The difference between Africans and other races is
that Africans have not been subjected to long periods of living under organized
civil society and its disciplining laws. Europeans, more or less, have lived
under some form of organized society for two thousand years. The Chinese have lived in organized civil
society for four thousand years. This extended living under civil society
probably accounts for the Chinese being the most law abiding and civilized
persons on earth. The Arabs have lived under organized society for fourteen
In these organized societies, a governmental super
structure systematically made efforts to suppress and or redirect people’s
self-centeredness. While not eliminating self-centeredness, the people are
vigorously socialized to obey laws, and if they do not do so they are
apprehended, tried, and punished. At all
times, imprisonment and death penalty hover over the heads of people in these
well-organized societies. The fear of the hangman makes these people to reduce
their natural self-centeredness and thus obey the laws of their lands.
African nationalists write about their glorious
past histories, but the fact is that until the twentieth century Africa did not
have nation-states with systems of laws that instilled the fear of imprisonment
and death in people. Ghana, Mali and Songhai; the Hausa states, Bornu, Yoruba
states, Ashanti, Benin, Dahomey, Congo, Ganda, Angola, Zulu and other African
groupings, in the past, did not have well-established legislative, executive,
and judicial systems, and well-disciplined military and police forces. Their military was make shift, and not
composed of disciplined fighting men who fought and died at the command of
their leaders. (Compare them to the Roman army. The Roman army was so
disciplined that soldiers would die fighting rather than surrender…if they
surrendered they would be crucified…only the army under Shaka Zulu approximated
this level of discipline.)
The salient point is that the African essentially,
has not lived for long in sustained organized civil states, where
well-established governments and their law and order arms punish him if he
misbehaves. Thus you go to Nigeria or
the Congo, and see people asking you for bribe, right in the public domain. You
know that if there was a functioning government, that arrested these shameless
criminals and shot them right there on the spot, that they would have been
deterred from their disgraceful behaviors.
Many Africans are essentially lawless persons. They have not internalized rigorous laws that
they use to check their natural selfish behaviors. As it were, they are natural
people. Natural persons are not civilized persons. In nature, wild animals prey on each other.
The lion preys on the sheep without fear of punishment. In civilized society people who violate
others rights are punished, even killed.
The difference between natural man and civilized man is that civilized
man lives under the law, whereas natural man does as he pleases without being
checked by laws.
Africans have not learned to live under
impersonally applied punitive laws and disciplining militaries. This is why their natural self-centeredness
has not been redirected to socially useful paths; this is why they are corrupt.
Another factor exacerbating self-centeredness in
Africa is the issue of slavery. Every known human society had practiced
slavery. So the practice of slavery is
not unique to Africans. The difference is that slavery is recent in Africa than
in other areas of the world. Indeed, as we write, slavery still exists in parts
of Africa, such as Sudan and Mauritania.
Although it is very difficult to ascertain when
slavery began in Africa, let us begin with the recorded history of slavery in
Africa. The rulers of Ghana Empire
were on record for selling African slaves to Arabs in the ninth century of our
common era. As a matter of fact, Ghana’s greatness, if such it was, was
predicated on selling Africans to Moslem Arabs in North Africa and the Middle
East, in general. Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, the so-called great West African
empires of antiquity were essentially syndicates for selling African slaves to
Arabs also bought African slaves from the coastal
peoples of east Africa as long ago as the tenth century of our common era. (The
influx of black slaves into the Middle East probably accounts for the mixed
nature of Arabs. Some Arabs look Caucasian, others look as dark as the Dinka of
Sudan, while the majority of them look like American mulattos.)
In the late fourteen hundreds the Portuguese
visited the coast of West Africa. By around 1487 Europeans were given slaves by
some African rulers they had visited. (Those rulers had flocks of slaves that
served them. Therefore, Europeans did not start slavery in Africa; the practice
existed in Africa before the two groups’ fatal encounter in the fifteenth
Subsequent to Christopher Columbus’ discovery of
the Americas in 1492, and the need for workers adapted to the tropical summers
of America, the Atlantic slave trade began in earnest. The British began their North American
experiment in Newfound Land in 1497, but their major settlement in North
America was at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and twelve years later, in 1619,
African slaves were at Jamestown, and subsequently, in most of the United
States of America.
