Friday, 26 April 2013

Open Letter To President Jonathan from a Nigerian Professor

Dear Mr. President,

Sometime ago, at the burial of the mother of a prominent Igbo politician, you were reported as saying that something was wrong with Nigeria. Yes, Mr. President, not just something, a lot is wrong with Nigeria.

I also absolve you; you are not the problem.

Wholeheartedly, I agree with you, a lot is wrong with Nigeria. As a matter of fact, Nigeria is a bunch of absurdities made up of sheer ignorance and bundles of lies which piled up on one another and constitute a climate of confusion. It all started long before 1914 which you mentioned in your short but incisive speech. The Berlin Conference on Africa, November 15, 1884 through February 26, 1885 is the departing point if we are to gain deeper and comprehensive knowledge of the entire problem. It gets interesting when you continue>>>

At that igneous conference called by Germany at the instance of Portugal and attended by the European powers of the period, it was only a large cotemporaneous map of Africa that was hung on the wall in the conference hall, which appeared to have “represented” Africa. With a long ruler and pencil, they drew lines across the map to determine what portion(s) of the continent go to whom amongst Germany, England (Britain), France, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, etc. Major beneficiaries however, were, England (Britain), France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. The implications of what happened there were that people of same stock, clan and even family were split, bifurcated, and divided since they were shared out to different European powers. Thus, members of same family became strangers to one another, while strangers were herded together and called families and strange lands and thus foreigners became one amalgam country since crisis cross territories, lands of different peoples were thus forcibly amalgamated.

Therefore, the possession of a European power not infrequently consists of a variety of peoples who were strangers/foreigners to one another before the forcible share of the continent. While people hitherto of same stock were split among different European powers whence they became strangers/foreigners to one another. In some cases, members of same family were so affected and were deemed strangers. As a result, today, there exists borders where there should not be and there are none where there ought to be. The following story illustrates a people of same stock, nay, members of a nuclear family who colonialism ostensibly split/changed to become strangers to one another:  A Wolof woman gave birth to four children, all males. As of age, the first said to his mother, he wished to be a farmer; therefore, he moved and settled in the arable area of Wolof land fulfilling his dreams. The second said to his mother that he wished to be a fresh water fisherman. Pursuant of his wish, he relocated within Wolof land to an area where rivers are in abundance. The third wished to be a net-weaver, he then moved and settled on the Atlantic Ocean coast line of Wolof land where he probably will have access to a huge number of customers. The last child relocated to the area of Wolof land which is rich in precious stones, since his desire was to become a precious stones merchant.

As they settled not long thereafter, Bismark, the first Chancellor of Unified Germany, through the initiative of Portugal, summoned the Berlin Conference on Africa. As the continent of Africa was being shared out among the European powers, Wolof land was split into four. The part where the first child chose as his farm land was allotted to Portugal (It is now along other territories it was merged with known as Guinea Bissau); the fresh water Wolof fisherman found his own part of Wolof land given to England and the territory, which was merged with strange others, became known as The Gambia today; the third child of the illustrious Wolof woman, the net-weaver and the entire part of the Wolof land to which he relocated forcibly became the possession of France, no thanks to the Berlin Conference. That part of Wolof territory and lands of others not known to him have the name Senegal today. The portion of the Wolof land settled on by the fourth male child who dreamt to become precious stones merchant was given to Germany and christened Mauritania after it was merged with other mutilated groups (later it became French possession after the defeat of Germany in the European induced First World War).

Therefore, Mr. President, you see how absurd it is having members of a nuclear family turned strangers and/or foreigners. This is the reality of colonialism in Africa. Their Wolof language, with time, began to disappear. The first male child of same mother became Portuguese-speaker/Guinean Bissau; the second became English-speaker and now identified as Gambian; the third is now Senegalese, a French-speaker. Finally, the fourth child of the same mother is today referred to as Mauritanian and speaks French and/ or Arabic. Brothers from the same womb made strangers/ foreigners to one another and their mother the Wolof mother can no longer communicate with her four sons. They are alienated from her completely. This is an aspect of the odd world colonial interlopers brought to bear on Africans.

The Wolof land as a political structure and the generated developed socio-cultural heritage and other attainments by specific human species being, the Wolof people, were made to disappear  and the Wolof language in which all these were enveloped is fast evaporating. Archaic, it has almost become the notion “Wolof”. This is the oddity of contemporary African realties.

Similarly, travelling within the amalgamated Nigeria (over which you preside),  the Yoruba land area of this amalgam, at a point not too far away from Agbadarigi, the English interlopers renamed it Badagary. There exists a border post (Seme border). As the Yoruba man crosses this border post heading for Ajase-Ile, which the French remained  Port-Novo, the people this Yoruba traveller finds are the same people as those in  Agbadarigi (Badagary) and or Eko (the Portuguese renamed it Lagos) and or in Ibadan. They greet the same way, speak the same tongue, eat the same food, dance the same tunes and pay homage to their Oba in the same way. At Ajase-ile, Oba Onikoyi Abesan V, the traditional ruler, relates to his subjects the same way Oba Babatunde Akran, Menu Toye, Agbadarigi (Badagary) relates to his subjects; just as Oba Rilwanu Akinolu relates to his subjects in Eko. The sameness of tradition and culture across the mentioned places is evidence of the sameness of the people inhabiting the stated area. The presence of the boundary and thus the border post at Seme is an affront to the territorial integrity of Yoruba land and an attempt to present the people of this area as not same, as strangers and foreigners, to one another which is not true.              Howbeit, the realities of the area prove/demonstrate that the boundary/border not only is artificial and redundant in a sense and the attempt to present the people of same stock there as foreigners is a lie.  The people of this area all claim Ile-Ife as their ancestral home; they believe they belong to the Oduduwa lineage, dynasty. Therefore, as we uphold the boundary and maintain the border post between people of same stock to insinuate that the people are foreigners to one another, we uphold/propagate lie as the truth.

You see, Mr. President, how odd and absurd the realties with which we live and mesh and teach to our children are! Definitely, something is wrong somewhere and everywhere all along these years. Our political shepherds till date have failed to notice the oddity and needed attention it deserves so as to find appropriate solution of that which is wrong.

To be continued on Thursday

•Ogundowole is Professor of Philosophy,

University of Lagos, Akoka,


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