Recently, I watched a documentary on the history of slave trade in Nigeria on TV. The emphasis of the historical account was on Bonny and other oil-producing areas of the country. Quick mention was made of the culture of the slave masters of Opobo, Igala and other riverine niches. The interactions of their chiefs with slave masters from within Europe and its environs were discussed, including the letters they wrote. The documentary explained how certain ethnic rulers who benefitted from the trading of their own kind stilled the anti-slavery efforts of enlightened cohabitants of Bonny Kingdom from inception into the colonial era.
The enlightened ones mainly came into Bonny as foreign explorers, itinerant humanitarians and pro-colony officers from England. Others were born into the land as transcultural hybrids of unofficial Afro-British couples, an outcome of copulations between some enlightened aliens and the original dwellers of Bonny Kingdom (even when considered unpopular by the kinsmen of the more enlightened). The minority were enslaved indigenes who became liberated physically and intellectually after receiving freedom from various foreign masters. The latter had the courage to support anti-slavery based on the enlightenment that was acquired during their time with the foreigners. Altogether, the three groups produced individuals that saw the need to fight for the cause of enslaved Nigerian men, women and children during the pre-colonial.
The lesson learnt from the documentary is the value of education.
Education is linguistically valued as one word. Yet, its worth is huge enough to make the difference between slavery and freedom, turmoil and consensus, dehumanization and development, raging terrorism and coordinated inter-action, chaotic survival and hopeful living, leadership and rulership and whatever extremes may result from the promotion of illiteracy. In this case, illiteracy is not only the absence of education or knowledge but also the presence of the will to quit informal and formal means of learning and strongly support the existence of illiteracy in the society.
The pictures of enslaved persons as shown through vivid graphics in the documentary revealed the depth of subjugation that innocent men and women can experience, given the lack of power to physically and intellectually request for freedom. Yet, there are human beings with the same physiological makeup as you and I who do not have the simple benefit of knowing that colour, race, religion and sex are secondary characteristics of human existence; that whether or not we base our segregation on these things, new beings will forever be borne into earth with the same template of human flesh and skeleton.
It therefore appears to me that an educated mind will benefit more from the availability and application of knowledge than it would if it decides to embrace illiteracy in any its diversities. Only a person who knows can reason why or why not. Sometimes, the limits of a person’s knowledge are the constraints of his internal and external creativity. Educating a person promotes him intellectually, increases his or her potential value and nurtures a reasoning that is more beneficial to the society than otherwise. And what is the society if not all that is external is to a person’s body but helps him remain a cultured being?
Perhaps, that is why I continue to write words while working. Some have likened me to Engineer Herbert Macaulay. Others have recommended the published thoughts of Chief Awolowo. But to me, to grow is to be enlightened. To be enlightened is to know no mental slavery. To read words from good sources, even the Holy Bible. To feed my mind with what can cause me to reason more on how my existence can benefit others and I. To understand the meaning of life as a process that involves many choices and to attempt to formally and informally educate myself on how to successfully balance the differences that sex, religion, race and colour may harbour. That I may write and yet work, without shame.