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Ifeoluwapo Odedere: What Exactly Were Our Ancestors Doing?

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The average literate Nigerian reading this would have read or come across snippets of history in their lifetime – from Nigeria’s amalgamation and the First World War in 1914, to our independence in 1960 and the launch of the first human spaceflight in 1961. You would probably have heard of several inventions that took place during that period and would have been left asking the question:‘What were our ancestors doing when all this was happening?’

But really, where were they? In the time interval spanning from 1500 till 1800, before colonial era, when other countries and empires of the world were busy advancing their technologies, sailing round the world and discovering new elements, what exactly were our ancestors doing? What parts of the world did they sail to? What discoveries did they make and document beyond herbal medicine and cultural values? How come when the Portuguese and the British came, our ancestors were almost powerless to resist them? How come the mirror (a piece of glass) became the value of exchange for the life of a Nigerian in the name of slave trade? Why were our ancestors so crude? Did they arrive on earth really late?

I really don’t have any answers to these questions and I’m not sure anyone does. But more important to me is the question our grandchildren will ask of this generation in another fifty years; when they look back and realize, that we were actually alive during the births of the GSM era, the Smartphone era and the Social Networking era. They will be shocked that even though, unlike the ancestors before us, we were aware of and used these technologies, we contributed little or nothing to their creation. They will be stumped to realize that despite being one of the largest consumers of telecommunications technology and services, we could not even attempt to invent any for ourselves. They will also be surprised beyond belief that 129 years after the first automobile was produced, Nigeria was yet to start manufacturing its cars. In fact, they will laugh to stupor when they realize that we were still importing crude oil 50 years after we had discovered it.

This is what I’m driving at. It is time we shifted our orientation from that of consumers of technology to creators of technology. And our current startups don’t qualify in this regard – successful startups truly owned (and funded by Nigerians) are as hard to find as Wizkid in Ojuelegba. Much of the technology we use today, have come from and is being controlled by nationals of other continents, including the servers hosting the websites where some of you spend the useful part of your lives.

Like it or not, we’re repeating the pattern of our ancestors and it’s only a matter of time before our progenies start asking us the same question: What were you doing when the world was moving forward? The thought of that alone bothers me. And it should bother you too. Because if this doesn’t bother you then I don’t know what will.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime |  Denise P. Lett 

Ifeoluwapo is a Brand Strategist and the Author of Musings of an Analytical Mind. He loves to challenge conventional thinking and is a firm believer in the coexistence of aesthetics and quality. Connect with him - @ifeodedere

72 Comments

  1. Truth

    July 30, 2015 at 10:24 am

    I ask myself these questions constantly. The documentations on our lives before colonialism are very little. This is very deep.

    • iCrossMyHeart

      July 30, 2015 at 11:05 am

      I’d like to ask the author what technology has he created?

      My motto: that in which you condemn in others, you condemn in yourself.

    • GERRAAAHERE MEHN SHIT

      July 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      bro or sis….did u read well shaaa…he didnt leave himself out oooo..he used”WE” e ma ma be mo oo……instead of you to digest the positive message you’re here saying wat i dont know,gerrahere mehn shit.

    • Jack

      July 31, 2015 at 5:12 am

      U shud Just Shut Up Or Get The Message….

    • Jack

      July 31, 2015 at 5:14 am

      @icrossmyheart

  2. adetoro oluwatoni

    July 30, 2015 at 10:32 am

    i do have an answer to the qst?( they aint sleeping)..

    • Anya ula

      July 30, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Sorry o, but we are still sleeping.

  3. rgkoi

    July 30, 2015 at 10:44 am

    why don’t you ask yourself, what were the ancestors of the people you are deifying doing when our ancestors were busy making breakthroughs in juju science? don’t be deceived by what you see with your physical eyes.

  4. Mr Gbajumo

    July 30, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Nice article.
    Too intellectual for the average Bella Naija readers and commentators.
    Lol.

    • wagamama

      July 30, 2015 at 11:59 am

      you get right? see the comments asking what the writer has invented! Too much backwardness!! GET INSPIRED FROM THE ARTICLE! INVENT SOMETHING OF GLOBAL VALUE!!

      Been working on my own inventions lately. Only probs i have right now is public awareness and funds. So scared to put the word out there, in case someone/some-organisation with enough money and market presence steals my ideas…..shame.

    • Sally

      July 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Put your ideas on the African crowdfunding platform for Africans by Africans. wwww.fundasolva.com

    • Californiabawlar

      July 30, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      I can just get drunk off of the intellectualism oozing from your comment! Oh my oh my! What shall I do with all this wisdon?

  5. Anon

    July 30, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Social studies and history 101 of the pre-colonial period.
    Our ancestors were heavily into the slave trade which was huge. Some of them were acquiring land and building shrines that generations after them have destroyed. There was heavy commerce going on in cash crops like palm oil, palm kernels and cotton.
    We have other crops in abundance (cassava, groundnuts).

    “The principal commodities of legitimate trade were palm oil and palm kernels, which were used in Europe to make soap and as lubricants for machinery, before petroleum products were developed for that purpose. Although this trade grew to significant proportions, palm oil exports alone were worth £1 billion a year by the end of the 19th century.”
    West Africa (Nigeria too oh) supplied 30–40% of the demand for British cotton during the Industrial Revolution of 1750–1790.”

