They Lied To Us By Olanike Adebayo

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So they came from shores far away; met our forefathers in their estates and courted them for favours. First, they asked to be friends and later to live among them. Eating the same food, inhaling the same air and drinking from those same ponds described as toxic.

Then, the indoctrination and subtle deceit started. Our fathers’ systems were barbaric. Eating with bare hands was alien, organising communities into “Umumas” and hierarchical orders were wrong. 

Never mind that the ancient Oyo empire enjoyed a unique system of democracy where the Oba could be impeached for infringing on citizens’ rights. The council of elders, afobajes, could sway power to the advantage of the people. The women were economically empowered with voices in their localities.

Erring members of the community were punished and banished from social circles depending on the weight of the offences. Law and order reigned except of course, when the egoistic human nature reared its ugly head; leading to unnecessary wars and enslavements. Otherwise, society was pretty sane and just.

And the righting of the wrong started. We didn’t speak right. Neither did we love right. Our system of education was faulty. It was not to be reformed but discarded. Replaced with a totally different system that required their foreign languages which were the prim and proper ones. Then, it extended to our outfits. The scorching sun and extreme heats that dictated our sparsely clothed fashion sense was left out of the plan. We had to dump our comfortable and weather-favourable outfits for decked up jackets, ties, trousers and suits. 

We followed like sheep being led to the slaughter. Our obeisance to the new rules were second to none. In no time, we got acquiescence with lies. Plain, blatant lies. Broad day light lies. We believed that we didn’t live as humans before their arrival. What we did not remember was that civilisation started in Kemet, along the Nile Basin, where our fathers drank, dunked and washed their clothes. 

Memory eluded us. We did not remember that agricultural techniques started with the Pharaohs. Nobody told us that Cleopatra, the dark-skinned Egyptian queen was the inventor of the red lipstick that is gladly labelled with Paris. Nobody told us that Aristotle and Pythagoras, ancient European philosophers, were trained in Egypt. 

And that we had bronze works in Ife before the first ship was ever manufactured. That we had Igbo-ukwu pottery and carvings before we welcomed strangers. And we were not strangers to melting metal aesthetics which adorned our homes. 

But we believed the lies. Now, we shy away from teaching our children our mother tongues. Those languages are local and unrefined. They are not for our sophisticated selves. Our local dishes are thrown out in favour of bland cuisines. We go on honeymoon on our country’s coast but demand only for English breakfasts-the proof of being taste-bud-compliant. 

Our names are not exquisite enough. We need the foreign ones. Colonial surnames bequeath higher statuses on us. Anything , any name in the world but our deep, meaningful ones. It’s just the way it is. We accepted the lies, bought them, preserved them in portmanteaus for posterity. Then, we marched on to peddle them to our grandchildren; speaking despicable hogwash under the guise of civilisation. 

Should we have kept our world as they met it? Hell No! Culture, a way of life, is not static but progressive. In the same way that witches are no longer burnt at the stakes. Just as men are not made to tough it out for love as witnessed in Romeo and Juliet. In the same way that battles are no longer fought on horses as we had in the battle of Waterloo. And exactly as Marie Antionette and her husband were ousted by the people. Our ways of life too needed reforms . Not a complete overhaul that compels a man to wear a three piece suit in over thirty degrees centigrades temperature. Or makes a girl reject her authentic name for a no-meaning Latin one that means little to her story. 

It’s about time that we searched for the truth. That we embraced it and give the treasures to our children. No more lies but the truth. Not economical truths but the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

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