Honouring heritage, forging futures

Tony Abolo

The topic broaches on a constant philosophical question, an existential question, which we must all answer as individuals, as organizations or as nations.

The existential question is stated thus –Where am I? Where am I coming from? Where am I going? To really take one’s location and bearing, one must ask – where am I coming from, a heritage question and where am I going, a question about our future directions.

Asking and answering these questions would determine our progress in life. At a cultural level or simply looking at a community life, have you ever seen a village of only elderly old men? Or a village of only children and youth? Or a village of just middle age persons? No, Never.

There is always a mix of the newly born, children and youth, the grown-ups and adults, and then the old and elderly. This should send us an important lesson when we are vexed with the Nigerian condition as we tend to think that, only young persons should lead and there should not be old or elderly people in government.

In actual introspection you will find that the young and youth have vigour and vibrancy and bold ideas, the middle age have capacity, while the elderly have wisdom and guidance to offer.

We need everybody. It is how to get the right mix and at what points and areas do we deploy individuals; that is the issue. This is a significant point to be made as we grapple and bungle along the road of nation building.

Every nation is in need of the wisdom of the ancients. What is history came to think of it? It is an accumulation of events, episodes, exploits, mistakes and errors, achievements, noble acts, despicable and sordid acts all become the values we call history and from them we distill wisdom and lessons from the past which guide us not to make the same errors and tragic events of yesterday.

It does not mean there would be no new errors. They could be different, but they would never be in the same magnitude. For example can we go back to idolatory as was practiced by the ancients? Can we go back to slavery or sacrificing twins or even cause a second civil war? This is how the future escapes from the tragedies of the past.This is how the adults build on history and the errors of the past in order to have a brighter vision to create a better present and a brighter future.

But then in that past, in that history is the core of the past which is HERITAGE. This is why the study of history and historiography and philosophy are important branches of study. Come to think of it, is there any discipline that you never encounter the history and philosophy of that discipline?
Be it medicine or history or astronomy or mathematics? Until you do, you will never understand the origins of the discipline and the ideas earlier formulated which got changed with more modern and better ideas. And as we go along we forge newer concepts and discard useless, valueless and also old fashioned ideas. All human beings in history are conscious of the principle on the Bible, that there is nothing new under the heavens.

Since the earth was made, the sun rises on the East and sets in the West. Has anything changed? On December 31st and on January 1st, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Any real change? Nothing, so why all the fuss about Happy New Year, Happy New Month? We must learn that with age, lies calmness and wisdom.This leads me to dig deeper on the subject matter of HERITAGE and the depth and challenges of our African Minds.

To understand the traditional African mind and to find a meeting point between it and contemporary values, concepts and ideas, requires that we explore the African mind, less from the purely religious point of view, which the contemporary mind is not, as today’s thought processes are much more secularly and scientifically oriented.

The African mind that I am referring to, explores the ingenuity of the past and in it is the key to remaking our future, if we must stay true to our culture and identity.

Sadly it was there that the psychological disaster occurred due to colonial intrusion into our learning and civilization. The entire fabric of our cultural heritage underwent a destabilization, debasement and destruction. Even with the colonialists long gone, we are unable to objectify the crisis of mind control and identify the destruction we were thrown into.

Hence we seem unable as yet to create the values that should recharge us for a genuine African progress. The bug is our epigenetic condition. The first thing then to resolve is to DECOLONIZE our African minds.

We couldn’t have been put it better than how Professor Ali Mazrui framed it in his theses on “Cultural Engineering in East Africa” which is that, we have to overcome our four challenges – namely:How to indigenous what was foreign.
How to idealise what was indigenous; How to nationalize what was sectional and ethnic andHow to emphasise what was African.

The tendency to disparage anything African and indigenous is a grave error. For us to build the great future we desire, we have to revisit our policies, our Arts, or economy our social cohesion, our institutions, and our management capacities in order to rediscover the authentic African mind.

You all recall the great Othman Dan Fodio caliphate, the El Kanemi and Borno Empire, the Old Oyo Empire, the Old Benin Empire, king Jaja of Opobo, Nana of Koko, Chaka the Zulu of South Africa, Old Timbuctu-Mali and Songhai Empire – these all were the products of the African mind.

The mind that built Empires, the great moats in Benin, the Pyramids in Egypt. We had a glorious past and history. Colonialism and other people’s ideas and cultures caused our African mind to atrophy.

But we must resuscitate the earlier heights and innovate our minds from its decline, through a well-crafted program of research into Africa’s philosophical and idiomatic thoughts and their understandings.
We have to reset our younger generations in all of these tasks through lateral and generative thinking.

The purpose of all these is not only to recover our hidden myths, mysteries and a rich past, but to set ourselves in genuine freedom from the imposed western ideas, including other strange, foreign cultural ideas in order that through abstractions we can conceptualize, re-examine ideas, restructure older ideas, reject ideas intelligently, and be able to reshape NEW IDEAS, ideas that would and could create modern day visions and values that can remake and generate an Africa that will and must contribute her comparative share for human development and human progress, most mindful that that is how we can build the future of our dreams.It is this new structure that would be the environment that you here, your children can fashion a new African order and civilization. Is it impossible?

No. Everything is in the human mind. We have the challenge of unlearning wrong values and ideas that are alien to our identity as Africans. Our architecture, our medicine, our administrations, our style of governance, our social relationships, our contacts in international relations, our trade patterns, our manufactures, our productivity all will become the new Africa. That is the world will be talking about having noticed that Africa, has as it were, come into its own. As we today look at China, India, Taiwan, Japan, people would also begin to talk of Africa.Civilizations come and go.

There was a time we once talked about Greece and its philosophers, Plato, Aristotle. We once spoke of Egyptians, the Pharaohs, we once spoke of England and its colonial powers. We once spoke of America and Russia hegemony.

Today, that is sweeping into a rising China in the far East. In your hands, lies the African age, the Africa of tomorrow. That is the future that is in your hands to build from today.That future for us as nations, as individuals, as organizations is to Re-examine the past, consolidate and optimize, what is viable and valuable, rectify errors and envision a brighter future through scenario perspectives. And nothing stops us from envisioning 50 years from now. With today 10T (Internet of Things) chatgpt, Artificial Intelligence – The future is for us to remake in any shape or form we consider optimal. It is the age of Africa Renaissance.

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