Chigozie Obioma on the failure of Westernization in Africa
Writing in the Guardian, the novelist Chigozie Obioma writes:
One of the greatest ironies in the history of the collapse of any civilisation must be the initial interaction between Africans and Europeans.
The Igbos in the east of Nigeria, for instance, initially saw the Europeans as madmen of strange appearance and ill-formed ideologies. On banking, the Igbos wondered how an adult in his right mind could hand over his possessions for others to keep for him. By the end of the 19th century, the “madman” had overturned their civilisation, and they had adopted his. The irony is especially relevant in these times when, given the relative failures of most former western colonies, there have been renewed calls for recolonialisation. In September, American professor Bruce Gilley wrote an essay arguing for a recolonialisation of some states, replicating colonial governance of the past “as far as possible” and even building new colonies from scratch. If the very foundations of his arguments are flawed, it is because he, like most people today, has come to accept that the only metric for measuring modernity is through the western lens. This is the heart of the problem. Colonialism across most of Africa was so thorough – especially among the former British protectorates – that in its aftermath Africa was essentially hollowed out. The civilisations of the peoples, their various cultures and traditions, their religions, political philosophies and institutions, were eroded or even destroyed.
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