[OPINION] Why Western education cannot save African nations

Today, after 61 years of independent existence, Nigeria is best described as a failing nation, a nation incapable of solving any problem, a nation without a direction.

Nigerian federal, state and local governments cannot pay salaries as when due. Nigerians are hungry. The nation is confronted by mass unemployment, poverty, civil strife in all regions.

Virtually all Nigerian youths would rather leave Nigeria to any other nation and never return if they have the opportunity to do so. The nation produces only agricultural goods; the nation does not produce manufactured goods; productivity is very low. Why is that the situation in Nigeria?
If wisdom had characterised Nigeria’s development endeavour, at Independence on October 1, 1960, and thereafter, Nigerians would have asked many questions to start with. Some of the questions would have been:  Who are Nigerians and other people of the Black race? Why independence on October 1, 1960? How do donations develop, what is the experience of other more scientifically-advanced and productive nations?

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Nigerians would have found out that the Black race is the people who have always populated the African continent. Brace (1971), then Curator of the physical anthropology at the University of Michigan’s museum, United States of America, writing about what had been learnt about the origin of man, articulated that culture is central to man’s evolutionary success; culture includes not only the high points of arts, music and literature but also all those things that result from cumulative effort of other people and previous generations.

Man is not just an animal that possesses a culture, but an animal that cannot survive without culture. The brace also theorised that man could not exist, if each had to discover anew the control of fire, the manufacture of clothing and shelter, the sources of edible substances, and the guidelines for workable interrelationships, to say nothing of the mechanics, electronics, chemistry and physics on which human life depends today.

Man originated in Africa and all his forbearers were Black and through adaptation, some people became those now called White.

Non-perishable cultural elements have an antiquity of about two million years in Africa. The cultural tradition of which they are part continues without break, expanding to occupy the tropical and temperate parts of the Old World around 800,000 years ago, and ultimately developing into all the cultures in the world today.

The Carthage Empire was the unchallenged world power during the period 750-264 BC (Allcroft and Mason, 1958). Carthage formed close links amounting to effective predominance over most of the areas in North Africa and all directions in the Mediterranean during the period.

Carthage and Rome fought the First Punic War about 264 BC when Rome had no Navy. Rome learnt, built a Navy and rivalled Carthage. By 146 BC, Rome destroyed Carthage and became the world power (Errington, 1972). Rome later expanded to include most of the areas occupied by modern Europe. The area now occupied by Western Europe was the ancient Gaul; it was harnessed into the Roman Empire about 55 BC (Carrington and Jackson, 1954).

The period 500-1470 AD, witnessed the flourishing of independent states and empires in West Africa. Among these were the Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Kanem-Bornu, Benin and Oyo empires, and the Hausa States which were clustered along the southern frontiers of the Sahara (De-Graft Johnson, 1955 and Clark, 1971). The last empire in West Africa was the Songhai which existed during the period 1488-1591.

The western portion of the Roman Empire was smashed by Germanic tribes in 406 A. D. (Carrington and Jackson, 1954; and Blakeley and Collins, 1975). Europe then broke up into small kingdoms which developed into and remained French-Latin Europe till the 13th century. Islam was introduced into the Iberian Peninsula by Arabs and Berbers in 711 A. D. (Webber and Hussey, 1941).

An independent Arab emirate was established in the Peninsula and became a Caliphate in 929. The capital, Cordova became a centre of art, learning and refinement. The Arabs developed the Peninsula to the extent that it was the most advanced part of Europe till the end of the seventeenth century.

Europe and America were not among the Great Medieval Civilisations, GMCs. The GMCs were India, Africa and the Islamic world (Gottschalk, et al., 1969). The Medieval period was the period before 1500 AD. Before 1300, the level of scientific and technological development in many respects was lower in the Western world than in the GMCs; in those civilisations, science had flourished during the Dark Ages of the West.

The West did not immediately begin to make the great scientific strides that it later showed itself capable of making; there was a centuries-long plateau between the absorption of oriental, Islamic and African scientific knowledge and independent Western science (Gottschalk, et al., 1969). During the period African Empires flourished and occupied southern Europe, European history shows that Africans were very generous; the Africans willingly transferred their inventions and those of other MGCs like China and India to Europe (Cardwell, 1974).

The Iberian Peninsula broke up into two kingdoms, Spain and Portugal, in 1497. Spain and Portugal were the two nations that were strong enough to champion the so-called Discovery Voyages in which Africa and America (the New World) were rediscovered by Europeans.

The special advantage which the Iberians derived from their Arab-African association underlays their special performance in those voyages. The Iberians had been trained in seafaring by Arabs and Africans. The voyages marked the beginning of the period since Westerners began to exert a strong influence on Africans in the 15th century.

The African-Caucasian encounter since the 15th century can be subdivided into three phases. The first phase covered the period 1440-1850. This is the period the Caucasians subjected millions of Africans to slavery. The enslavement was explained in terms of Darwin-Malthus theory of the survival of the fittest.

The second phase covered the period Westerners partitioned Africa into the units now called nations as it pleased them. The third phase covered the period 1950-now. This is the period Westerners granted African nations independence and began to indoctrinate and plan for the slaves who returned to the continent and those whom they had colonised for over a century in the African continent. That was why Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960.

The principal instrument for indoctrinating Africans to think and do things the way they ought not to, has been Western education (Western social sciences and related areas of study) which all African nations have as a colonial heritage.

Western education cannot ask and answer fundamental questions about African and Africa. That is why Western education cannot be the basis for developing Africa. If African intelligentsia/intellectuals were not indoctrinated, they would ask why Africans were enslaved and colonised and would not wait for Europe and America to plan for Africa.

As Nzimiro (1976), observed, a nation whose soul is controlled by models of thoughts beamed from a society with a different historical experience, social structure and world outlook, is bound to suffocate its youths and thinkers.

Such a nation, because the thought process of its citizens is guided from abroad, cannot question the basis of its existence. Nigeria’s stagnation, economically and politically, is explained. African nations must establish an African educational system to produce people who can think to enable Africans to make rapid progress.

Africans who have been acquiring Western education are indoctrinated, not educated. Indoctrinated people think and do things the way they ought not to think and do.

Professor Francis Ogbimi, a public affairs analyst, wrote via: fogbimi@yahoo.com

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