Addressing Intellectual Slavery and the Neo-colonial Question

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It has been widely acclaimed that physical enslavement and actual colonisation can be savage and abusive of human dignity.

On the other hand, however, and because it works insidiously at the level of the mind, intellectual slavery is even more cruel and exacting. Once a people’s mind is conquered and enslaved, the dominion and domination naturally extend to other domains such as the political, the economic and even the spiritual.
And the mentally enslaved is thus comprehensively de-humanized, that is stripped of their humanity— which makes the work of the conqueror easier.

Hence it is, then, that today, the Black person, unlike the Chinese and Indians, has no viable religion of his own, no economic system, no political institution, no traditional epic genre. as Isidore Okpewho spent a life time refuting, no literature as they impishly and impudently told Wole Soyinka as a Knight’s fellow in Cambridge, and no culture as they taught Chinua Achebe, and of course no history but a barbaric void as Lord Hugh Trevor-Roper grandly claimed.

Thus, having been a combatant in the global theatre of mental decolonisation for over four decades, this writer is not often amused by the antics of the mentally colonised. But one must not fail to notice when some wicked ironies appear in the horizon to lift the universal gloom about the unhappy fate of the Black person.

This can be illustrated. In 2014, just as the Black month of February was unfolding, there on television was a group of retired Nigerian rulers together with the incumbent stoutly defending the government’s decision to spend billions of naira to commemorate the centenary of the amalgamation of the protectorates of Nigeria. There is a lot to celebrate about the amalgamation, they all chorused as if on cue and without any sense of irony.

For the writer, It was a most beguiling and historic snapshot, particularly with the most combatively unenlightened among the lot railing and thundering with the usual combustible gusto. There may be a lot to celebrate about Nigeria despite everything. But the amalgamation was not a Nigerian event.

Surely, the “Dual Mandate” of Lord Lugard is a famous piece of fiction and a pious fraud since there is no evidence to show that the overrun nationalities ever gave their consent. It is a consecration of empire and imperial might, a testimony to its awesome power of colonial coercion and ability to territorialise and re-territorialise Africa at will.

So, if this singular feat of human supremacy should be celebrated at all, it should be by relics of empire glorifying the might and power of their ancestors and not the descendants of those who were herded in like human cattle.

Therefore, the celebration and commemoration of one’s own enslavement is a classic instance of mental colonisation and the most depressing example of Afro-Saxony in recent political history. By the same token, the Japanese ought to commemorate the arrival of Commodore Perry on their shores, and the Chinese the seizure of Hong Kong.

Ingloriously, and as has been hinted, a lack of self-awareness and its ironic possibilities is a logical corollary of mental slavery. The then Secretary to the Federal Government was widely quoted to have repeated Lord Lugard’s words with warm approval that Nigeria was “the product of a long and mature consideration”. As this writer noted, we would have liked to ask the burly and amiable, Anyim Pius Anyim, the then Secretary to the Federal Government, if any of his ancestors was present at the deliberation.

But of course, If the Nigerian officials had wanted to be fair to themselves and to history they ought to have gone a bit farther in time to the Berlin Conference which began in 1884 and effectively saw to the colonial partitioning of old Africa. It was in 1884 that Henry Morton Stanley, the footloose Welsh explorer who managed to fight on both sides of the American Civil War, arrived in Berlin clutching a raft of treaties with traditional African chiefs who had willingly signed away their possession in exchange for meretricious trash.

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And since this tradition of frittering away immense natural resources has continued in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, we must not be afraid of celebrating and lionizing our worthy ancestors. Where it comes to a celebration of self-dispossession, the Nigerian government must accord this date a priority over mere amalgamation.

In the meantime, there may be more mundane matters hiding under the grandiose nonsense. The goat eats where it is tethered, says a famous Cameroonian proverb. Even if one cannot discount an element of deliberate mischief in all this, it is noteworthy that virtually all the newspapers reporting on the centenary extravaganza published a curious picture of Anyim with his mouth apparently salivating with intent. It could not have been at the prospects of the giant Ohaozara yam or rice from his native Ishiagwu.

So the question is: What will Equaino, Du Bois, Blyden, Martin Luther King, Cheikh Anta Diop, Azikiwe, Nkrumah, Macaulay, Senghor, Sapara Williams and all the avatars of the great project of mental decolonisation say about this desecration of history by the ruling elite in Nigeria? How will Frantz Fanon, the great psychiatrist of cultural deracination and political schizophrenia, describe the ruling class that presides over the current post-colonial anomie of Nigeria?

Well, it should be noted that while this capitulation to neo-colonial slavery was going on in Nigeria, two great sons of the Third World, one a Nigerian, the other an Indian and both Nobel laureates in different fields, were engaged in stellar decolonising projects. Soyinka and Sen are two of a different kind, but both are united in their passion and affection for their respective countries and continent.

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