Bedford Nwabueze Umez, Ph.D.*
After reading my latest book, "Nigeria: Real Problems, Real Solutions," Dr. Nnanna Ukegbu, one of the most learned, enlightened and illustrious Nigerian thinkers, invited me for a talk (August 9, 2002) on a serious issue of common concern, namely, the apparent lack of progress in Nigeria and several African countries. Dr. Ukegbu, who is now completing a very powerful, thought-provoking book on African development, had this question to ask me: "Will African ever catch up?" After a brief pause, I answered him, "Yes, if and only if the African mind is liberated."
In this paper, I will briefly explain the relationship between development and liberated mind. Specifically, I will explain (a) how most of us, the Africans, were "educated" to feel inferior, (b) the terrible consequences of inferiority complex, i.e., low self-esteem, in Africa, especially in Nigeria, and (c) then present the ONLY powerful solution to revert this inferiority complex so that Africa can meaningfully grow and develop.
Although a perfect representation of African countries cannot be made using one country, I decided to focus on Nigeria to make my point. Nigeria is, in many aspects, a typical African country. It suffered slavery; it was subjected to colonial rule; it achieved political independence (1960) around the time so many African countries did; it is faced with the task of welding into a nation a variety of differing people. Besides, Nigeria is, by population, the largest African country.
"Educated" to Feel Inferior: How?
It was never easy for me learning in Nigeria. My parents, who never attended any school due to poverty, could neither read nor write. I lost my father at the age of three. To make the matters worse, those I looked up to, namely, my mentors, educators, and leaders were busy teaching me and other youths, probably inadvertently, to feel inferior and remain inferior. Essentially, I was taught, just as many youths in Nigeria are being taught today, to feel inferior and develop low self-esteem. Here are few examples. I was thoughtlessly taught (and children are still being thoughtlessly taught today), that "oyibo bu ndi muo," (white men are naturally spirits)," "oyibo bu agbara," (white men are wizards by nature), and "America ilu oba" (which suggests that white man's country is naturally the land of kings). Similar phrases such as "dan bature," (which implies that white men are by nature civilized), and "or buter" (which symbolizes the natural lead of white men) are very common all over Nigeria.
I was thoughtlessly taught (as children are still being thoughtlessly taught today) that almost anything "black" is inherently evil. In fact, to our "educators," it is perfectly okay to use the word, "black" (the ascribed name to people with African decent), to describe evil. In accordance with this teaching, a bad person is the "black sheep of the family," and should be "black listed." In accordance with this teaching, illegal market is "black market" (as if only black people do business in such market). In according with this teaching, Satan (no one has ever seen) is "black" in color. In fact, to our "educated" teachers, frequent use of "black" to describe evil demonstrates a mastery of the "Queen's English," deserving an "A" in English essay composition. What an education! It is a pity!
Indeed, Nigerian African children and the general public are being thought, directly or indirectly, self-hatred and how to develop a sense of low self-esteem. Without question, there are deadly consequences resulting from this kind of miseducation, and to them, I now turn.
"Educated" to Feel Inferior:" The Grave Consequences
We often hear that "the mind is a terrible thing to waste." I must add that the mind is a terrible thing to pollute. The minds of so many African children and that of the general public have been grossly polluted and destroyed by a powerful force largely unseen by naked eyes. That powerful force is inferiority complex (also called "mental slavery"). Here is a brief illustration of the destruction caused by inferiority complex/lack of self-confidence in Africa and among Africans:
Let us present an African medical doctor and a nonAfrican medical doctor to a sick African and ask him to choose the doctor to treat him. You are right, most likely he will choose the nonAfrican doctor. Why? Because he has been miseducated to believe that by nature white men are "ndi muo," "dan bature," and "agbara."
Invite an African to two meetings - one called by Africans and the other summoned by nonAfricans. You are right again, that African, all things being equal, will attend the meeting called by nonAfricans on time and attend the one summoned by his fellow Africans anytime he wants. Why? He dare not offend "ndi muo" by attending his meeting late. Notice that this "selective punctuality" on the part of so many Africans, particularly Nigerians, is what passive thinkers call "African time" (or "colored people time," in American context). To us at LAM, Liberating African Mind [www.LiberateAfrica.org], there is nothing like "African time." "African time is nothing other than "selective punctuality" ROOTED in inferiority complex.
By comparing the leadership styles of African leaders and nonAfrican leaders, one also observes another handiwork of inferiority complex/lack of self-confidence. Specifically, one notices that while nonAfrican leaders wisely refuse to invest their countries' money and resources in Africa, by practicing "charity begins at home," most African leaders are very proud to invest African money and resources in nonAfrican countries. Why? In their miseducated minds, Africa is "unsafe heaven," while "America ilu oba" - the safe heaven. What a lack of self-confidence! What a leadership! It is a pity!
