Lost in the world: A Struggle for identity
FOR someone like me, high school is full of unforgettable bitter and sweet experiences. One of them was how many of the teachers made speaking Yoruba during official school hours looked like a sin. Anyone caught speaking was punished as if he had committed a sacrilegious act. The sweet thing about the experience was that there were no girls to laugh at us because we were all young boys. They called the Yoruba language vernacular. We were punished for speaking Yoruba. The punishment ranged from doing very strenuous physical exercises to uprooting some of the trees that had grown where they were not wanted on the school farm. Many students were not able to express themselves in the class because they had a better command of Yoruba than they did the English language. Our teachers never bothered to find out why we could write English so well but had difficulty speaking it very well. Language is an integral part of any culture. Any culture would die a natural death when its language ceases to exist.
This is one of the problems of the African man living on the African continent. He is not contented about what is his. That was why it was easy for the European man to take his tongue and his religion and give him his. Africa wasn’t the only continent that was colonised by the British or the French. The British also colonised some countries in Asia. But the difference is that the Asian man still extols his language and practices his traditional religions. The British didn’t only colonise the African man, but they succeeded in taking away his worldview and altering his belief system. Now, he wants to be like the European man like and he frowns at anyone that exhorts the African worldview. When nations that were colonised in other continents are getting back on their feet and competing in every sphere, most African nations are still struggling. Over the years, the black people seem to be incapable of self-governance. It is therefore not surprising to see the African continent where it is, tailing other continents in terms of infrastructure development and leadership.
The African man, apart from not being where he ought to be in the scheme of things,doesn’t have an identity of his own, and has abandoned his worldview that helps him connect to the world and helps him to understand the divine. He doesn’t have the tongue with which to pass his beliefs and values and everything African is gradually going into extinction because most times, he now conducts his business in English, French, Portuguese or Arabic. That has left the African continent distraught. Many things are true about the African continent t today. One of it is that there is no prosperous black nation in the world. This means no nation is prosperous that is dominated by black people. Even the self-acclaimed giant of the continent is a dwarf when compared with giants of other continents. Such is the situation of the African man. What the contemporary African man has been doing is living under the shadows of his colonial masters. We favour their tongues above ours and accept their religion without filter. Their tongue and religion that they left us are tools of subjugations. Yet, while they are moving away from the religion they brought to the African man, the African man is diving into it. Many cathedrals in Europe are now being sold because people have stopped attending them. But the African man boasts of having the largest cathedrals on his street and he leaves for God what he should do for himself. He sees religion as the best option to solving his life problem and thus, his myriad of problem remains unsolved.
The identity of the African man is lost in the world. He aspires to be like people of other races such as the Europeans and the Asians. The more he aspires, the lesser he becomes as an African man. He is never truly satisfied with anything that belongs to him. He looks down on his continent and concludes that nothing good could come out of its Nazareth. In fact, the African man has a long history of never believing in himself and disrespecting the dignity of his race. When the European man was just penetrating his continent, he saw the latter as someone better than himself. He gave the African man mirror and gunpowder and the African man gave away the freedom of the people under his care. They call that exchange ‘the slave trade’ in world’s history. Even when the European man wanted the business to end, the African man wanted it to continue and still went to the hinterlands to source for slaves that he would sell to the European. He continued internecine wars and traded the captured warriors as slaves to the European man. Seeing his brothers writhe in agony and pain did not bother him because the European man gave him gin and handed him gun to use against his own people.
Perhaps it was nature that made the African man this way. He lives in the temperate region of the world. The sun or the moon doesn’t disturb him too much. Tsunamis or typhoons don’t sweep away his house and kill his loved ones. Heavy snow is not on the streets leading to his house. The cold doesn’t freeze him to death in his town and cities. Thus, the African man was not moved to question his environment. He was comfortable with his situation because he believed he was at an advantaged place and he had no need to improve on it. When the African man met with the European man, he was surprised at the invention of the European man. That made easy for the European man to enslave and colonise the African man and his people with him. The African man could have moved out of his continent to colonise and enslave the European man. But he never did. He feared to sail the sea and explore what lies beyond it. Instead, he deified and worshipped the sea.
Without the intervention of the European man, the African man has virtually nothing to boast of except that which was given to him by nature. The house where he lives was built by using cement and block that were produced using a machine produced by the European man. The phone he uses and the car he drives were produced by the European man. He could traverse the world because the European man had invented the aeroplane and ships. When you take away the free gifts of nature such as his skin, eyes, saliva, hair, tongue, air, the African man has nothing. The African man has no invention but watches the European man takes all the glory for most of the world’s most important inventions. While the European man builds industries and enhances his human resources through proper organisation, the African man builds churches and mosques on every major street in his country and calls upon God day and night to help him in his misery. The African man takes the resources he has in his land to the European man in his country while the European man uses his own resources to develop his people.
Many things have been said about the African man being too comfortable with his situation and never bothering to improve as long as he gets his daily bread. But the African man needs to wake up. He needs to find his identity in the world and in the scheme of things. The world is moving fast on its oars and the African man would lose much by living under the shadows of others. The African man should remember the achievements of ancient Egypt and Libya, the Maghreb and Ethiopia, the Kiswahili and the Berbers, and learn from their wisdom. The African man in antiquity was a strong man. The African man should respect his own worldview and accept his skin. The African man should change his behaviour, without which no development could take place. Above all, the African man should find his identity in the world. Imagine if the African man had developed his environment like the European, he would have no need to go vacation in another man’s land. Africa is blessed with good temperature, yet the African makes nothing of it. His soil is blessed with many resources, yet he couldn’t exploit it for the betterment of all but takes the proceeds thereof to a faraway land where only he and his family could benefit. The African needs to change his ways, find his own identity in the world, and rewrite his own history.
The African man is blessed by nature and he needs to exploit that blessing by experiencing his environment, questioning it deeply to find the different options that exist in it, and then choose the ones to embrace as a matter of urgency. That’s what the European man did.The European man questioned his environment and he is still questioning it. Nothing stops the African man from doing same. The African man needs to take his continent out of its misery or it would remain in a state of modern servitude to the European man. In essence, the African man needs to find himself in the world and claim his identity so he wouldn’t be toss around like chaff in the wind. Africa is great. The African man needs to see it so to make its journey to self-discovery quick. He needs to chart a course for the realisation of the African dream. With concerted effort, African territories could be as great as the Pharaonic or Numidia kingdom again. Its potentials must not be allowed to waste away.
- Ogunlade is a final year student of the department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan.
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