Professor Cheikh Anta Diop is a case study in one man’s massive investment in a counter-narrative of Africa in human history. As with promoters of views which contests the hegemonic view, the University of Paris educated multidisciplinary scholar is not celebrated as many of his contemporaries. But, in this piece, Ibrahim Lawal Ahmed, Bayero University, Kano graduate of Political Science serving in the NYSC scheme with the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development, (SCDDD), Abuja celebrates him. He says Africa cannot do without the late Senegalese scholar and politician – Intervention.
By Ibrahim Lawal Ahmed
Can Africa make any headway without relearning itself from Cheikh Anta Diop? It is doubtful. Cheikh Anta Diop must be given great respect for dedicating his life to restoring the dignity of Africans to Africans. He shattered the whole ‘mystery’ and unveiled the historical brilliance of Blacks, proving that the dark skin of the Negroes or Kushites – to use more ancient word – concealed an ingenuity which, due to racism imposed inferiority complex orchestrated during colonialism, has prevented the Negroes from believing in themselves vis-à-vis that capability and pride about it among races.
Due to such mental impairment, the world now looks at Africa, to use the words of Tony Blair, as “a scar on the conscience of humanity” or to be more explicitly poignant, “the wretched continent.” The mere mention of Africa brings to mind epidemics, violent crises, destitution and penury. Africans are viewed and treated at the global stage through the Hegelian telescope (two-third humans); at best with lesser respect, recognition and worth, more like savages in a civilizing course. But the worst thing is, Africans have accepted such distorted cum externally imposed image that relegates them to ‘inferior race’ to the point of basically becoming caricatures of themselves.
Members of the younger generation of Africans today no longer seem to view colonialism as sinister but rather the ‘white god’ to be grateful to for coming on a destructive civilizing mission. The effects of colonialism are very much ripe today. Colonial mentality has sunk deep in the mind of Africans that African culture is in decadence. It can be seen in the way Africans think, dress and even talk. As I write, a young black girl somewhere is bleaching her skin in order to look ‘white’ consequently, literally ending up in the beautiful satiric words of Fanon, “black skin, white mask’. Such is our downgrading that we either replicate the development strategy of the foreigners or we beg them to for a new formula. Such is our destitution that we depend on ‘aid’ to run our economy. We have become a mendicant continent. So eager are we to accept what the ‘crusaders’ give us that even our history is dictated by them!
“This is all the more serious,” as Diop observed, “because the great mass of knowledge to be acquired, in the modern world, leaves the younger generation, with the exception of professionals, no time to consult original sources and to appreciate the gap between the truth and what they are taught.” Indeed, the youths, in the face of information-overload, are now having a dilemma of discerning what is worth reading.
It is in this regard that Cheikh Anta Diop’s The African Origin of Civilisation’ is more than worth reading. It is a book that will remain relevant in all ages. It is a book with astonishing factual revelation about Africa and the whole Negro race; what he sometimes referred to as ‘Kushites.’ Fortunately, the complete PDF version of the book is available online.
Any reader of the book will be surprised to find that Egyptians were blacks; the Pharaohs such as Ramseses, Tuthmosis III and Seti were all blacks. Many of the prophets who had lived in that area, such as Lukman (the wise) were Negroes. This refutes the claim that there has never been a Negro ‘Prophet of God’
You become more astonished to find that the Peuls (Fulani) originated from Egypt. They were initially Blacks and produced numerous pharaohs. The Phoenicians and the Carthaginian (Hannibal was one of the Carthage leader), who were conquerors of Greeks and Romans were all Blacks. In fact, the Negroes enslaved and civilized the Greeks which is the cradle of the European civilization. Then we should not wonder that the city of Paris owes its name from the temple of the God of Egypt, Per Isis. A Christian may be surprised to find semblance of the Christian Trinity with that of Ancient Black Egyptians. Like The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, the Ancient Egyptians had Osiris, Isis and Horus. A Muslim may be perplexed to find semblance of Islam in the thirty days (30 days) fasting and seven times prayer to the sun in the Ancient Black Egypt.
A feminist will find it hard to believe that Negroes are matriarchal. That matriarchy was and is the social organization of Black Africa. This can be seen in the numerous Egyptian Queens (Hatshepsut was one of the powerful Black queens of Egypt) or even the discovery that “succession to the throne was regulated in Kano by matriarchy”, (p.145). The payment of dowry has hitherto expressed respect (not purchase) and serves as a form of guarantee in alliance called ‘marriage.’
Beyond being very stimulating, the book brings self-pride which arises from the feeling of in-depth search on the history of Black Africa and, in the process, discovering ways on how to deal with present day predicaments. For example, looking at the Igbo political system, how the youths and the women had been included in the decision-making process through Age Grades and ‘Umunna’ gives us a hint on how to reform the current democratic system to be more inclusive. From the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, we may discover how to run not too distinct modern day capitalism without allowing the system to degenerate to inequality. We may also learn how the Roman-Africans were able to deal with the issue of “settlers and indigenes.”
The African Origin of Civilisation is not the only work of Diop. Pre-colonial Black Africa is also a similar work but it is quite the most esteemed. Reading it, one comes to appreciate history. Hence, one will agree with Professor Olufemi Taiwo that ‘knowledge’ is what Africa needs in her quest for ‘modernity.’ As such, more than anything else, learning – the quest for knowledge – should be the main preoccupation of African youths.