(160): We are not ignorant
By Muhsin Ibrahim
My wife and I got an appointment to meet some real estate agents to show us a new apartment we applied to rent. I wanted to practice the little German I could speak to impress them, but it didn’t work. Sensing my disappointment, one of them, apparently well-educated, told me I was lucky I understood a little German. In contrast, he couldn’t speak any Nigerian – referring to a non-existent language he called “Nigerian”. I appreciated him, but I also reminded him that there was no such a language. I have had similar encounters in India as I wrote here.
Due to Africa’s colonial past and ‘peripheral’ status on the world stage, we effectively learn about other, more prominent countries than their people know about us. For instance, most Africans learn about the European country that colonised their own country. As Nigerians, we learn about Great Britain and the English language and literature at schools. English is our official language! We also know much about the United States (who doesn’t?), China, India, Saudi Arabia, etc., because of films, scholarships, religion (Islam), etc.
In contrast, many people, such as my friend (above) from those countries and others I didn’t mention, know little – or nothing – about Africa and Africans. As a result, their perception of Africa is primarily archaic, false, and shallow. Of course, some are even African experts, but they are very few.
Unfortunately, the media, especially the local ones in the West, aren’t really enlightening their audience as BBC Hausa does. They are very selective in what they tell them. While discussing the ongoing Ukraine war with some students and colleagues, I get shocked. It feels like we were talking about different conflicts. The propagandist media they watch paint the conflict way differently; Russia is the villain (and it is) and is woefully failing in its campaign (which is highly contestable).
Talk about the Palestine-Israel crises and get more astonished. Some will tell you it’s complicated – of course, it is. Nevertheless, it’s a topic worth discussing à la the Russia-Ukraine war. I am aware of its sensitivity in Germany, by the way. Still, it’s also about human beings; remember, we ‘care’ about human rights and ‘condemn’ its violation globally.
Anyway, enough of this musing. I want us to stop underrating ourselves because we are Africans. The developed world doesn’t have it all. Moreover, knowledge is abundant today. The smartphones we constantly carry can help us get better informed and enlightened. Books, journals, newspapers and so on are only a few clicks away. So, utilise your data/Wi-Fi subscription and get enlightened on any topic you like. Nobody has a knowledge monopoly.
Muhsin Ibrahim wrote from Cologne, Germany. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.