It is worrisome when several Africans speak about and treat African practices as though it is the most barbaric to ever come across. It is disgraceful that at every convenience, the prodigal children associate almost every bad and barbaric practice with Africa.
I wonder why the forgetful Africans could not see leaders vacating offices, checks and balances cum limited governance, respect, hard work, dignified marriage, family and extended family system, communal ownership and living, indigenous cooperative practices, communal raising of children, apprenticeship, omoluabi philosophy (among Yoruba people), and so on inherent in African culture predating colonialism in the region. A major catalyst for Okonkwo in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is his father’s bad reputation and tainted legacy. He was constantly haunted by his father’s infamy having died with many unpaid debts, neglected his family and for being a coward.
The death of a prominent Nigerian politician recently further strengthens the circulation of the baseless dictum that it is against African practice to speak ill of a dead, in fact, the promoters of this ruse almost synonymize it with an African taboo. And the slumbering fellows are gulping down the lies unabatedly.
The propagators should be compelled to cite those instances in African culture which forbid speaking against the ills of the dead as being peddled around. Our culture emphasizes good deeds at all times. It underlines the importance of good name (being better than gold and silver). African culture I know is such that makes individuals realize that one’s reputation is not for them alone, but also for their close associates, children, family and descendants.
By African culture, everyone is conscious of their acts because their community would not deodorize their misdeeds while living and in death. Perpetuators of social aberration often suffer stigmatization, ostracisation, mockery, banishment and other forms of social punishment as deterrence for others. Even in death, such individual is given less befitting burial and their surviving family continues to bear the stigma. This is the fate of Okonkwo in Achebe’s classic work and many Africans whose forbears left behind a bad reputation.
In Africa, devoid of foreign influence, a good work of individuals works for them and their family even after death and the same obtainable if one perpetuates evil. So, evils or goods one does outlive them; this is African. Even stories about deities in African oral traditions consist of heroism and villainy, let alone mere mortal trying to clutch sainthood when their unconscionable deeds abound.
Someone stole and misappropriated billions at the expense of millions of the impoverished masses, but upon their death, the fragment of the people who benefited from the corrupted largesse would then be sponsoring campaigns against criticizing pre-death foul plays of their late patrons. All over the world, Nigeria is synonymous with myriads of corrupt practices. Millions of innocent, honest and diligent Nigerians are made to face all kinds of discriminations orchestrated by the bad label.
However, the sparse followers of the evil geniuses will want to paper the sharp and illicit activities of their principal by churning out pedestrian and unfounded heroism of the villains. In a worse situation, the fragment protégés and clienteles of the infamous patrons would want people to be silent about the foul play of their patrons, particularly upon their deaths erroneously claiming that our culture forbids such act. The inventors further go ahead to say, upon the deaths of their ‘heroes’, that certain supernatural beings come around to record what people say of the deceased. ‘Therefore, it is better say good or keep quiet, instead of speaking ill of the departed souls’, so they claim.
To put the record straight, no African culture says that. Those narratives are simply found in the teachings of some foreign religions and practices. And even with that, those religions have good intentions, just that those that history does not favour often want to spin some doctrines of those religions to hallow themselves. “Thou shalt not judge” is another word often put up in their defence.
And again, the deodorization process is the fabrication of the elite, especially the political class. They want the gullible masses to continue to see them as heroes and would not want anything to reduce the status and impressions about them. This is why they are always quick to defend and protect one another even in death as in cult of personality. Simply because those individuals in question are either godfathers, fervent allies or ardent followers. Therefore, any label that reduces the dignity of any of them invariably hurts their self-acclaimed sainthood and heroism as they desire to be pampered while living and in death.
Thus, make your findings before attributing all sorts to African ways of doing things. Then, everyone should take responsibility for their acts. Do well if you want good name. If you want people to speak positively about you upon your death so that certain angels can have something nice to write about you, then sow good work that will outlive you, you can’t deceive God. And the living should be responsible enough acknowledge the good of the living and the departure, and the same applicable to “the workers of iniquities”, so that the living imbibe exemplary life.