Originality & America’s greatness: when their colonial masters – the Brits – chose ‘left’, they chose ‘right; ‘up’, they chose ‘down’ – Deleola Daramola

August 25, 2014

Africa, Society/Living

“Originality – The ability to think independently and creatively.”


Originality is one of the MAJOR reasons why America has become the most-developed country in the world. It also is why developing countries, and Africa especially, find it difficult to be significantly developed. Unlike America, these other countries cannot take control of their destinies by thinking critically and independently; and above all by being radically creative.

Americans fought for and got their independence from the British, and once they did, they were up and running to creating things and having everything done their way. They so valued the freedom that they essentially did not want the same system of life that they were subjected to under the British. Americans consciously built their lives on to be different from that of their colonial masters: Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy, while the U.S.A. is a constitutional republic; a parliamentary system operates in Britain while a presidential system operates in the U.S.A.

In a typical British motor car, the steering wheel is on the right while the American feels, ‘Nope, why not the other way; ours must be on the left’ and so it remains till tomorrow! While the Brits clicks ‘down’ the light switch, American turns ‘up’ the switch. British electricity voltage is 220, America’s is 110.

How about language? Americans felt if they couldn’t create their own indigenous language, if it must be English, then it must be American-English; different from Queen’s English with many words spelt differently, always the easier way that follow pronunciation, etc.

They so much believe in Freedom that it controls every aspect of their lives, radically different from their colonial masters, in sports, school calendars and curriculum, dressing, habits and values! They always want to be American and Americans alone, to be the first in everything, first to discover the science of aviation and fly a plane. An American blacksmith and inventor established the first commercially-successful electric streetcar. Davenport, from Vermont, invented an electric motor in 1834 and began a small electric railway in 1835. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” These were the words left on a flag by the American Astronauts, the first humans to step foot on the Moon.

America has achieved many firsts because they always seek originality, as a culture and a way of life which determines self-actualization and development.

Need I remind us, Nigerians, that even though we were also colonized by the same Britain, we chose to be radically original just by half! We also did not want the British form of governance (after trying what was handed over to us at independence), we chose the American system of government. We desire democracy, okay, but what we have is ‘civilian government’. While true democracy as it is practiced/practised – I just chose American spelling which, for the verb and the noun, are exactly the same – in America is government of the people for the people, Nigerians chose ‘home-grown-democracy’ by selecting some people to lead the people, for the people!

These ‘selected’ people recycle themselves from time to time. They institute archaic and retrogressive policies to suit themselves and the public suffers the consequences. There are no distinctly identifiable ideological divides between the so-called progressives and conservative political parties.

Many years back, the late Uncle Bola Ige described the political parties then as ‘five fingers of a leprous hand’. Nuhu Ribadu, who contested the presidential election as a progressive (ACN) in the last election has crossed to PDP, a conservative party just like, Olagunsoye Oyinlola crossed from ‘conservative’ to ‘progressive’, five days to his state’s election! Peter Obi formally of APGA is now PDP and Segun Mimiko has transmuted from Labor to PDP.

Isn’t it true that the opposite of original is fake and because we ‘copy copy’, we get fake results. So also is the society wanting to ‘wannabe’ American! Our kids want to sing and dance Rap Music; our indigenous languages have been dubbed ‘vernacular’ and so, adjudged as not good for public communication anymore. Young Nigerians know off hand all American sports men, even the Ice Hockey and Basketball stars!

Most ridiculous and almost annoying was seeing a Nigerian actress on a video performing the recent ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’! This challenge is intended to draw awareness to the uncommon, incurable disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in America. Celebrities select one of their friends to pour ice cold water on him or her as a challenge. It is posted on Youtube or Facebook for the public to view. President George W Bush was seen on the television being drenched with ice cold water by Laura. So also were Oprah Winfrey and Lebron James. In a situation where one of the conditions is not met, $100 dollar is donated to the research of ALS. For one, ALS is mostly white race issue just as sickle cell anemia is to the black race.

The question is: why is a Nigerian actress copying the ice cold water challenge? Is it to draw attention to ALS, a white man’s disease or to raise funds for its research? Meanwhile, Ebola is threatening every soul in Nigeria and sickle cell is just beginning to be understood as a disease that can be avoided through blood tests of couples to be married. There are NGOs that are calling attention and need financial assistance.

Do Nigerians know that thirty-five percent of young men today would die of liver related issues in fifteen years’ time due to all kinds of ‘Agunmun’, ‘Agbo jedi’ gulped with liquor at public motor parks and open markets where these are laced thereafter with ‘Alabunkun’ –a highly acetylsalicylic Acid caffeinated powder! Where is the awareness for this and others that are killing us in droves! We would rather go the copy-copy route even when we know nothing of the purpose.

The point is that we should be original as Africans. Our culture is pure and our values are graciously enduring. Our traditional rulers’ words were laws. If they instructed that there should be no market opening on Monday, so would it be and there was no need for any police to enforce the royal instruction. We can research our ‘dongoyaro’ (quinine tree) to cure malaria in a clinical research institution to determine the dose and package. We can develop “Egbe” – if it’s real – (magical disappearance act) to transport to Neptune or Pluto and become the first nation to be there without using missile capsule! If we swear-in our political leaders with ‘Sonpono’ or ‘Esu’, they would be less corrupt if not totally incorruptible. Remember a trend of taking governorship candidates to swear at some traditional places where they were clad in nothing more than their under-wears! We know that many of these may not work but at least those taken there to swear to some oracles were scared enough to try to stay in line with their so-called godfathers.

We should embrace our-known cherished tenets like being ‘our brother’s keepers’, ‘one’s palm does not deceive one’, ‘family antecedents or how values dictate the name of the child’, to mention a few; all these are true only to the extent to which one puts them into practice.

Like American parental aphorism that they impart to their wards from infancy, – always be a first-rate version of you, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. That way, you’ll be simply, yourself and original; the pathway to greatness.


MONDAY, AUGUST 25, 2014.  5:25 p.m. [GMT]

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