Dr. Magbaily Fyle of Ohio State pushes the frontier of discussion:
In the debate about the usefulness of indigenous African values, it seems to me that we address the issue from two extremes. One of these talks about a "merrie Africa" where everything was good, the other condemns as autocratic whatever is suggested about African values, in this case about governance in Africa. it would appear that either of these extreme positions could provide enough cannon fodder to attack the other side, especially when the idea of a homogenous Africa is evoked.
After studying and writing pre-colonial African history for one generation, I have come to learn that what exists of African traditions today in the villages has been "influenced" by colonial and post-colonial domination. The "protection" afforded by the colonial system partly helped to entrench the position of those Africans who sought to use traditions 9and distort them) in ways similar to that described in the Ghanaian village. Those of us who have been studying indigenous African traditions for a living are always faced with the impact of colonialism on these African traditions. For what we see today inevitably represents traditions newly created, though these have a base of the indigenous.
We have to accept that we are talking of African civilizations, in the plural. We should appreciate that some African traditions are inimical to contemporary progress. But that said, we seem to become heated over the issue, coming from either extreme either when we want to uphold or condemn their relevance to today's situation. We need to think, for example, that if we adopt a cynical attitude toward an examination of the working of democracy and authoritarianism, we can condemn many of the governments we applaud today. We do not need to throw away the baby with the bathwater.
African traditions of varying varieties have irreparably become intertwined with western institutions. Our major problem I think is that we approach this synthesis from the perspective of western philosophy and education which leads us to applaud the Western in this mix and denigrate the African. Again, we have very superficial knowledge of these traditions, most of us, and we are impatient about learning much detail about them. And yet it is hard to figure out how these could be useful unless we do that. Unfortunately, most of us can never get that kind of education. What we need is to train a new generation of Africans who START OFF with a more positive perception of African values - names, food, religion, dress, history and wisdom. This new breed will stand a better chance to address the wrongs and rights more squarely and take it from there.