I know this will draw the ire of many African people who think that by throwing African literature at the faces of African students it would make them believe in themselves and by believing in themselves they will be able to build a Wakanda. It is obvious that what is speaking forth such argument is vanity born of inferiority complex. And inferiority complex is just one of the many complexes, and there are many types of complexes and a complex is a complex no matter the shape or form it takes. Furthermore it is imperative to note that a complex is a mental disorder. It’s a disease of the mind, a blemish in the personality, and sometimes I feel, like HIV, it has no cure.

So wherever and whenever it is seen it should be treated as such, both in terms of seeking to cure it, suppress it where it has no cure, and seeking to stop its spread from person to person. Whether one is suffering from inferiority complex or superiority complex, they are both alike and the same. The only difference is the condition this diseased person finds himself in. Let the man suffering from inferiority complex gain what he thinks makes others superior to him, he switches to superiority complex. Being diseased, he can’t be free under any of life’s circumstances from one form of complex or the other. And it is such complexes that lead to such arguments being put forth. Let the African who thinks that African literature would enable the African man develop the African continent into a Wakanda that is superior to other nations of the earth, he will become conceited when once that is achieved. He will start suffering from a superiority complex. Meaning he was never striving for the betterment of Africa but for the superiority of his little self.

Before I go on, it is good to point out that my experience has been of Nigerians and not of Africans in general, but since the things I speak against are coloured here in Nigeria as African movements, I speak about it as African. So the point of view I address may not be held by Africans outside Nigeria. Apologies to the Africans to whom this does not concern.

When I talk of western literature I mean academic works, intellectual works, literary works, histories, biographies and the likes. But with special emphasis on biographies and histories. But others are also of immense importance. So my not putting them in context doesn’t make them any less important.

So what is the basic reason for emphasising western biographies? It’s simple. The historical characters of western civilisations built world powers and foremost economies, far better countries than others that most African people are dying to live there. I mean dying literally. In fact, as an African when you get a call from some of these travel agencies informing you that from your public profile you are qualified to migrate to one of the western countries as a skilled migrant (or whatever they call it), they never ask you if you are interested in traveling. They rightly are certain that you must of course want to leave Africa for a better world and so they approach you with this air that your dream has come true. Look at your football leagues. Who wants to play in Africa? All the little children I’ve spoken to who dream of becoming a footballer dream of playing in Europe. We can go on the whole day talking about how superior the western world is to Africa. That would be a waste of time for it’s all too glaring.

On the other hand the historical characters of African countries only built what someone described as “sheet whole” countries, a statement that apart from being vulgar was correct. So backward have we found ourselves that even when movie producers want to make a futuristic African civilisation they called it Wakanda. Do you know what waka is in Nigeria? Waka is to trek, that is if pronounced the way it is pronounced in Wakanda with the stress on the second syllable (or is it the first)? And if pronounced another way, waka is an insult to one’s mother. But let’s go with the first. So the futuristic city of Wakanda is probably the land of the trekkers, or waka and die. Speaking of futuristic resilience, right? So glorious.

Jokes apart. In a case where you want the betterment of the African continent, which set of these historical characters would you choose for African students to learn from? What a rational and complex free person would choose is easy to tell.

Yeah, Africa has some historical characters with flashes of excellence here and there of course, but why did they fail, unlike their western counterparts in building world powers and foremost economies? Well because somehow they didn’t have what it takes to do so. Why in the spirit of vanity and in the mental disorder of complexes would people then say that it would be better to present such icons, who as good as they may be as individuals, have failed in building great nations with great people?

One foremost icon in the African continent is Thomas Sankara of Upper Volta, later named Burkina Faso. I learnt that the meaning of Burkina Faso is land of the upright. But this fine leader was assassinated by a fellow citizen of this land of the upright. How upright was that? I have seen and interacted with African people who are so crazy about this guy. They say if it had not been that he was assassinated he would have made Burkina Faso such a great count nation. I saw that as just one of those “only if” fantasies.

But why was he assassinated? It is claimed that his next in command was moved by the French to assassinate him. Granted, but I do believe that he also lacked tact and understanding about human nature. He was up and doing, fighting and performing wonders before all the people, winning their admiration. He took the face of all the reforms going as well as the face of the revolution against the French. Such things I believe were not free from ostentatious and self-aggrandising displays. My! Was that wise?

