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Opinions of Thursday, 1 August 2019

Columnist: Jennifer Akpene Dotsey

Religion blackmail

J.D. Wolfensohn, former World Bank President once remarked: Religion is an omnipresent and seamless part of daily life, taking an infinite variety of forms that are part of the distinctive quality of each community. The African Traditional Religion defines Africa. However, the introduction of other religions and westernization is at the verge of swallowing our religion. They have eaten into our culture, lifestyle, choices, and perceptions about the world as well as general living within our communities.

The major difference between our religion and the others is proper documentation.

The African Traditional Religion’s rich heritage since time immemorial has been passed on to generations by word of mouth. Today, unfortunately, this noble and unique heritage has almost been dismissed and disregarded as having no relevance for life in modern Africa. We have been brainwashed to believe our God is a lesser God and ought to be written as ‘god’.

This, however, on any day will vehemently be disputed by any true African who has been enlightened by history from our forefathers that our religion acknowledges the existence of a supreme being who created the world, is the source of destiny and cannot be challenged.

Anything African is almost branded as evil or bad starting with the denotation and connotation of our colour ‘black’ in any dictionary. The interpretation of the colour ‘white’ speaks volume and this is the genesis of the brainwash, right down to our traditions, moral values, perceptions, choices and preferences as well. It is rather saddening that we have given credence to this so that Africa is still living in mental slavery. Like Bob Marley tells us in his Redemption songs, ‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds’. If the former World Bank President’s message is anything to go by, then, we are losing our quality as Africans.

Africans today due to lack of financial prowess and shortage of foreign medication, die from easily African herbs curable diseases like allergies, migraine, asthma, snake bites, etc. Unless we are of the view that diseases were not once mentioned amongst our forefathers. African herbs with little or no side effects can easily redeem the continent first of our health problems, reduce the poverty rate by providing a means for the African medicine doctors and their dependents as well as contributing largely to the prospects of our economy with the adequate and necessary investment.


Africa’s uniqueness is expressed also through our mode of dressing. It is worrying to know that westernization and religions introduced are speedily altering this under the pretence of standard dress codes for white colour jobs and other religions. If not, I am yet to comprehend the logic behind wearing foreign clothes from Mondays to Thursdays (days considered working days) and wearing our rich African prints but on Fridays ( a day often considered holiday) in Ghana.


We are by so doing, creating four times we create for our clothes, market for foreign clothes. The use of kente, smock and our beautiful patterned African prints have become a thing for occasions instead of our lifestyle. Let us be positively influenced if for nothing at all by the contributions of the Japanese textile industry to Japan’s Gross Domestic Product largely due to the patronage of her national attire the Kimono. We can equally boost and revamp our textile industries through high patronage of our local clothes and authorities enforcing laws protecting the local textile industry to achieve a boost in our economic wealth and standard of living as a people.


The beautiful rhythm and interpretation of our drums and dances, folktales, proverbs, traditional symbols and national emoluments are fast eroding. All these carry, some loud and others subtle messages that define who we are as a people. They teach us about morality, discipline, diligence, bravery, endurance and above all patriotism. Aside students who recite our national anthems and pledges as a norm in school, we are yet to be attached to the messages they carry. It is not unusual to notice our leaders even, struggling to get right the words that make our national anthem and pledges.


Meanwhile, these are rich and powerful words which ought to instill in us a sense of patriotism, inform us of the toils, bloodshed and traverse of our forefathers who fought to bring Africa to where we had come to meet it as well as a source of motivation to continue from where they had left off and made it a great and better place for future Africans. All these ought to instil in us a sense of belonging and a real Pan-African mindset to make Africa, our home, through commitment and dedication to working for mother Africa our paramount interest. The least said about the neglect of our native languages and names for foreign ones, the better.
In the book, The Triple Heritage (1986) A. Mazrui asserts: “Things are not working in Africa. From Dakar to Dare es Salam, from Marrakesh to Maputo, institutions are decaying, structures are rusting away. It is as if the ancestors had pronounced the curse of cultural sabotage”.

I am not very certain, that our ancestors would have done their beloved continent a great disservice by making such pronouncement. They have contributed their quota to our land. It is our time to build our home for it is only Africans who can build Africa. Let us go back to our roots and through our African traditional religion and beliefs, make progress. Progress that would make our institutions work, that which will inspire patriotism and that which will make our leaders put Africa and Africans first. Let us put a smile on the faces of our fallen heroes who sacrificed their all for Africa. In my local parlance Ewe, it is said that “ametor ye wo yor na” meaning you can only boost of what you own. We owe this continent a duty, let us leave a legacy for generations yet unborn.