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Philosophy: ‘An African encounter’

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“Man is the measure of all things,” so says Protagoras. On his own part, Jean Paul Satre the French thinker sees man as being condemned to choose. 

Man has always been a problem to himself. Man has searched throughout the ages to discover himself in compliance with the wise saying of Socrates; “Man know thyself.” 

The enormous complexities of human life and the problems of existence have hampered man’s complete understanding of himself. Little wonder then that J. P. Satre said that; “There is no such thing as human nature.”

The search for wisdom and truth has tremendously lessened the inability of man to know himself. The search for wisdom or truth in its academic or professional import is a critical enterprise, something dynamic, a quest, a spirit of evaluative exploration or inquiry into all areas of human experience, of man himself and his place in the universe, so says Professor Chukwudum Okolo. 

This is more significant for a contemporary Nigerian who has found himself/herself in an epoch when our political space is still classified as Third World nation even when global aviation allows the inhabitants of the nation state called Nigeria to interact actively with the rest of the world that are seen as first, second or developed and fast developing societies. The search for truth and wisdom may hold the key towards fast tracking the ascent of Nigeria to a humane society.

The search for wisdom or truth tolerates an authentically unified underlying objective which revolves as it were, around the discovery of what “being is.” Heidegger would see philosophy as en route to the being, that is, to being with respect to being. 

Philosophy according to Okolo, tries to give a coherent and systematic account of the multiple-faceted universe of being and knowledge of what it is, and how man knows it. In fact, philosophy carries out a critique of daily experience in quest of truth of all existence as is rationally possible for man.

An African is invariably among those Protagoras described as; “The measure of all things.” In view of this irrepressible fact, an African infallibly becomes a philosopher, Africans are philosophers.

FR Chukwudum Okolo defined African philosophy as not being too ambitious. He sees it as a path to systematic, coherent discovery and disclosure of the African as a being-in-the-African-world. 

Through this knowledge or disclosure of himself and his world by critical reflection, the African grasp reality, that is to say, attains the truth about man and the cosmos in its entirety, so concludes Fr. Okolo. 

But I think Professor Okolo like some few others including late Senator Chuba Okadigbo may have sounded too hopeful or ambitious by writing copiously to plant the conviction that there is indeed a field of scholarship called African Philosophy even when the various components and nations that make up Africa are in the state of ‘arrested development ‘ so to say because while other countries are advancing in arts, science and their societies witnessing the gains of good governance much of Africa remain in ruins and total state of dysfunctionality. So it is somehow difficult to defend the optimistic view that there is an authentic African Philosophy. 

A glance at events on our African continent will unmistakably reveal to all of us, that Africans have no philosophy; except “The one of backwardness and chaos.” 

Why do blacks butcher blacks in Soweto, Johannesburg, Pretoria enclave, Orange Free State and the whole of South Africa?

Lately, xenophobic killings of other black Africans in South Africa by Black South Africans have led to many deaths of innocent black Africans whose only sin is that they left the shores of their nations to search for where the economic grass is greener.

Other pending issues which questions the credibility of the claim that there is as African philosophy includes but not limited to the apparent ceaseless genocidal killings by armed terrorists of Boko Haram specie in the North East of Nigeria even as over 20,000 innocent lives have been wasted. Where then, is African philosophy when in Gambia, Burundi and now Congo Brazzaville, the political leaders have manipulated their nations’ constitution to remain in office for life even as the living situations of their people deteriorate? Where is African philosophy when the African Union member nations including Nigeria and South Africa elected Mr. Robert Mugabe as chairperson, when this same man has ruled with brute force, the people of Zimbabwe for over 30 years? 

Where is African philosophy when 50 percent of the young persons risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in search of refuge are Africans? Where is African philosophy when we now have what are called the African boat people who are migrating irregularly into the free world?  Where is African philosophy when human traffickers find our continent as their recruitment fields for ladies forced into sexual slavery in Europe? Where is African Philosophy when European and American manufacturers of weapons of war have turned our continent into the dumping ground thereby creating warfare all across the continent? 

Where is African Philosophy when black Africans cannot govern their new found independent sovereign nation of South Sudan which they fought hard to retrieve from the largely Arabs who dominate the other half of Sudan? Where is African Philosophy when most African political office holders who obtained their educational trainings in the free World have for long embarked upon wanton heist and looting of the resources of their countries and are transferring them to their offshore bank accounts in Europe, America and some rogue countries?

Let African philosophers and scholars of liberal sciences and the Arts meet under the platform of African Union to furnish contemporary Africans with applicable solutions to all these existential problems or they should simply forget about brandishing any academic claim of the existence of an authentic African philosophy because philosophy is the love of wisdom and there is no love of wisdom when dictators are busy underdeveloping Africa even whilst stealing from their people who are continuously impoverished. 

Emmanuel Onwubiko Heads Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs @ www.huriwa.org; www.huriwa.blogspot.com; www.rightsassociationngr.com

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