Saturday, February 6, 2010

President Mills got it all wrong

“It is barely bearable for me when I hear spiritual leaders say that we in Africa needed divine and spiritual intervention to solve our numerous of socio-economic and developmental problems, but it galls me to no end when I hear our elected representatives pantomiming the same nonsense.

I am neither thrilled nor amused by the spectacle of African leaders holding prayer breakfast and other spiritual jamborees. The sight, in fact, makes me very angry. I found the sight of African leaders kneeling in supplication insulting, as it portrayed us Africans as mindless simpletons incapable of solving any of our problems without external interventions - be it from NGOs, IMF or almighty gods.
What sights daily confront us in Africa except incapable and visionless leaders jumping from one Western capital to another in search of solutions to their country’s problems? And whenever their feet manage to touch local ground, they are busy scurrying around churches and mosques beseeching the almighties to come down to earth to lead them out of the morass their crass ineptitude, personal selfishness and total lack of vision has led their nations.”
Femi Akomolafe,

read it here

According to (1/30/10), President J.E.A. Mills Friday sought the support of the clergy to make the national prayer day an annual affair.

The president was reported to have said that: “every prosperous nation the world over had a spiritual foundation, stressing that “the spiritual foundation is more important than the superstructure".

This was said to have happened when Mr. President invited members of the Council of Christian Churches to the Castle, Osu, to seek their support to make the national prayer day an annual affair, saying, "I invite you to appraise you and seek your support."

President Mills is a man for whom I have enormous respect and the highest regards. His calm, intellectual disposition endears him to me greatly. It is not often that we see African politicians who are as level-headed as our president. We are indeed lucky to have such gentleman at the helms of our nation’s affairs.

Personal sentiments aside, we owe it to ourselves, to our nation’s health, prosperity and also to posterity to point out to Mr. President when and where we think he’s erring.

It is very correct when President Mills said that prosperous nations built their prosperity on spiritual foundations. That, however, is where we parted.

President Mills forget to tell what type of spiritual foundations nations built their foundation upon. As an honorable man as well as an intellectual, our president should have gone further to tell us that no nation ever built its spiritual foundation on alien religion.

Mr. President should have also noted that religion is essentially ancestor worship. We may throw a lot of gaseous arguments around, but every religion beseeches its god through the intercession of ancestors who have passed on. Why else should we be referring to the ‘God of Abraham,’ ‘God of Isaac,’ etc, etc?

What our president failed signally to point out is that no prosperous nation ever built its spiritual foundation on worshipping alien gods. This exactly is our problem in Africa.

The very ideas of religions are to ask ancestors, who have journeyed to the spiritual world, to intercede on behalf of those who are still struggling with earthly problems. The belief that life is a continuum is at the base of every religious belief. As the celebrated Guinean writer, Camara Laye, pointed out, life would indeed be meaningless if death is the end of it all.

The Chinese are building (rather re-building) their civilizations based on their indigenous belief systems. The Indians dusted themselves up from the bestiality of colonization, and reconnect with their indigenous belief system; today we see the great strides that they are making in rebuilding their lives. Thousands of years of sojourning in foreign lands did not stop the Israelis (Habirus or Hebrews) from abandoning their Jehovah. Today, the five or so million Jews in Israel have rebuilt a civilization that is based solely and entirely on their ancient belief system. The superstructure of the Western civilization was constructed on the Judaeo Christian belief system.

On what are we in Africa trying to rebuild our lives shattered by slavery and colonialism? We are trying to build it on alien ideas and foreign religions.

I say it is time we in Africa start to ask ourselves what crimes our ancestors committed that made us neglect them and started to worship other people’s ancestors and other people’s gods. This is a profound idea that should excite among us serious discussion.

Without aiming to offend my brothers and sisters, I ask, what sense does it make for those of us in Ghana, indeed in Africa, to be praying to ‘Gods of Israel,’ or an Arabian god?

Today we appear to be groping aimlessly for solutions to the myriads of problems that confront us. We appear confused and all the ‘solutions’ we are proffering seem not to be working. The whole of our personal and national life seems totally dis-oriented.

I am glad that president has touched on this subject, but instead of calling for national prayer day like he did, he should have called for more sober reflections. The ritualistic prayers being offered daily at our churches, mosques and the uncountable prayer camps that dotted the length and breadth of our nation are not working and they are never going to work. You can mark my word.

And the reason that all our prayers are not working is very simple: we are praying to the wrong gods. We are praying to alien gods and we expect them to answer us. Every society creates its god in its own image. But this is not the case in Ghana. This is not the case in Africa. It is only in our dear continent that people pray to alien gods and wonder why their prayers are not being answered.

The logic is also very simple and it surprises me that not many people seem to grasp it: Let’s, for argument’s sake, accept that there is a god called Jehovah. He’s the god of Abraham and his descendants – the Jews; the question then arises as to why this Jewish god will bother himself with the supplication of the Ghanaian? What happens when a Jew and a Ghanaian pray to this same god asking for the same favour? To whom is Jehovah going to listen? The answer should be obvious except for those of us in Africa that likes to delude ourselves.

