A study of the political and economic history of ancient Europe showed that its social forces were couched on a value premise that puts high credence on the inalienable relation between land ownership and political power. It is a political economy, which associates war with riches and the belief brought untold hardship to the people of Europe for many centuries. It led to incessant wars between and within families, communities and nations for land acquisition, possession and control.
The institution of royalty in Europe was based on the result of calculated heinous acts whereby the most eccentric powerful band of savages seized by carnage, pillage and plunder the possessions of their neighbours. The aggressors often spiced these types of murderous expeditions with hideous form of ethnic cleansing of the conquered neighbours and the enslavement of survivors as serfs. The vestiges of this kind of culture are still very much around today in Europe, even in the 21st century as witnessed in the former Yugoslavia.
The conquerors would then force the former owners of the land to eke out a living through an arrangement of levy or rent payment (in kind or cash) before the conquered people could have access to the use of their confiscated land. This was the factual historical genesis of how the modern sophisticated prim and proper royal nobilities of Europe acquired their wealth, power and enormous social ‘prestige’.
Furthermore, the conquerors in Europe established patriarchal dynasties rigidly based on the right of primogeniture. This is a tradition that recognizes an unjust legal principle, which established inequality among children since it allows only the first son to inherit all the family wealth particularly land property.6 In the case where there were more than one son in the family, the subsequent sons were turned loose and forced to fend for themselves as best as they could. It was therefore not a mere coincidence that most of the second or third or fourth sons of the powerful names in Europe were among the successful adventurers, slave merchants, missionaries, soldiers of fortune, pirates and colonial administrators. These were the men forced by circumstances of position of birth to look for their own haven or empires outside of Europe.
Therefore, for the outcasts of Europe, the colonial mission became a task of life or death. These men had nothing to lose anymore and so their commitment to colonialism was total and merciless. The aforementioned were the calibre of people that forced their ways into Africa. They were the losers of Europe in search of land and fortune. They were the angry and bitter men who gladly took their revenge of deprivation on innocent Africans. They were happy to transfer all the barbaric cultures of their native lands into Africa.
In the process, they captured land and slaves and following in the tradition and culture of the Caucasian race, they became new landowners and the uncrowned leaders of Africa. In addition, they managed to establish their own dynasty and mini-empires with all the social trimmings of the so-called civilisation. They displayed all the attributes of mini-gods as poor Africans hammock-carried (or is it chauffeur-driven?) them across the jungles of Africa. In short, they transferred wholesale every ruinous idolatrous leadership practice of inequality of persons into Africa.
At the time the Europeans met Africans this barbaric value orientation was very strange to the culture of Africa. At this particular period in history, most African societies still held land in trust for the use of all and the leaders had no ambition to propagate dynastic rule under a particular family name. Since there was no aristocratic rent collector’s class in Africa, most African societies freely secured and assured the means of production for all.
Hence, wealth acquisition in Africa depended greatly on personal effort, skill and hard work. Africa had no such culture whereby one clever savage man would rent out pieces of stolen land to his neighbours for outrageous payment that takes almost 80% of the annual produce of the renter. The absence of this inhuman and callous culture ensured equality of persons in both spirit and practice in Africa.
As a result, there was no great kings or nobles scrounging on the sweat of their neighbours. Each member and even the king of the community learned to fend for themselves as best as possible. Therefore, each member of the society had full control over the products of the fruit of his/her own labour. The forceful incursion of Arabs and Europeans into Africa started a negative renaissance that succeeded in turning the age-long values of African societies upside-down. With the advent of slavery, Africans threw overboard the hitherto much-cherished value that accepts the philosophy of everyone being his/her neighbours’ keepers.
The foreign invaders from the West and the Middle East taught the first African contacts they met the rudimentary knowledge and skill of the then international trade particularly the one that pertains to how to lure, con and sell one’s trusting hinterland neighbours as well as family members to slave merchants. Some African societies are yet to cure themselves of the vestiges of the evil practice in human trade cultivated through the contact with foreign adventurers.
The age-long friendly exchange of produce commodities by barter changed to hostile exchange of human commodity for foreign luxury goods and arms. African coastal traders soon realised it was easier to con their neighbours into slavery than to engage in traditional strenuous activities of farming. It was not long before ethnic clashes began to rear their heads in the length and breadth of Africa.
