Away with White Men: Okonkwo’s Speech in Clan Meeting
To the people of Umuofia:
My friends, our ancestors have lived on this land for so many generations before us. They handed down to us a rich culture and tradition that allowed our community to flourish and thrive. Indeed, we are a proud community because our forefathers taught us to respect each other and everything around us. We have lived peacefully as well for so many generations. We take pride in our religion and culture because it is unique to us as a people and as a community. We are strong as a community because we care for one another.
In the recent months, however, I have seen us change slowly. Not too long ago, white men arrived in our community. We let them live among us and taught them our ways. We welcomed them with our generosity and shared to them what we have. Since their arrival, however, I can see that we have changed. We are all jealous of the white colonizers. We obey them as if they are our own masters. We want to be like them. When they told us that we should submit ourselves to only one God, we obeyed them. When they told us not to venerate nature because it is paganism, we agreed. When they told us to control and dominate nature because that is how man is supposed to do, we started disrespecting our nature.
My friends, as a community, we have lost our identity. We are no longer the same proud people that our ancestors raised us to be. In our desire to be something that we are not, we started to follow what the white colonizers have taught us. But we are not the white people. We have an identity and we are unique as a race.
We welcomed them with open arms and treated them as our friends. Yet, what did they give us in return? Did they give us the respect that we deserve? Did they reciprocate the assistance that we gave them? I am sure all of you are aware about what happened in our annual celebration. In the annual celebration to give honor to our deities, Enoch made an attempt to unmask the egwugwu. Our forefathers taught us to respect egwugwu. We were forbidden to unmask him because the act is tantamount to killing our most sacred ancestral spirit. Despite the warnings, Enoch still proceeded with the act and we had to suffer for his sin. Angered by the blatant disrespect for our ancestral spirit, egwugwu burned Enoch’s house and our church. Instead of apologizing for their actions, the white men summoned us to meet with the District Commissioner. They convinced us to put down our machetes telling us that there is nothing to be worried about. Yet, when we put down our weapons, they put us in chains and placed in detention for several days while berating us and insulting our religion. I don’t think it is a common practice for friends to insult and hurt each other. Do you agree?
When do we realize that what we think as our friends are actually our enemies? Do friends hurt each other? Has anybody forgotten about Abame? I am sure all of you are aware about the message of the oracle which warned their village about the arrival of the white men who will seek destruction of their community. In response to this warning, they killed a white man on his horse who discovered our village. Subsequently, however, other white man arrived and found out about what happened. They killed the entire village. What will prevent them from doing the same thing in Umuofia?
I know you are afraid about the possibility of conflict with the white colonizers. I am afraid too. I don’t want to die or any of my family and friends to die. But this is my land. I was born here. My father was born here. My grandparents were born here and so are the parents of my grandparents. So are your parents, grandparents and the parents of your grandparents. This is our land and I hope it remains that way. I will never allow other people to make me slave in my own land. It is time for us to realize that the white colonizers are trying to break us apart. They are trying to weaken our bond and make us fight against each other. They only way for us to be destroyed is if we allow ourselves to be destroyed from within.
If they can disrespect your own leaders and place us in jail what will prevent them from doing the same to you or any other member of our village. If they can deceive us and trick us, what will prevent them from someday taking over our village and make us their own slave?
The time has come to stand up for our family, friends and the entire village. We must be united to defend ourselves against the white colonizers. It is time for us to show them that this is our land and we will not give this land to them without a fight. If they want to stay in our land, they have to respect our religion. They have to respect our culture and tradition. If they cannot respect our religion, culture and tradition, they have to leave our land. If they don’t want to leave our land, then it is time to drive them away. This is our land and we will not allow other people to drive us away. I will gladly fight for this land then let white colonizers take it away from me. I hope you are one with me in this fight.