What I mean by decolonization is what some people regard to as 'mental freedom.'
There are many tools that were used to colonize African people, and it's a shame that they are still being used to keep Black people under colonization today after many years of the independence of African countries.
But since this is a broad subject that many scholars, reporters, and politicians had written tons of books on, I will narrow this writing to only two among the many tools that were used and are still being used to colonize Africans. And then I will state the effects of these tools upon our people.
The number one tool is religion: Christianity and Islam, and the other device is the school system.
I will explain them separately and then make the connection at the end.
What I’ve learned from reading religious books like the bible, the quran and many others is that these religions are nothing but the documentation of spiritual and unexplainable events and that people chose to pay homage to the invisible beings that were believed to have made those events possible. Although many of those events had been argued not to have occurred, but to have been fabricated by people. (another day’ story).
The first time the questioning of religion came to my mind was in mid-2006 when I travelled to Lagos city, Nigeria. To visit my sister, who was living in the centre of the city, the home to over twenty million people. My journey to the city was on a Saturday, and I was excited that my sister would take me around the city that weekend, and I couldn’t wait to see the city that I grew up hearing so much about.
On the next morning, the alarm that woke me up at 4a.m was the mosques’ megaphones yelling from every angle of the city and thundering with voices of men calling people for morning prayer, these made me ask ‘’Why are these people not sleeping?’’ little did I know that that was only a drop of rain in the ocean compared to the singing, praying, and speaking in tongues that the speakers and megaphones of churches produced from 7a.m to 1p.m That event and many others that followed made me begin asking ‘’will all these people go to heaven? Is hell that scary? How much money did the pastors get in their donation boxes today?’’ These questions led me into learning more about religions and the meaning of faith, and in my search for the purpose of religion, I stumbled upon a bitter truth. How Islam and Christianity made their ways into African communities: Colonization.''
So, fifteen years down the line as I sit here on my desk punching these words into my computer, everything that I’ve learned through reading, asking questions, attending lectures, listening to my father, attending events, travelling, going to churches, and life experiences, all came together to one thing. Mental and spiritual submission to the colonizers is the real reason Christianity and Islam were brought to Africa.
Now I also understand that, by accepting the foreign religions the African people received ideas that were not set to serve us for good (at least the versions that were brought to us) and by continuing the spreading of these religions, we are circulating the colonizers definition of God, what to pray to and how to pray, even in some cases, the language in which we pray to these gods, the prophets to call upon as our saviours, what it means to be holy and clean, the codes to live by and the consequences of not adhering to the principles of these religions. What these things mean when we accepted these doctrines is that our faith and spirituality is redesigned. Whatever we hold in reverence has been tampered with and changed.
One of the most glaring similarity between the two different groups of people that brought Christianity and Islam to Africa is their need to teach our people their reading and writing systems in their own languages.
The school systems
It is no secret that what the school systems do is to prepare people on how to get a job and put foods on their tables, pay bills and tax, and that is one of the reasons that only a few groups of people in the world are living above mediocrity. (stories for another day)
So, every year millions of young Africans graduates from schools with hopes to live the successful modern lives as defined by the colonizers, perfect our skills of the colonizer's languages, and get a job, and our women could dress in pencil skirts and silk blouses, with straights hair extension, and our men in suits and ties under the scorching African sun. This is no a bad thing, but the downside of this is that by allowing someone else to design our school systems and following their definition of success we have allowed them to tell us which means we should put foods on our tables and what good meal is supposed to be. So, they’ve designed for us the tools to fish and how to fish not because we did not have our own means of fishing, and not because our ways were unproductive as some people may like to argue.
So, to bring it all together.
A big part of our spirituality and survival skills has been redesigned by the colonizers. And as we know that humans will always bow to the person that put foods on their tables (directly or indirectly). Subconsciously, we now believe that the colonizers are our saviours, the ones who know better, the ones to run to in times of trouble even before using the resources that nature had endowed upon us. And these are so because since they were able to determine our spiritual beliefs and the means of the education of many of us, then they must be smarter and have solutions to problems that we somehow believe that we cannot solve even before trying to solve them.
This is where many of our people that are flocking to the coloniser's countries in search of greener pastures gets the narrative of ‘’the lands flowing with milk and honey.’’
These are just a few among the many ways that we are made to believe that the colonisers are our saviours.
Since our actions are the fruits of our thoughts and beliefs, and many of our views and opinions are influenced by the coloniser's programming, it is no surprise that we believe in them and what they do more than we believe in our own people in many cases.
Some examples of how these play out in reality are:
As a Nigerian, many time when I hear our people talking about travelling abroad, they always mention places like Britain, The United States of America, or France and when I ask some of these people why not The DRC, Sudan, or Namibia? The most common answers that they give are ‘’There’s nothing in those countries.’’ ‘’Those are developing countries.’’ ‘’I don’t have a future in such countries.’’
And when I pressed on and ask ‘’What is the future that western countries hold for you?’’
Some of them would scratch their head before saying things like ‘’They are more advanced.’’ They give better opportunities to people.’’ Even some would say ‘’they believe in equal rights.’’
Now, what is the meaning of ‘’they believe in equal rights’’ When the whole history between us has proved this notion to be wrong? And which ‘’Rights?’’
The importation of foreign goods.
On one dry evening, I and some friends were sitting in a bar feeling the harmattan breeze that flooded into the bar through the large window that also let in the sunset. I got distracted from our discussion and begin to listen to the conversation of the occupants of the table behind me. They were discussing another customer that walked into the bar wearing everything designer, looking expensive. ‘’It’s all fake, made in Aba.’’ One of the gossipers said. And they went on talking about French and Italian designers.
That comment ''...made in Aba.'' made me think about how we view and patronise our local manufacturers. Aba is a local industrialised city in South-eastern Nigeria where many consumer goods are made, but many people see the products that are made in Aba as fake or ‘’the not good enough.’’ But they still go ahead and buy items that were made China. The typical mentality is that if the product is not shipped in from across the oceans, or if it does not carry a label that states ‘’Made in Italy or made in France or made in China.’’ Then the product is below standard. And such believe had made the local manufacturers in places like Aba to start adding the likes of ‘’made in Italy’’ label to their products, even some has learned the art of pirating the likes of French or Swiss brands and in-cooperating the logos of these foreign products into their works just to water the colonial seed that has been planted in us long time ago. This importation mentality is unquestionable the fruit of not seeing ourselves as competent enough.
The biggest issue that we must look into is not only the deposition of colonial systems upon us but the perpetuation of these systems by some of our own people in today’s world. The churches and their founders must be questioned, the education systems must be reformed to suit our needs, in our own ways, and as defined by us. To ignore these sectors that play a massive role in our growth as a people is to ignore the foundation of our survival. We must understand that one of the reasons we have so many groups calling for the decolonisation of black people today is because the colonisers infiltrated our spirituality and thought patterns, and we are beginning to see the perils of that spiritual and mental invasion.
Since my ultimate goal is to help unite and promote our people, this article is not intended as a criticism or an insult upon any group of people based on their religious believes or education background, but it is intended to bring more awareness to an overdue discussion that we must have, and follow with creative actions to strengthen and uplift ourselves as a people. So, please leave a comment below and join the discussion.