Africa and the Pestilence of Imported Gods (Part 1)

By Ikenga Chronicles June 20, 2018

Africa and the Pestilence of Imported Gods (Part 1)

–Onyemaechi E. F. Ogbunwezeh

1. Libation to Foreign gods

A society that imports her gods, has offered to live under the caprice of foreign pestilences. She has mortgaged her destiny to the insular enclaves of alien theologies. Her doctrines and dogma are overthrown by derivatives of alien thought patterns, rendered canonical by capricious and absentee conclaves. In such a theatre, foreign metaphysics rises to displace local values. Irreverent incoherence isolates and devastates local cosmologies. Local mores are alienated to make way for the import to march to supremacy. Such is the trajectory of the contact between an occupying power and native reality. This inheres in the fact that conquering powers are also epistemic imperialisms. For every conquest to be total, it must principally devastate the mental universe of the conquered; making it an ideological no-man’s land, or tabula rasa, upon which the conqueror and its agents proceed to rewrite or rewire the conceptual genetic blueprint of the conquered, to suit the designs of empire. This is why every imperialism, battles to dethrone local conceptual schemes, usurp the role of local values in the lives of the conquered; lording it over local pedestals of meaning and theories of value, with all the inquisitorial decisiveness and totalitarian recklessness that has underwritten every enterprise of imperialism.

If not, how can a society commission its own collapse? How can a society hand over its head on a platter to a conqueror because he asked for it? How can a people yield their gods to be decapitated or burnt at the conqueror’s fires simply because the conqueror just showed up, knocked on the door and politely asked for that? No society commissions its own self-destruction. Any society that ever collapsed succumbed to some force or pressure. Those societies were conquered; either from within or from without. They bow to the onslaught of one or more complex set of factors. Most of them succumbed either to the conquest of invincible ignorance; the arrogant over, or underestimation of its capabilities and chances in the face of novel threats; or the overwhelming firepower of conquerors guns, germs, treachery, or steel as Professor Jared Diamond tried to articulate.

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By conquering the native epistemic authority, the conqueror secures either their timid acquiescence in the face of their exploitation, or the collaboration of their ignorance in their own destruction. To that end, whenever imperialism makes a landfall, it shocks and awes local sensibilities with the crude violence it advertises, the superlative savagery it consults, and the ruthless perfidy it deploys. It massacres opposition into submission. Â Treachery is the software of its transactions in such instances. The ruthlessness of the violence shocks the recipients into psychological immobility. It knocks their resistance cold. They are frozen in awe of the new phenomenon. It assaults the citadels of local meaning. It rapes local epistemologies, which have no response to this onslaught. It mocks the local deities which neither anticipated such catastrophes, nor have responses to them. This creates a social psycho-trauma that packs the destructive equivalent of Giga-tons of Hiroshima-grade nuclear explosion. Many societies cannot but succumb to this ruthless force or risk instant extinction. At this, the conquering power then gains a foothold. With this foothold, the conquered society is then invited to cannibalize itself; pressurized into participation in its own funeral; or genetically re-engineered into convoking its own self destruction by instalments.

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One major reservoir of a culture’s epistemic authority is its language. And a culture is conquered when the conqueror succeeds in imposing its own language as the vehicle of meaning upon the conquered. At this, the accreted putrescence of other climes rides roughshod infecting native conceptual flora; engendering some toxic erosion of local meaning and significance. It is just a matter of time before such societies end up importing every other thing; from the pseudo-sublime to the most ridiculous rejects of the conqueror. This is a normal trajectory. Since such a society has chosen the pontificating pronunciations of foreign epistemologies to interpret her values for her, she has offered to see reality from the eyes of her conquerors. Everything the conqueror canonizes, even if that piece of shit does not speak to local realities; one usually sees the conquered falling over themselves to incarnate it in their lives and re-echo it in their circumstances. There have been cases were the conquered even began loving their conqueror’s in a Stockholm syndrome gone awry. Such slaveries are total. They last forever. Liberation from such chains is almost impossible. This is because the conquest of a society’s epistemology means a total control of its perceptual faculties, value system, and sources of psycho-social legitimacy. Whatever would compel a society to exile its own gods and assume that of its conquerors; keep silence at its own plunder; participate in its decimation; help its own cannibalization and finance its own funeral; must engender some tsunamic bout of self-destruction, before it can succeed. Ndiigbo of Southern Nigeria has it that whatever can out-bite a dog has got quite some teeth.

