Ayi Kwei Armah is the Ghanaian literary guru who burst into the literary azure with his first novel, The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. This masterpiece published in 1968 by the London based Heinemann Educational Publishers, was a watershed in the history of African literature and has remained a bestseller since then having been read by generations of African literature students. Armah is generically considered by critics as one of the most brilliant, versatile and provocative Anglophone writers of African descent. While the Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born has found millions of readers and admirers, the story is not quite palatable with Armah’s fourth novel, Two Thousand Seasons (first published by East African Publishing House, 1973). However, this novel which has been described as the ‘theory of African history’ focused on the life of an African community in pursuit of their collective aspirations across the centuries. In my view, it is a must-read for every black person.
Although weighed down by initial long and boring poetic monologues, it was effectively redeemed by its message. Two Thousand Seasons x-rayed the centuries of atrocities perpetrated against black Africa by both the West and Arabs alike. Any reader patient enough to go through will be shocked to realize that neither Christianity nor Islam has been friend of Africa through the centuries. Neither of these religions and their bringers and adherents could stop the enslavement and dehumanization of the black race. On the contrary the two religions merely served as a tool in the decimation of black population as well as the destruction of their cultural heritage, values, civilization and collective will.
Today, an ex-ray of the murderous and ‘genocidal’ campaigns of the demonic Boko Haram sect and indeed countless religious-motivated mass killings and conflicts particularly in northern Nigeria appears to be a repeat reading of Armah’s Two Thousand Seasons. In Two Thousand Seasons, Armah describes the Arabs as ‘predators from across the desert’ who forced their way into Africa and enslaved its people and destroyed their collective will. As for the West, Armah called them ‘destroyers from across the seas’ because their weapons of mass destruction were more sophisticated than those used by Arabs in their dreadful campaigns. Beyond the religion which was used for pacification, they had guns and other instruments of death. In fact, they were worse than Arabs from across the desert.
Today, this colonization and its destructive tendencies Armah wrote about are far from over. What is playing out today in the north-east of Nigeria that goes in the name of insurgency and terrorism is nothing short of Arab imperialism at work. There is a mortal struggle going on between the West and Arab for the soul of Africa. Nowhere is this satanic struggle more visible than in Nigeria where the two evolutions are engaged in a mortal combat.
Arabs are bent on controlling the soul of Africa at whatever cost to its citizens. They pump millions of dollars annually to Africa in the name of promoting their faith. In Mali, CAR, Sudan, and Somalia and so they are fingered. This is in spite of the fact that they consider the black race as second class just like the West.
In the monumental masterwork, Things Fall Apart, Achebe made us realize that Africa was not ‘a one long night of savagery’ in which the black man was mercifully delivered from by Christianity and western Colonization. Africa, like other races had their own traditional institutions and civilization that worked for them long before the arrivals of the marauders and destructive forces as represented by the Arabs and West respectively. If the south of Nigeria is not religiously volatile as north, it is because they did not throw away their traditional norms entirely and these effectively helped to ‘balance’ if not ‘check’ the excesses from the imposed foreign faiths.
In the northern Nigerian particularly the north-east and north-west geopolitical area, the story is changed. The total transplantation of an entirely ‘different’ civilization from Arabia in the garb of religion effectively destroyed the indigenous values, norms, institutions and heritage of the people. The new alien values which negates the indigenous remains the bedrock of endless ethno-religious violence that has continue to make peace a phantom in those regions.
Neither the west nor the Arabs can therefore be absolved from the endless carnage in Nigeria and indeed all over Africa. Sometimes both would conspire as was the case in the CAR, Ivory Coast, and so on.
The current near genocide campaign in the Central African Republic today where Christians are killing Muslims is the direct result of western and Arab imperialism in a marriage of convenience. The French had tried to replace a Christian leader for a Muslim in a predominantly Christian country. While this worked (with over 3000 killed) in Ivory Coast where Alasan Outara and his Northern Alliance were the beneficiaries, it failed in the CAR. The near genocide campaign in the CAR us yet to be contained. The genocide in Rwanda some decades ago is also the direct consequence of imperialism. It is noteworthy that Rwanda is a predominately Catholic country. Come to think of it, Christian against Christians, and the world folded its hands until nearly a million innocent people where sent to their mass graves.
The north and indeed Nigeria must look inward for a long time solution to perpetual circle of violence in the name of imported cultures masquerading as religion. Our redemption lies in reviving our own values and cultures. Imported cultures are making us turn against one another hence things are daily falling apart. While we have been told again and that both Christianity and Islam are religions that preach peace, tolerance and universal brotherhood, neither the West nor the Arab have accepted the blacks as brothers and sisters hence the unending slavery in its various magnitudes. Besides, the two religions carry with them the cultural heritage of the Arabs and the West respectively. To practice Islam or Christianity in its ‘raw version’ will lead to cultural estrangement and cultural colonization. The result will be endless conflicts. Our salvation lies with ourselves.
No religion comes from heaven one hundred par cent. Parts of it are creations of men and are rooted in the culture, myths and values of the people from where such faith originates from. Thus, Islam is inherently imbedded with the culture, values, norms, myths, traditions and the civilization of the Arab race since the religion has its origin in Arabia. The story is the same with Christianity which though originated in Palestine was somewhat nurtured by the West hence it acquired western values.
Both opposing civilizations have today turned Africa into a battle zone as they fight for dominance and control of the soul of Africa. Winning the fight against so-called terrorism is no easy task because our own kinsmen are already drunk from the opium of religion and are today being used against us by those who want us to remain their slaves till eternity. The invitation for assistance of UK, America and other European powers by the Nigerian government to help combat the genocides of the Boko Haram sect will definitely heighten the fight of these two civilizations.
There is no doubt that the Boko Haram campaigns of terror are evidence of Arab imperialism. The introduction of the Sharia legal system in parts of northern Nigeria are part of these grand schemes and inadvertently played its role in the emergence of these demons called Boko Haram that have no respect for the sanctity of life.
For me, religion, God, Satan, demons and so on are all concepts and everyone and every people have their own version. The Chinese have theirs, the Japanese have theirs, and the Indians, and Africans and other races also have theirs. The world is not all about Islam and Christianity. Although the two religions have their own good sides, they have held the black man hostages for too long. We must break free. To import and impose foreign faiths on people who already have their own is nothing short of occupation. For brother to turn against brother in the name of religion is self-imposed colonization. I am sure that the members of the notorious Al-Shabaab of Somalia, Ansar-Islam of Mali, and Boko Haram militant sect of Nigeria along with their financiers, backers and devotees are hardly aware of what they are doing to themselves or who they are: agents of slave dealers and colonizers.
The Boko Haram killings and forceful conversion of innocent school girls is religiously motivated. In order to end this continuous circle of violence, we must go for a permanent solution. Religion must be pushed to the private domain. Government must encourage indigenous faiths which are far more tolerant than imported ones as is evident over these decades. Except we do this, peace will remain elusive.
Patrick Tagbo Oguejiofor is the President of Christopher Okigbo Society. He writes from Abuja, Nigeria.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters