Nigeria is made up of many ethnic communities with their peculiar cultural values. These ethnic communities have lived together and managed their environments together over the years, before the coming of the colonial masters. Those who stayed in riverine areas were able to invent and develop means of coping and adapting with their marine environments. Those in rocky environments developed their own means of adapting to their rocky environments.
They were faced with the raw resources of nature, which they had processed to serve their needs in the society. Due to absence of technology, they were unable to substantially exploit the utility of these raw resources at their disposal. They were guided by the cultural values of curiosity, persistent hard work, invention and tenacity of purpose to learn from other people.
Chinua Achebe noted in his “Things Fall Apart” that a man in the Ancient Igbo community was regarded in the community according to his productivity. A man is considered strong and capable of marriage and taking care of a family if he possessed the qualities for material prosperity such as hard work, curiosity and tenacity. But more than the emphasis on material prosperity, men were also regarded in their communities for their ways of life: integrity, humility, honesty and benevolence.
As the Igbo communities had their cultural values of pride, hard work and reputation, so did other ethnic communities have their cultural values that had made them flourish before the advent of the colonial masters. The Hausa communities were known for their simplicity, honesty, diligence, homeliness and obedience. The Yoruba communities were known for their arts and craft, diplomacy and progressive disposition. The Benin communities were known for their progressive disposition, arts, crafts, agriculture and pride of culture.
At this point, African communities worked hard in crude manufacturing, crafts, farms and local industries.
At the arrival of the colonial masters, these communities were annexed and made to work for the colonial masters. The indigenous people employed their cultural values for industry in the service of the white men, which brought about the northern groundnut pyramids, western cocoa and timber industries, eastern palm oil farms and coal mines. The white men become lords for whom the indigenes were to labor hard under the lash of the colonial whips.
However, at the attainment of independence, an ‘oga’ mentality crept into the indigenes, who were once very hardworking. With freedom from slavery and colonialism, many Africans adopted freedom from the cultural values of hard-work and discipline. They slid into industrial laziness and unproductivity, dependence on importation, consumerist middle class and citizenry, blame and excuse readiness. They abandoned the cultural values that had made Nigerian ethnic communities successful and progressive before the coming of the colonial masters.
Today, many Nigerian communities have forgotten who they are and where they have come from, in pursuit of the white man’s way of life. The secret of the white man’s ways still remains unknown to Africans. They (white men) have their values, and have cherished and improved on these values over the years. We had our cultural values, but have abandoned them, in pursuit of the white man’s paper money. We forgot that money and technological advancement, will come when we re-evaluate and imbibe our cultural values in the confrontation of our environment, our history and our future.
So, today I ask you again: what were the main cultural values of your people on industry and productivity?
What were the values of your people on life and human society?
What were the values of your people on marriage, gender and child upbringing?
For if we do not answer these questions, we will continue to chase the white man’s ghost without end.