By Owei Lakemfa
NIGERIA witnessed a rare occurrence last Thursday, October 20. The 40th Oba of Benin, Omo n’Oba n’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II was crowned. The last coronation which is steeped in rich history and tradition, was 37 years ago.
The Benin Empire with a monarchy older than the 956-year British monarchy, was once the largest, most developed and most successful kingdom in Africa before it was destroyed and looted by the British in February, 1897. Subsequently, Benin’s quite advanced and rich sculptures and unique art works have been held in several parts of the United Kingdom and Europe for over a century now.
Benin Empire which had an ambassador in Britain hundreds of years ago, also had an embassy in Lisbon, Portugal. It received the first Portuguese ambassador to the empire, Joao Affonso d’Aveiro in 1486 during the reign of Oba Ozolua. The Benin people founded amongst other places, Onitsha, Owo and Ikere Ekiti in Nigeria, and combined with Ile Ife in Western Nigeria to establish Lome, the capital of Togo, and Accra, the Ghanaian capital where they are known as the Ga. When I visited the Elmina Castle, Western Ghana, I saw a plaque acknowledging the trade with the Benin people who sailed through the Atlantic Ocean, which meant they had ocean-going vessels.
The Benin people were known as great boat people who in their trade with Lagos through the lagoon, established a number of areas which had the prefix Idu including Idumota and Idumagbo. They also established the Lagos monarchy which is in Idugaran, Isale Eko area of Lagos Island.
The new monarch spoke to culture when he said at his coronation: “We shall strive to ensure equity and justice, use cultural diplomacy as a vehicle to maintain relationship with our neighbours. We will ensure our people use Benin language as a vehicle of communication and also teach our children the language.”
The history of the great Benin Empire is known but in the last number of years, some leaders of our country have deprived the youths of learning about the past by yanking history from the syllabus at primary and post-primary levels. Before then, history was grudgingly taught, and in a quite uncritical manner; more a regurgitation of Western belief, view and interpretation of history.
With this type of education, how will our children know that we had history before colonialism ? How will they know that far from being orphans in history, we were actually central to it?
How do we teach them that the claim by the West that Pythagoras the son of Mnesaarchus is the ‘Father of Mathematics’ is false because he actually learnt philosophy, geometry and mathematics at the Egyptian University (Temple) of Diospolis. That was after he had been rejected by other Egyptian universities despite being recommended in writing by Polycrates leader of his native Samos.
It was while studying in Egypt in 525 BC that the Persian King Cambyses invaded the country and Pythagoras was one of the prisoners of war taken. He returned to his native Samos and later relocated to Italy. The ancient philosopher, Iamblichus wrote that Pythagoras relocated because “… he tried to use his symbolic method of teaching which was similar in all respects to the lessons he had learnt in Egypt. The Samians were not very keen on this method and treated him in a rude and improper manner.”
Is it not utterly ridiculous that Pythagoras who was born in 569 BC could be the ‘Father of Mathematics’ when black Egypt used advance mathematics to build the pyramids – one of it, the Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, being as high as 138.8 metres or 455 feet – 1,600 years before Pythagoras was born?
Plato the father of Western Thought and Philosophy went to study in Egypt for thirteen years after the death of his first teacher, Socrates. The “Fable of Thoth and Amun” he wrote were not Western as is claimed, but Egyptian. The Greek society Plato came from did not believe in reincarnation or life-after. So when Plato returned from Egypt and wrote about reincarnation and the Eygptian belief that those who believe in ISIS would after death, move to a blissful after-life, it was rejected.
Should our children not learn how the pyramids were built with scientific precision and mathematical accuracy before pulleys and cranes were invented? Should they not know that other black African empires like Kush also built pyramids, like the 35 found in Sudan?
Should we not teach our children that the Eleusinian Mysteries of the Greeks were built on Black Egypt’s Mystery of OSIRIS and ISIS? That Western Philosophy was built on Greek Philosophy which in turn was based on the Black Egyptian Philosophy which predated it by over 2,000 years? That the Greek City of Athens was founded by the Black Egyptian, Kekropos and that the two families; Ceryces and Eumolpidae who were the Greek priests, came from Egypt?
Herodotus who systematically collected materials and did good narration is regarded as the “Father of History’. He wrote that he is from Halicarnassus, Asia Minor, which is near today’s Bodrum, Turkey. Halicarnassus was under the Egyptian Empire before passing on to the Persian Empire. Despite this, Aristotle, Plato’s student and his co-travellers claimed that Herodotus was from Thurii, near Italy. It was part of Aristotle’s penchant for appropriation which included passing away Egyptian writings and knowledge as his, after he accompanied his former student, Alexander the Great when the later invaded and conquered Egypt.
Some Western writers have also sought to appropriate Ionians who were Egyptian subjects in today’s Turkey before they became part of the Persian Empire, as ‘Greeks’. Perhaps, this may be due to the fact that pre-Socratic philosophers in ancient Greece were mainly from Ion. These include Xenophanes, Zenos, Permanides, Empedocles Anaxagoras and Democritus who is noted for the formulation of an atomic theory of the universe.
There is no attempt here to belittle Greek philosophy, but Western history should not be taken as given, and the truth about human development need be taught our children. Stories such as Mungo Park ‘discovering’ the River Niger on which Africans have lived many millennia before he was born, need to be clarified.
On the day Ewuare II was crowned in Benin, I was delighted to hear that the Nigerian Government has decided to restore the teaching of history in our schools. That is a great victory for patriots and Pan Africanists. The next stage is how to ensure that authentic Nigerian and African history is taught and not what the old colonialists wanted us to know or believe. History is not a religion.