    They sailed away taken as goods and were taken as slaves to the New World. Some of our ancestors ended up in Cuba, Haiti and Brazil

    They fought wars and acquired kingdoms (Idris Alooma, Usman Dan Fodio.) They founded textiles – aso oke, akwete and adire; sculpture – terracoota Ife head and Nok, Ivory mask, Benin and Yoruba bronzes

    Resistance? They offered them gifts, money, Christianity, education and used their superior knowledge and looks to win them over.

    Currently, there’s way too much going on that we may not know about. Professors Achebe and Soyinka have given us great Literature. Books that are studied worldwide. Fela’s music is universal, Professor Ashiru and Giwa-Osagie. There are a lot on inventions going on that we don’t know about.

    Also, leadership has failed us. Importation of crude oil is downright corruption.

    • Anya ula

      July 30, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      What you listed above is just a micro fraction of what others were doing in the west. Our culture and values have, and still continue to fail us. We are indeed BACKWARD.

  6. red

    July 30, 2015 at 11:58 am

    good question. really good question.lol. ill do my own research and get back to you…*tongue out*

  7. labyrinthe

    July 30, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    One of the greatest challenge is documentation, records is required to know history. I mean you can’t even trace your ancestral line.
    I won’t really say our ancestors did nothing but how well did they sustain and develop their work is the question

    Example is the nok arts which can be traced to 1000BC, also there was some form of civilization in Benin seen by the Portuguese on their arrival.

    Did we develop at the same pace with other regions? I doubt that. Why would our fore fathers be enticed with mirrors and bedsheets……
    This brings another question though, is westernization the same as civilization?

    • Anya ula

      July 30, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Westernisation is not the same as Civilization. The Indians, Persians and Chinese had their own form of Civilization that involved writing, calculations and science, before the west came their way. We in West Africa didn’t have that……….. Nsibidi?

  8. Tanya

    July 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I am ashamed to say that I haven’t really wondered what my ancestors were doing whilst their counterparts in the West etc were making developmental strides. I agree with @labyrinthe that poor/ lack of documentation didn’t help but not withstanding, this makes me question what I am doing. 100 years from now, will Nigeria be comparable to the developed nations of her day? Will there be technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs credited to Nigeria? Sure there are quite a handful now (thank God), but will generations unborn ask what Nigerians were doing in 2015? I need to do better.

  9. iowoi

    July 30, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    if oyibo man goes to the sun and comes back using technology, all credit will still be due to the ancient African scientists who genetically engineered them using African and various animal DNA. its like creating an AI robot and taking a seat back to watch it perform wonders. if you do your research you will find out that its a waste of time to spend your life being a human because the game is rigged against spiritual beings. the puzzle was already solved millions of years ago.

  10. B.OT

    July 30, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    We need to wake up and do something for our generation and the one to come.

  11. Mz Socially Awkward...

    July 30, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    I take it you’ve not read up on Nigerian History and the different civilizations which established their own indigenous achievements (Nok Culture, the Bornu & Benin Empires, the Nupe & Nri Kingdoms, etc.) before the white man came with his bright, shiny mirrors. Note the very pertinent fact as well that we were not one country with one single vision during the time of those separate developments – Nigeria as a creation in the 19th century was a very (very) ambitious attempt at bringing all of these different ancient civilisations (no longer able to flourish in their own right following European rule) under one economically convenient umbrella.

    European History (particularly the histories of the British, French and Spanish Empires) reveals that the wealth which powered that continent straight into the industrial revolution – and concurrent enlightenment which that revolution brought – was acquired from the continents (India, Africa and the Americas) “discovered” and then shared between those empires like juicy segments in a pie dish. So when Nigeria was dusting off the reigns of colonization in 1960, Britain (as one example) had already moved very far along from fighting off the Vikings and Normans invasions in the 9th – 10th centuries and then dealing with internal power-struggles for the throne from the 14th century until the 17th century. Once they’d found enough stability to start running their country more peacefully (and also forcefully quelled any more troublesome, independent-minded Scots and Irish), they were able to start looking into increasing their economic capacity – ergo the race for colonies.

    By 1960, they were done. We were just beginning. They had put a man on the moon, we had missed out on the luxury of focusing our attentions on intellectual and scientific achievements, due the pesky problem of trying to give the white masters enough of a good reason to allow us rule ourselves. You also need to understand what Neo-colonialism is and what its repercussions have been on an entire continent until now.

    And I understand the question you’re trying to get us to think more about but there are certain realities about our past which can’t be simplified in the way you’ve stated them in your first two paragraphs. Very substantial damage has been done to the psychology of black Africans in the last 4 centuries at the very least, for them to see themselves as a collective force which is able to match and even surpass European achievements. I agree that we should have started on that road a long time before now but I’m also aware that there are many complexities within that one problem, which we’re urgently need to unravel before we can take those leaps and bounds.

    • Idomagirl

      July 30, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      Well said! Nothing more to add.

    • Californiabawlar

      July 30, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      I’m your 13th like, and when I get to work, I’ll register another one ;)…lol.

      You explained the timeline very eloquently. I once argued this with my mum when she berated our ‘backwardness’ as black people. I simply stated that for all we care, we are still in the post-viking invasion era in British history.
      When I watched the last reboot of Les Miserables, I couldn’t shake it of that we weren’t even at that stage of the failed French Revolutions yet, not to mention the successful one. And this is not because of the superiority of their skin….it’s simply the ‘natural’ progression of events. People just want to forget that we were invaded, enslaved and robbed blind, and depending on which conspiring theorist you’re talking to, it hasn’t even stopped.

