By Austin Emaduku
I spent most of my formative years in a typical African village. I am who you can call a typical village boy.
During those growing up years vices were rare and society and people were generally self regulated.
There was the church but Christians were still a minority in the community. Majority of the people practiced the African Traditional Religion and there was the general belief that any wrong done even in secret will be sanctioned by the gods in no distant time.
I was born into a Christian family and baptised within three months of my birth. Strict parentage ensured that we kept away from scenes of practice of traditional worship. However, everyone in the community, Christians alike, including our strict Christian parents lived by the right values and African traditional belief that wrong doings are punished by the gods or ancestors who like Big Brother are always watching you when no one is looking.
I can recount a few instances of how this belief regulated life in that traditional setting and maintained the right values for society.
I recall vividly that one of our elderly aunties had a small “shop” of assorted petty things. The entire wares of that “shop” were displayed on top of a table at the entrance of her two rooms mud house apartment. Most afternoons when people visited the shop, she will be sleeping. When you wake her up to buy something, she will simply tell you the price and ask you to take the quantity you want and to drop the money on top of the table and collect your change if need be. The cash for the entire sales of the day were always on top of the table. Most times we didn’t bother to even wake her up when we go there to buy sweets or goodie, goodie as we often do as kids. We simply drop our cash and picked our items and or our change if necessary. She will will wake up later to collect her money. There was no report of theft and no one dare stole for fear of the gods and ancestors whom everyone believed were always on guard.
Almost every form of quotidian agricultural activity of that time was carried out at subsistence level. When you go to the farm and saw that a another man’s trap caught an animal, you loose that animal and take it home to the owner. It was even considered sin to leave the animal there to rot away because you didn’t know if the owner will be coming to check his trap anytime soon so it was your responsibility to take the animal to him.
We did same for other crops like plantain if they were found ripening away in the farm. And if in the course of passing through a stream, you found a fish trap that looked like it caught a fish that is struggling to escape, you removed the fish to prevent it from escaping and hung it by the trap for the owner. But today, people will come into the fish ponds in your compound to steal your fish talk less of plantains in the bush.
Our village had the practice of keeping animals, sheep and pigs which were sold or slaughtered and shared to all the quarters during festive periods such as Christmas or traditional festivals. No one dared steal or touch those animals even if they destroyed any property or crops of yours. The best you did was report to the community which had a way of recompensing you.
Back then everyone knew that hard work was the source of wealth because stealing was greatly abhorred. There was was also fear of immediate punishment by the gods for it. Wealth without source was despised.
Then Christianity came in the Pentecostal form and demonised those traditional beliefs that help maintained the right values in our communities. People began to troupe to the churches, and as belief in the African traditional system of justice wane, so was the value system that held society together.
Christianity preaches morality and right conduct but reserves punishment for the after life or even a special day set aside for judgement when the Great Book will be opened. It even preaches forgiveness for all manner of sins or evils, even of murder once you confess them to the Lord and Saviour. Man by nature being a rebellious Being have taken advantage of this lenient nature of the Christian doctrine to throw morality away. After all, no one knows for sure what happens after now – the after life still being some time away as no one knows when Christ will really come. People have been waiting His second coming over two thousand years and who really cares about what happens after death when you can enjoy the fruits of your evil here on earth?
Yesterday, I listened to an interesting sermon in church and as I drove out of Church, I saw many people trooping out of church and also observed that almost every street is lined with Churches of various denominations and sizes – big and small. I saw that we have all become Christians in words and I concluded that Christianity is our greatest problem