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Whenever or wherever this is achieved, local gods are then coaxed to speak in foreign tongues. Alien ceremonies are convoked on hills where local ancestors, once poured libations to the memory of their forebears. Communion wafers are eaten in temples built upon the demolished shrines of our spirits; where our ancestors celebrated their kolanuts in commensality and brotherhood, with the gods of our land in attendance. Wines pressed off European grapes solemnly displace the nourishing and ritual potencies of the fruits of our palms. As temperate wines displaced tropical gins, our Earth Mother was denied her due libations. Not only that we could not offer sacrifices to our ancestors due to the indisposition of our chained spirits, the imported deities and their armed convoy of mercenaries, in time, rose to criminalize even our thinking about the august memory of our forebears. We were forbidden even to sit down by our own tropical equivalents of the Rivers of Babylon to weep over our lost innocence. Our names were deemed and condemned as vestiges of paganism, not worthy of one who accepts to be born of water and the spirits brought to us by the conqueror. There was no funeral to propitiate our pain. We were not even allowed the luxury of mourning. We are even compelled to forget our mother-tongues, without our tongues cleaving to the roofs of our mouth. The earth housing our umbilical cords in its bosom was desecrated. The buccaneers conscripted by foreign realms mocked us as the guardians of our land lay in their conquered state. Our earth was cosmic in her anger. She craved libation to appease her. Since the conquerors could not bring themselves to offer Her Nkwu-enu* they resorted to water-boarding her with the blood of her sons and daughters as an abominable libation, which she tearfully swallows; not to nourish herself, but to deny abomination a place in the sun, and spare the elements the pain of that desecration.

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Africa is now a society of imported gods!!!!

This explains not only the massive violence with which foreign gods implanted their feet on our firmament; and with which they sustain their precarious hold on the minds and bodies of our people, but also the ease with which we tend to all things foreign as if to say that foreign is synonymous with good.

The soul of the African is now a battlefield for competing epistemologies; a casino for the rogue gambling of foreign nonsense. And we are paying for it in the blood of our people, massacred at the altars of rogue ideologies, to assuage the tenets of foreign dogmas. We are paying for it in the heritage of cognitive dissonance and inferiority complex that dog our individual and collective existence. We are equally paying for it in the destruction of millennium old heritages of our culture and civilization. We are also paying for it in the proliferation of various dysfunctional ideologies, arising out of the crosspollination of various tenets of defunct cultures, which we grant relevance in our lives, and which has continued to weigh down our march to true independence. We are paying for it in the eternal disharmony between our realities and the foreign ideas we profess as valid, even in a continent where many of them will never gain relevance due to the toxicity of these species to the local soil.

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This recurring decimal of violence plaguing the relationship between various imported dogmas all over Africa is testament to the fact that the pantheons of our ancestors have been demolished. Our gods were forced into exiles. The deities that sanctioned our consanguinity seemed to have been conquered by the same forces that conquered our lands. We became estranged from our roots, and our most intimate acquaintances. Our brothers in this new conceptual scheme metamorphosed into games for our sport; commodities for our exploitation; and enemies to be massacred at will, because they fly the banners of a dissimilar, imported ideology. The Christian-Muslim conflict that paralyzed many African geopolities today, like the Boko Haram Insurgency in Northeast Nigeria, and the Balaka and Anti-Seleka massacres in Central African Republic are simply footnotes in this long history of violence that Africans were conscripted to inflict on each other, on behalf of foreign doctrines.

2. Egbe eburu Mbe!! (The Kite has Devoured the Tortoise)

The hawk can devour the chicken for breakfast. Nature ordains that. But nature must have definitely gone rogue, for a kite, instead of grabbing a chick for its meal, carries off the tortoise. It is symptomatic of uwa mmebi-nature gone rogue! The natural equilibrium of things is disrupted when nature goes rogue. The elements are not in harmony anymore. They run haywire. The gods are angry. The things that were not normal, graduate to daily occurrence. It is in contexts like this that abominations become tradition.

As Africa fell apart at the advancing pestilence of Arabian and European colonial incursions, African gods were sacked and exiled from their abodes. Some of them are now resting as lifeless relics of a primitive past in some European Museum. Our ancestors and living-deads, were forced into secretly drinking libations of imported whisky, in cases where they are lucky to get some. In most cases, they were banished to drinking from whichever corrupted stream they could lay their tongues on, or risk an existence characterized by dry throats.