      This might sound bogus and out generation won’t see it, but the black man will recover. I even suspect that blacks in ‘diaspora’ (carribeans, African Americans etc) will one day come back to the continent at will.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      July 30, 2015 at 5:56 pm

      Girl, this is so random – I was actually just speaking about Les Mis with someone about 20mins ago (he was explaining his love of musicals and intense hatred of the Rolling Stones). So very random…

      And when you put it like that – i.e. benchmarking how far we’ve gotten against where French society was before the Revolutions – things definitely seem scary. Hopefully, that path doesn’t necessarily need to be ours, even though everyone seems to now agree that Nigeria needs a revolution to really start spinning along its proper course…. plus, those long years of bloodshed actually gave birth to a more modern and organized and forward-thinking France so, they may have been on to something… but even getting to the point of revolution still requires one collective vision and a belief on our collective ability to succeed in that plan.

      Na that be the real inner problem that needs to be fixed before we can properly move our national orientation to one where we’re solution providers and not just mass consumers.

    • whocares

      July 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      You just saved me from writing a lengthy response. When I read the first paragraph, my initial response was “still battling / attempting to recover from slave trade?”. We all know the world wars both first and second was as a consequence of slave trade and the colonisation/ division of African countries. so whilst those wars were going on, believe me our ancestors were very much a part of it.
      I read an interesting article today about how as far back as 300 B.C. to A.D. 350, the Meroë civilization had developed a system of codification. Usually when you hear African history etc, they tell you we learn by passing down information orally. BS., Africa had the world’s oldest university, and people travelled from all over the world to be taught there!
      I suppose growth and development differs from culture to culture. You cannot ask why our ancestors did not develop heaters for example when our climate is always warm, or why didnt we have mirrors when we had oceans so clear you could see your reflection.. You do have a point though at the current trend of growth. I am worried about the rate of materialism and apathy evinced in youths etc. But then again, I read about secondary school girls creating generator that runs on urine (I am correct right?) and it gives me hope. We cant all be revolutionary. Ori yato sori. But in our own way we all make a difference.

    • Youcanlearnoutsidetheclassroom

      July 31, 2015 at 1:10 am

      Thank you! You saved me from an even longer rant. The issue is the whitewashing of history. I guess the author of this article has never heard of Timbukutu. Whilst our ancestors where developing calculus, the Europeans were still asleep in the dark ages! Yes things did take a step backwards with the slave trade and colonisation.
      It’s a shame schools are only teaching rubbish history like Mungo park. Children should be learning about people like Mansa Musa I, Queen Amina, Usman Dan Fodo etc

    • Iris

      July 30, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Ah, there you are my lovely. I was wondering if you’d disappeared or just saved comments for posts with substance (some of the comments I’ve seen on this blog recently…) Anyhow I was telling a friend how we talk about slavery and the holocaust and all of that was awful. However, it seems many Africans do not really realize the psychological mess that was made of us because of colonialism. These people literally drew out countries without considering cultures and tribes that made up what they were carving out. Many of the tribes had nothing to do with each othee. How won’t we have issues of bias and mistrust? How won’t a coup led by well meaning but misguided young Nigerians have turned into a civil war? And it’s not just Africa; they did it in the middle east too. Is it a shocker that religious wars there too are also linked to tribes. To truly be great we must understand our past, make our peace with it, learn from it, then we will know how to map out a successful future.

    • Anya ula

      July 30, 2015 at 10:39 pm

      ….And thus the pertinent question – Why are at the same level that Europe were in the 10th century? Why isn’t it the other way round?

      As far as I’m concerned, your long history na wash.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      July 31, 2015 at 10:03 am

      People have taken time to school me on facts of our history & how our ancestors indeed did attempt a lot. But that’s besides the point. The fact is whatever they did was not replicated or continued and we are not reaping the benefits today. That is a problem. Everyone quickly points to colonialism as the root cause of our backwardness but forget that China was under Japanese oppression for a while. The point of my article is that we can’t keep giving excuses. We have to take charge of the future & stop playing the victim card. I honestly don’t see how, in the 21st century with all the opportunities it affords, we are still lagging. It’s an institutional problem. Colonialism may have contributed to our backwardness but it’s our attitude and institutions (systems) that keep us that way. I suggest you read ‘Why Nations Fail’ and let’s take it up from there.

    • The real D

      July 31, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      @ author, I totally get and in 100 percent agreement with your point. For long we have used slave trade and colonialism has excuses for the problems that plagues us as a society even as a continent. Failing time and time again to accept and realise that the white man has since left us to our own fate. The majority in our country are yet to realize or accept that we alone have the power and capacity to turn things around. We speak of colonialism so was Brazil amongst many others, even the US was under British rule, that has not kept them in the same place that we are. I am tired of the excuses, I am in total agreement that things need to change but for us to get to the point where we begin to manufacture and export our own locally made goods, there has to be a change in our mind set, by doing away with the excuses, yes it happened (let’s not get into.the role the mirror and gun powder played in making that happen, yes, like someone rightly pointed out the white was deceitful but our forefathers were greedy too, just like roles have switched now with online scammers we are the deceitful ones , they the greedy ones) but no point crying over spilled milk. We however still let our greed and laziness get in the way while using colonialism and slave trades as excuses. Or is still the white man that has frustrated and keeps frustrating people that have tried to make positive improvements in our society???Bribes and kickbacks are now the norm and if you are not willing or incapable of doing this, then success is nothing but an illusion.

