Mansa Kankan Musa, one of the most famous and powerful people on Earth, was an emperor of the Mali Empire. His reign lasted from 1312 – 1337, a period of twenty-five years. His period of emperorship was known for its good governance, peace, political stability, national development and prosperity. He was a Malian. He was a black man.
Till date, he is the wealthiest person in world history. His pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, from 1324 – 1325, led to the development of the Mali Empire. During his journey from Mali to Mecca, he and his royal entourage spent so much gold that the value of gold in Cairo crashed (and took ten years to recover) and the economy of Mecca went into depression. His entourage comprised of 60, 000 royalties, 1000 servants that marched before him and his senior wife (each holding a golden staff that weighed about four pounds), 12,000 servants that attended to him and his royal entourage, several thousand subjects that carried provisions for the journey, and 100 camels that carried gold of three hundred pounds each. History has it that the Mansa spent and gave out about one ton of gold in Cairo alone.
Like I stated earlier, the Mansa’s hajj attracted development to the Mali Empire. His heavy spending and display of wealth attracted people to Mali. All of a sudden the world came to know about them. People started visiting the empire from different parts of the world. The Europeans also joined the bandwagon and that was when the Italian, Spanish and German cartographers saw the empire as important enough to be included in the map of the world. As a matter of fact, the empire was featured in the world map that was released by a Spanish cartographer in 1339. Not only that, the empire established libraries and universities and students came from all over the world to study there. When Mansa Musa died in 1337, Mali Empire had one of the leading Islamic cities (Timbuktu) in the world; and this was when Islamic cities were the hubs of commercial and intellectual activities.
Of course the Mali Empire, like many other empires, crumbled later. I can’t really say why but I am suspecting the invasion of strangers, who brought in alien leadership ideologies to the then rulers. From what history stated, bad leadership, civil wars and lack of proper management led to the fall of the empire in 1645, but you and I know quite well that there is more to it than meets the eye. But that is not the essence of this essay anyway.
I stumbled on the history of Mansa Musa and the Mali Empire some days ago and couldn’t help being so proud of Africa. When I searched farther and saw how his predecessor, Mansa Abu Bakr II, left in 1311 for an expedition into the Atlantic Ocean with 2000 ships filled with men, and the suspicion that they didn’t return because they discovered the Americas, my heart and head swelled. I told myself, “We Africans actually had it all before the ‘colonialists’ came. So what happened to us after then?”
If you are an African and you trace the history of many African kingdoms, your heart will feel proud of this continent. If you consider what you had before we were thrown into mental slavery, you will wish for who you were. But of course, the first way to subdue us was to make slaves out of us. Since physical slavery is a crime today, mental one is the key.
This essay is not political, neither is it speculative; it is about what is happening to us, the Africans, especially Nigerians.
Somehow, we have accepted the low position the world placed us in. Somehow we have accepted that we are not good enough. Somehow we have come to believe that we are inferior. Many of us think that way. And many of us believe that.
Each time I read up histories of the ancient world, I see Africa as not just the cradle of life but also the creator of civilisation. But when I say it out people tell me I am being dramatic or that I read too much or that I just don’t want to accept the reality. But what then is the reality? That we are inferior? And so I should, hence, take the least position; the position of the loser?
Mbanu, I don’t see myself in that light.
We had our systems running smoothly before they were invaded and corrupted. Our communities knew the system of government that worked for them and adopted them. There was no corruption or what have you today. But as alien systems came in and were forced on Africa, things began to fall apart.
But that is not the issue right now. What we need to do now is to break out of the chain of mental slavery. We should accept that we were not ‘saved’ by the colonialists. We should accept that other continents are not better than Africa. We should look deep down and see our strengths and focus on building them. We should start seeing ourselves as worthy enough to compete and work with people from different parts of the world. We should start assuming our former position – the cradle of life.
Don’t let anyone tell you, you’re less intelligent, or less innovative, or less beautiful, or less important, or less anything because you’re African. Always remember that we were doing well before they came. They didn’t make us better; rather they jeopardised our system. It’s time to take back and own what is ours.