Actually the problem is more profound than that. Why is the very obvious link between religion and culture escaping us? And why is it that we fail to see the connection between culture and development?

President Mills should have gone further to make the connection between culture and religion – connections that ought to be obvious to any thinking person. Our president should have told us the home truth that no society has developed without using its indigenous knowledge system based on its culture.

Let’s take language as an example. Many Africans in Europe find it difficult to understand the tenacity of European nations to maintain their languages at all cost. From the biggest to the smallest European nation, legislations are being passed making it mandatory for immigrants to learn the language. As I try to explain to Africans I met in Europe, it makes eminent sense to protect one’s language.

It is only in Africa that we take our language for granted. We tend to see languages as mere means of communication. This is not so. Were that to be the sole purpose of language, we could have well do away with it altogether, since there are several non-verbal means of communication.

Apart from serving as means of communication, language, any language, serves the very useful purpose of transmitting culture and knowledge system. That is why it is so difficult to understand why African leaders do not see the ridiculous irony of addressing their people in a foreign language! That aside from their always attiring themselves in other people’s fashion designs.

We are at sad cross-road we find ourselves in Africa because we are losing our indigenous knowledge system. We are not transmitting these systems to the following generation because our educational system takes no cognizant of our local knowledge. Just take the example of grandmother who very easily can help a woman in difficult labour, or grandfather who, with few herbs, can set broken bones. We have not set the system up where this knowledge can be disseminated. This is what separates us from the other races.

What we need to do is begin by creating our own god in our own image. I know that many Christians and Moslems will scoff (even laugh) at this idea. But I say that we might devote the whole calendar year to prayer, but verily, verily I say, until we learn to use our own language to communicate with our own god created in our own image, nothing will come out of our supplications.

The ridiculous position, Ghana, nay Africa, finds itself is where leaders address their people in a foreign language; where people have been taught to laugh and scoff at their own culture. Let us look at a definition of culture to see the folly of our ways.

“Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.”

Interested reader might go to link and read up more on culture.

What we have in Africa are artificial construct that our rulers are too fearful to tamper with. We have structures that only few of our people understood, and yet we do not know why these artificial constructs are failing us.

We continue to spend fortunes on an educational system that takes no cognizant of our culture and our environment, and we do not appreciate why we are the world’s under-achievers. We go to our expensive schools and come out thoroughly brainwashed into thinking that every Ghanaian, African or indigenous idea is primitive (with a capital P). Our universities are only succeeding in totally alienating us from our society.

Let’s sit down and ponder about all these. How many of us so-called educated people can read and understand a letter from his lawyer? How many of us understand when our accountant talks to us? How many of us can truly understand when our politician talks to us?
If we, who have benefitted from the same education system as these professionals, have problem understanding them, how much less for our educationally less-endowed brethren and sithren? Do we now begin to understand why these systems are failing us?

We can continue to patch them up as much as we like, but so long as we fail to take the majority of our people along with us, so long shall we continue to fail.

Does our current judicial system make s any sense to anyone apart from the lawyers and the judges? In our indigenous judicial system, aggrieved parties are brought together and given all the opportunities and assistance for RECONCILIATION. Today, both parties will rent expensive lawyers who will go and speak hard-to-understand English before a bewigged judge who will pronounce judgement that will PUNISH one party without any effort being made for reconciliation.

I have stated times without numbers that our gods have really done their best for us. It is only our folly that is keeping us in our present backward state.

Another case: We yearly spend huge chunk of our hard-earned money to import western drugs whose side effects are as debilitating as the illness they are supposed to cure. Yet, our forest brims with potent medicinal herbs. Our herbalists are out there in the forests unappreciated, because our so-called education has taught us not to appreciate our own.

A good case is the piles (kooko) from which many of our folks suffer. European and Asian pharmaceutical companies are making big money sending us ineffectual medicines. But pile is a disease many Ghanaian and African herbalists can very easily cure with three to four mixtures of leaves and barks. And the saddest thing is that these leaves and trees grow easily in our forest.

The benefits we will derive from embracing our cultures are simply so vast that it is baffling that most of us are failing to appreciate them. Just sit down and think about how many of our people we can put to gainful employment if we should go local in our dresses and uniforms. Instead of our parliamentarians wearing our national dress once in a week, let’s make wearing national dresses a pre-requisite for any national office.

One of our leading politicians who, unfortunately had join the ancestors, suggested what he termed ‘domestication.’ He was laughed off by people with colonial mentality who merely remove their slave chain from their neck and wrapped it around their minds.

We need to sit down and seriously think about what we are missing and what we are losing by our total abandonment of our culture, and the total embracement of alien culture.

We do not have problem that our fore-fathers did not face. I say it is time that we start to give them their dues. If they we fail to appreciate and revere them, we cannot blame them if they refuse to intercede with the gods in our behalf.

It is one thing for Europeans and other foreigners to come and malign our culture; it is another thing entirely for us to join them in lampooning what our ancestors bequeathed to us.

As the saying goes, it is one thing for someone to insult and laugh at your mother; it is another matter entirely when you allowed yourself to be taught to laugh at her.

Nkosi kelele Afrika!

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