Growing up in a typical Ghanaian traditional community in the northern part of the country, I was literarily inundated with fairytales upon fairytales as to how the world came into existence through supernatural means. Sometimes, the stories were told with a seemingly level of certitude as if the narrators were there when this bourgeoning bouleversement of the universe commenced. The dominance of boogeyman and his eventual effacement from the earth to pave the way for human rule of the universe was convincingly narrated. I was also told that he was the lethal obverse of God. My late father, late uncle and my grandmother were always at the centre of these historical accounts in the antiquities. It was the first point of coming to the knowledge of the need for beliefs in spirituality.
Even though I never had my own gods to worship – since I was still too young – I instantaneously believed in the powers of gods, which I personally witnessed and the powers of the dead relatives, especially grandparents and parents, who oughted to be worshiped, feared and respected since they are supernaturally omnipotent and omnipresent. As a young man in the village, my faith grew unprecedentedly in the powers of gods, idols and charms and saw them as the surest way to enjoy spiritual immunity against witches and wizards, curses, natural disasters and what of you. The upsurge of my spirituality was not just based on pastoral narratives, I personally witnessed some unfathomable manifestation of powers – people mightily invoked gods and spirits from the air which spoke in human language and I could loudly hear them. I also personally witnessed instances where these spirits and gods punished their adherents who went contrary to the credos or broke the convenants they had with them, sometimes by throwing them up the roofs and gliding them down the floor.
At the age I had to go to the Junior High School, I left the village to a far bigger town where I was initiated into christianity. It was such an enticing faith I got! First, I felt that I became a civilized man because I was told that was the faith of even the WHITE MAN himself. Secondly, I learned to dress neatly, pray and read the Bible, a practice that was not part of the faith I was born with. More importantly, I also saw that this faith also had some powers in it which could cast out demons, curb witchcraft invasion and lead me to heaven. Wow! what a victory in Jesus! I irrevocably became entangled and enchanted in this faith and made it my duty to convert the whole village, where I was born. My parents and many other people never, however, ceased to tell me that christianity was a religion of modernity which had no potency to immune me in any spiritual battle. I remember the day my late father vividly told me that he would throw me into the depth of the thick forest if I died because I was offending our gods and also jeopardizing my security by believing in such blatant falsehood propagated by the money-seeking miscreants! He also added that I was desecrating the sacristy of our ancestry and that could bring me an unappeasable curse more devastating than death.
My rapport with my family, especially my late father, became more and more embittered to such an extent that I felt ostracized and attempted throwing in the towel to the dictates of the invincible voices! Luckily enough, here comes the escape: I had to move to a far bigger town to attend Senior High School. Freedom to enjoy the fellowship in Christ! Here, I practised my beliefs with no restraint and decided not to return to the village even during vacation under pretext of attending extra classes. My parents loved me, wished my success and easily understood my decision to remain in the city. My mother in particular would overtly tell me that she was happy that I was not frequenting at the village because doing so could expose me to the dangers of the evil ones: witches and wizards.
I however found something funny, intriguing, contradicting, or better still inexplicable in my courses as a literature student. The academic moguls of African and Ghanaian origins who espoused their knowledge through literary works accentuated the essence of Negritude, and the need for Africanism. Most of them went as far as painting my faith and other faiths which are not of African origin hitherto as the lethal plagues that have ever visited the African continent. They viewed supposedly non African religions as an interlacement of colonialism, slavery, and mental enchainement. Surprisingly, these highly literary giants’ thoughts seemed to align with those of my parents and many more that I deemed primitive in their belief system. After all, I had intermingled with university graduates, elders of the church and many more awakened folks who told me that African way of knowing God was evil. But how come there is such an extreme convergence of thoughts and beliefs between most highly regarded academic luminaries and the unsung village folks? I can still clearly remember how An African Thunderstorm demonizes christianity and the Westerners. Though I enjoyed reading their works, I began to loathe these poets and the likes and regarded them as a an insidious debacle to my faith.
Seemed confused and ambivalent, I reassured myself that I would continue on this road less traveled by and drew a conclusion that their philosophies, thoughts and erudite pieces were just ones of those writings churned out by frustrated and emotionally imbalanced residuum of colonialism. After all, how could Africa have its own God or religion whilst I did not see any HOLY BOOK written to that effect. Seeing is believing and I have seen and read the Bible myself. Gods in Ghana are manufactured by man and I have personally seen people, including my own late father, mould some. So what is there to convince me that they are the true gods whilst I have seen man build and craft them? However, I would never be able to debunk the powers these African gods possessed because I witnessed their manifestations, influence and even penalties they meted out to the deviants. Nevertheless, I would not be cowed or induced into believing in their might as they are the prototype of Satan, the recipe for eternal death and the belief system for the primitive man – something I have come to believe through teachings by other religions.
