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The many ways Africans are dying


Africans are dying but have not gone into extinction, and may not in the foreseeable future. So Africans are dying while they are living. Sound like a contradiction? No, not at all. As Ben Okri said, dying in this case has to do with living without asking questions. Africans are living in the cave of their own prejudices. Africans are living the life imposed on them by others. I would like to explain this further.


Africans are dying because most people in Africa are living false lives. People are afraid of being themselves, of living their own lives, and of asserting their own uniqueness and originality.

Many people are living under illusions and deceptions. The real tragedy is that over the years, these lies and illusions have been institutionalised and normalised to the extent that no one dares change them or challenge them. They have become a way of life. Many people are unwilling to tell the truths, face the truths about themselves. Since Independence, most countries in Africa have not made significant progress because Africans have been living in the paradise of lies-lies about why they fought for independence and opposed colonial rule, lies about why they want democracy and self-government. African economies have been in tatters because Africans and their leaders have been living many lies about their ability to manage their resources and about who to hold responsible – erstwhile colonialists or our homegrown dictators and inept politicians – for the mismanagement and underdevelopment in the region.

Africans are dying because most people have refused to ask questions about themselves, about the policies, programmes, institutions, and ideologies that guide and govern their lives. Many people in Africa have refrained from critically examining their cultures, religions and traditions even when there is an obvious need for critical evaluation and revision. Instead, people prefer holding onto already made answers and solutions. Even when these answers no longer answer their questions. And these solutions no longer solve their problems. Many Africans are afraid of asking questions because they think when they do so, they will die or they will lose the little privilege they enjoy. Not knowing that the real death or loss is in not asking questions, in swallowing everything hook, line and sinker. So Africans are dying because in most communities virtue lies no in critical inquiry or examined life but in a life of dogma, blind faith and conformism.

Africans are dying because, over the years, the people have transformed the continent into a cave of prejudices and misconceptions. And these include prejudices about themselves and others. Prejudices about what they have and want and what others have and want. Prejudices about anybody or anything new or different – any life style new or different from what they know and what they are used to. Africans continue to judge themselves using the biases and misjudgment of those who do not see anything good or noble in them. Or better those who are out to exploit them. Africans are dying because their prejudices cannot allow them to think, and to reason clearly. Their biases cannot allow them to know their value and understand the worth of what they have and how to relate what they have and what they want with what others have and want. Prejudices cannot allow Africans to harness their talents and fully realise their potential and promises. Instead the continent continues to waste most of its talents, and fritter away the little resources they have. And these are resources they lay claim to as a result of the value place on them by those who want the resources, not by those who own them.

Africans are dying because most people are not living their own lives. People are living others’ lives, alien lives and fake lives. Africans are living lives imposed on them by their fathers and forefathers. Many people do not strive to realise their own dreams, but those of their ancestors. Hence Africa is stuck in the past. People look back to the ancient days with nostalgia and to the future with despair. People oppose any initiative that will mark a radical departure from the past. They denounce any dream that is not in line with the dream of our ancestors. Africans are dying because they are living lies imposed on them by prophets, imams, gurus and marabouts, pastors, bishops, sheiks and sangomas; lives sanctioned and sanctified by outdated holy books particularly the Bible and the Koran. Africans are dying due to lack of foresight, insight and thoughtfulness.


  • Igwe lives in Ibadan.

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