On Sunday 4th March, Pastor Mensa Otabil, founder of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), did not mince words about his perception of Ghanaians (the media especially) and Africa as a whole. On the 34th anniversary of the church, Pastor Otabil lamented on the state of Africa, the mediocrity of Ghana and even the inferiority complex crippling the black race. He associated himself with the recent inflammatory comment by US President Donald Trump describing African countries as “shithole countries”.
In his opinion, Africans behave in ways that make us look even worse than the mere residents of a shithole. “Recently some governmental leader of another nation described us in a very very unpalatable term, very annoying term… But that term is not prescriptive but it is descriptive… It’s just that sometimes you don’t like the person who is saying it but you know…” “You don’t like him for saying it but we are probably worse than the description. And we seem lost.”
He went on to address the inferiority complex embedded in the African psyche, making us feel if the white man doesn’t help us, we can’t help ourselves. He said that although the true Christian gospel was introduced by Europeans to Africans, they white-coated it to make those of Caucasian descent seem superior to their melanin-filled counterparts. By so doing, Blacks have been conditioned to be dependent on the white man and look to them to do everything for us.
He bemoaned, “Unfortunately Christianity came to us from them… I say unfortunately because the Christianity that came to us was the true gospel, but it was culturally clothed in the European. As so there is the kind of Christianity we embraced that made everything white. Jesus is white, angels are white, God is white. And so we begin to feel we are nothing, we are not able, we are not even the same colour with God”.
“Now if you think that way… There’ll be a certain sense in your mind that although you are a Christian, you still are not of the best sort because you are of the wrong skin color. So in addition to our inability to solve our problems, we now assign problem-solving to another race.”
“So, anytime we are in trouble, we rush to them (assorted levels of white people). This is what foreigners don’t understand, that when we [Africans] say a white man, it’s not [the same as] what they [white people] say. For example, when an African American says you are white, it’s different from when an African says you are white. We have assorted levels. It starts from the European to the Indian and anything in between; for us, they are all white, so, anything that looked different from us, we conferred our destiny into. So, we need to solve our problems, there’s filth around us, we don’t solve it, we’re waiting for the IMF, we’re waiting for the World Bank, we’re waiting for a white consultant, we’re waiting for somebody to come and solve our problem, so, we became very inactive.
“It is in this context that God called me. If God called me then it means that part of my mission is to deal with that problem. First with the ancestral problem and secondly with the secondary problem of colonialism and what it has done to us – damaged our sense of confidence … I believe that that approach of confidence is what we need to turn our destiny around.
“Unfortunately most Africans talk about going back to Africa, going back to our roots, I wonder: why do you always say going back to our roots, why don’t we go for the fruits? The root is down, the fruit is up. We think being African is imitating the lifestyle of some people who lived 300 years ago. Imitating them is not being African because if I want to become an authentic African, I don’t become an African by looking backward, I become an African by looking forward. I have to interpret my vision, my purpose, my assignment, in Christ, to whom He has made me an African.”
“I don’t want an African past, I want an African future. I don’t want to imitate what Yaa Asantewaa did, I want to create something new for myself and my generation. So, if at this time we are still pounding fufu the same way Yaa Asantewaa pounded it – I grant you your right to eat your fufu, no matter the calories, but should you prepare it the same way it was prepared by your ancestors? Can’t you do it differently? Can’t we look at our lives and say we are going to create something new, and how do we become an aspirational people: a people who are always looking forward to better, we are looking for greater, we are looking for bigger, we are looking for more, how do we become that person? So that we don’t look around and say: ‘Well this is our life, this is where we are, it’s okay.”
“Look at the number of our people who try to cross the Sahara Desert to go to Europe. And believe you me, if that way were open, African would be empty. It would be empty. If the American Embassy today decides: this week is free visa for everybody, Ghana would be empty, Nigeria would be empty. Why are we traveling? It’s not because we have a sense of adventure because if we had a sense of adventure we would have traveled to Mole, we would’ve gone to Kintampo, we have no sense of adventure, it’s a sense of hopelessness. It’s not adventure, it’s hopelessness. It’s a sense where you feel nothing good will come from here.”
“But I believe – the bible says Ethiopia, Africa will soon lift up her hands to God and I believe that time has come. We have stretched our hands to America, we’ve stretched our hands to Britain, we’ve stretched our hands to China, to the Soviet Union, to India, it’s time we stretched our hands to God for ourselves, this time to write our own story. And I believe that is what this church is all about.”
“… I believe we can create and make a new Africa, I believe we can tell a new story, I believe we can turn the story around, and I believe that we can make it better. But we can’t make it better until we are built from the inside because the problem we have is not a lack of money problem, it’s a lack of confidence problem.
“Believe you me, with all our complaints, we still have oil, we still have gold, we still have diamond, and we are discovering more and more. We can discover everything and even discover heaven on earth, it will change nothing. The solution is not in the natural resources you discover, but it’s in the confidence you discover that even when you have nothing on your land and you have something in your head, you can create something on the land. There are nations with no raw materials but they have created stuff. There are nations that import water, there are nations that have nothing, just people and brains and the confidence that they can use their brains. Now if we have that – the missing link in Africa is the confidence bit,” Pastor Otabil said.
Good talk, Pastor. It is good you realize religion is part of our problem even though you are still a propagator of the same message you claim makes us inferior. Maybe just boycott the religion and do something else that will actively push for the Africa you envision? Or are the gains and earthly rewards of this “European religion” too juicy for you not to indulge even though you know better?