As a matter of historical record, Africans sold
each other into slavery from the ninth century to the nineteenth century, a
period of one thousand years.
This one thousand year era, of selling themselves,
left an indelible mark on the African character. Indeed, Africans got so habituated to
devaluing and selling them selves that, when the Europeans finally decided to
stop slavery, many Africans resisted it. The British, who were not really
interested in colonizing West Africa, in fact colonized Lagos in 1851, largely
to stop the then Oba Kosoko from selling his own people. (See Thomas Pakenham,
The Scramble for Africa).
This writer is an Ibo. Let us, therefore, draw from the Ibo
experience with slavery, in making our points. Beginning in the seventeenth
century (1600s) an Ibo clan, the Arọ began kidnapping other Ibos (Igbo is
the phonetic pronunciation, but we shall stick to Ibos), and selling them into
the Trans Atlantic slave trade.
The Arọ were situated at a river that demarcates Ibo land and Efik land.
Efikland is on the Atlantic coast and the Europeans had established slave ports
in Efik territory, particularly at Calabar.
The Efiks apparently worked out a deal with the Arọ,
for the Arọ and their mercenary soldiers, the Abam and Abriba, to span across
Iboland kidnapping children and selling them into slavery. These people also
fomented wars between villages, and captives from those wars were sold to them
as slaves, and they in turn sold them to the Efik who sold them to the
Europeans at Calabar and Bonny---the chief slave ports in that part of Africa.
The Arọ got very sophisticated in their
nefarious trafficking in human suffering.
Other people invent religions to help answer human existential,
epistemological and ontological questions, and to give solace to their people
filled with fear of finitude and oblivion. Instead, the Arọ invented a
phony religion with which they exploited their own people. These people
presented themselves to Ibos as priest-judges. In most Ibo villages, an Arọ
man would settle and present himself as an impartial priest-judge for
disputants. His Abam and Abriba soldiers
were at hand to enforce his rulings.
The villagers would bring their palavers to the
supposed impartial religious judge. He
officiated, and found one party innocent and the other guilty. The party that lost would be said to be sent
to jail. They would be taken to Arọchukwu
and from there sold into trans-Atlantic slavery. As it were, the Ibo utilized slavery as a
penal mechanism, except that many innocent persons were sold into slavery along
The Ibo brought their more serious matters to Arọchukwu
town for settlement. Suppose two villages were quarrelling regarding who owns
what land, the adult members of the villages would troop to Arọchukwu for
resolution of their dispute. The Arọ
priests would hear their case, and the losers would be put through a tunnel, at
the other end of which, were slave traders who took them away. The devilish
priests would tell the superstitious people that the gods had taken such
persons because they angered them. This way Arọ sold millions of Ibos
into slavery through the early twentieth century.
When finally the British decided to rule Nigeria
(they established Southern Nigerian Protectorate in 1906 and Nigerian
Protectorate in 1914), they put a stop to the Arọ long juju
shenanigan. Thus in 1902 Lord Lugard’s
West African Frontier Army stormed the Long Juju of Arọchukwu, and
scattered the little cowards, who specialized in selling their brothers.
Subsequent to the defeat of the Arọs, the
British proceeded to pacify the surrounding villages and making them amenable
for British rule. Christian Missionaries were brought along, and they pacified
the people of the lower Niger with the bible.
This writer’s village, Ụmụọhịagụ,
was “pacified” during this time, 1902. In that same year, Catholic Holy Ghost
fathers established a mission in his village, St. Michaels. The Church
established a school in the village, and through it, “pacified” the villagers’
minds, converted them to Christianity, and made them amenable to British rule.
Whereas British imperialism was regrettable, it had some positive spillover
effect. The villagers were preliterate, but today, many of them routinely go to
It should be noted that, the majority of what is
now called black Americans came from what is now called Nigeria. Nigeria has
always been the most populated country in Africa, and it is not surprising that
most of the slaves come from there. Today, one out of every four Africans lives
in Nigeria. It has been estimated that at least twenty-five percent of the
slaves who came to the United States came from Nigeria. (Any black American one
runs into could be related to one, and one doesn’t even know it.)