The bottom line is that a polluted African mind accepts that Africans are, by nature, normal human beings, while nonAfricans are "ndi muo." A polluted African mind believes that nonAfricans are "divinely" chosen to live in "ilu oba," the "safe heavens," while Africans are "divinely" relegated to "unsafe heavens." A polluted African mind does not know that "ndi muo," "agbara," "dan bature," and "ilu oba" are products of tireless research engineered by true compatriot leaders and elite. In fact, a polluted African mind does not know that George Washington, the first President of the US, did not have, for instance, Space Exploration Program. Nigerians, for instance, must know that the reason for lack of so many "ndi muo," "agbara" and "ilu oba," in Nigeria is that so many Nigerian leaders rob their own people only to deposit the loot in "ilu oba." As such, the money that could have been used to produce "ndi muo," "dan bature," "or buter," "agbara" and "ilu oba" in Nigeria is senselessly siphoned out of Nigeria. African children have been repeatedly told lies, and the liars never, for one day, reflected upon the horrible consequences of their lies. They never realize that if a lie were told repeatedly, sooner or later some people would start believing it to be true. Just as a determined and concerted effort to tell a child that he is stupid is likely to get that child thinking and acting stupid, "educating" African children to develop low self-esteem and feel inferior has produced so many Africans who have, consciously or unconsciously, accepted that they are ordinary humans while nonAfricans are "ndi muo," "agbara," and "dan bature," divinely planted in "ilu oba."
Active thinkers know that pollution of African mind, i.e., miseducating Africans to develop a sense of low self-esteem, has produced and continues to produce terrible consequences in Africa and among Africans. It is not normal for people to turn against themselves; it is not normal for leaders and elite to turn against their own people. Now is the time for African leaders and elite to start asking WHY things are the way they are in Africa instead of telling everyone HOW terrible things are. By asking WHY, solutions will naturally emerge. For instance, questions similar to those below will help move Nigeria forward:
Is there a relationship between research and "ndi muo?" Is there a relationship between research and "agbara?" Is there a relationship between research and "dan bature?" Is there a relationship between research and "ilu oba?" Is there a relationship between the legacies of slave trade and colonialism (i.e., slave and colonial mentalities) and the robbery of Nigeria by a substantial number of its leaders only to deposit the loot abroad? Is there a relationship between the robbery of Nigeria by most of its leaders only to invest the loot abroad and high unemployment rate in Nigeria? Is there a relationship between high unemployment rate in Nigeria and mass exodus of Nigerians to foreign countries? Is there a relationship between investing Nigerian money abroad and growth in negative developments in Nigeria, e.g., corruption, mortality rate, "419," armed robbery?
My fellow Africans, PRACTICAL answers to serious questions like those above will definitely produce "ndi muo," "dan bature," and "agbara" in Africa; in fact, they will produce AGAIN the class of African "ndi muo," "dan bature," and "agbara" who built the first known skyscrapers - the pyramids, and developed the first means of written communications, the hieroglyphic writings, long before the slave trade and colonialism. Nigerian children, for instance, cannot become "ndi muo" and "agbara" by miracle if their leaders continue to neglect education. In fact, "agbara," "ndi muo" and "ilu oba," will not emerge in Nigeria by miracle when teachers are being starved, libraries empty, research thoughtlessly abandoned, and universities senselessly shutdown for several months each year due to strikes. [Note: I have appealed, and will continue to appeal, to Nigerian government to summon, without further delay, series of National Economic Summits to discuss the terrible consequences of looting Nigerian treasury and investing the loot abroad, and start, on a collective level, to invest Nigerian money in Nigeria as "ndi muo" leaders and elite are doing in their own countries.]
African youths must be told the truth, and that truth is that what makes white men "ndi muo," "agbara," and "dan bature," is nothing other than tireless research, and with massive investment of African money in Africa by African leaders and elite, Africa will definitely produce "ndi muo" and "agbara" in large quantity as it once produced long before slavery and colonialism. Furthermore, African leaders and educators must stop using "black" as a symbol for evil and start teaching their children that black is beautiful just as any color.
All told, "Africa will can catch up" if and when African mind is liberated, for a liberated mind is a thinking mind that has the foresight to produce "ndi muo," "dan bature," "or buter,' and "agbara," and make his country "ilu oba."
*Dr. Umez is a Professor of American Government, Lee College, Baytown, Texas. His latest book, "Nigeria: Real Problems, Real Solutions," is now in use in several Nigerian universities. For more details about the book, kindly visit http://nigeria.liberateafrica.com
Umez is the Founder and the Administrator of LAM, Liberating African Mind, http://www.LiberateAfrica.org Phone: 281-425-6368.
**This paper was presented/distributed at the 8th annual Convention of the World Igbo Congress, Houston, USA, August 29-September 31, 2002.