psychological states, is still perpetuated in Nigeria. It seems the case that it is barbaric to eat solids with your hand and it is equally barbaric to eat rice with your hand; so ours can be abused by eating it with spoon and of course theirs cannot be abused by eating with hand. A win-win for the almighty “white”. I do not have any problem with anyone deciding to eat eba with spoon if you truly want it so and not constrained by the public opinion of colonial civility.
If it is not western, it is not civilised. If it is not European, it cannot be sophisticated. If it is not American, it cannot be presentable.
This short piece is a call to Africa and Africans that, although the oppressors are long gone, the oppression is permanently registered and consolidated in our psyche. Every African has to make a good effort at his or her mental liberation by holding onto our communal values provided they do not have negative effect.
I choose to be an African. What about you?