CHANGE, they say, is the one constant thing in this world, and perhaps also, in the universe. Whatever your belief is about the origins of the Universe, the World in it has been changing. Africa has changed tremendously over the years, and so has Nigeria. There is a huge difference between the way we live now and the way we lived before the arrival of various invaders as well as during their colonialist occupation. Understanding this difference is crucial for both present and future generations.
It is of paramount importance for us to incorporate the historical transitions brought about by these invasions into our educational institutions, our civic lives, and our daily lives if we must achieve a more perfect union. I choose the word union firstly for the simple fact that the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates was the union that created the geographical entity now called Nigeria. Secondly, within these erstwhile protectorates were different ethnic and cultural entities who co-existed in peaceful harmonies as independent mini nations of their own before the arrival of the invaders. These mini nations are the true building blocks of Nigeria, and the creation of states in Nigeria in later years worked hard to recognize this fact in their geographic delineation of state boundaries.
Towards achieving the supreme goal of a perfect union, it is imperative that we actively strive to liberate ourselves from the influences of these invaders who were mainly the British, Portuguese, French, and Germans and who together produced a hodgepodge of cultures and traditions that they proceeded to foist over us. But first, let us go back in history to examine how it all came about.
The invaders arrived on these shores first as individual explorers eager to see what the rest of the world looked like. Some were escaping from oppressive regimes back home, yet some were criminals running from justice at home. Those with keen eyes were quick to appreciate the potentials of these newfound lands; and recognizing that they would need a structure to extract these potentials, returned home to solicit the assistance of their home governments. The various governments responded with armies and missionaries that they called expedition forces, followed by economic entities laden with gifts for the Obas, Obis, Kings, and chiefs. They also promised more gifts and wealth if they could be allowed to trade with the natives.
Wherever they encountered resistance the army of the invaders mercilessly sacked such entities. These happened in Songhai Empire, Benin Empire, in the Mid-Western Region of present-day Nigeria during the conflict known as the Ekumeku Wars. These wars were waged to destroy the people, their educational institutions, their arts, and their foundries. In addition, able-bodied men were shipped away in chains into slavery in distant lands of Europe, the Caribbeans, and the Americas. Having decimated ‘recalcitrant nations’, the citizens were cowed into silent acquiescence and other possible potential trouble spots had to swallow their objections to these strange white marauders. The invaders then proceeded to impose their political ideologies, customs, religions, and education on the hapless people, reshaped our geographical boundaries and presented us with new, beautiful, and colorful boundaries and territories that had no cultural affinities with our history.
With total conquest achieved, the occupiers settled down to govern, loot our resources, proselytize to us, and educate us in their own ways. Their attempts to educate us had the elements of brainwashing the students. We were not coordinated in our resistance to colonization and so, rather than us learning their ways in order to beat them and drive them from these shores, they made us learn to be like them. They exploited the ethnic diversity between us, turning us into perfect tribalists who hated each other on ethnic lines. That system of theirs, called “Divide and Rule” ensured that they had peaceful colonization period for them. Elsewhere as in Kenya, this system did not work so well. Parts of the citizenry engaged in armed resistance.
In South Africa, they were ready to unleash a new experiment that had the vestiges of World War II era Aryan-Race-Superiority. Recognizing the intellectual prowess of certain Africans as a ticket to knowledge-based existence they decided to curtail their access to Western-style education, replacing it with Bantu education as a concerted effort to influence the indigenous population of South Africa.
Bantu education was a system of education that was implemented in South Africa during the apartheid era, which lasted from 1948 to the early 1990s. The term “Bantu” was used to refer to the black African population in South Africa. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 was a pivotal piece of legislation that institutionalized a separate and inferior educational system for black students, designed to perpetuate racial segregation and reinforce the white minority’s control over the country.
In summary, Bantu education was a deeply flawed and discriminatory system that aimed to reinforce apartheid’s racial segregation. Its disadvantages were far-reaching, impacting individuals, communities, and the nation. The detrimental effects of this system continue to shape South Africa’s social, economic, and educational landscape today, making it an essential aspect to consider when studying the country’s history and ongoing struggles for equality and justice.
Back to the new nation of Nigeria still under colonial occupancy, the governance of these invaders saw the weaponization of gifts as a corrupting practice that eventually eroded our indigenous political, legal and religious structures. This disintegration extended to our educational, scientific and technological advancements, as well as our financial institutions. Despite the absence of a currency system, a functional financial framework operated through trade by barter, use of cowry shells and Isusu existed and all of which had hitherto effectively served the needs of the people. It would have been only a matter of time for monetary system to be introduced, if we had been left alone.
The greatest injustice done was the dismantling of our educational system, imposition of their own educational system, albeit half-baked, and the enforcement of learning these in their own languages. Language is the most important tool in education. If you must learn another’s language before you can read his books, you are forever translating strange words into your language first before you can understand the concepts being taught. There was no attempt whatsoever to encourage the translation of educational books and published works into indigenous languages, steps that would have kick-started publication of books in local languages.
In a nutshell, therefore, the stage was set for the total manipulation of our people to reason, behave, and adopt the ways of the Western invaders in our journeys through life. At so-called independence, we had been educated in their schools, cloned their institutions, and imbibed their politics and culture, whilst hating each other’s ethnic heritage. Post-independence, therefore, the quest for development became a race for individual power grab for self-aggrandizement or for ethnic domination at best.
To be continued…