There is a frozen lake. Once it was open and liquid in the land of summer and rain, but it was visited by the Ice-Queen, who breathed into it her imperial breath, to freeze it up. But there was fire deep in the heart of the lake and the fire fought back – and thus, only the surface of the lake froze over, not its heart. Underneath, it remains liquid, a lake, and the fish are still swimming. They just can no longer break the surface and make themselves seen. The owners of the lake walk on solid ice and think it is solid ground. They peer into the ice and sense that something is moving down there, but they cannot see it anymore. The lake is alive, though it looks rigid and frozen.
“Advanced” thinkers sniff derogatingly at the notion of occupying oneself with the subject of the fact and dynamics of the original indigenous African nations, swimming like restlass schoals beneath the surface of the tight lattice of the present day African Nation-states, formenting trouble, looking for a voice, sometimes exploiting and sometimes lamenting the lattice, and everybody wondering how things are going to go next. “Advanced” thinkers call them “tribes” or sometimes, indulgingly, “ethnic Groups”.
The inability to “shed” or “overcome” ones “tribal” or “native” identity and “rise” into the new modern African self-view, that has its beginning in the colonial re-engineering of the African psyche, is looked upon as a sign of smallness, backwardness and primitiveness, if not even wickedness. In truth, however, this notion is the modern day equivalent of our early School days when African languages were derogatingly classed as “vernacular”, while European tongues were the proper language.
Just like there was no need to demonize African languages or cultures in a bid to validate the Non-African ones, there is need today to take a critical look at the dynamics of Ethnic Nationality in Africa, in order to ascertain how best to interpret this field of reality towards the forging of a more realistic and stable peace in Africa. They have been long looked down upon as a nuisance to be suppressed and managed and, eventually, overwritten like an old piece of software on the way to socio-politically engineering an ostensibly new Africa – an Africa that was birthed through the injection of European spark during colonialism. However it is perhaps time to rethink and view them as the essential building blocks which homogeneously come together in a natural and unforced way to become the larger, inherently stable African Nation-states.
Because without arguing much about the merits or demerits of so-called African tribes in terms of size, it suffices to note that the very fact that they refuse to go extinct, continue to exist and exert themselves, and continue to determine the foundations of inner politicking in African countries by itself qualifies them as viable subjects to be examined in the light of the search for a proper restructuring within the African continent. There is nothing wrong with them. What we need is not to close our eyes and hope – or forcefully insist – that everyone obeys, but a conscious engineering of friendship amongst the cultures.
The Lake is frozen. One day it will surely thaw. When that happens, it is necessary that it does not dissolve into a chaotic mass of uncoordinated rivalry in waters turned opaque. We need a council of cultures in Africa, where the indigenous nations can deliberate frankly on their true desires, fears, natures and capacities. Right now we have many voices shouting, but there is no theater of conference and no common moderator.
– Che Chidi Chukwumerije