African values, African culture, The African way, African norms, African society
Like ants working tirelessly in the summer to stash away their winter supplies, some stream westwards. They carve through caves, and traverse the harshest of deserts – The Sahara. Under the pounding sun, they gallop across sand dunes on camel backs. In their travails, they take courage in the glitz of the lands that lie ahead, across the Mediterranean. Their hearts are strengthened by stories of wealth waiting to be acquired in Europe; the prospect of taking care of loved ones who hunger and wait back home. Like locusts, they gravitate northwards in overwhelming numbers, arising from every nook and cranny of Africa. Battered by waves across the Mediterranean, they hang onto dear life by a hair’s breadth. Many sink to the bottom as the forces of nature show no mercy. Not even that deters many more from embarking on the same perilous journey. Desert tribes cut and slash with merciless liberality; governments throw hundreds in jail, but like lions, their spirits prevail. They can feel the hunger of folks back home; the notching of empty stomachs which twist and growl in a desperate cry for food. They can feel the tears of children yet unborn, whose entry into this planet via our continent would be greeted by knifing pain and brutal lack. For their folks and kin, they soldier on even in the face of impending death.
Across the continent, fires burn, and they have been burning for long. Across Sierra Leone, you see men and women with no limbs – people whose arms and legs were savagely butchered by blood-thirsty demons camouflaged in human skin. For years on end, war has been raging in the Congo (DR). Brothers slash brothers like loggers felling trees in the forest. In Central African Republic, neighbors stab and butcher one another with blind zeal that negates whatever faith they align themselves with. In Sudan, people sleep with one eye open, wondering when the next raid will happen. They are used to losing loved ones in meaningless deadly attacks. Somalia has become a spawning ground for demons who roam the East of the continent looking for bodies to consume. And in dear Nigeria, deadly tunes are rendered by the rhythms of Boko Haram bombs. Houses are blown to shreds, villages razed down to ashes as inhabitants watch their whole lives become reduced to nothing. Like owls, they stalk their preys at night eager to lay whatever stands in their way to waste.
Through all the anguish and heartache, the African bends but he does not break. He watches as bombs go through his domain, yet he remains unflappable. From of a place of tears and pain, he picks up his life and starts anew. Many would have thought that Rwanda would never see the light of day after the genocide. Not the African! Rwandans live on, glowing like diamonds in the dark and shimmering like the sun that blazes from afar on mother earth. Attack after attack, mothers pick up their surviving toddlers on their aching backs, as fathers cut through thickets of vegetation in search of new grounds to start anew. That is the African spirit. Bomb after bomb, Africans arise from the ashes of blasts and the ruins of raids. Even without limbs, they manage to find a new path that carves new smiles on their faces. Deep within, the African spirit strokes what is left behind back to life.
Amid enormous wealth, the likes of Nigeria languish in putrid poverty; looted dry by blind, evil politicians who brandish their wealth with rotten impunity. They make fancy speeches, but behind closed doors, they mock the people on whose votes they have come to power. Every generation seems worse than the last, and the same cycle recycles itself. Despite these odds, the average Nigerian does not give up. He works like a bee, abandoning the empty promises of the government. He seeks new ways to put food on the table. In the middle of the sea on tiny, unsafe boats, he latches onto life with the tenacity of a pest as he crosses over to a new, strange land. In barren lands across the globe, from Asia to Europe, from Northern to Southern Africa, and from North to South America, they thrive like roses planted on the river bank. They set up new shops and start new ventures. They devise new means to make money. They cater for folks back home from the proceeds of their new ventures. In South Africa, their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit have not gone unnoticed by the locals. Attacked, stabbed and shot, they soldier on, coming together to protect and take care of one another.
When all is said and done, that is the Africa’s lifeline; his Will to live and the Spirit to sacrifice for the good of loved ones. Demons may bomb and stab their own, and politicians may loot and stash away enormous wealth in foreign lands, leaving their lands with little to survive on, as far as the African Spirit lives on, our people will continue to fight for a better future. When that Spirit is broken, when we forget the ties that bind us together, when families no longer cater for one another, when we forget the values that shaped us from birth, then, we would have been defeated. When other Africans massacre their brothers and sisters from across the border as seen lately in South Africa, then, the center would have been severed and all would have been lost. When we go cold; when we no longer look over the fence to ask about our neighbor’s well being…when we become what they call ‘civilized’ – we no longer know who lives next door to us, then, there would be little to live for. When we stop being loud and chatty, bound in a box where we become too polite; when we have to send applications to our relatives for approval before we visit them, then the center would have collapsed. When we exude passion for other languages while no longer showing pride in ours, then, our identity would have been destroyed. I say to our musicians, sing out loud in Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik, Bini, Ibibio, Asante, Swahili, Pidgin, Umbundu, Gikuyu, Fulani, and the likes. If the languages and lexicons of our forefathers are lost, then, we too are lost.
When we can no longer fall back on family, relying solely on the government, then the humanity in us will begin to wither. If we reach that point where we can no longer raise our children and discipline them for their own good and the good of society; when the government decides what is an act of discipline and what is not, then, the heart of society will begin to rot like a maggot-infested carcass. Poor we may be, but rich we are in the freedoms and human connections that still luxuriantly flourish in our lands. When we can no longer proclaim our faith and belief in God; when we can no longer stand for anything, indeed, the African in us would have died and Africa itself would be history. For our beliefs and connections with one another; our strong family ties are the buffers that shield us from the vagaries of life in a world that is changing faster than we can measure. Let us hold onto them dearly…let us live by them with pride and religious dedication.
May Nollywood continue to make movies in Igbo and Yoruba. May the voices of Sunny Ade and Onyeka Onwenu; the voices of 2Face, Timaya, 9nice, D’banj, Baba Fryo, Bright Chimezie, Oriental Brothers, Fella and Femi Kuti, Nelly Uchendu, and many others continue to ring out with ear-piercing decibels over our airwaves. May we continue to sit out at night to share tales by moonlight with our children, as we infuse them with our values and cultures; our history and legends. May we continue to revel in the jokes of BasketMouth, Okey Bakassi, Osuofia (Nkem Owoh), Ali Baba, Ay, I go die, Helen Paul, Chioma Omeruah, Bovi, Julius Agwu, Gordons and Seyi Law, plus many others. Out of nothing, they have assiduously created a huge industry by bringing laughter to us with truly Nigerian and African humor. I have seen many a country; organized, well-structured and scenic. No matter where I go and what I see, my heart still hungers for my roots. I still crave the chaos of Lagos and Aba, the bustle of Kano and the beauty of Abuja. I long for the hospitality of Enugu and the sands of Imo. There is still true beauty in our land. May we strive to preserve it…may we strive to protect our roots, values and norms. They are the true essence of who we are in a fast-changing world.
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