Here’s a little advice from a western counterpart that may have saved his life, and, if his ideals of a great nation were right and practicable as people claim, could have birthed a great nation too.

You see here the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin? He saw even in much smaller issues the wisdom of putting himself out of sight and never doing anything that would raise the envy of men in the slightest degree, but Thomas Sankara went the other way entirely, lifting himself up above his fellows and being the face of the whole show he put up. By this he attracted so much envy that I suppose if he had not been killed by his immediate deputy, he could have been killed by another deputy. And all that without the instigation of the French.

Did you know that Sankara had his own quotes too? Of course he did. Here’s a quote of his:

In the end madness even in a supposed right course didn’t lead him anywhere and didn’t invent any future. You can see why one set of historical icons was bound to build world powers and foremost economies while the other was bound to build a series of poverty capitals. Though it be a quote I can’t see much wisdom in it as “the madmen of yesterday” remain undefined so we can’t judge by ourselves if their actions indeed qualifies them to fall in the ranks of mad men and if these same actions that qualifies them as madmen enable us to see clearly today. So it is a vague statement that we can’t judge if or not makes for a sound utterance. Such utterance can only produce in its hearers a form of fanaticism and not rationalism. Even when his saying seemed to have some semblance of rightness it wasn’t encapsulated in the spirit of reason and temperance.

I believe lack of caution is what made Sankara and his dream to be short lived. Such reckless heroism is not a good example for African students. In teaching African students these things they learn that in doing right you’d be killed. And this produces cowards not doers and achievers. Rather, what they ought to learn is that in doing good you need tact to succeed not mere fervour. And my! I tell you that there is an endemic of cowardice in Nigeria. And the supposed bold ones still get killed or harmed for lack of tact thus creating more cowards. This approach of Thomas Sankara to nation building will only result in churning out cowards like a popcorn machine. Today of course he has only succeeded in making himself a hero, but his dreams remain defeated, his nation remains backward, and his legacy is a legacy of fright.

It is worth a brief note that caution is not paralysing fear. When we read in the Bible and other places about the wise being cautious, it does not in any way refer to paralysing fear. It is simply tact. The fear that leads to inaction is a paralysing fear, but caution is entertaining fear and taking all necessary precautions to reduce risk of the occurrence of that which is feared while still ensuring that the right action which one intends to take is done. Like in the case of Franklin, it was a right action to pursue useful projects, but when pursuing those useful projects brought envy, he took the precautions required to keep envy away.

Also African literature hasn’t formed the average Nigerian into a proper citizen. There seems to be no innate knowledge about the importance of the rule of law and the sense of societal justice. Whatever things we see that are committed to justice have been borrowed from the west whose literature we place less importance on compared to African literature. The laws of the land, the judiciary, system of governance, educational system, etc. The only difference is that being handled by people who have spent their lives consuming African literature, they’ve corrupted everything.

The average Nigerian, and that is the vast majority of us, don’t know the importance of the punishment of wrong and the reward of right, something that is so emphasised in the lives of icons of the west. People still use silly sentiments in judgment. You’d hear things like, “leave it for God,” “let go and let God,” “let peace reign,” “forgive and forget,” and the likes, giving sagacious and intellectual armour to ruinous notions while the wicked are going unpunished. All which things are an expression of cowardice for the coward is afraid to pursue the cause of justice for he lacks the tact to safely do so he says he’s leaving it for God. Having no good example of the quest for justice in African literature, to promote these things would be seen as promoting vengefulness. But they who acquaint themselves with icons of western literature would see that there is a clear difference between an earnest devotion to justice and bitter vengefulness. And great nations are built on the rock and pillar of justice.

Where shall development come from when the societal incentives are to reward the wicked in bounteous pardons and to teach the righteous to be docile in the face of evil. I realised the importance of having a national sense of justice from western literary contents when I watched the acting of a speech by Fredrick Douglass. Devotion to a sense of justice is one of the major reasons why the western countries have been developing. No one thrives when within our sphere of influence we let evil go unpunished and your African literature won’t teach you such things. They’d rather do well in teaching you how to play with words and amuse yourself thereby, while some even speak suggestively about consulting babalawos, using these in children fables. These having the effect of drawing children to heathenism, a thing plaguing Africa so badly. Africa shall not be free from ills until she stops transacting with malign spirits which can be achieved by those engaging in repenting from it, or they be plucked out one by one like weed. Yet our literature entertains such injurious things.

