Psychological imperialism and our tardy voyage to collective discovery (1)
OGUN is a god, and powerfully so among the Yoruba race of Nigeria. Spartacus rose to be of the top brass of the Roman legendary because, inter alia, he was the ‘The bringer of rain’ and ‘The slayer of Theokoles’ and deservedly so. He fought so many battles and won but only became the vanquished in his final physical combat against the powerful Romans where he died, nay, he kicked the bucket, as a legend. It’s however interesting to know that the staunch believers in the Ogun deity may suddenly turn disbelievers if these were the only things their god did or could do, not only because these things, as powerful as they were, are ciphers considering Ogun’s spine-shivering invisibility but because so many other deities not as great as Ogun could do a lot better. Before the influx of the two most prominent monotheistic religions, Islam and Christianity, and most particularly, colonialism, the minds of the ardent pool of Ogun worshipers were tightly laced with the beliefs of the extraordinarily powerful things Ogun could do without a sword unlike Spartacus and even without his presence! That’s really powerful, isn’t it?
One thing is, however, shocking. A flurry of strange events came as consequents of the invasion by the British army. An event typical of them was the birth of a bouncing baby boy into a royal family. His father came out to address the elated crowd about his new heir and proudly got this out of his vocal tract “thank you for coming…and the name of our son, the pride of the race, is Oguntoyinbo (Ogun is equal to the whites)!” Hold on a second, how could that extraordinary god be equal to a man just because he was white? Probably because the white man too could kill with a type of gun they hadn’t seen before or blow so many people up with explosives better than even Sango, the god of thunder.
This event and yet many others not only bring to the fore the registration of psychologic imperialism in our epitaph of history but its long roots and pervasiveness. Imperialism “occurs when a strong nation takes over a weaker nation or region and dominates its economic, political and cultural life.” Psychologic imperialism then takes the centre stage when the strong nation or authority takes a leap from physicality to coordinated or indirect influence over the cognitive mechanisms of the weaker people in such a way that they are uncritically seen as a standard of development and model for civilisation.
I could have allowed my pen to saunter over paper to produce a treatise about the significance of October 1st to our dear nation and the need for its celebration, but I deliberately waited till this time of lull in the euphoria to charge my patriotic countrymen and women on the need to yank our nation and its people from the pool of mental colonialism and the exigency of a collective voyage to discovery, efficacy and prosperity.
Apart from successive bad leaderships, another monster that has largely contributed to our dragging underdevelopment is our inability to launch and pursue a pragmatic, nationwide, people-oriented evolution to physical and mental independence, confidence and productivity. This is evident in the way we build and run our institutions and systems. Our political system was borrowed and incorporated wholesale without attempts to changing it or structurally modifying it to really address our domestic problems as done in some serious countries who borrowed democracy. Our education system is what it is today because it was built upon a foundation not characteristic or reflective of our natural and domestic peculiarity. Almost everything we teach together with how we teach them is foreign. I could vividly remember a conversation I had with a Professor in a Psychology class while in school about the IQ test developed by William Stern, a German and its cultural fairness. I emphasised that, among other shortcomings, there was no way he could have been fair because he didn’t come to Africa, for instance, to study its people solely with the intention of incorporating the findings in his new inventory. I further stated that without unfair prejudice to Stern, what we should do as African Psychologists and particularly those of us who would deal with the people of Nigeria is to at least, adapt the test’s items to our immediate environment. I argued further that this should be for literates and even in the interim as we carry out a meta-research on our people and their domestic idiosyncrasies and how best we could create standards and benchmarks for them in tandem with the particular things that constitute intelligence in their constituents.
• Adebayo is a fresh psychology graduate, OAU, 08058657970.