No longer at ease

I am writing this on my porch in Nigeria. I am surrounded by beauty. It is midday and the sun is shining. Pink bougainvillea is keeping me cool and wherever I look I see different types of leaves that must have inspired every single pattern that exists in this world. I am drinking a ginger and watermelon smoothie. Birds are whistling an African anthem and the soft breeze is tickling my senses. I can never be more at home than this. Everything should be okay but it isn’t.

See, I’m in Lagos, a city that the UN Population Division (UNPD) predicts to be the world’s third largest city in 2015. I’m in a country where 40% of the population is 15 years or younger and 60% live on less than $1/day. I’m in a corner of the world where we need more than miracles to look after all those young people that are still unborn. Yet what we want is a miracle. We have no choice but to try.

If our attempts fail, we will pack all we want into a box of hope that we will wear under our Sunday hats tomorrow and go to church. We will pray that the miracles that happened in the Bible will happen here, and we will forget to look at the trees to ask our ancestors what they did, and what they suggest that we do, when things aren’t okay. We will forget that it was the same forces that brought us the Bible that also brought values that cannot feed our children. Our children cannot eat books that write about our primitive, uncivilized past. When our Armani-suited, Dolce & Gabbana-tied, Gucci-shoe-wearing pastor says that our prayers will be the salvation of future generations we will lift our hats, releasing the only thing we have, those boxes of hope, into the caskets of the money collectors.

Later, we will journey back home as saved people. We will preach negligence to those that did not join us to beg for miracles, but some part of our machinery knows that the white god cannot replace Olodumare, Nri, Bayajidda. . . It is the same part that knows that praying to the white god cannot replace immoral leaders with deserving ones. It should not be like this.

I grew up a Christian, I have written about this before, of how as a child I sought faith in the messages of the Bible. I cherish many of the verses, especially those about Jesus. In many ways, they enriched my life. However, I cannot stand here and watch us all in these silly hats of lost dreams and say nothing. We cannot afford to separate miraculous fiction from reality. Was it not the missionaries that came and said that our faith was evil, that our women were too industrious, that our mothers did not know how to raise children, that we did not know the real meaning of love? Did we forget this before or after the Queen came to wave at us from her jeep? Did she perform a miracle I do not know about?

Until the lions produce their own historians, the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter – African proverb

Personally, I would have told the missionaries who came in those days, that okay there are many things I’m not sure about in our traditions, like polygamy. I would have told them that there are many things that seem sensible about their traditions, like urban planning. I would have said that we are sensible too, by living closely with nature, and that they lack sense when they say that a good woman must not be as educated as a man. I would certainly have said that we are all the same in our pursuit of ways with which to abolish evil, so don’t you come here, telling us that we do not know how to live when we have been doing so before genesis. We can build a church where we incorporate some of what you know and some of what we know, period. And I would probably have been given the choice between ‘my daily bread’ and my daily bread, because it’s easier said than done.

We have to stop staying awake with our worries at night and sleeping during the day, we are not Zombieria. We are Nigeria. Or Kenya. Or Mali. Or Jamaica. Or Harlem. Our history is greater than most of us even bother to know. And our future can only be great if we erase the derogatory narrative of Africa and retell it, not embellishing it nor repelling it, but doing everything we can to find out the truth. If we stop pretending that everything is okay whilst we wait for God’s miracles. God will not save us unless we want to save ourselves.

  • Jendella


    This touches a nerve of something that I’ve been thinking about. I was brought up a Christian, I am still a Christian now. I go church, I pray, I read my bible etc. But it is true that a lot of African Christian Tradition has absorbed stuff that is not right morally or religiously. Also a lot of what was taught to our ancestors by white supremacy’s brand of Christianity I cannot stand by. The African church tradition (used in a very broad sense of the term and speaking as a Nigerian) is messed up, mixed up, mashed up, superstition, patriarchal ideals and whole heap of other madness in there…

    My thoughts have not come to an appropriate conclusion for me. I still haven’t found the answer I’m searching for.

  • teachermrw

    A very powerful post. I think that many of the things you state re: the African Christian church tradition are true in the Black Christian church tradition here in the US. As a Baptist, who has grown up in the Black church tradition, and, quite honestly, prefer it to a mixed-race church experience, having participated in both, there’s much which needs to be reformed. It begins with a pastor who has his or hands on the right things.

  • POTO

    hello there, this story touches my heart. A lot of thoughts come to mind, but I always wonder why so much suffering around the world, especially in Africa? I always felt that Africa is one of the only continents that can be self sustaining, if not the only one. Now looking back, if I was coming from a climate where it was always icy cold like Europe, little to no waterfalls, no real veggies, lacking minerals, experiencing harsh conditions that made it too frigid to build schools, or even participate in social activities, growing thick hair to keep warm, and then stumbling across a land with an abundance of wild life, nature, birds humming melodic tunes, limitless variety of vegetables, minerals, heated water falls/ lakes, advanced education systems where most of the universe was mapped out on stone, what would go through my mind?