Now, one of the reasons people of Africa are so against western literature is the sinful resentments against whites. But that is why almost anywhere you go, blacks are usually backwards compared to their western counterparts. From all the nations of Africa to Haiti, to Jamaica, and what have you. The whites did hold slaves and the slaves were treated very wickedly in some places, but who sold these slaves to them? And the same whites are the ones who abolished slave trade and took drastic measures to effectively put an end to it. And this contrary to the wishes of Africans who sold slaves. The unfounded and indeed sinful resentment against the white race has kept Africans and African nations backwards.

We can read about Oscar Micheaux and it is easy to mark his excellence as a black in the midst of whites. We know he’s the first owner of a movie producing company, the first ever owned by a person of colour. But what made him such a success to wonder at in a world where many blacks of his time failed to succeed? Here is what he had to say:

“Another thing that added to my unpopularity, perhaps, was my persistent declarations… that if white people could possess such nice homes, wealth and luxuries, so in time, could the colored people. “You’re a fool”, I would be told, and then would follow a lecture describing the time-worn long and cruel slavery, and after the emancipation, the prejudice and hatred of the white race, whose chief object was to prevent the progress and betterment of the negro. This excuse for the negro’s lack of ambition was constantly dinned into my ears from the Kagle corner loafer to the minister in the pulpit…

“… It is true, very true indeed, that the American negro does not receive all he is entitled to under the constitution. Volumes could be filled with the many injustices he has to suffer, and which are not right before God and man; yet, when it is considered that other races in other countries, are persecuted even more than the negro is in parts of the United States, there should be no reason why the American negro allow obvious prejudice to prevent his taking advantage of opportunities that surround him.

“I have been called a “radical,” perhaps I am, but for years I have felt constrained to deplore the negligence of the colored race in America, in not seizing the opportunity for monopolizing more of the many million acres of rich farm lands in the great northwest.”

In most of the rest of book he lamented how Negros missed opportunities he took hold of on account of hatred for the white race and not wanting to interact with them. See how a little understanding on his part made him a huge success which others denied themselves. He found so many opportunities interacting with the whites while others missed it all on grounds of prejudice. As these things were playing out there, we too are denying ourselves progress and betterment by refusing to expose our students to western literature. This sinful resentment against the white race is costing us much. I recommend his book to every reader of this article. It’s titled, “THE CONQUEST” by Oscar Micheaux. It’s free in the public domain. You can download yours from Gutenberg.org.

No civilisation grows having contempt or resentment for other civilisations. America is a great country today, but they didn’t live in contempt of other civilisations. Till this day they teach Greek and Latin in their schools. In the biography of a number of people I’ve seen how parents endeavoured that their children learn Latin or Greek with so much energy, or maybe even both.

Not only do they teach them languages, they also consume their literature, histories, and biographies. Till date Greek names are still used for technical and scientific nomenclature even for things discovered in the west, and Latin remains the language of the law. If they had contempt or resentment for the Romans or Greeks, they’d never go so far as to teach these languages, literatures, etc. to their young and they’ll not use their languages in their sciences and law. And this practice has been of great help in their all round development.

What if the west say, “we shouldn’t teach our children Latin and Greek language, literature, and we shouldn’t use their language in anything?” Well it will have been a great disservice to them and their civilisation. But what has been the effect of accepting and encouraging literary contents from these civilisations for the use of their civilisation? Does it have the effect of making them feel inferior or make them believe less in themselves? Not at all. Rather it has had an effect exactly opposite of that. I’ve not seen a people with a stronger sense of self esteem and who believe in themselves as a people as men and women of the west. I don’t mean vain pride inspired by the mental disorders of complexes, but self esteem founded on a right sense of judgment.

And the admiration they show is not limited to just Rome and Greece. I’ve come across few literature which speaks highly of eastern civilisations too. Having such a disposition towards others enables them to learn from everyone and so speed their progress in all forms of advancements.