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They had no choice since our good old palm wine was dismissed by foreign forces as an instrument of paganism. In this melee, the Ikenga was thrown overboard. Many of them were abandoned, broken, and supplanted with foreign statues, in homesteads, where they held sway before the pestilence. They were broken by their sons, at the nudging of visitors they welcomed with open arms. Insults were heaped upon injuries as their sons became intimate bedmates of the conquering ideologies. To that end, they took to hovering around their former homesteads as strangers would. They were forced into doing the round of Ofekes. Their sons and daughters abandoned them for the Whiteman’s religion. Our feasts and festivals were abandoned as the hangovers of primitive infancy. Our chants and incantations were labelled pagan. Our shrines were left unkempt and allowed to be run over by wild bushes. There was no one in attendance any more at our shrines, groves, and feasts. The Eze muo(s) and Ezeulu(s) were abandoned by the people. The sons of the Eze muo(s) and Ezeulu (s) entered seminaries to become catholic priests. That compromised the future of the Eze muo tradition. Our sacred forests which testified to the ecological foresight of our ancestors lost the battle for relevance to the bugs of bulldozing greed, which preferred concrete blocks to an integral environment. Soil erosion, floods and hitherto unknown climatic phenomenon, all rose to attack our ecological apostasy. We chose the conqueror’s system of government, although it never spoke to our reality. We adopted it although it was fundamentally ignorant of our history. And we practice and are still clinging to it, although it has corrupted our will, destroyed our land and bequeathed us a legacy of mal-development. It was the supreme apostasy. In the fullness of time, we all rose in unison to genuflect subserviently and bow our heads at the altars of foreign gods.

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Europe and Arabia conquered not only African lands. They seemed to have conquered the wisdom of our Chi** as well; bequeathing us the bloodthirsty fooleries accumulated by these religions in the course of their various histories. Instead of African deities like Agbala*** inhabiting our caves to guard our lands, we were mentally re-engineered into rejecting and displacing Agbala and her ilk, with the tenets of some borrowed faiths. We even captured the potent symbols of our deities and sold them to the Whiteman. Instead of our sacred forests and shrines, our deities are now displayed naked, to be mocked and admired by the uncircumcised eyes of foreigners, in profane exhibitions at the British Museum or the Vatican archives. Deities like ‘Ikenga’ that bade us purchase our manhood with the currency of honorable deeds, were overthrown by irrationalities like the suicidal cowardice that seeks sex in a paradise of 72 virgins, when we must have finished killing off all those who disagree with the irrationalities we peddle as religion in Allah’s name.

Be that as it may, contemporary events have shown that Africa bowed to the power emanating from the conquerors guns, and not to the logic of their theologies. Till date, no one has been able to convince Okonkwo and the host of other elders gathered in the village square on that day pictured in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, of the illogicality of the story that God could have a son without a mother. That and many other such dogmas remain constructively illogical to us is never in doubt. But we are asked to believe and propagate them, because they are dogmas! Namely: some truths revealed by God but transcending human comprehension. Remember, they are still trying to explain it to us. I wonder how a reasonable person would spend his time trying to explain what purportedly transcends human understanding to us. Has he understood it? If yes, what does that make of the “transcending human understanding part”?

3. We Question because we bear the Scars!!!!

Descartes started his revolutionary philosophy with a query. He queried the basis of reality. He did this by querying the apparatus of our knowledge. He questioned our epistemic facilities. He questioned our perceptual faculties. In one swoop, he turned the epistemological basis of metaphysics on its head. How do we know what we know? He arrived at Cogito. He thinks! That he thinks suffices for him to explain his existence. He thinks, and for him to think presupposes that he exists. He thinks; therefore, he is. I think, therefore I am. Cogito ergo sum. Descartes in spite of his other philosophical, scientific and literary achievements, gained admittance into our most august memories as cogito ergo sum! With that, he was fossilized in the minds of modern man. Descartes was a great. Why would he question reality and existence? He could do that not only because he could think, but because he is a part of reality and existence.

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Africans have been questioning their predicament because they have been a part of that predicament, both as victims and sometimes as perpetrators of actions that consolidates the predicament. We question because our frame bears the scars of our predicament. African sons and daughters have been asking where this rain started to beat us. This is a word in that long strain of questioning. The queries gain more relevance today due to the insistence of our predicament.

Today after years of allegiance to imported deities, the jury is out. We are not developing. We have not attained the utopia that was promised us by these deities. Rather, we have been sucked into a vortex of imperial ruthlessness, where we are used and abused for the amusement of other parts of the world, both by internal and external exploiters. Uhuru has eluded Africa. Alien religions did not bring down their heavens upon our earth. It rather bloodied our earth with the blood of our relatives. Foreign creeds did not cure our petty thieveries. It rather gave us tools to elevate them to the ontological level. Instead of giving us a good life for all, it rather taught us to become robber barons in the name of good economics. It neither banished the human propensity in us to covet; it rather sanctified our covetousness with the holy waters of cant. Instead of stealing to feed our hungry stomachs, we can now steal to feed our avarice. Where Igbo philosophy of man counseled “onye aghana Nwanne ya”, imported ideologies canonized greed the basis of good economics. It compelled us to dismantle our social ties to feed individual greed for profits. Where our social anthropology counseled “Egbe belu ugo belu”, imported ideologies countered “rout the competition”.

