AFRICAN IDENTITY AND IDEOLOGY BY PROF CHIKE ONWUANCHI PRESENTED AT THE FESTAC 77 COLLOQUIUM
AFRICAN IDENTITY AND IDEOLOGY by Professor Chike Onwuachi
The African world is in essence man-centred. It is a world that exists wherever the African people are. The African peoples like all other peoples have their culture, the sum – total of their socially standardized ways of life. Culture is based on the process of learning and not biologically inherited. Central in every human way of life, of culture is the factor of ideology. This ideology constitutes the vibrant force that enables a people to define all that they do or need to do for objective existence. The way a people define their existence – the universe, man and their total ecological system will very much depend on the cultural ideology of the people. In short, the African identity must correlate with the African ideological for mulations in the African world. There is an African identity in the context of the African world existence. In the African world, there are well defined ideas of nature, human life, existence, social relations, as well as man himself. I t is on the basis of these well defined ideas that cosmic phenomena and other ecological phenomena are interpreted. Man in the African world is never conceptualized as an individual per se but essentially as a part of the. collectivity in spite of his unique and characteristic idiosyncrasies. There is the feeling of belonging together in kin-centred social processes.
The family patterns are extended families, and members are consequently forced to function collectively towards the fulfillment of existence and survival. This does not of course mean that African societies in keeping with African identity do not have human problems. Far from that! In fact there can be many issues of human and natural pro blems. But the way these are handled are usually definitive of the African identity. In the contemporary existence of the African identity the only viable political ideology must be the political Ideology of African Spiritual Com munalism. This ideology is not Socialism nor Welfarism! It is an ideology which embodies the indigenous African principles of live and let live, ‘collective sharing)’ common concern for one another)’ sense of belonging together)’ social justice)’ economic pro gress and viability for all)’ and the African indigenous political process of participatory democracy. African spiritual communalism is the essential principle of the life-ways of the African peoples. In the African life-ways there exist the spirit of kinship, respect for age and wisdom, economic co-operation, reverence for ancestral spirits, discipline and social justice, the fundamental collective responsibility for order, and the basic recognition of African dignity and respect for human personality. The political process of participatory democracy embodied in the African spiritual communalism recognizes and considers every family and group in the collectivity; traditional ethics and morality in the rights of groups; and horizontal opinions and consensus in decision making. In the ideology of African spiritual communalism we have the political, social, and economic factors: (a) Politically, the instrument of government is vested on a chosen representative by open ballot. The chosen representative exercises the political instrument on behalf of the people in accordance with the collective principles of ethics and morality – established through taboos. Political power) however, flows from the representative to the people, while accountability flows from the leadership or representative to the people who are the ultimate repository of power. The people are traditionally educated to the degree of knowledge of their collective power and the ex ercise of their control of that power with a wholesome discretion. (b) Socially) in African spiritual communalism, there is a collectively acknowledged hierarchical order based on age) responsibility) and service to the people. It is not class consciousness hierarchy but rather service for the people consciousness. Hence age, wisdom, accomplishment, and respon sibility are very important variables. (c) Economically, the essential principle and process are those of sharing according to needs and responsibility. There are built-in functional processes through which. maximum benefits flow to the people who essentially must control the means of production as well as the means for the distribution of the needed goods and services African ideology of spiritual communalism permeates the African society both horizontally and vertically. It has metaphysical and dogmatic idealism, but it is very empirical and pragmatic. It is also operative through a collectively creative process that is empirically tested and historically supported in its functionality. The political process guided by the Ideology of African spiritual communalism is bound to recognize the people as the essential force of the nation and the human individual as the unit of the force of that nation. In this situation the government is always the people and that government must always represent and reflect the average intelligence of the collective units of the nation. Thus the government will always be of the people, for the people, and not above the people and yet for the people. In the ideology of African spiritual communalism the collective African consciousness and identity must determine the social existence of the people. Under this ideology the important element is not the government but the people.