In Africa however, you’d be hearing ridiculous things as the west brought Christianity to blind us. They brought their language to blind us. They brought their schooling system to blind us (for to some, the reason why Africa is not developing is because we are not using pigeon English in schools). And everything the west ever did in the land of Africa was to blind us so they can exploit us. If everything you hear seems to be for the purpose of blinding you, how are you so sure you’re not a blind person? But after complaining about these you are open to using their phones, watching their tvs, using their laptops, but these don’t blind you despite flooding your eyes consistently with rays of light. The level of absurdities the sinful resentment for whites (the west in particular) is causing is alarming.

You can’t learn from people you despise and people you hate. This also applies to feelings we have of peoples of ages past. If you despise people of the past you won’t learn from history, and my, what a fool would do so much harm to himself as not to learn from history. Today we have people whose only employment is to poke fun at how people in the past lived which has the effect of making people of the present age think that men and women of the past were such deplorable fools. For this reason they definitely won’t see the reason why they are to read historical accounts. Yet they of the past are incredibly wiser than we are and their judgment sounder.

Of course this doesn’t mean that in consuming western literature the African would copy the systems of the west verbatim. Of course after centuries of studying Greek and Roman literature and style the west doesn’t have any semblance to Greece or Rome. So I do not think Africa will or should be patterned after western patterns. I saw a book titled “RETHINKING CHANGE: The Western Solution Cannot Be Africa’s Solutions” by Mabel Bob-Manuel. I haven’t read the book but I agree with the point the title is making. In studying Greek and Roman literature the west built what is compatible with their unique qualities and it made them develop into the foremost economies of the world. Africa too, if she studies western literature will and should develop its own approach to solving African problems in a way that is compatible with our unique qualities.

I know there are people who read devotions by African authors simply because it’s an African who wrote them. After my conversion I was lucky to have bumped into Everyday With Jesus by late Dr. Selwyn Hughes somewhere in our house. The book caught my attention and I picked it and began to read, and o how has it blessed my life ever since. I have also read other devotionals written by Nigerians and found them to be nonsensical and heretic. You can scarcely hear them teach sound doctrine. If they’re not talking about why it is good to give all your money to your pastor, they’ll be talking about why you should dread your pastors. And if they aren’t saying that they’ll be telling stories of how they did wonders like some fairy godmother. Then to pretend that they haven’t left the mark you’d occasionally read them speaking against sin with words like, “you are committing adultery with your boss and you think you will go to heaven? You’re deceiving yourself.” Yet they will never teach how to live as a Christian. They never present to their readers anything worth the while of a heaven bound Christian, rather they do the exact opposite. There’s no end to the foolishness they pour forth. And despite all these, just because they’re Nigerians, people will prefer their nonsense to sound words of wisdom and judgment. In other words, to them African poison is better than western food.

Now there’s nothing innately wrong with the African or other people of colour. People develop by interaction but for most of history the African continent was largely isolated while there were so many interactions in the rest of the world from America all the way to most eastern parts of Asia. It was mere isolation that caused the glorious kingdom of Nubia to fall over time. And this isolation has been the reason why Africa has been backwards, not because we are in any way inferior. Seeing that we have been kept back by causes not invented by us, we needn’t keep ourselves further back now by our own inventions.

Plato rightly observed that necessity births a state, but unfortunately where we are today as Africans wasn’t born by necessity. Rather certain already advanced nations came upon us and we started trying to be birthed by ideals rather than necessities. Others were birthed by the necessity for surviving existential threats and in the forge of many and great wars advanced in technology, methods, and discipline were birthed. The idea from explosions in cannons and guns is what evolved into our automobile engines that has revolutionised transportation. Necessity is a far better mother to nationhood than mere ideals. But did we have the necessity of defending ourselves or conquering territories by canons? No! Not having the necessity to form a state as we are now trying to form was never there, so we are only trying to jump up to the level of these ideals rather than grow up into it. While a proper and honest view of things and study of history will reveal to the African continent that he’s backwards, it’ll also reveal to him that there’s nothing to feel bad about, and having to read western literature doesn’t make us in any way inferior.

We have such great potentials as can be witnessed all round the world in Africans doing great things, but in the years of critical advancements we were in isolation, so as a continent we are still backwards. We aren’t backwards as people think and our history isn’t as deplorable as people think, as there were many great things done by Africans in Africa in the lane of history. Yet the effects of our isolation was so glaring when we began to be in touch with the civilised world and the backwardness of the continent in the present time is not what can be contended. To deny ourselves exposure to good and stalwart foreign contents is not to raise our sense of worth but to create ridiculous delusions of grandeur and to further isolate ourselves which shall mean we shall be left behind much longer.