  12. Psalm

    July 30, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Hello Ifeoluwapo, after “129 years” there’s something called Innosson Motors. Every part of that vehicle is manufactured in Nigeria.
    Sometime this year I saw an armoured private vehicle displayed at the entrance of Trancorp Hilton, Abuja, Nigeria. The car is so strong my finger hurt when I tapped on its body. Price: about N50m. Made in Nigeria.
    And FYI, NIGERIA DOES NOT IMPORT CRUDE OIL.
    I want to believe you’ve heard about King Jaja of Opobo. He’s among our ancestors. He, in his so-called primitive state, withstood European conquest; fire for fire. He was defeated because he was a gentleman when the Europeans were devilishly deceitful. Not because he was dumb or was thrilled by his reflection in a mirror. He went for a peace talk and never came back.
    Yes, we can do better, but we’re not mere consumers. There’s a lot happening around here. And you don’t need an extensive research to find out.

    • Anon

      July 30, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      He must have meant crude oil products like gasoline. We import most of our gasoline.

    • Sue

      July 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      @psalm and ms socially awkward aka madam im too brilliant/madam i know it all please refer to @mr gbajumos comment especially ms socially awkward.
      P.S anyone drives a car by INNOSON please???? anyone marketing it?????? anyone seen it moving in Lagos yet???

    • Peaches77

      July 30, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      Really Really?
      So Lagos represents Nigeria? Innoson vehicles ply the city of Abuja ‘REGULARLY’. Individuals, government organisations use Innoson (IVM) vehicles. I have also seen them in the east. And yes,I saw IVM buses and cars in Lagos lately. Ps. I have personally seen these vehicles for more than 3 years now.

    • Psalm

      July 30, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      @Sue, I don’t know about Lagos but I’ve seen lots of Innosson cars in Abuja and Enugu, especially SUVs and Coasters. Google might be of help.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      July 30, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      I should vex, abi? … but there’s no need as it’s been a really long day and there’s clearly some special reason why you’re clinging unto your opinion for dear life.

      So, instead allow me to apologize. I’m sorry that you’ve chosen to see things the way that you do and it’s never been my intention to come across as though I have any superior knowledge of anything. Please be assured that the floor remains open for all opinions and comments of all shades (and I should know, having read enough of them on this blog) to pour into the BN comment section. Yours, mine, the other hundreds of thousands that Atoke and her co-editors must filter through via their “comment moderation” system before publishing.

      Finally, you need to expand your view of the world and I say this without rancour. When people share experiences on this blog, be they funny or serious or just general random statements- those revelations shouldn’t be considered as some sort of slight to your person. My assessment about many BN commenters is that we come here to let off steam, join in Naija-related gist, learn from articles and each other and laugh a lot. If we speak about things we know, it’s usually in response to a discussion point an article has raised and for a long time, this was a very healthy community because of that reason. Feel free to ignore my comments if they rub you the wrong way but please be assured that I’ll continue to talk of and share and write about and discuss such matters that interest me from time to time. Anyhow wey e pain you reach, na you get your body.

    • Ephi

      July 30, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Sue, please stop being a cyber bully!
      Envy never brings out the good in any one, it only just creates bitterness. Let’s face the topic rather than calling out commenters, play nice dearie

    • Que

      August 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      I have seen their coaster buses in Lagos. bye…

  13. Zero

    July 30, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Omo…….e reach to ask..I have asked myself a zillion times…. Only to belittle women and marry 10wives na him dem sabi those days.

  14. treevt

    July 30, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Africans needs to stop this arrogance of trying to out do what the westerners effortlessly are good at doing (administration & tech). its Marxist and communist leaders who have destroyed Africa because they think that they can out do systems which have been proven to work. it takes serious humility to admit and know ones weaknesses and ask for help from those who are winning at the game. crying everyday about colonialism, nationalism and lying to yourself that you can succeed without their experience is just bull. lets call a spade a spade. even the rising nations in the east thrive by stealing/hacking tech from the west.

  15. Benbella

    July 30, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    A welcome topic, away from the tired themes of love, cheating and romance; and it is a shame that this article would not get the attention it deserves as it requires deep thought and reflection.

    I am no historian, but I have tried to do some reading on the subject. We are a country will never figure out where we are heading, until we have learned where we have been. Here are my 2 kobo, and I urge any History Majors in the house to back or refute my views, as these are just based on my understanding from reading on the subject:

    – It is not right to say that there are no records of our history. For one, present day Nigeria is made up of several former nations and ethnic groups ( I never use the word “tribe” as that is derogatory). Yorubas are a nation; so are Igbos, Efiks, etc. Imagine if France, Germany, Holland were all merged into a geographical contraption called “Westeuroaria” by a stronger military nation, for the sole imperial purpose for easier colonial administration. That is what happened in the case of Nigeria in 1914.

    These independent nations and kingdoms were thriving civilizations with their own cultures, laws, norms, systems of government, currencies, economies. There were different ways of recording history. Some of it were oral. In some societies, griots who were assigned literati memorized the history of that society which was passed down orally from generation to generation by memory and narration. These griots knew of all major events, royal lineages and successions, and other historical happenings and the time of their event, and could be could upon to narrate if required. When Alex Haley the author of “Roots” went back to present day Gambia to the Mandika ethnic group, a griot confirmed and corroborated the story of the abduction by slave traders of Haley’s great great grandfather Kunta Kinte in the 1700s. That was more than 200 years of oral history which is more incredible than anything any western historian can muster.

