LANGUAGE

Language is to group identity as spirit is to earthly personality. As the spirit grows weak you still see the body walking about as if the actual human being is still alive. But it is just an illusion – at physical death, the real human spiritual personality will disintegrate for good.

The same thing with groups. When a group loses its language, you will still see its indigenes walking around, congregating und socializing, and calling themselves the group name… but it is an illusion. A people without a language have ceased to exist as a people – what holds them now is memory and a wish. At the next tragedy that strikes them they will scatter and have no center of orientation that triggers a sense of belonging which pulls them back together again in any meaningful way. We witness the end of yet another branch of civilization.

The death of African languages was initiated when Africans stopped – or did not at all really determinedly try – translating and transsituating their rapidly expanding world view, new knowledge, science, technology and philosophy into their indigeneous languages. Thereby they caused a break between the African psychic identity which had indigenously developed over millenia and the new African mentality whose birth was being so forcefully and unnaturally midwifed. It was also a missed opportunity to embrace the challenge of exertion that catalyzes growth.

Any indigenous national psyche worldwide that has achieved the feat of transforming ITSELF on its own foundations into or towards a so-called First World Country, has not done so on the back of the scientific and philosophical lingua of a foreign language. They have instead forced their own language to expand, to deepen, to evolve, to grow, to be alive and exhibit the characteristics of a living thing – self-preservation through movement, exertion, growth, self-upgrade within a healthy sense of self. Thus these peoples did not just move, they took their cosmos and their roots along with them. Therefore, no matter to what dizzying heights of technology or abstract new thought they arrive, they always feel at home. They never feel lost. Because their world always exists in their language, and their language is the structure within which their world pulsates and expands.

Africa’s deepest, most intimate and most imediate break with the preservative Spirit and Act of INNOVATION therefore was the failure to translate and transfer new world knowledge into their own indigenous languages, and make their language the vehicle for transfering knowledge and civilization to the next generation. This was an act of indolence or carelessness of gargantuan proportions whose degenerative after-effects will continue to manifest exponentially from one generation to the next. In Igbo language, this is the true example of “i fu” – to become lost. Everything that is familiar to you feels simultaneously strange, and you don’t know why.

The fact that I am expanding and writing this thought in English and not in Igbo is the very evidence that I too am a product of that colossal careless break in transmission, and thus I carry within me also the unending thirst for rebalancing, that deep-seated African search for identity in a world, of shared human responsibility, in which aptly the Afticsn often feels MISUNDERSTOOD.

In Africa, African languages have for over a century rapidly lost their role and function as the medium via which knowledge and civilization are transfered from one generation to the next. Ancient proverbs and perception patterns, yes, but every other thing no. The African, as an agent of innovation and civilization, is today a divided personality. When the European colonialist wanted to give us his religion he translated it into our language. But when he wanted to give us science and technology, he kept it in his language and forced us to learn it in his language. The Arab colonizer went a step further and taught everything only in his own language. Little wonder then that we are masters of Christianity and Islam in Africa today, but not of Innovation and Invention.

And to those who will tell me that attempts have recently been made here and there with inconclusive or initially uninspiring results, to them I will say: Civilization is not a sprint, neither is it a game of materialism and quick profits where you jump trains at will in search of quick gratification and the illusion of fast progress – indeed that is what has brought Africa to where we are today.

Civilization is a long long race, a marathon, a movement of the people, like Moses’ Israelites wandering (and wondering) for decades in the wilderness on the way to their promised land. You are in it for the long haul; solid progess is slow and hard if you want it to be real, and you must be dogged, persevering and patient. And, above all – this is the crunch – you must trust and rely in your own creativity and abilities; and develop these.

Setting off onto the right path does not mean that you automatically take over the lead or catch up immediately with the rest. It simply means that you have created the right conditions for a growth which, no matter how initially hard, if managed diligently, will be lasting and always feel natural. A growth that will be indigenous and make you the master of your own fate in this uncertain future into which Mankind is currently herding.

Thus at the occassion of this World Igbo Cultural Day, I want us – as we eat and drink and make merry – to also recommit ourselves to the task of exerting ourselves into making our language the carrier of the new civilization which we hope to attain – spiritually, culturally, socio-politically, intellectually and technologically.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

PROGRESS

When you ride the western star until you hit its heavenly glass ceiling, are unable to break through it, and then console yourself with the thought that, at least, you have done better for yourself than those who once started off with you back home in the deep global south… the question is: has Progress really been made?

You rise in the West
But Africa stays the worst.

If you shine moderately in the glow of the eastern star, but your own land of the rising sun is still struggling with twilight…

If like a lost moon you reflect dazzlingly the northern lights and it blinds you to your own northern people’s plight and they desert-roam in darkness and have no light…

If you drown power-drunk in the global financial waters, but your own lagoons are not overflowing with milk and honey, and your people thirst out of lack…

Has Progress really been made?