By the same western literature you learn not to look down on yourself as an African just as the west don’t look down on themselves for exposing themselves to great literature of antiquity. You get to see that the nations that are now great weren’t born great. They had their own days of backwardness too. In the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin from where I got his earlier quote, he, after narrating a very bad conduct of a man, said of him, “On the whole, I wonder’d much how such a man came to be intrusted with so important a business as the conduct of a great army.” This he spoke of the corruption in the English army of his days for in the appendix of the same book it was written concerning this part of the book, “This relation illustrates the corruption that characterized English public life in the eighteenth century. It was gradually overcome in the early part of the next century.” What does this reveal to the African? It reveals that though corruption may be rife in Africa, it is a human thing and not an African thing. And seeing it was overcome gradually (and not suddenly as many in Africa wish to deal with corruption) the intelligent student would seek textual materials that will provide an empirical account of how it was overcome, and being thus enlightened would stand a chance of helping his own nation in solving the problem of corruption too.

Furthermore, by the clear mirror of western literature I’ve learnt to see the beauty in Africans and in our Africanness. This is far more than I would have done without them. After reading some western literature I look into the faces of Africans and I get filled with admiration, particularly those of our young. And no other can write about Africans to have such effects than non-Africans for it is foolishness to declare your own praise for it is written, “for men to search their own glory is not glory.” (Proverbs 25:27) and “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2). Even if the African writing the praises of Africans were free from vanity in this endeavour, it can hardly be seen as free from vanity, therefore it can’t have as good an effect as when another writes it. So let no one tell me, “but Africans have written far nicer things about Africans.”

On the other hand, after many years of studying African contents, does the African still have a high view of himself? I guess not. From my observation the popular opinion of an average Nigerian of Nigerians is that we are corrupt, cannot make progress in anything good, full of envy, selfish, etc. And how often do we hear, “na Nigeria we dey o.” Meaning nothing works here, you can’t expect better than bad, and that in such a setting being optimistic of something good happening is wishful thinking. And all these not because they’re humans but they are Nigerians in particular, meanwhile their opinions of the whites in general is that they are saints, good, reliable, noble and all. Has reading African literature made the African have great self esteem? Do they not spend a fortune buying white women’s hairs to fix over theirs? They prefer white people’s hair to that of blacks despite being blacks.

One funny thing is when you see these Africanists with wives putting on fake white women’s hair. They don’t even mind if the fake hairs were merely made of threads or ropes, so far it looks like a white woman’s hair they’re fine.

A funny experience I once had was when in a book club discussion one Nigerian girl putting on a fake white woman’s hair said with a sense of very African dignified pride, “I have never felt inferior to whites.” What a black and white contradiction of oneself. To all these Africanists who cohabit or have girlfriends they keep as concubines, did their ancestors condone such a lifestyle? Would not such abominable people be drummed out of society? Yet they live such a life because they see it in corrupt western movies only to turn back and tell us we must do things the African way. So, I ask again, has the study of African literature helped the African in having a better self esteem? Does it help him to live rightly? No! Rather it is keeping him back from his potentials.

If years of prioritising local literature hasn’t repaired the view of the African to himself, an eternity of doing the same may not help him. It may as well be his eternal ruin. So it is a wrong notion that encouraging African students to consume African literature would help them believe in themselves and become great.

Hate to have to say it for it will sound like I’m boasting or have a feeling of superiority over others, but I on my part have enjoyed a lot of benefits from studying western literature. By its influence I’ve written the biography of my grandfather. The motivation for that came when I read “Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England” by the Venerable Bede and when I heard my mum giving verbal narrations of the life of my grandfather. By the influence of western literature I’ve written several other books and articles, including this. By its influence I’ve been able to see some traditions that enable those in the western world to nurture their young into greatness. I’ve also begun certain projects and activities to shape young minds into great leaders of tomorrow (with little or no success though). And doing this I found an ample template of how to do this with success from western success. And as I’ve expressed before, I can testify that all I’ve read rather makes me think highly of the African continent than I would have done naturally.

In conclusion, a lot of character and personality diseases are ailing the African man and I believe there is a potent cure for these diseases in western literature. May God uplift and bless the African continent and all places else. Amen.


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