In my quest to unveil the mendacity and the insidiousness of the defunct faith I left behind, I read around the African Traditional Religion only to discover a mass of materials mostly written by the Westerners which described it as a barbaric, harmful and primitive religion. They portrayed in it human sacrifice, disrespect for women and children and one that inhibits scientific thinking and evolution. I however did not stop there: I decided to read around other religions like Christianity and Islam. Amazingly, I unearthed that African Traditional Religion in its barbarism compared to that of the aforementioned religions in their crescendo of primitivity, especially before the explosion of industrial revolution, could, in our modern days, be seen as an angel that is being obliged to wear a black dress. Clearly, one could recall the quasi annihilation of Native Americans by the Protestants and the Modernists who claimed they could not coexist with the Animists, lest the latter gave up their faith. Such sociological and literary works as The Rush to the West, The Betrayal, etc. by Monica Genuist and Laurier Gareau respectively attest to this fact. In Africa, the faith I vociferously cling to was simply a cat that mischievously built amicability with a mouse. Here comes a heart wrecking testimony: ‘’They seize numbers of our free or freed black subjects, and even nobles, sons of nobles, even the members of our own family.’’
Excerpt from letter from Affonso, King of Congo, to King of Portugal João III, 18 October 1526.
The irredeemable scar of Arabs invasion of North Africa to impose their religion stretching from Byzantine Province in Egypt in 642 to the establishment of The Fatimid Dynasty controlling the whole of North Africa from 909-1171 can never be underestimated. Historical accounts of Berbers and many other indigenous North Africans bespeak volumes of the suffering they went through in the hands of Arab invaders.
Whilst the likes of Christians, Muslims and even other western minor religiously affiliated groups are often seen as sedate, modern, meticulous and pristine, African Traditional Religion affiliates on the other hand are seen as mundane, antiquated, primitive, sadistic, misanthropic and infelicitous. It is however, not the dereliction of our generation to have come to the admittance of what these religions stand for; Western and Eastern religious iconoclasts – Europeans and Arabs – from the time immemorial, have succeeded in enchaining the mindset of our great grandparents into believing that anything African is a reincarnate of Lucifer and should therefore be abhorred. Unfortunately, the Herculean task a lot of us encounter is, not learning the present but, unlearning the past to free up our subconscious. Our own inferiority on what is naturally African is imprinted like an indelible ink that can no longer be wiped out by ordinary water; we can no longer emancipate the mental slavery by gusting out literary verbosity. Unlike our pastors, imams and other religious leaders, African traditional priests are a pittoresque scene of Satan. It is against this background that a lot of adherents to African traditional faith even including our politicians, business men, imams and even church leaders who are syncretic and polytheist in nature turn to consult African gods in concealment. When caught, they are quick to deny the fact that they are adhering to the demon-baptized faith.
The forlornness of the Africanism is that, our cultural and religious inferiority seems to have permeated every corner of the continent. On Monday May 30, 2016, a Ugandan leading newspaper Daily Monitor, reported that the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, is syncretic and meddles in devil worshipping. The accusations have been engendered on the basis that the latter went to a cultural site on Nhyenda Hill in Nakigo Sub-county in Iganga District. ‘’After the visit, she said on camera that she had gone there to inform her ancestors of her triumph in retaining the post of Speaker of Parliament. After the video went viral with sections of society accusing her of practising witchcraft, Ms Kadaga later said she was promoting cultural tourism. ‘’ reported, Daily Monitor, Uganda.
The question that still lingers is why should consulting her ancestors be tantamount to witchcraft? Because it is not the WHITE MAN’S way of expressing the existence of a supernatural being? I remember similar accusations that were raised about some of the New Patriotic Party members in Ghana on July 3, 2015 by a cross section of media arsenals including www.graphic.com.gh, for going to shrines in the Upper East Region of Ghana in the run up to the by-elections that were held in that part of the country. Chairman Wontumi and his cohort expeditiously rejected the allegations. Eh! But how can one ever hide his tongue from the mouth which houses it? Who doesn’t know the fact that majority of African BIG MEN are only the adherents of polytheism and swerve their allegiance as and when necessary? There is no need denying what you have convictions in. Be yourself, achieve your personal autonomy and act accordingly. I sometimes wonder what would be the case if the WHITE MAN had the likes of my great grandfather, Kwaku Bonsom, Gurmade, Antua Nyama, etc as their prophets and gods. We probably would still negotiate some quid pro quo; give them our resources and take home their gods and prophets.
