Long before the advent of the Europeans, the first of which was the Portuguese, the Spanish and down to the English who were our eventual colonizers, our forefathers lived and were in control of everything in our land. We had our own socio-cultural system, our own system of government, our own religion, occupations and everything there was to be owned indigenously. Africa had a history of its own. It was not just one long dark and gloomy night in Africa before the advent of the colonial masters.
There were kingdoms, there were kings and queens and great warriors who presided over them. There were farmlands and great farmers too who cultivated them. There were rivers and great fishermen who with their fishing nets and hooks made their livelihoods from them. One of such rivers is the ‘River Niger’.
Long before the white men came that river was not just a river, it was regarded as the home of the Goddess of the sea, Idemili and also the link through which many people from the neighbouring kingdoms bordering around the rivers travelled to carry out their businesses. These were centuries upon centuries before the first white men arrived. More than a millennium before Mungo Park was born. So why is he being credited for the discovery of river Niger? A river which our forefathers travelled, worshipped and even made their livelihood! Most importantly, why is it still being taught in our schools?
One of the problems the African black people have faced over the decades is the fact that we have not taken our history seriously. We have leaders at the helm who do not care to promote it. Rather we have people who have taken the pains to scrap whatever part of it we had been studying in our schools. Sometimes, we have been found measuring ourselves with what the white men have said of us. In Primary school, we were taught that Africa was called ‘The dark continent’ by the white men. The narrative was made to seem as though nothing of importance went on here before their coming. And here is a very typical example, saying a river which was used in various ways for centuries was discovered by a white man is another way of saying the river was unimportant or perhaps, non-existent until a white man arrived in it.
False histories like these are one of the guises in which mental slavery exists in the modern era. Cogent steps have to be taken to stop these kinds of things from being taught in our schools, and also for history to be reintroduced back to the curriculum.