It is quite disturbing and embarrassing to the indigenous African that our traditional religious values are on a downward slope. In his book; “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, Walter Rodney argues that the ravaging underdevelopment in Africa, can be traced to the cultural and political imperialism by the colonial masters. However, we are not concerned with political imperialism here. Rather, we are mainly concerned with the religious imperialism on Africa, by foreign Missionaries.
Before the advent of these Missionaries, Africa had it own traditional religions and belief systems. In Northern Nigeria for example, the dominant traditional religion was The Bòòríí. The bòòríí priestesses called Inna, communed with the spirit through ecstatic dance rituals. This act of ritual protected the society and also provided healing and divination for the people. In the south eastern part of Nigeria, the dominant traditional religion is called The Òdìnànì, having Chúkwú as the high God, and Ágbàrà or Álúsí as the lesser spirit. In the south west, the yorubas venerated the traditional God, Ólódumarè, through lesser gods or Òrìsa like; Orúnmìlà(grand priest), Ògún(god of iron), Yemoja(mother of waters), Sàngó(god of fire and thunder), the gorgeous Yeye Osùn (Second wife of Sàngó), and Oya(Third wife of Sàngó).However, with the introduction of foreign religions like Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and so on, these traditional religions began to diminish gradually.
Today, these foreign religious beliefs have permeated the whole African continent, to the extent that majority of Africans including Nigerians, no longer venerate their traditional Gods. To make matters even worse, most people perceive traditional religions as uncivilised and belonging to local, poor and barbaric people. Using Nigeria as a case study, the Pew Research Centre(PRC) reported that as at 2012, 49.3% of Nigeria’s population were Christians, 48.8% were Muslims, while the followers of indigenous traditional religions were 1.9%. This is quite embarrassing and disturbing. This report shows that we have simply abandoned and neglected our own traditional religions, and taken shelter in a foreign religion.
Yes, the missionaries painted their religions as the only true religion, but this is only normal for them to do. Every child a product of his epoche. Let us consider this scenario to illustrate Better. An English man went to the grave to honour his dead brother, by putting beautiful flowers on the grave. After doing this, he turned to his right and saw a Chinese man who also came to honour his dead sister by pouring rice on the grave. On seeing this, the English man laughed and said; “Do you think your dead sister will get up and eat that rice?”. The Chinese man replied; “If you think your dead brother will get up and smell the fragrance of your flower, then my dead sister should also get up and eat my rice”.
In China, rice is highly valued, while in the English countries, flowers are more valued. My point is this, since the missionaries defended their indigenous religion, then we Africans should also value and defend our traditional religions.
Unfortunately, due to the undeniable fact that these foreign religions have eaten deep into the heart of Africa, eradicating them seems an impossible task. But something can still be done to address the problem of negligence facing our traditional religious values. Thus, my panacea to this cultural illness, is a form of Religious Adaptation. Religious Adaptation is a process of fusing the essential elements of other religions into our own. Let me explain this Better. Since a key feature of these foreign religions are sacred texts or holy scriptures like; The Qur’an, The Bible, which contains the nooks and corners of their religions, we Africans, can also invent sacred scriptures of our traditional religions, which will contain our indigenous creation story, our indigenous religious laws, and a chapter containing the stories and power of our traditional gods like; Sàngó, Ògún, and so on. The latter which were formerly done orally. This indigenous sacred texts should also be written in different languages within and outside Africa. Also, since the priest of these foreign religions go about preaching and advertising their religions, our high priests and priestesses should also do the same.
Honestly speaking, embarking on this proposed panacea will take years and even decades to perfect. But with determination and perseverance, we will get there and eventually reborn our traditional religious values. After all, “the great city of Rome, wasn’t built in a day”. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and so on are not African religions. As Africans, we should proudly uphold our indigenous beliefs and return to our traditional religions, instead of killing them with foreign religious beliefs. Thus, when this is done in Nigeria for example, the embarrassing percentage of traditional religious followers which is 1.9%, will increase to a more reasonable percentage.