The seminal influence of culture on religions can never be underrated. When practising one’s faith, we are either consciously or unconsciously imbibing, and even possibly getting assimilated , their culture as well. Hence, most Africans are either a conflation of Afro-Arab or Afro-European depending on their faith. It also comes with its consequences; religious upheavals wobbling the Middle Eastern states are being reproduced in Africa as in the case of Nigeria, Central African Republic, Mali, just to mention but a few, because when the roots of a tree are getting rotten, it certainly affects it s fruits as well. Sadly enough, our political leadership and even the general populace often now and then talk about PROMOTING MADE IN AFRICAN GOODS AND PRODUCTS. Really? Do we even have an identity as a people let alone our goods, services and products? Haven’t we bartered our identity for the goodies of the White Man? It is only cultural consciousness that can translate to economic reality.
Another crestfallen reality that has consumed the self-awareness of a Black Man is the fact that we have come to accept that the nocuous doings of a WHITE MAN once he says is SAINT must be SAINT. Consequently, even in terms of killing humanity, the so called HOLY WARS and CRUSADES are indeed HOLY once our MASTERS say so. Millions of people have been effaced in their quest to propagate their faith and yet we have not come to see the evil that we live with. Hardly will any WHITE MAN see Leopold II of Belgium, a King and a catholic who murdered over 15 millions Congolese, as the devil reincarnate because he is WHTE. And need I say much about the EASTERNERS? Definitely not; their plague is glaring everywhere in the world! As a matter of fact, when they were transporting their faith to us, they held their HOLY BOOKS in their left hands and the GUN in their right hands in that we either accept the HOLY BOOKS amidst torture, slavery and exploitation or we go into our precocious grave with the might of the GUN. The likes of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was wise that he accepted the GUN so that you and I might live today. They only dictate to us what must be practised and what shouldn’t. Hence, we may accept the conditions and the practices of LGBT but not polygamy.
Ironically, the Arabs and the West have taught us how to know God, go to heaven but have succeeded in making our dwelling HELL ON EARTH! Where from the ceaseless wanton terrorisms, sponsored coups, harsh IMF conditions, inter alia? They love us alright? Why haven’t they taught us how to build our own trains, planes, automobiles etc. after having decimated the booming civilization of Africa that was not even known in their part of the world?
It has brought us so much mental etiolation that we think GOD WILL DO IT ALL FOR US EVEN IF WE DON’T WORK! How? We only pray, reject scientific thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship which THE WHITE MAN quickly went back for and turned down the very faith he brought to us after he realized his dream and said to himself: ‘’I have manacled their mindset, now let me get back to ultra-practical innovations. ‘’ Now our brains are locked out of memory! Sad to say. Just the other day, one of my very good White friends who also happens to be my supervisor at workplace asked me why someone should believe in such things that are not scientifically proven, that it was the thought of the rudimentary evolution, not in the 21st century. I was baffled and confused! But that should be his own faith.
There is something I even fear more for Africa. According to PEWS International research, more than half of the world Christians and Muslims population will be in Africa by 2050 because we produce a lot and do not generally have non-religiously affiliated folks, unlike it happens in the West. Good news? Shall we not have the replicate of Israel-Palestine relationship on our continent since these two faiths always appear like the cat and the dog bouncing into each other in many parts of the world from the time immemorial? It would not naturally be baleful to have these TWO FORCES dominating our landscape, but the problem is we Africans are prone to fighting for these faiths on behalf of their proponents under pretext of religious expansionism, even to the point of cold-bloodedly murdering our own brothers and sisters. With obtuse suspicions, acrimonies and accusations and counter accusions in these two competing forces of the West and the East, I would rather wish to hear that by 2050 Africa will have the most technologically and scientifically advanced sphere of influence on the global stage.
The bottomline is: the sorrowful loss of our identity is afoot and is almost irredeemable unless there comes out a new generation of mental revolutionaries who would not kowtow to the whims and caprices of the West. By mere observation, one would come to accept the fact that we can only maintain our identity by clinching to our religions and cultures. No wonder Judaism is to Jews, Shintoism to Japanese, Hinduism to Indians, as Islam and Christianity hitherto to Arabs and Westerners respectively. Each race seems to have their own gods and prophets. The big question is WHO THEN IS THE BLACK GOD? Perhaps HE existed but no more because they have enslaved and murdered him just as they did to our great grandparents. We may never have HIM again but whoever has assumed HIS patriarchal role, be it ARABS GOD or WESTERNERS GOD all is still not lost. In our daily preachings in our mosques and churches, may we preach the love for humanity, the need for peace and harmony, the minatory effects of corruption and bribery and the need for hard work, commitment and patriotism. May we not ceaselessly accuse our poor old women of witchcraft and blame our retrogression on them. That may we not fight in the name of any GOD but preach against hate speech and terrorism, religious bigotry and disdainfulness. Shalom!