Thus, Africa received the brute end of the burst of enlightenment that the Italian renaissance of the 15th century gave to Europe as well as the perverted versions of the sacred teachings of equality of persons before God that Mohammed of Mecca gave to the Arabs in the seventh century. With the rich supply of guns, machete and other arms into Africa, each ethnic group moved against its near or far neighbour to hunt them down for the booming slave market. The Africans living on the coast made the first contact with the Arabs and Europeans. They got, by exchanging their cousins, rich supply of guns and firearms to hunt the hinterland of the continent for slaves.
The Africans that lived by the seashores became exceedingly wealthy in foreign money and foreign goods. Consequently, they gained political power over their poorer hinterland neighbours. They were the first crop of African ‘middlemen’ cultivated on the African soil by Arabs and Europeans. For over 400 years, they performed the intermediary’s role profitably well. In West Africa, they were the first to accept European religion and western education. The colonial managers through the missionaries trained their children to become interpreters, priests, teachers and lawyers.
As interpreters, they became corrupt as they swindled their own kind by misrepresenting issues to the disadvantage of their racial groups. As priests, they professed a belief in a doctrine to which they had no clear understanding of the true meaning of the precepts and symbols of the faith in question. They embraced and propagated fictions, myths and pure lies on the meaning of life. As teachers, they were half-bred in the knowledge they disseminated to their wards thereby leading their generation into the wilderness of ignorance.
As lawyers, they found their true calling in the act of practical legalistic deception. They imbibed all the phoney habits – wearing wigs, dressing like masquerades, etc. – of learned men of law. They sat foolishly in the prosecution or in the defence of their kinds under every law of injustice instituted by the colonial governors. Since their understanding was limited, they failed to see the fundamental illegality of the whole institution of colonialism as well as the law that emanated out of such unjust imperial and feudal establishments.
Another ingenuous trick of the colonial administration was the recruitment of illiterate Africans from the hinterland as colonial territorial/frontier soldiers and security operatives. The peculiar requirements that qualified these men for recruitment into the colonial force were: tall heights, strong arms and broad chests but most importantly, small brains. As recruits in the colonial army, they regularly used them to quell every agitation that reared its head from the group or tribes of supposedly educated Africans. It was from these recruits that the colonial administrations fashioned out various Colonial Armed Forces. The services of these illiterate Africans as soldiers and gendarmes were utilised satisfactorily during the Second World War.
The colonial administrations later converted this crop of African illiterate soldiers into the officer’s corps of the Armed Forces of the countries on the eve of independence. The military personnel of the converted colonial territorial armed forces became the second joker after the one of political independence without economic independence that would eventually thwart the aspiration of Africans for true freedom. The colonial managers effectively called the military joker into action after a short period of independence to dislodge the pathetic political illiterates in power. The colonial governments all over Africa relied on these crops of Africans along with the ‘forward-looking’ traditional rulers that the white rulers installed or sponsored as aides for the direct and indirect colonial administration.
These crops of Africans – illiterate soldiers, semi-literate teachers, lawyers, interpreters, priests and traditional rulers – were willing and they were ever ready to imitate as they aped every act, every imperial tradition or every snobbish mannerism of the colonial rulers.7 Unfortunately, these misguided Africans were merely mimicking the Europeans, as they had no conceptual understanding of why the Europeans did any of the things they did. The hypocritical habits and attitudes of this group of Africans irritated both the Europeans and their African brothers.
As a result, they never received any respect from either the colonial rulers or the African folks. We found the evidence of this in the many cases of rebellion and disobedience recorded anytime the colonial managers appointed an African person to lead and direct the affairs of any unit of the colonial administration.8 The foregoing were the seeds of perversion that gave birth to a good number of the crop of latter-day leaders of Africa.
