We need to exploit African Traditional Culture to replace failing Western values, says Anikwe



That Africans have abandoned the wholesome values enshrined in African traditional cultures in favour of received western ones without a corresponding understanding or application of their essences is no longer news. That it is responsible for the continent’s poor performance in all sectors of national life is also well taken. In reflecting on Black History Month in February, Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), Sir Ferdinand Anikwe, told ANOTE AJELUOROU that a return to the roots is the first step towards Africa’s self-recovery and social harmony

How can the black man begin a process of self-recovery in the face of globalization? What role can CBAAC play in that direction??

My view as the Director-General in a culture parastatal is that we can recolonise the Western imperialists. It is not by going to challenge them with the force of arms in this present stage of technological development but by using our culture to draw their psyche, control their psychology and be able to persuade the world towards our own direction. It is by carefully mapping out our cultural programmes, systematizing the processes of cultural development. We must package our drama, our dances and our movies in a manner that would show the world the best we can offer. We know that we are more sophisticated by cultural and historical endowments more than the British, more than the entire Western Europe and North America.

From history, there have been cases of progress in terms of culture, entertainment, in terms of tourism potentials, etc. All we need to do is harness all these; we are so much blessed with the waters around us, the oceans, the beautiful scenery across the whole continent. What we need is to go down into our history to rediscover the way we used to do things. I showed you an 11-storey building that was constructed in my town, Oghe, in Enugu in the 17th century. It was destroyed by the British colonial administrators in 1914. It was clear that British policy destroyed nearly everything in Africa. We are now saying that there are ways by which our people stayed together, beautiful ways of administrative structure that we instituted before the white men came. We need to go back to those things.

But how can you go back to the old ways without being termed primitive considering that Africa’s past wasn’t always rosy?

We have gone round all the traditional institutions in Nigeria trying to unravel how we can use culture to fight corruption and there is something that is keeping Nigeria which many people do not know. The actual Nigerian is completely subservient and compliant with the cultural norms of his own community led by the traditional ruler. But when he mixes it up by coming to an urban setting, he tries to acquire western civilization and laws. So, it is a mixture of all types of confusion because at the urban centre, they use western culture to mediate. Yet western culture has failed. Western culture came with its vices, including corruption. In our round tour of the traditional institutions, we found that all our people are totally submissive to our culture when they come home.

What we are doing so far is beyond the advocacy level. I am championing the revitalization of our culture. Each time I address any group, they are truly excited. At the Pan-African Cultural Congress, we agree that we need to liberate the minds of leadership from the culture of imperialism. Psychologically, our people have been colonized. We need the indigenization of our philosophy, to build schools that will liberate us from this imperialism.

We need to identify the books written by our people knowingly or unknowingly on how our culture can impact on the whole world. All we need do is bring a team of scholars and then discus how to rediscover these cultural principles that have kept us together at the community level from straying from what is right to do evil. It is necessary to let the people know that an invisible, foreign hand has stopped us from our culture.

We have been yearning to bring these ideas together, identify the good processes and beautiful norms which guided our society. From infancy, the culture predicts the dos and don’ts that help everyone to behave responsibly in the community. When Obasanjo was the president of Nigeria, he could quarrel with anyone, but when he comes home he submits to the norms of Yoruba people by respecting his elders, for instance. And so we now called the traditional institutions, Alaafin of Oyo, I visited Obong of Calabar, Obi of Onitsha and they are so interested in making the people come to their roots as the only basis of development. We have borrowed all types of foreign culture and have only succeeded in causing confusion.

We will organise conferences and take a lot of materials abroad to promote our culture all over the world. The Yoruba man prostrates when he sees an elderly man. No matter how rich you are in my community, as long as the traditional ruler knows you to be a thief in that community, he will never give you a chieftaincy title but when you make money outside and you do things for the community, he can give you a chieftaincy title because he feels you are hardworking.

