By Chris Onuoha
The month of February has witnessed series of activities including the celebration of Black consciousness. It is a month the Americans declared as special with a holiday to remember prominent black figures that did marvelously well to put in print the image of black people in America and across the globe called Black History Month.
Subsequently, other activities are carried out in tandem with the vision of Black African celebration. As a sequel to this, a special gathering of black conscious minds was held at the MUSON Centre in Lagos to chart a new course for identification of true origin of Africans with the theme: Conference on African origins: New scientific evidence on origins of Nigerian peoples.
The House of Oduduwa, Genetics Society of Nigeria and Adulawo Media deemed it wise and initiated the move especially at this time in history when economic, social and political values in Africa is questionable. Strife and disunity among Africans have raised concerns that prompted historians to look inwards to untangle where and how the challenges started and proffer solutions to the situation ravaging African countries.
The Conference on African Origins is the beginning of an extensive public awareness programme to enlighten and empower the Black African race with its true genetic and cultural history. At this all important conference, royal fathers, traditional rulers and the general public trooped in to be part of this history-making event.
The roll call of prominent citizens in no particular order include His Imperial Majesty, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Ogunwusi, Ojaja II; His Royal Majesty, King Jaja of Opobo, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja V; Attah of of Igala, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Michael Ameh Oboni. Others are Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, represented by High Chief Eduhu Obasoke; Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, represented by Chief Nnia Nwodo, President-General, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo and others.
Starting off the symposium, an incisive and lengthy lecture delivered by Professor E.H Kwon Ndung, President, Genetic Society of Nigeria, focused on the true nature of black history and its affinity with civilisation.
In the second lecture by Professor Agbakoba from University of Nigeria Nsukka, his theories were also based on the black race of Nigeria. He dwelt extensively on Christianity and modernity as it has affected Africans. With a citation of Ali Mazrui’s theory, he recognised various descents of Africa in the evolutionary trend. He talked about the traditional way of genetics knowledge system of traditional society. He also expatiated on ‘Igba Agu’ and ‘Ibia Uwa’ within Igbo traditional evolutionary trend, saying it is different from reincarnation.
In his explanation, he disclosed that similarities between ‘Afa’ and ‘Ifa’ are very obvious as basic words used by both tribes, Igbo and Yoruba, are the same to an extent. His analysis was based on basic similarities that united the indigenous people of Africa. In conclusion, he said we have huge communalities in Africa, advising that we cannot throw away things that have come to us but to combine and utilise them for our benefit.
The convener, Prince Justice Faloye, took time out to explain the essence of convening the all-important conference. At first, he clarified the origins of the original Africans and Afro-Asian Africans. “Western Academia prefers to say we come from East Africa which is not true. With graphic illustrations of the true identity of the people’s evolutionary trend, archeology is not a uniform tool to determine the true identity of a race. There was an argument that Yoruba has the oldest deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the black history which has been proved to an extent,” Justice argued.
“Culture is the way we do things while politics is how we do things and so on.” He vehemently argued over many assumptions of origins of various people of Africa, saying that 70 per cent of Nigerians are original Africans. “Early Africans are made up of real statue figures and pygmies living among us today. Our culture in all has an underlined platform. For the fact that we have not defended our culture, it takes us backwards according to western assertions. But it is not so because computer has computed what was fused into it for that period.” He also said we need to understand they don’t want us to unite.
His Imperial Majesty, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, in his short address to the audience inspired a feeling of newness, rebirth, and self-consciousness. Above all, he chanted one strong slogan that reverberated with applause from the elated audience: “United we Stand, Divided we fall”. With several repetition of that slogan, the atmosphere was charged.
“What I want to say is it’s time for us to unite and be one and speak with one voice. Socially, we the aborigines have a lot of similarities in our culture, tradition and heritage. Let us put supremacy aside. We have common ancestral background and common ancestors and it is very evident. “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Supporting the Ooni of Ife’s ideological statement, the Attah of Igala, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Michael Ameh Oboni, called the gathering ‘a new beginning.’ “This is the beginning of the beginning for us the black people. Recalling history, Nigeria spent a lot of money celebrating the black festival called FESTAC. I know of a colloquium held at that time when I was young, something as important as this was not on discourse then.
“We succeeded in conquering our territories and lived in peace. But when the colonial masters came, we became divided and remained divided since then. We should retrace our steps. It is better late than never. Black man has suffered and we should not continue to suffer.
“I am leaving here with my head held high. Do you know that according to the speaker’s assertion of two types of people that make up the black African descents, in my place in Igala land, we have pygmies in one of the local government areas? They live in the forest and speak Igala language with their agricultural equipment like ours. This conference is very vital for the survival of black man and should be held biannually because our salvation lies in this.”
His Royal Majesty, Jaja of Opobo, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja V, equally brought to the fore vital issues that need to be looked into in the study of history in our schools. “What I came in here to hear about the DNA and origin of black man is quite fascinating. I will leave this hall with the impression that our people are taking the bull by the horn. We are now taking our destiny in our hands, trying to find our roots, our origin and I think that is the best thing we can do now. According to what my friend, Ooni of Ife just said, nobody can tell or talk about our history better than ourselves. It is very clear that Western historians who came into Nigeria came with a purpose to promote their own identity and play down on ours.
“This is the best thing we are doing now to promote our culture, our homogeneity and to try as much as possible so that we have come of age and do things for ourselves. Let us try to convince the government that a country without history has nowhere to go to. When you let people to tell you about your history, they will tell it the way they like. History is no more taught in schools. Most of us who read history of Nigeria in school have something to tell about our people but some young people currently do not know or have anything to tell about our history now. We should all come together and tell the government that Civic Science introduced in schools cannot replace history subject – that history as a subject must come back. I hope that this lecture could be put together as a compendium to serve as history book for others to learn from.”
These, among other comments made by various speakers who represented other guests, all focused on re-awakening the black consciousness and correcting the black man’s understanding of his origin.