Raymond Leslie Buell in The Native Problem in Africa observed that, “Whether under direct or indirect rule, European officials are obliged to rely upon native subordinates and aides. These aides may be traditional rulers, or they may be educated clerks.” He added, “In many of these cases, the educated natives showed that they had lost all sympathy for the group out of which they came and that they had no compunction in abusing their power for personal ends. In all of these cases the educated class failed to command the respect of the people.”9 The Europeans who dealt directly with these Africans in Africa described them as half educated and as ‘likeable rogues’.10
To refer to these Africans as half or quarter educated was simply being mischievous. The only education the missionaries exposed these hapless Africans to was the acquisition of literacy skill – the ability to read and write the European languages. In addition, these Africans were shepherded to and rooted strictly in Bible or Koranic knowledge that forced them to imbibe without questioning new hypocritical values of fake piety, holier-than-thou attitudes and foreign cultures, the meaning of which they never understood. They foolishly and drastically exchanged the hitherto common native understanding on the meaning of life that had served the spiritual and social needs of Africa for centuries for those borrowed from the Arabian and Jewish philosophy.
The missionaries forced-fed, brainwashed and made Africans to swallow wholeheartedly all the Jewish mythological stories of the Bible as the only historical absolute truth of life. Under these innocuous foreign beliefs and their attendant cultural enslavement, the half-educated Africans threw away all the inherited indigenous socio-cultural knowledge, ancestral beliefs and religious practices of Africa. Their tutors encouraged them to wage war against every facet of African beliefs and cultures. They destroyed shrines, symbols, artworks, monuments and everything that have the slightest bearing on African indigenous way of life.
This senseless display of religious zeal was possible because the half-educated Africans accepted without questioning the embellished Bible stories and the recorded self-serving Jewish history as the beginning and the end of history of all humankind. The Bible stories that painted the meaning of life in Jewish xenophobic colours unfortunately have also become the foundation on which the moral and philosophical principles of the civilized world are established. The Jewish account of human history became, for the civilized world, the only acceptable binoculars for viewing the historical and anthropological farthest past of humankind. In accepting this Biblical account of Jewish mythology on the origin of humanity, the Arabs and the Europeans seemed to have totally prohibited all other equally probable dimensions of the origin of humankind.
Consequent to this mythological premise, compulsory association with the Church of England in British colonies became one of the criteria for social elevation of any African that aspired to rise in the colonial society. Aspiring youth accepted the habit of compulsory Church attendance as part of the sacrifice that one had to make if anyone expected good recommendations for an overseas education and training scholarship. Because of the indoctrination, every pupil that passed through the Mission schools cultivated and imbibed the outward appearances of Christian living.
However, the fruit of the teaching of Yeshua [a.k.a Jesus] centred on love, justice, knowledge, rebirth and freedom was foreign to the products of the Mission schools. Similarly, the Mohammedans in Africa merely acknowledged but never practiced the teaching of Mohammed pivoted on mercy, knowledge, tolerance, justice and equality. Most of the Africans that passed through the religious indoctrination merely pretended to a form of godliness but their life lacked godliness itself.
This development of locking up the minds of Africans with myths and fables satisfied the selfish designs of the colonial governments that wanted docile subjects, impeccable servitude and total obedience in their territories. The colonialists understood very well that too much learning was dangerous to the good governance of slaves or serfs. This was the trend of affairs until a few Africans began to stow away on American trading ships into the United States of America.
These daredevil Africans on arrival in America made valuable contacts with the works of African-American thinkers, authors and philosophers. The exposure to the history of American democracy and particularly the history of American War of Independence and American Civil War greatly enlightened them. The veil of ignorance dropped from the eyes of these Africans as contact with unadulterated liberal knowledge lighted the fire of freedom in their hearts.
On their return to Africa, they established newspaper houses, organised political forum to enlighten the people on the principles of human rights to equality, freedom and justice. They also became vanguard that sowed the seed of independence in the minds of fellow Africans as they fought moral, ethical, political and legal battles for the full right of Africans to self-determination and self-government.
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
22 April 2001
6. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, What is Property? Trans and Edited by Donald R. Kelly and Bonnie D. Smith. Cambridge University Press, 1994.
7. James S. Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1963.
8. Margery Perham, Native Administration in Nigeria – The Colonial Reckoning. New York: Knopf. 1962.
9. Raymond Leslie Buell, The Native Problem in Africa, Vol.1. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1928. p.718.
10. A Trevor Clark, ‘Eye Witnesses of the Coercion of the Old Guard Emir Yakubu III of Bauchi’ Africa Affairs 1995, 94 pp.399-406.