    Another way of recording history, other than writing it, was through artwork. The Benin Kingdom (which should be a source of pride of every Nigerian) was a huge one. They traded with the Portuguese as equals, with Ewuare sending his son to Portugal to school, and even sending ambassadors to Portugal as emissaries. Benin Kingdom recorded some of their history through their artworks. Many of these arts which were superior works of craftmanship (Bronze leopards, Masks of Ivory, sculptures illustrating events like Egyptian heliographics) were carted away by British soldiers during their conquest of Benin in 1897. Without the art, and the specialists who are specially trained to interpret them, that is a part of our history lost for ever. Take away a society’s history (like the Nazi’s did to nations they conquered), and you take away their identity and culture.

    The Hausa Fulani, Bornu empires and those who practiced Islam actually wrote in Arabic, and recorded their history. Arabic numerals form the bedrock of the numerals we use today, I will have you know. I do not know much about Kanem-Bornu and Northern history so perhaps I will leave this to those better versed.

    – As explained about, the Oyo Kingdom, Benin Kingdom and several smaller nations were all thriving, trading and prosperous before the colonialists came. People talk about the Great Wall of China but do you know there is a mud wall in Benin that was the longest man made structure ever made. See except from Wikipedia: The Walls of Benin were a combination of ramparts and moats, called Iya in the local language, used as a defense of the historical Benin City, formerly of the now defunct Kingdom of Benin and now the capital of the present-day Edo State of Nigeria. It was considered the largest man-made structure lengthwise and was hailed as the largest earthwork in the world. It is larger than Sungbo’s Eredo.[citation needed] It enclosed 6,500 km² of community lands. Its length was over 16,000 km of earth boundaries. It was estimated that earliest construction began in 800 AD and continued into the mid-1400s

    – There were sculptures with West African features (big nose, thick lips) found in present day Central and South America, which shows that West Africans had voyaged to the Americas way before Amerigo Vespucci, Christopher Colombus or the Conquistadors. As the local Inca and India tribes there were decimated in the colonialists quest for gold, there are either no/few credible records left on any collaborations between these African voyagers and the local Indian population, or it is being hidden somewhere.

    I should stop now, as there is so much to be said, and I do not know it all. But Nigerians, please take time to learn your history. Do not be carried away by Twitter, pop culture and these distractions. There are bigger issues at hand

    • EllesarisEllendil

      July 30, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      ” For one, present day Nigeria is made up of several former nations and ethnic groups ( I never use the word “tribe” as that is derogatory). Yorubas are a nation; so are Igbos, Efiks, etc. Imagine if France, Germany, Holland were all merged into a geographical contraption called “Westeuroaria” by a stronger military nation, for the sole imperial purpose for easier colonial administration. That is what happened in the case of Nigeria in 1914.”

      Not exactly, The Yoruba were not a nation, “technically” they were a group of city states with a similar language, at first united by Oyo and Benin respectively, after the the 1814 Jihad the Sokoto caliphate had a raging boner to “deep the koran into the ocean”, they swept in, ushered the Oyo empire into the annals of history thanks to Afonja’s betrayal and the dominance of the Sokoto Calvary, for a bit it looked like the Caliphate would succeed, but Ibadan and Ijaye said Impossible!!, in 1832, Ibadan crushed the Caliphate at Osogbo*(Caveat, my books aren’t close by so I may off with the date, but I’m somewhat good at History so probably not). Ibadan was hailed as the saviour of Yoruba-land, however it soon went into conflict with Ijaye and proceeded to crush and burn Ijaye to the ground in 1852*(independently confirm my dates). This woke the other Yoruba states from their slumber and they all decided to stop Ibadan “domination”(We’ve been at this domination thing for while LOL!!!). Anyways, the Ibadan military leader declared a war to end all wars between Ijebu and the Ekitiparapo which lasted for 16 years!! The Yoruba could fight!. Anyways the Brits twiddled their fingers, drank tea and played polo and when the parties had exhausted themselves, swept in crushed Ijebu and declared “peace”. The Igbo aren’t a “nation” but a group of individual village republics with a similar lanaguage, not similar, our dialets are vastly differect, most of us however speak a sort of “central Igbo” if some villages drop their vernacular for you. Igbo history is too long.

      Next point, France, Germany and Holland, hell every nation on earth were in fact disparate city states “merged into a geographical contraption by a stronger military”. Once Britain were the Anglo-Saxons, the Jutes, remnants of Romans, Mercians, NorthUmbrians, SouthUmbrians, Jutes, Celts e.t.c the Scotland and Irish tribes are too much to mention, here, sorry. They were until first the Anglo-Saxons(Angland, get it?) merged them all together, then they existed for a while until a little known guy, name of William sailed from Normandy in FRANCE to conquer England and become King. That is how all nations are formed in blood and fire, trust me(stranger status not withstanding) on this.

      The rest of your statement though, brings a tear to my eye, succinctly put, especially the “bigger issues at hand” part. Bravo!