A people who initiated wars to capture their own
people so as to sell them into slavery, and kidnapped children to sell them
into slavery inevitably became depraved; they become a people lacking in social
interested feeling. Africans became a
morally bankrupt, and degenerate people.
This is a sad fact; however, a disease must be correctly diagnosed
before it can be healed.
Imagine what life was like in slavery period
Africa? A child went out of his compound
to go play with other children; he was kidnapped, and sold into slavery. (See
the Autobiography of Gustavo Equiano, an Ibo boy captured at the age of ten by
Arọ and Abam and sold into slavery in the 1740s).
Life must have been very nasty, brutish, and short
in Hobbesian Africa. People must have lived
in incredible fears.
The Ibos tend to have a high rate of paranoia, and
this writer hypothesizes that, this probably was due to the insecurity they
lived with for a thousand years. (This writer for several years worked in the
mental health profession. The few persons with delusion disorder, a rare mental
disorder, he saw include two Ibo women. Schizophrenia, paranoid type and
paranoid personality disorder are relatively common, but not pure delusion
disorder. In schizophrenia the patient
hallucinates: hears voices and may see things that are not there; in paranoid
personality, the patient feels inordinately inadequate and pretends to be
important, and fears being demeaned by other persons, and generally feels
fearful and insecure. In delusion disorder the patient feels some of the
symptoms of schizophrenia, but does not hallucinate in any of the five senses.
There are several types of delusional disorder, including persecutory,
grandiose, erotomanic, jealous etc. Both
women suffered from erotomanic delusion, one believed that she was married to
Jesus, and the other believed that a very important person is in love with her,
even though he does not know that she exists. In both cases, both feel
inordinately inadequate, and worthless, and inferior, and seek compensatory
superiority through attachment to a famous person. Of course, they are questing
after false importance, and their cure lies in them accepting their real selves
as good enough, and stops questing after a false grandiose self-concept and its
Because the Ibo culture is achievement oriented,
and nobody is accepted who has not achieved anything socially considered
significant, Ibos tend to want to become important and work very hard to attain
external goals. They tend to be very achievement oriented, and have
accomplished a lot in the short time they were exposed to western civilization.
For example, most intelligent young persons in this writer’s village, now go to
universities. Unfortunately, this desire
for external success has a negative side effect. Ibos tend to have personality
disorders, particularly narcissistic and paranoid. Here people believe that who
they are is unimportant, inferior and worthless, and want to become important
through external success. The narcissist often exploits other people, if in so
doing; he attains his goal of social and existential importance. Narcissists find it easy to use other
persons, if in so doing; they seem to be very important persons. Many Ibo
narcissists, and antisocial personalities engage in 419 criminal activities, to
become rich, so as to seem important to people in their villages. These
criminals are amoral and remorseless, and steal from the public, just so that
they obtain the means to gratify their vanity.
Paranoid personalities tend to fear being demeaned,
that is, being perceived as socially unimportant. They are very sensitive to
how other people perceive them, and if they suspect that they are being seen as
unimportant they quarrel with the person perceived as degrading them. They fear
being degraded, belittled, humiliated, disgraced, insulted, and criticized;
they fear anything that makes them seem inferior in other persons’ estimation.
They want to seem superior at all times. In fact, they take on a different persona,
a false big self because that would seem to make them seem important.
The term paranoia is Greek for taking on a
different self, one that makes one seem important. Since it is not who one is, and one wants it
to be who one is not, one is deluded. In pursuit of their imaginary
superiority, they tend to be tense and anxious, in a word neurotic. They need to relax and accept their real
selves…whatever that is.
What is the real self? Is it only our tangible bodies and their
epiphenomenal thinking/mind? Or does it include our assumed spiritual selves?
Is man more than his body? What is man,
anyway? Do you know? Do you know who you
are? I do not. Welcome to the world of philosophy. And welcome to spurious
western psychology, that takes whatever is its current reductionism as the
truth of man. We have gone from Psychoanalytic reductionism to behaviorism, and
now neuroscience, all superficial nonsense waiting for intelligent thinkers to
For our present purposes, the conditional accepting
culture of the Ibos, tend to predispose them to neurosis, and, as Carl Rogers
noted in his Client Centered Therapy, the cure for this individual and social
pathology is to accept people in an unconditionally positive manner. As Freud
observed, mental health is correlated with the ability to work, love, and Jesus
adds, forgive those who did us wrong. Whatever encourages people to care for
one another, to love and forgive themselves, accept their real selves and cease
questing after false self images, gives them inner peace and joy, and,
therefore, is good for them).