And the results are there for all to see! The scars are scandalous!

We were co-opted in the sale and marketing of our brothers. We were compelled at gunpoint, into trading our future in the “unfairest” of terms. Africa was depopulated to make Europe and the Americas flow with wealth. The crème la crème of Africa’s posterity was eviscerated. The bridge between the past and the future was torpedoed. The youth that learnt from the elders to hand over to the unborn, were forcefully taken across the great ocean; never to come back again. Never to ever fulfill their evolutionary function and destiny. With that evaporated millennia-worth of knowledge and experience. Lost forever and never to be regained again. Our homesteads were deprived of defenders. The youths who filled in this role disappeared as if the earth opened up to swallow them. Ours became a society of the old and the infants. That trade decisively changed Africa’s nature, culture, and future. With the slave trade, we allowed and participated in the celebration of a historical atrocity on our soil. We, as a society was conscripted in the sale of our brothers to profit foreigners, as many of us have continued to do till this day. The wailings of our sold brothers and sisters continues to suffuse our ancestors with supplications mourning our stolen heritage. Their backs were broken by drudgery. Their humanity was ripped off them. Many of them were fed to the fishes. Many never got the dignity of a funeral. Many of them died in their chains. And we got neither reparation nor restitution. We got no apologies or remorse from those who murdered our destiny as sacrifice to their greed.

When the industrial revolution rendered slavery unprofitable to their greed, they came for the products of our land. We were forced to sell our commodities at their price. Some of our littoral regions became the Oil Rivers. That name was instructive. We yielded our products to oil foreign economies and the pockets of their robbery gangs, christened traders. We learnt the trade and decided to control our resources. The imperialist grew livid at our quick realization that we could turn the tables to our advantage. Their artilleries were trained at our habitation to lay it to waste. We succumbed to a military invasion designed to control our trade routes. They sacked our kings and exiled our chiefs. Jaja Opobo died in exile. Ovaremwen Nogbaisi was forced to swallow the defeat of the stool of his fathers. Then the Whiteman took over our government. He hired those at the periphery of our societies and ordained them chiefs over us, by his fiat. Colonialism planted its foot firmly on our soil. We left the ways that gave us food without poisoning our environment, polluting our waters, or depleting our soils. We were brought into using chemicals to grow our food and poison our bodies. They brought us diseases we never knew. Instead of cultivating our land to grow our food, we were compelled to cultivate our land to feed foreign industries.

Our motherland still bears the impress of this beast. We are now speaking the language of those who raped us. We were compelled to bury our mother tongues as unprogressive vestiges of inferiority in order to sound modern. At that, we surrendered meaning to what the alien conclaves canonized as such, although local reality kept on exploding our stupidity in this regard. In time we were reduced to murdering our beautiful dialects with dysfunctional embroideries of foreign citadels of meaning.

As all these settled on our embrace, we started believing the view, which defined us as modern and developed, to the extent that we are able to successfully ape the ways and pretensions of the conqueror.

With this dissonance, we internalized the manufactured narrative of inferiority peddled about us. We started arranging and conducting our lives on other people’s terms. As we scrambled to come to terms with the shock that has rearranged the tectonic plates of our society, the next shock loomed on the horizon. We were thrown into a dangerous dilemma and forced to take a stand. Either we define or allow ourselves to be defined according to the canons of this narrative, or we spend our time vehemently rejecting the image of us constructed in this narrative. Either way, we were forced to a reactionary position. It is a dangerous position. Here we can never win, no matter how hard we try. History is a weapon. Whoever tells your story has the keys to your destiny. He can deploy that story to the ends and aims of his choosing. We ran the risk of being conjugated in foreign verbs by narrators, who pontificate over our history to direct our destiny. Or we resist their badges and create our own. Our attempts to create our own were immediately dismissed as heretical dissimulations of victimological nature. The microphone was pried off our hands before we can even announce our names. Our voices and literatures become banished to be read in the dark basements of leftist radicals.

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It was a Machiavellian gambit. Imperialism knew that the more time we spend trying to define ourselves or defend ourselves from the definitions peddled about us, the more we lose sight of the big picture. Imperialism subsists on the oppressed losing sight of the big picture. For any imperialistic enterprise to be successful, the target audience must be kept busy pursuing rodents. This keeps them amply busy, while the rogue power delivers the viral software that brainwashes them into believing that it is in their best interest to serve the rogue willingly and religiously.