      P.S Don’t buy the whole, if not for European Africa would be a bunch of tribes shtick, utter shit that s, if not for Europeans Africa would be a group of smaller Nations!! they emphasised tribal divisions to divide and conquer, examples, Niger, Cameroon and Benin would be part of “Nigeria” courtesy Borno and the Sokoto caliphate, Benin AKA Dahomey was first a vassl state of Oyo, when they briefly gained independence, they were defeated by Abeokuta(another Yoruba city state). Asante covered all of modern Ghana and Togo, with parts of Ivory Coast. Muhammad Ali’s Egypt ruled from the Sudan to Syria and parts of Greece. The Zulu were well on their way to unifying Southern African. Tewodros 2 of Ethiopia had united Ethiopia(not this Somali, Djibouti, Eritea contraption we have now) and was looking outward. Samori Toure of the Mandinka ruled from Liberia to Burkina Faso, everything changed when the Fire nation, I mean the Europeans invaded though.

    • Benbella

      July 30, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Interesting and well said. You learn something new everyday, and i cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be able to build with well read Nigerians on this site, on more important topics than relationships, marriage and who is sexing who.

      We will never know the extent of pre-colonialism innovation and science by native Nigerian peoples because the colonialists usurped many ideas in the areas of medicine, health and arts and took them back to Europe and secured patents and IP rights with them to enrich their generations for years to come, while some of our people were enslaved, killed, subjugated. It was a classic case of divide and conquer – once the European capitalist system of money and ammunition was introduced to the native population, we lost the fabric that made us human in exchange for profit and slave trading. Slavery used to be a system of servitude and apprenticeship, until the Europeans put a slant on it with their cross-Atlantic slavery which to me, along with the Holocaust are 2 of the lowest points of human existence.

      Congo under the Belgian rule of King Leopold was the worst case of imperialism for profit. Children of toddler age had their hands sawed off, if their parents failed to meet a quota for tapping rubber.

      Please my fellow Nigerians, safeguard your cultures. Teach your children your mother tongue, learn your native dances, lineage, norms, ideals. That is the base of your existence.

  16. Glo

    July 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Really Great write-up and very thought provoking too..

    Truly and Sadly, our great great great grand kids will definitely ask the same question…”what exactly were our ancestors doing?” if we continue to wallow in our ocean of corruption and low self esteem. If you ask me, any one who wants to owe 5 exotic cars or 2 private jets in a country where 80% of its population lives in abject poverty has low self esteem because they think that by them them selves, they have nothing to offer the world but with all those unnecessary exotic cars and private jets, they will be talk about worldwide which in boost their ego.

    We need to start thinking of how to change the world’s perception of us from one of the worlds most corrupt country to one the most technology driven innovative country in the world.

  17. Psalm

    July 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    More like bulletproof not armoured per se

  18. E.ni.o.la. & Ink.

    July 30, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve found myself asking this question before. Great article, inspiring and intriguing!

  19. bb

    July 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    What were the ancestors doing to have sold their sons and daughters to slavery?

  20. Ayo

    July 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    A very straightforward and thought-provoking article, Dr. Odedere. Good work. Like you, my brothers and I spent years pondering these questions. And we found the answers.

    For the *historical* and *geographical* answer to why sub-Saharan Africa is so far behind culturally (but now catching up even if seemingly superficially), see Thomas Sowell’s “Conquest and Cultures.” For the answer to the question of why Nigerians (and too many other Africans) are not into technological creation, there are two, interrelated parts. One is cultural, the other political-economic. The cultural answer is that we are not yet a secular, logical people. This is because we have had very, very limited exposure to Aristotelian epistemology [inductive and deductive logic, scientific hypothesis, etc} and its Renaissance and Enlightenment descendants. The political-economic answer is that we have not been running a remotely capitalist economy in almost any country on the continent since Independence, and without capitalism (the system of private property and individual freedom), no society stands a chance. For more on this question, see “The Voice of Reason” by Ayn Rand.

  21. Jice

    July 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Lovely write-up… I think I’l follow you on twitter

  22. @edDREAMZ

    July 30, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    .
    Seriously i dont think about this things and i dont even care man…..
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

    • Tkum

      July 30, 2015 at 3:58 pm

      HOW WOULD U CARE? Smh…

    • EllesarisEllendil

      July 30, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      Stay chill Brother, life sef too short for all these kine philisomething debate.

  23. Chima

    July 30, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Good article.. I see it as a call to action and I’d like to add that it goes beyond technological inventions.. We should all start thinking like solution providers – there are so many “problems” out there for each and everyone to solve if we only spent some time to THINK.

  24. Californiabawlar

    July 30, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    I don’t think you did enough research on history….and though your heart is in the right place, that oversight flawed your premise.

    During African civilizations, when we built empires, buildings, the caucasians were in caves in Europe (heard through the grapevine that this is the reason for the pale skin, but please don’t quote me), eating raw meat and dying from diseases we could cure with herbs.
    Here’s an article I came by 3days ago,

    siliconafrica.com/terra-nullius/
    It’s on the different empires leveled to zero by colonialists….it would surprise you to know that the wall that surrounded the Benin empire was longer than that of the Great Wall of China. How is it we never heard of these things?

    Your history was deliberately erased so you can believe that you’re subhuman.