    What would go through my mind especially if it was too icy cold to master social skills? Well today we know that the most advance technology still exists in Africa. I mean, the pyramids are still the most advanced design on earth. Jean-Francois Champollion, was able to final decipher using Rosetta Stone which was an answer sheet left behind for those who could not figure it out. But still patriarchy did not want to partner. If you compare Pyramids to Stonehenge you see the difference in skill was vast, similar time periods. So the patriarchy maybe upset with God no so much with Africa? Who did they want to pay for their suffering? But the patriarchy still did not want to work together. What did this stubborn reluctance lead to today? Well what we see on the news… Sometimes the media still makes Africa out to be so scary to live, but what caught my attention looking at the world as a whole were some maps but I leave it up to you to interpret. -Interesting maps…

    • African Mami

      but I always wonder why so much suffering around the world, especially in Africa?

      1.) Our leaders have FAILED us! During their campaign trail they feed us with lies, and we (citizens) eat and digest their lies as if it were potato leaf and rice.

      2.) As citizens, we fail to QUESTION our leaders. We elect them on the premise of what they “promise”. Instead of scrutinizing their resumes with a fine tooth comb, we continue to give them a pass!

      3.) Accountability is not a term used in Africa. We only hear it in the West!

      4.) We KISS ASS A LOT. We allow Western countries to come over and exploit our resources. We listen to Western countries, as if our OWN experts are scholarly and experience wise inept! We allow Westerners to run our OWN corporations, and pay them at the expatriate level, whilst we have capable and willing people that can produce results. I could go on and on…but just ponder on the aforementioned.

      I hope this gives you a better understanding as to why Africa’s suffers more than others.

  • Z.

    This is a great piece of writing, thank you. Christianity and its legacy in Africa, or rather Africa’s relationship continuing with Christianity, perplexes me in many ways.
    Love this:

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you for reading!

      That tune is on point

  • fabladyH

    Christianity and religion are two very different things, unfortunately most ppl practice religion, which is from man not God. I do not believe in religion but I am a Christian and it saddens me to see ppl put this two thing in d same content and misuse it.
    Religion has so much mixed in it from our cultures and environment and a lot of influence form ppl who think they know more.
    People ask for miracles from God but if you take a look closely at what they ask for, they are asking for magic. God isn’t a magician!!
    We listen to the words of man and because they come in the name of God as missionaries or pastors or whatever we mistaken it for the word of God.
    If only we spend more time actually studying and understanding the bible, than being religious a lot will change.

  • Dele

    Your thoughts are as compelling as your writing is captiviating. Thanks much for this inspiring piece. One thing I wonder about is whether the history of the hunt from the lion’s perspective is any more valid than that of the hunter’s. Can’t we leave behind all history that pertains to the record of social order and the means with which that order was maintained within families, clans, tribes, nations etc?

    Would we be better off focusing on today’s social order (and equality) based on today’s realities and future needs? This way, the truly valuable portions of history, those portions pertaining to human invention and creativity would naturally persist even without historical contextualization because the very nature of art, science and culture is that new valuable discoveries and practices are built on previous ones. The same way the foundation or lower story of a house never “disappears” just because we are standing on higher levels. As for the rest of history, the vast majority of scholastic history, we could forget all about their formal study leaving all that in innocuous hands of the quirky but treasured family-tree enthusiasts among us.

    So, rather than clinging to, or even conjuring up, convenient histories about the righteousness or nobility of either the lion or the hunter, we could focus on maximizing the outcomes of the hunt (and perhaps, maybe, honoring all that were involved including the grand earth equally shared by lion and hunter).

    These are just ruminations of my own…not a critique of your piece…which is beautiful and complete. And for which, again, I thank you.

    • MsAfropolitan

      And I offer equal measure of thanks to you for your insightful points.

      Although I like that proverb for its effective imagery of injustices in the writing of history, if taken into further analysis I agree that there is something glorious also about the lion telling the story, an equal step away from the truth, albeit a fairer one as the lion was (in a sense) minding its own business when the hunter came along. But immediately then it could be asked, fairer for whom? because the lion too has its victims. A question which leads then, for what reason do we glorify the lion and is that then not an equally superior assumption that ‘we’ are the lion, whilst ‘they’ are ‘only’ the ‘glorified hunter’

      I hope that made sense!

      I’d suggest a version that goes along the lines of – Until both the lions and the hunters glorify what is earthly, historians will continue to glorify what isn’t.

      Well, not quite as haunting but I hope you get my point. Anybody else want to make a better attempt at rephrasing?

  • joe

    First of all, let me say that I am from Congo and that I don’t understand the realities of christianity and islam in Nigeria. I am a christian also. I have always wondered and more than once I have been confronted by african atheists who have rejected catholicism to embrace more animist and western views of the world while questioning the validity of christians fighting muslims in Nigeria. I have always thought that it’s not because there are extremists who don’t understand the Bible or the Coran that all christians or muslims are bad.
    This is to say that I hope you could give more insight regarding this issue?
    Other than that, I have always believed that it’s not because white people brought the Bible that they understood it in the proper way. Second, there’s no such as a white or a black god. God being a spirit knows no race or gender. Spiritual learning takes a lifetime and not of all of us reach epiphany, but my faith tells me where to stand with God, no matter what the cultural or the social environment I find myself in. I grew up as a christian in Congo and I live now in the US and the principles of faith that I learned back home are still relevant today.
    In final say, the devil is a liar. God’s truth will always come out.

  • Dalian

    Very powerful indeed…the core essence of what a religion encompasses is found in our traditions and then some. Keeping core values is not bound to any religion or tradition, common-sense dictates it…research to bring forth what is good and useful for us practically in this day and time