Because slavery had so cheapened African life, when
fairly successful men died, many slaves were buried alive with them. And this is not some ancient story that could
be denied. It happened well into the twentieth century when finally Christian
missionaries put a stop to it.
What kind of people would sell their own people
into slavery? They must be self
centered, and callous people. I submit that the one thousand year era of
slavery reinforced self-centered behavior in Africans. It made them callous and
inhumane people. It made them see human life as worth nothing. They so devalued
human life, that they sacrificed people to imaginary gods.
Please let us not deny facts. In my very village
are Osus, slaves, who were to be sacrificed to our village gods and / or sold
into slavery, before the white man put a stop to that nonsense. Today these
folks live among us, and are very much discriminated against, as blacks are
discriminated against in America.
My last name, Osuji means god’s slave. If you like,
my ancestors were dedicated servants of the gods. However, they had the highest
status in their village for they were the intercessors between the gods and
human beings, and also mediated between human beings conflicts. They were a positive kind of slave, sort of
like the role of Samuel and Levites in the Jewish Bible? They were not bought
slaves; they were selected from the Diala, the freemen of the village; they were
selected for their role because they were perceived to be very spiritual, and
were subsequently dedicated to the gods to lead the people in their spiritual
activities. In Hindu terms, they were the Brahmin class. (See the Bagavad Gita
and other Hindu holy books like Mahabrahta, Ramayana, Veda, Upanishads,
Patanjali’s Yoga, Shankara and Ramanuja’s Vedanta writings and more
contemporary teachings like that of Ramakrishna, and his disciple, Vivikananda
Why is it necessary to reopen the old wound of
slavery, to bring this skeleton hidden in Africans’ closets into the open? We
know that many Africans would rather other people not know about their open
secrets. They would rather present a positive picture of themselves to the
world. So why dredge this old sore?
(Some Africans will probably hate me for stating these ugly truths about them.)
It is necessary to revisit this sordid history,
because contemporary African rulers seem to have the mentality of their slave
selling ancestors. Africa’s present leaders do not care for their people’s well
being; they care only for themselves. Africa’s leaders, like their fathers,
sell their own people, albeit in a different form. (The musical genius, Fela
Kuti said much of what we are saying, in his music).
Contemporary African leaders, who cart Africa’s
wealth to the West while their people die from drinking germs infested water,
are slave traders and have no human feeling.
Sani Abacha, Mobute Sese Seko, and other African leaders are no
different from their slave trading ancestors.
They are as despicable as their fathers before them were. They do not
deserve any human beings’ respect. In
fact, the entire world should have nothing but contempt for corrupt African
Africans, like narcissists every
where like to be respected, so it would hurt them if their false prides and
vanities are injured, from not being respected, because of their iniquitous
behaviors in not caring for their people’s interests.
Let us hasten to state that, there have always been
a few Africans who were publicly minded.
A few Africans struggled against the slave trade. An Oba of Benin,
Oruware (?) cut off all ties with Portugal, when he realized that the
Portuguese were primarily interested in buying his people. Yes, there were always some heroic and
courageous Africans, but the run of the mill African, seems depraved and
totally degenerated by slavery and corruption.
No African wants to hear about his ancestors’
depraved activities during slavery times.
Instead, they point two accusing fingers at Europeans. What they do not see is the three fingers
pointing right back at them, telling them that, whereas, others are to be
blamed for what happens to us, that we are more responsible for what happens to
us than others.
It is immature to blame other people for ones fate.
Ones fate is in ones hands. Those
foreigners, who tell Africans that they are not responsible for their people
practicing slavery, are Africa’s worst enemies.
They baby us. I have in mind Walter Rodney, who tells us, about “How
Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” Of course, the dependent economy of Africa
means that Africa’s raw materials are sent to Europe, the so-called Metropolis,
and Europeans’ benefit from that, but the question is: why don’t Africans stop
that practice? Why talk about what the
Center does to the Periphery, why not do something to reverse it?