    You question the crudeness of our forefathers in the slave trade….remember that question goes both ways. And while I hate to excuse their actions, in fairness, I doubt the African traders knew the extent of the damage and what was going on on the other side of the Atlantic.
    Slavery had it’s roots in human history since time immemorial, from jews to Scandinavians to within the African cultures….however, that brand of slavery had it’s own unspoken rules and laws (as those given by God to the Jews) that allowed slaves to retain their humanity, e.g. In the Yoruba culture they “eru ni baba, ona lo jin” translates to “the slave has a father, he’s just far away” ( imply, treat the slave well)….the white traders were in fact the crude ones who took slavery to another level. They bought people, drowned half of them in the Atlantic, treated them like animals, enslaved generation after generation and developed an entire subcontinent off their backs for free.

    I have given this a careful thought over time and came to the conclusion that every civilization is different, and it’s the oyinbo man’s turn….
    however this does not excuse the mental lethargy displayed by the average negro, so I support you in your challenge of our present/future. Asians were invaded (though not enslaved, lucky them for being ittybitty ?) , but they sure have bounced back.
    Something in me is always uneasy when I see dance videos or even artists and everyone starts raving about Europeans and Americans ‘accepting’ them.
    No shade, brothers and sisters, but all our generation does is ‘invent’ dance moves. And while I’m arguably one of the best dancers around (??) , the scientist and cynic in me has no appreciation for ‘advancements’ made on that front.

    I think to move forward, the negro needs a history on his past. We may need inspiration and pride in knowing we once were, well? for the lack of a better word, the shit. That we were once the baddest ninjas out there…. Maybe, just maybe, this will free us from the shackles of mental slavery.

    Pardon my incoherence, I just dey wake…. I shall be back, cos this is a topic I’m very passionate about, (obviously, from my epistle ??)

    • Peaches77

      July 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      ***Clap Clap!!
      I agree 99%, and your epistle is not even exhaustive of this topic.

  25. Chike Opara

    July 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Until lions learn to write, tales of hunt will always glorify the hunter.

    • Dr. N

      July 30, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      Kpomkwem!

  26. EllesarisEllendil

    July 30, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    *Sigh*, I mixed the good stuff today, For the sake of posterity though, *puts on nerd glasses* OP “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”. As Chike has pointed out above me, “Until lions learn to write, tales of hunt will always glorify the hunter.”.

    Our ancestors were’nt just chewing sticks, drinking and having sex while the Europeans made all the technological advances in the world, we were building our civilizations as well, as culturally advanced as any in the world, perhaps save China. First truth anybody taking the Red pill needs to know is that Mungo Park DID not discover the Niger. Africans were already trading and sailing down the Niger long before Mungo Park’s Great, Great(to Infininty) Grandfather’s balls dropped. That right there should tell you the extent to which the victors rewrote our history. Other posters have already listed our great civilizations and their myriad strides and achievements, so I won’t waste time rehashing that. I will instead try to answer the question of why?? why did they jump ahead technologically.

    Honestly, as a Historian, I don’t know, I can’t use History to explain why the “West” was able to jump ahead of previously more advanced civilizations like China and some African states, e.g Ethiopia, Benin, Ife, Nri, Kano e.t.c. However using a bit of geo-politics and a bit of common-sense realism I can guess.
    Firstly Geo-politics, take a look on the Map of the European nations that changed the world i.e Britain, Germany, France, you’ll notice that A, they are smack dab in the middle of Asia and Africa, they had the opportunity to gain resources from both worlds, Advanced medicine, Mathematics and Gunpowder from Asia and Gold from Africa. Secondly you’ll notice that they’re situated on fertile plains meant for easy warfare, they’re are less physical barriers separating them. Thirdly, you’ll notice they’re all very close to each other allowing easier exchange of idea, sometimes unity, e.t.c. These are advantages of having prime real estate on the globe.

    You gather all these geo-political advantages and throw in literally thousands of years of constant conflict and you will have technological innovation, an uncomfortable truth is that Man is at his best when thinking up new and faster ways to kill. Example, every technology in use now is simply a slimmer version of technology invented for WW2. We have not had new inventions since the last war. Britain was able to build and improve her ships, because she was constantly invaded by Scandinavian Vikings, Germany was able to unify because they faced the threat of France, all of Europe got Gunpowder in the first place, because a little known guy name of Genghis Khan formed the Mongolian empire and they swept into Europe. All of Europe was able to get writing because some dudes called the Romans forced the “Roman Alphabet” on them. E.t.c, they’re far too many examples to list.

    Things might have been different if Kanem Calvary had swept South instead of North, If Ethiopia had Swept East instead of West, the truth is that the Caucasians are better(currently) not because of racial superiority but because they happen to occupy the best real estate on the planet i.e North America and Western Europe. Nothing more Nothing less.

    P.S possible grammar errors.

    • Benbella

      July 30, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Dont also forget the influence of the Moors (present day North Africa) on Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal) where they brought about advances in arts, science, architecture which can still be seen in present day Spain especially in the coastal areas.

      I think great civilizations and powers come and go – they peak and they either decline, are ravaged by disease or natural disasters or are conquered by stronger enemies. It is the circle of life. There was a time it was Great Britain, and before then Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Carthage, Rome, Mongolia under the Khans etc.

  27. chibaz

    July 30, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    very interesting article. we are busy building more chuches and prayer houses. Our brothersin other African countries are not left out. when ebola was a threat last year our Caucasian brothers were looking for a vaccine and we were looking for pastor joshua. we a million years behind, Africa is a million years behind . what will we tell our chilren that we have contributed to the world.yes I know we have innoson no but that is like a zillion years too late. our brothers and sisters do better when go out. In Tanzania witch doctors are still chasing albinos for human parts to make concoctions IN THIS TIME AND AGE. when are cocontemporaries are in the laboratories outside the country. we are still struggling with the basics here: roads, housing, healthcare etc. And nonsensical things like witch craft . SOMETHING is really wrong with AFRICA.

