“If Africans were the colonial overlords.....”
As an African, I had always pondered on the reasons Africa is being tagged “underdeveloped”, “third world” etc. Growing up and gaining more exposure, I realised that this was so, due to some antecedent events like slave trade history, colonialism etc. The idea that Africa is “a dark continent” and the Blacks “an inferior race” has been propagated in literary texts like Joseph Conrad’s In The Heart of Darkness, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe ; where the African was portrayed by such names as “savage”, “heathens” etc.
There is no doubting the fact that Africa as a continent has had her own fair share of dark history. Inter-tribal wars and also some bizarre cultural practices, if comparing to modern times. However, there is nothing to say that it was all “gloom and doom” before the advent of the White man and the Arabs. Timbuktu in Mali was an ancient ground for knowledge and learning just like ancient Greece. The Asante kingdom in Ghana was a sprawling hub of commerce and a regional power. Not forgetting the Kanuri empire in Bornu, the Oyo kingdom which stretched westward to present day Benin Republic. The Benin kingdom was also a cradle of civilisation in the South of Nigeria. They were also the first tribes to make contact with the Europeans, especially the Portuguese.
I realised that Africa had a flourishing society before the colonialists came about. And the negative impact of colonialism is what is still being felt in many African countries up until now. Issues like coup d’état, political instability, civil wars and ethnic hostilities are all sour fruits of the colonial legacy. If we look around today, what has made Africa to be called “third world”, “underdeveloped” is as a result of all these aforementioned problems. Of course, an observer might want to say that every nation, every country had their own fair share of “terrible history” and they have been able to overcome such adversities. But I’d say, it’s easier to forge ahead as a nation if we all speak English (England), German (Germany), Mandarin (Mainland China) unlike when we have an unholy marriage of different languages and ethnicity.
Take Nigeria for example, the Hausas and the Igbos don’t get to see eye to eye, tell me how they will be able to buy into the same idea of the “Nigerian project” when they see themselves as different entities. The recent case of the struggle for secession by the Ambazonians (English speaking Western Cameroon) who want to break away from the larger French speaking part of the republic, which is the root cause of the conflict going on there at the moment.
Now, my belief is this, the history of the world would have been an entirely different one if it had been Àfònjá; the Army General of the Oyo kingdom who set sail for Liverpool to establish a protectorate there or It was Uthman Dan Fodio or Mai Idris Alooma who crossed the Sahara and the Mediterranean to set up a colonial government in Arabia. This piece is not meant to point out any claim that I am racist towards other peoples but it’s just a thought provoking exercise that makes me imagine the possibilities that maybe, just maybe if Africans were the colonial Overlords, then in the 21st century, they won’t be an economically backward continent.