There is a collective conscience of the entire people at the communal level, with the ancestors embedded in everything we do in the community and at the shrine. If you take the communal oath, you will die as a result of a crisis of conscience. The psychology we inherited from our forefathers is still there. All we need do is to discover our uniting cultural elements and come up with what works in our traditional systems so that the whole world will learn from Africa. We just need to imbibe this through our curriculum development for our children in primary and secondary schools

How do you intend to shake off offshoots of colonism like the two foreign religions in the drive towards a return to the values you are proposing?

Churches, mosques and even our own government officers are clamping down on our culture. Culture holds the highest form of entertainment. The problem we have is the confusion created by the colonialism and foreign religions. There is uniformity of agreement among all the cultures. In Ghana, I found out that many principles like ours hold sway. All we need to do is to rediscover them, itemize them and make them important in our curriculum development process. The future of Nigeria will be better Nigeria in spite of all the disruptiveness of colonialism.

Now we have people who are sophisticated, lawyers that already identify with the Alternative Dispute Resolution system. When the conflict is resolved, you go home happily. But if you take anybody to court, nothing on earth will make him like or relate with you again. If he has poison he could kill you. But if you come home and they resolve the matter in our traditional way which we call Alternative Dispute Resolution or African Dispute Resolution, everybody goes home happy. Peace-building and conflict resolution are some of the areas we can colonise Europe and America. Conflict resolution that makes you friends again rather than going to court and killing yourselves. There are potentials of re-colonizing the Western world.

That is why our people refuse to take an oath if they are accused of an offence. There is a collective conscience of the entire people, ancestors embedded in everything we do in the community and the shrine. If you take the oath, you will die as a crisis of conscience. The psychology which we inherited from our fore-fathers is still there. All we need to do is to discover our uniting cultural element and come up with our traditional … so that the whole world will learn from Africa. We just need to imbibe this through our curriculum development for our children in primary and secondary schools. Many information hidden in the … and we need to unravel them. There was a work I read where Professor Apia, a sophisticated scholar from Ghana was talking about the intellectual community. The argument centres on our being able to use our scholarly skill to rediscover ourselves.

What programmes do you have for the year?

We have programmes like the seminar we would have on traditional architecture. We want to show the world our traditional architecture. There has been advancement in our traditional architecture and we are going to showcase that at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria before the end of the year. We have children’s programme where we want to catch them young. I was telling you that our curriculum would liberate us from imperialism where children will want to respect elders and our dress pattern will reflect our Africanness. There is a programme we are planning to have where we want all Africans in Diaspora to come home and it is going to be one of the most important tourist centre ever founded on earth.

Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

  • Jane Gee-Akwada

    Sir, your thoughts and suggestions are truly steps in the right direction. A person can only come to full value when he or she knows who he or she is. This is what makes one authentic and a solution provider. In like manner, a nation that only lives on borrowed culture can never come to full value. We certainly need to retrace our steps and find that which makes us African and embrace this. This is what would give us a ‘clear voice’ that would be respected by all. As a people, we place a high premium on respect of our elders but this has now been eroded by modernization that in reality is no true ‘modernization’ but retrogression. This change that is so necessary can be started in our homes…mothers getting their children to eat and value our traditional meals, the wearing of African prints in whatever styles we choose etc. In our schools, our traditional values need to be packaged as ‘Character Education’ classes, bringing back our traditional manners and greetings. We have thrown away what should have united us as a people but instead chosen to become a cheap copy of what appears to be dividing us.

  • amador kester

    Good,, minus all the fetish practices, rituals and secrecy and the last one so characterized the african that he hid and lost his historic feats in science,technology,astronomy,,smithing,,etc. I know a ceremony where african cults exhibit openly their knowledge of writing,maths,,sciences etc.Culture does not just mean putting on tarred feathers and hopping kalangu dance. It also includes science,technology,writing etc. By the way how many books have this centre produced in african sciences,technology,writings,,religions,philosophy,medicine and herbs,language links,meaning of names ,,value systems etc? Thats very important index of its seriousness and relevance