    • Gia

      August 2, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Gbam!

  28. chibaz

    July 30, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    sorry for my typos everyone.

  29. Ifeoluwapo Odedere

    July 31, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Mehn. People have written text book on Nigerian History here. Let’s have historians unite and give us something to ponder on. But on a more serious note, these comments have been very enlightening.
    That said, let’s make our Nation greater than our ancestors left it.

    • ...just saying

      July 31, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      There are tons of books, you just need to get off your behind to look for them. Loads of African history books are in libraries everywhere. You should try to do more research to make informed data before you write such articles. Your lack of information made the article very flat.

  30. Youcanlearnoutsidetheclassroom

    July 31, 2015 at 1:09 am

    Thank you! You saved me from an even longer rant. The issue is the whitewashing of history. I guess the author of this article has never heard of Timbukutu. Whilst our ancestors where developing calculus, the Europeans were still asleep in the dark ages! Yes things did take a step backwards with the slave trade and colonisation.
    It’s a shame schools are only teaching rubbish history like Mungo park. Children should be learning about people like Mansa Musa I, Queen Amina, Usman Dan Fodo etc

  31. looters

    July 31, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Industrialisation is not civilisation and that is one of the many ways most of Africa’s colonial masters fucked them over. Globalisation in our case is one of the biggest downfalls falling our replacement of civilisation by industrialisation post-colonialism

  32. looters

    July 31, 2015 at 3:21 am

    *following our replacement of civilisation by industrialisation post-colonialism

  33. Jack

    July 31, 2015 at 5:32 am

    GUYS ALOT OF COMMENTS ON HERE BUT CAN SOME ONE PLZZ ANSWER THE QUESTION:

    Here is my theory: EVER WONDERED WHAT THE ARABS ARE DOING SITTING ON AFRICA HEAD ?

    look at the Northern part of NIGERIA and look at the southern part, the difference is the direct result of Arabisation of the continent…The Niggas from the North Don’t even kno that they are niggaz!!!!

    All they live to do every morning and each day they wake up is to find something to sell, trade with their white Arab counterpart in hope it will bring them closer …. even if it means selling people……(in Total Ignorance of how much those mediterenians trully despise the Black Skin!) This has resulted in the Systematic rip off of all Africa memorable artifacts.

    WHEN THE TUAREGS ATTACKED SOUTHERN MALI (BLACK MALI) FIRST THING THEY DESTROYED WAS THE LIBRARIES (THE ONLY LEFT IN AFRICA) HARBORING AFRICAN HISTORY DATING BACK TO THE 13th CENTURY, NOW IMAGINE THAT HAPPENING THROUGHOUT AFRICAN CONTINENT DURING THE ARABIC SLAVE TRADE…WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE LEFT…..?????????

  34. Tunmi

    July 31, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    The psychological wreck is far damaging, and far-reaching.

  35. Fade to black

    July 31, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    Benbella and EllesarisEllendil should be given the opportunity to rewrite this article.

  36. AfricanBadGirl

    August 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    There’s a quote by Minister Louis Farrakhan, “If you do not know what your fathers did, you don’t know what you’re genetically capable of”‘. Compare the son of an iconic boxer and a new guy, the confidence they bring to the ring will definitely be different. As long as we lack knowledge of our history, it will always seem like we are trying to do something new, not sure if we can rise up to the challenge. But knowing what our ancestors did, gives a certain type of confidence when going forward.
    That being said, colonialism is not an excuse and should not be used as a crutch, it happened, its real and we need to acknowledge the effects in order to eradicate it. One major effect of colonialism was that it took away our self-confidence. There are people on the streets that would readily trust a white man over a black man even though they are saying same thing! Colonialms taught us to look down on ourselves and every thing that came from us, and we still do that today. (although it was due to ignorance, the author does begin by looking down at our ancestors ). The documentary ‘500 Years Later’ explain this a lot better. We are ignorant about our history, because guess who created the education systems we use today? the white man!!
    As much as we should strive to teach and learn our full history(not just this post-colonial info), we should equally strive to get to follow the advice of the author and be inventors rather than only consumers. Greatness already lives within us, it’s about time we rise up to it.

  37. Analese Keaton

    August 26, 2015 at 12:17 am

    Last to comment. Lol. I wish there were more articles like this here and less from the agony aunt.
    My comment will likely come unnoticed but it’s still worthwhile to contribute. Most of the comments berating Dr OP for insufficient research have failed to clearly see his point of view. We’ve heard of the Wall of the Benin empire, the Moors’ conquests in Europe, the Alexandria library, the Nsibidi alphabets from Eastern Nigeria, the binary system used in ifa divinition.. etc.
    What many commenters did not address was the dark period that remains strangely unaccounted for and the role that our forefathers had in this significant deficit.
    Dr OP isn’t trying to cover up nor downplay recent achievements by people of African origins. What he’s trying to emphasise is the fact that the Western world is already decades ahead of the achievements that seem new to the African community and why our ancestors might have been largely responsible for this backwardness.

    Not everyday you blame white man for underdeveloping Africa. Sometimes you take responsibility by asking elders how they did it quite effortlessly.

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