(These days, some misguided Africans are running
around demanding reparation from the West, for the damage done to Africa during
slavery times. First of all, if they
were to be given such money, they would not share it with other Africans, nor
would they devote it to economic development; they would spend it on
themselves. What do you expect of thieves?
More importantly, it is Africans and white persons, who need to pay
black Americans reparation, for the evil we conjointly did to them.
Actually, if black Americans were given cash
reparation, they would destroy themselves with alcohol, as American Indians are
apparently doing. No adult ever deserves free money from other persons. What needs to be done is for Africa and white
America to set some money aside for the education of black Americans, so that
the denizens of the ghettos are finally given the opportunity to join
scientific civilization, and contribute to the world of science and technology,
rather than kill them in senseless drive by shootings. Washington DC, an
essentially black town, is the murder capital of the world. Black on black
crimes must be reduced, if not eliminated, if the people are to make some
headway in life. And higher education is the best way to accomplish that goal.)
It should be noted that those Africans who were
given the opportunity to do something about neocolonialism, like their fathers
before them, colluded with Europeans and sold their brothers birthright.
Africans were affected by one thousand years of
trading in human beings. I, therefore, submit that their characters were warped
by this outrageous traffic in human lives. (Their partners in this iniquity,
white Americans, were also warped. Talk to many white Americans, and assess
whom you are talking to: amoral sociopath. As Desmond Tutu observed, we live in
a just and moral universe, and the white man must pay a price for what he did
to black men. At present, he is too
arrogant, too egotistical to acknowledge his evil. The fool swaggers around as
the most powerful person on earth when, in fact, his civilization is on a
self-destructive path. The Asians are about to replace the haughty coxcomb. The
white man must ask black people to forgive him, or else he will know no peace.
We shall not dwell on whites in this essay. See the Autobiography of Malcolm X,
The Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon, and Albert Memmi, the Colonizer and
the Colonized, for an indictment of the White man).
Africans’ warped characters are what are manifested
in their present practice of unbridled corruption. African leaders actually go
into politics because of what they can get from public office not because of
what they want to do for their people.
As I pointed out on a book on African leadership, a
good leader is a person who is identified with the people’s plight. A true leader perceives the suffering of his
people, and posits visions of what can be done to alleviate that
suffering. A genuine leader mobilizes
human and material resources in pursuit of his vision for the public good. He cares for the public as much as he cares
for himself. He is social centered and
not self-centered. He is generally an
empowered individual, has high self-confidence and positive self-esteem. He
exists to work for common interests, and would rather die, than work only for
his personal interests.
However, it must be made crystal clear, that all
persons begin out life self-centered, and that social centeredness is an
achieved status. It is learning,
influenced by religion and other socializing forces that transform self
centered man into social centered man. On earth, we are born selfish, and good
civilization makes us selfless. If man is by nature selfless, as Rousseau and
liberal environmentalists claim, it must be in a different, and opposite world,
perhaps, what the various religions call heaven? The man we see with our naked eyes is
Ask president Obasanjo what he has done for Nigeria
lately. In Nigeria, unemployment is at over fifty percent and the shameless
head of state jets all over the world, and stays in the most expensive
hotels. The income per capita of Nigeria
is less than a thousand dollars a year, some estimate, less than a dollar a
day, an amount that would not pay for a night at the type of plush hotels Mr.
Obasanjo stays during his frequent visits to America and Europe. (This writer
once saw him at Beverly Wilshire Hotel, in a presidential suit, and the cost
was several thousand dollars per night.) This man is a slave trader, pure and
simple. We must deny him the dignity he craves from shoveling around in hideous
robes. We must put the man in khaki pants and put him to work. Only a leader
who creates jobs for his people should deserve their respect. (Obasanjo’s robes
are actually of Arab origin, though he may not know it. If the idea is pride in
African culture, well then, Mr. Obasanjo should not be wearing the slave buying
Arab man’s clothes. Anyway, the logic of industrial work determines what is
appropriate attire, so suits will do for modern industrial leaders, thank you).