West, east, north, global are not necessarily far away places. They are the System and the way of life that rule and school you also at home, and force you to make a choice.

It’s easy to rise as a stranger.
It’s hard to rise as yourself.

As a stranger you just have to pretend and act the part and they’ll let you through and put you in a place that’s safe for them.

But as yourself you have to persevere; and refuse to compromise if it won’t help your People; and be content to inch your way forward, little by little, you and your world.

It might be slow, it might be painful, but that is true Progress.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

HERDING INTO AN UNKNOWN FUTURE

Last year, President Buhari arrested Nnamdi Kanu, accusing him of urging Easterners to arm and protect themselves.

Today, ARMED herdsmen from our president’s own ethnic group have started falling on those same unarmed Easterners and on other unarmed peoples of Nigeria, killing, maiming, raping and slaughtering them and forcefully taking over their land. The spike in these activities has been all over the news for months, and rumours now abound that there is even a secret bill in the making to legalize the unconstitutional one-sided freedoms of these armed herdsmen.

President Buhari has not arrested or brought to justice any of his own armed kinsmen and fellow herders. Infact on this issue he has been uncharacteristically soft-spoken for an ex-soldier who has severally fumed of how he will use the military might and intelligence of Nigeria to crush any violent or armed groups within the country.

If this is not the cold cynical Conspiracy that it looks like, then it is a case of a president turning out to be more clueless, inefficient and inadequate than he accuses his predecessor of being. Choose one.

The world is moving ahead, leaving Africa behind to continue to wallow in our ancient small-minded animosities. The OAU was founded in 1963, yet Africa is still not united and still not honest with itself. The Biafran War ended in 1970, but Nigerians still don’t trust one another. We are in the fourth republic, but the law and the constitution are still being interpreted selectively. Caught between the opposites of Meritocracy and Federal Character, we have not yet solved the basic puzzle of what form our democracy should take in order to succeed long-term.

The Age of Oil is slowly coming to an End. During these decades of global oil-dependency, certain Non-African oil-producers have used the proceeds of the Oil Trade to catapult their nations from the dregs of primitive rural backwardness into mind-boggling heights of beauty, industry and technology. Today while we pathetically and anxiously monitor the price of oil daily like mindless helpless victims of a system beyond our control, some scientific nations are investing heavily in New Energy, rushing at a feverish pace to hurriedly create a parallel technological space that will eventually replace the fossil-fuel-based technology and infrastructure of yesterday. The economic dynamics of tomorrow will not be kind to Nigeria and Africa.

In the arena of social and cultural engineering, upheavals are rocking the universal human soul which will shape the global social dialectics of tomorrow. Displacement, migration and integration have become issues facing more and more nations and societies. Peoples and ideologies that have always been strangers to one another and seemingly mutually incompatible are now locked in an intense discussion on how to co-exist peacefully within the different contexts of their different social systems and nation-types. Those who bring the solutions will be those who rule the future.

Rapid advances in the synergising of equally dizzying advances in new forms of information and communication technologies keep opening up wider and more customisable possibilities for any person, groups of persons, peoples or nations who really want and are committed to progress – to source out, engineer and implement the solutions they need. Living in the transitional era of the matrix of all these forces, the times could not be more conducive for progressive African minds to finally achieve the leap out of the state and the sad image of a non-producing, non-inventing, self-oppressing, corrupt, beggarly continent to a self-dependent, socially secure, rights-protecting, technologically inventive part-carrier of the future. Knowledge, once the rarest and most sought-after power-broker in the world, has become a cheap commodity easily available to any serious seeker.

In the midst of all this, it is the more primitive problems that continue to bog us down. Ill-health, lack of education, corruption, power-abuse, tribalism, broken infrastructure, the lack of basic amenities, the lack of social security, the lack of a tourism industry, the lack of a culture of incubation of ideas and new technology, issues of human, civil and minority rights, insecurity, and the list goes on. And at the top is the baffling question of the paradox of why Nigeria, an African country, should make herself the crude battleground of two imported world-religions. At these present cross-road where only UNITY gives us a fighting chance to catch up with the global shift in technology and social re-engineering taking place. My favourite song in my village has very simple lyrics – “Idinotu, o bu ya bu ike.”: UNITY IS STRENGTH. When will African “Muslims” and African “Christians” figure out this little trick?

In an integrated world in which diasporan Africans globally are increasingly looking to the motherland as a source of inspiration, a fountain of ancient knowledge, a bedrock of self-respect, and a field of new progressive activity, self-mockingly the continent is momentum-wise worse off now than at the dawn of independence.

And now Fulani herdsmen have joined the fray in expansionistic dimensions last seen only before colonialism, taken up their walking sticks and their new sophisticated firearms and started brutally doing everywhere in the country the very thing the President said he would never condone or allow under his watch. Lailai.

We are watching. Africa is watching. Quietly?

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.