The conqueror put a knife to cut all that held us together. Our society was torn apart. Our beings became a warfront for conflicting allegiances. This dissonance opened the gates for poverty to invade our experience. Atavistic competition that hallowed individual greed above the common good rose to impious prominence. We joined the orchestra of greed. We learned the philosophy of destruction. To prove our proficiency, we started singing symphonies of exploitation. With poverty, we condemned many of our kind to crime. Our resources could no more finance our existences. We were marched like herds of goats into urban pens, to rip open the bowels of our earth, so that the conqueror would have coal to drive his industries and war machines. We were configured into yielding our labors and resources to service foreign economies. We were rewired and re-tooled into abandoning our needs and aspirations to devote our lives and entire existences to servicing the conqueror needs. None was left for our lives. We called it modernity and civilization. In time we started competing for the most basics of necessaries. Competition invited a jungle. Before we knew what was happening African children were marched off to war; pumped full with drugs and ordered to rape their mothers, cut off their father’s genitals, chop off their brothers’ hands and feet, and shoot their most intimate acquaintances in a surreal theatre of oedipal perversity: all in defense and/defiance of geopolitical monstrosities bequeathed to us by Europe as states and nations. Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Uganda, all played hosts to these dimensions of bestiality. Our country-sides were turned into murderous battlefields, where we kill each other in the name of our various gods. Jos, Nigeria is one such theatre. Maiduguri and many other Northern Nigerian cities.

African politicians became empowered by the imported cant known as western version of democracy into going up to the capital cities, which ape imperial power centers, to steal legally from the commonwealth, in service to their individual greed. There, they go to execute and crucify the African principle of community, which counseled that the individual exists because his community exists.
The list is so long as to defy enumeration!

4. The Neutrality of Ideologies?

Importation of theologies or ideologies is neither positive nor negative in itself. After all, every theology is an agglomeration of borrowed myths and contrived projections. Some are fractionally distilled legends echoing subconscious wishes of the human heart. Others are primitive needs and will to power elevated to the ontological level. But be that as it may, each of these must acquit itself positively if it is to assume some relevance in its new abode. It must conduce to the use designed and intended for it by its importers. If not, it would be jettisoned in time. Human experience has shown that culture is dynamic. Cultures borrow and lend to each other across time and space. They import and export some of their pedestals as contact with others increases. To this end, some have arisen to define civilization as culture at an export level.

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I have personal reservations at this definition.

Epistemic Imperialisms and cultures of nihilistic savagery have been exported across cultural lines over time. Besides the fact that my philosophic vocation would never permit an unexamined acceptance of any definition that offers itself up for consideration; I wonder if I would accept that as civilization, without any qualification. I eternally refuse to accept the slaughtering of the Mesoamericans into extinction by the rampaging avarice of a buccaneering Europe, as a civilizing mission. If I am to accept that, what would I in justice, tell the Sapa Inca and his Inca people of Peru and South American Andes? Should I tell them to accept their massacre in good faith, as that is the price of civilization? How could I ever justify the plundering, dismembering; the physical and mental enslavement of generations of Africans? Is it civilization that African humanity was packed in the putrid holds of ships; in chains that reeks with inhumanity, and sold off as articles, to masters who would rape their labors, their genitals and their humanity?

Could anyone be justified in labelling that civilization?

I forever refuse to utter or invoke the names of Pizzaro, Cortes, Columbus, Francis Drake, James Cook and other arrant pirates of expired European Empires with any reverence in my breath, no matter what the doctored historical books pretend to tell. Neither would I forever hold anything but scorn for all those philosophies and philosophers that scaffolded their rape of other peoples. Justice and the deities guarding her portals forever hold that the ghosts of megalomaniac rapists like Leopold II, the butcher of the Congo would never rest in any sanctuary of good odour. If Leopold II and other such imperial sadists are not manifestations of savagery, why the pyramid of chopped hands harvested at his orders in the Congo? Is this guy, and every other such knave, not the perfect proof of the obverse of what civilization should be? On the contemporary front, I wonder if I would ever accept the fraudulent falsehoods peddled by Washington under George W. Bush, and Whitehall under Tony Blair to explain away their bowing to the rapacious covetousness of their elitist constituencies for Iraqi Oil, as an operation to give Iraq the gift of democracy. If all these could be accused of being civilizing missions, then we must elevate Adolf Hitler to the sainthood. We should then apologize to the Nazi henchmen executed at Nuremberg. We should beatify the psychotic tyranny of Josef Stalin and all other scoundrels of history.

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