Christian And Islamic ‘Oath Taking’, A Prerequisite To Rapid Under Development, Corruption And Insecurity In Africa.

Amongst the African people, oaths are promises or statements of fact that call on something that a person or group of persons feels to be sacred and holy, for example, a deity or an ancestral lineage. The idea is that the sacred object or entity witnesses the making of a promise or statement by the person(s). Thus, a person(s) who takes or makes an oath expresses certain vows.

When a person(s) claims an office, chooses to lead a campaign against the enemies of his lineage or marks an occasion of birth or death, it might be done with an explicit statement of swearing before a sacred deity, holy object or entity. One is taking an oath when the idea of a witness, a holy or sacred thing or person(s), is considered to be the foundation of the action.

The African oath is taken before the people and, as such, is a ceremony of great solemnity. How one takes an oath, that is, the physical arrangement of sacred things or the holding of special object, is dependent on the traditions of the African community. Yet it is clear that Africans know that the physical environment or the arrangement of objects is not the oath, but rather the actual making of the statement of promise is the oath. When one says that he or she is taking an oath and implies or says that the witnesses are aware of this oath and that if he or she does not complete or fulfill the task required then the oath is broken, an oath has been made, regardless of whether the person holds an object.

For instance an oath may be made to the royal court of Benin before giving testimony, or an oath may be made by a newly elected or appointed chief, officer or king in Igbo, Zulu, Yoruba or shona societies. One can claim that this is an affirmation, but an affirmation made in a verbal, vocal way before the people is more than a written statement could ever be in the African context.

The concept of the oath is found throughout Africa and is entrenched in the idea that the maker of an oath stand by the fundamental power of the sacred object that represent the deity. An oath acknowledges the truth of what a person says before a witness because it is a serious attestation of the truth of one’s words before the ancestors, the people, or the deities.

One of the classic oaths of the African people is the oath made by Okomfo Anokye, the philos­opher and ethical teacher of the Akan people. Standing before Osei Tutu, the new king of Asante, Anokye took one of the swords and said,

“I speak the name of the father of Osei Tutu (his spiritual father, the God Otutu), the great forbid­den oath that, if I do not go to this war on which you have sent me forth, or if I go and show my back to the enemy, and if I run away, then I vio­late the great forbidden oath. If it is a choice between dishonor and death, death is my choice. If I go forward, I die, if I flee, I die of the oath; bet­ter to go forward and die in the mouth of battle.”

Other oaths are found amongst African societies that have similar structures. Among the Akan, it is also typical to name one’s lineage and to state that one is making the oath before the people when taking the oath of kingship. If one does not fol­low or renegade against the oath due to fear or selfish interest, then one has violated his ancestors, his God and his people and the prize of renegading against the oath is death which has no escape route. Therefore, the African idea of oath is often connected as the prerequisite to good governance amongst Africans.

Today the bane of Africa’s rapid under development, insecurity and corruption dwells solely on the falsehood and reliance on administering oath of office through the christian and islamic religious system.
The current imperialist trend and religious falsehood system has not only misled Africans but has led them into it present economic and spiritual predicament and quagmire which has also broken the fabrics of transparency, justice and togetherness, the fact on ground is that the imperial religious norms of taking/making oath is not only a deceit fallacious and falsehood, its breeds bad leadership, populace and a gateway to corruption.

Currently in some African countries, like in Nigeria for instance the demand for administering oath of office through the traditional system has been raised but pathetically resisted, objected and labeled devilish/evil by imperialist agents or public office holders in order to maintain status quo of bad governance and thievery to the detriment of it people it swore to protect and build basic infrastructures.

For Africa to thrive and move forward it has to revisit, reclaim and reinstitute it traditional oath system that will not only checkmate bad governance but will also expel or extinguish imperial agents/leaders amongst us, arise Africans.

Ejike Iloduba,
@Pan African Liberation Movement – palm


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