In this month of January 2021, I have been overwhelmed by many friends, acquaintances and even strangers with questions about what a couple of words I frequently use in speech and sparingly in writing mean. The words that have generated this unexpected spate of curiosity are “Mufugbenous” and “Mufugbeneity.” Mufugbenous is defined as the… I would have offered the appropriate definitions for the words but the undue accusations that have come with the questions put me off. A word is either right or wrong, I agree, but to say I am wreaking mischief or being obscurantist or intending to discombobulate with my diction is something I thoroughly reject. Mufugbenous and mufugbeneity, certainly have meanings and serve to communicate.
It is the simplest thing in the world to assume Sub-Saharan Africans were illiterate and uncivilised before the coming of the White man. Such is well-embraced by the African – if you are well educated. Empire Day celebrated throughout the Commonwealth colonies reminded Nigerians that the King or Queen of England liberated them from bondage. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, one of the best-loved works of Western literature describes the African as a savage and languageless, communicating with grunts like apes. The Father of Modern Social Anthropology, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, swore that Africans had no institutions until the White man arrived – Africans had no marriages, kingdoms, trade, hierarchies, architecture, alphabet, medicines etc. of their own. All these facts are false but very rarely challenged by African scholars. Literacy and education did exist in South-Eastern Nigeria, for a millennium before colonisation. Let us talk about Nsibidi.