“My people, I have been somewhere
If I turn here, the rain beats me
If I turn there, the sun burns me
The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it.” ~
Song of Sorrow, Kofi Awoonor (1935 – 2013)
Africa has been the perfect laboratory for every evil ideology; this is the earth where slavery had its worst results, where colonialism too had its worst, where several sociological experiments were, and are still being, designed to confuse and test the intelligence of a people whose history, perhaps for lack of verifiable documents, is an inverse of achievement.
Our disquieting absence in the history of great discoveries and inventions, and the lack of wisdom to challenge corrupting impositions, has set in us a riot we may never be able to end anytime soon. This is a riot of identities, this is a riot initiated by our ignorance of who we were. It’s thus strange that despite our exploits in arts and humanities, our people still allow themselves to be used against one another, in pursuits of religious and political ideologies designed overseas. And all the evil things we have done to one another in the name of politics and religion are simply due to this ignorance – and that nothing is ever universal unless it’s accepted by all.
While it’s applaudable that we accept influences that ought to redeem us, it’s really baffling that such are being used to destroy our polities. Islam is increasingly being used by many groups of perverts to hurt the conscience of humanity. And the ongoing sparks of terrorism around us are justifications of Blackman’s folly. It’s understandable to see a lining of religion when the Arabs who are largely Muslim wage a war against a country in the west, which is either secular or Christian-dominated. But having the same race torn apart by religious or political ideologies introduced by foreigners is a strange example of tragi-comedy!
Africa is a in a deep mess right now, and the sooner we realise the danger ahead, the more the chances of forestalling an eclipse of our existence as a sane people. What the children of Black Africa needs now is immediate orientation and regulations of hatred-rousing religious activities; not just more arms to fight terrorism. Terrorism is one monster we can never ever fight with arms alone; it’s too strong for a continent that can’t even feed its people; it’s too smart for a continent whose people lack the brains to understand that we are humans first, before any other label; it’s too elusive for a continent whose security operatives rely on foreign interventions to fight a group of barely schooled extremists.
Africa is already losing the fight; even though we have lost significant figures of our human capitals to Brain Drain, the few home-based may be no more if these killings of “infidels” and “apostates” by God’s “litigators” on this earth continue. We’re already used to headlines announcing the killings of “hundreds”, already used to the killings of those we consider social nonentities among us; the indefensible peasants, artisans and herdsmen dying of the bullets of the terrorists or the soldiers sent to protect those poor citizens. Theirs are no longer news. What makes the headlines now are the killings of Africa’s intellectual and political ambassadors and, well, scientists – that’s if we really can call those memorisers of ancient theories, trained in our academic abattoirs, “scientists!”
Last Saturday the world woke up to a defeat; we have lost one of Africa’s renowned poets. To terrorism, yes. At a mall in Kenya. His name roused nostalgias, because he defined the worldview of many with his verses. Inspired by the traditions of his people, Ghana’s Kofi Awoonor explored and symbolised the miseries of Black Africa with imageries derived from the practices of his ethnic group. His verses are memorable, and were also models for some of my early poems which were abandoned when I realised that I was not really created for ethnic profiling, never fancy being an ethnic ambassador in my writings. This earth, my people, is going to be too slippery if this rain beats us any longer. And if we flee overseas, the racist sun of the west is not any merciful. But we can’t “take heart”; I hope we find the wisdom to understand the danger of terrorism in a continent of armed circuses!
While I have always empathise with every Solomon and Suleiman killed by the folly of our ideologically confused brothers, the death of Awoonor portends a certain doom for Black Africa. Our unimpressive human capitals will definitely lose key figures in this despicable insurgency. We have seen, sorry watched, the ruins of several nations in the Middle East, studied how religion is being manipulated to serve a group’s interests, so protecting this earth from such sociological erosions is a task upon us. It’s really sad that all we mutter is the “Islam is a religion of peace” cliche anytime our estranged brothers kill the “kuffar” in the name of our faith; we’re a powerful majority unless we begin to react to religious deviancy detected in our communities; the mullahs who have risen against these tides of anti-religious activities must be supported by all means. Not every bearded person who has his named prefixed with “Sheikh” or “Ustaz” must be allowed to preach in our mosques, to our children – or anywhere! While we’re busy in our offices, there are a few whose words can trigger a confusion in the minds of the unenlightened believers. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves. Islam is not a secret cult; it’s a beautiful and open religion for those whose minds are open!
The radicalised Muslims are students of a closed society, as found in Nigeria, and politicised Islam, as found in the Middle East and parts of Africa. Even the killers of Awoonor are foot-soldiers of politicised Islam – which is a brand of Islam we must never allow to interfere with what they consider “secular”. Politicised, not political, Islam is the distortion and application of selective decrees by an individual or a group to pursue selfish interests in the name of Islamic advocacy. It’s a fraud, a criminally designed ideology whose unprogressive proponents are on a blind rush to make the ideal believers unfair victims of negative profiling. Their mission is to create divisions along the lines of religion, which may be exploited to campaign for an impossible homogenous entity. Sadly, Africa is too complex for a successful segregation. They can only destroy the efforts of our years of labour, like the animals they actually are, while the other world moves on with their exploits in technological inventions to build a civilisation which the terrorists too enjoy. The world is not waiting for you, Africa! Today, we no longer want to go see the adobe mosques of Timbuktu – Mali only evokes pity now. We no longer want to go visit our friends in north-central Nigeria – that’s seen as a suicide mission. And, just last week, my dream of a vacation in Nairobi was closed in parentheses. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspapers (27/ 09/ 2013)