Since last Thursday when his passage to the great beyond threw the literati into sudden mourning, I have been searching for the right words, right expression to honour the man of letters. Even as I was writing, I still do not have the best literary confetti to give him. Could it be that Albert Chinualumugo Achebe has taken with him the literary prowess?
Even if he did, I still owe him a tribute as a literature student who tapped from the fountain of his knowledge during my secondary school and undergraduate days. After two decades of reading his first three novels, Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease and Arrow of God, I can still imagine Achebe’s fertile, imaginative mind which he translated into creative writings that earned him the grandeur of a papal awe.
His diminutive figure contrasted his tall intellectual poise and literary genius that lit the candle of African literature. From the confines of a wheelchair, which a ghastly motor accident eternally confined him to for 30 years, Achebe kept his readers and audience dumbstruck with his pen. This, he did, not once, not twice, but for appreciable decades. He was a writer and a good talker. He also gave a good account of himself as an irrepressible social crusader who evangelised African culture and resisted Western imperialism as well as local enslavement.
Born on November 15, 1930, at Ogidi in Eastern Nigeria, Achebe was educated at the Government College, Umuahia and the University College, Ibadan. While working for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), he composed his first book, Things Fall Apart at the age of 28. Since then, Achebe remained the Igbo’s tallest intellectual masquerade and one of Nigeria nay Africa’s finest literary minds.
His Things Fall Apart (1958) which was more of a rejoinder to Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) and John Buchan’s (1875-1940) corrosive narratives about Africa, has continued to arrest curious minds. The novel which has lived for five and half decades, translated into at least 45 languages and sold eight million copies worldwide, promoted African virtues and as well engraved African narratives in the wall of fame. The most tragic hero of the novel, Okonkwo, just like Achebe, would not allow any Western irredentist to harrass him or thumb his nose at his cultural mores.
His second novel, No Longer At Ease (1960) encapsulates the last phase of the colonial regime in Nigeria, and the drama of a bungled destiny in a bewildering time of rapid cultural change. His next novel, Arrow of God reverted to the past once more. The novel is concerned with the clash of cultures which is an all-pervading theme in the African novel.
But by the mid-1960s when Northern Nigeria orchestrated a genocide against his Igbo kinsmen, Achebe turned his creative insight into an imaginative critique of public mores under independence. The result was A Man Of The People (1966), which was a bitter portrayal of a corrupt Nigerian politician. The novel was published at the very moment a military coup swept away the old political order and its abuses. That coincidence implicated Achebe in the country’s first military coup, even though there was never an evidence to back the claim.
His last book, There Was a Country however, revealed an ethnic personality behind the man many people would quickly describe as unassuming. The novel pitched a battle agaisnt the Yoruba political deity, Late Obafemi Awolowo for his role in the Biafran civil war. The book turned out to be the most controversial.
Irrespective of whatever criticisms his novels attracted, Achebe was a literary pathfinder and one of Nigeria’s best exports to the world. He, alongside Professor Wole Soyinka and John Pepper Clark, were able to establish the vehicle of African literature as worldly component of intellectual and academic study. As Professor Ade Adefuye noted in his tribute to him, Achebe was not only a literary icon, he was a fountain from which other literary icons emerged. Many professors of literature in Nigeria and other parts of Afica, according to Adefuye, attained their intellectual prominence by studying and retracting Achebe’s works.
An immitable wordsmith of priceless values, Achebe shaped African literature and gave it a standing in the world. Even if his novels are primarily directed at an African audience, their psychological insights have gained universal acceptance. Things Fall Apart earned him the Booker Prize as well as doctorates across the globe. It was adapted as a play by Biyi Bandele in 1997 and presented as part of Kennedy Centre’s African Odyssey series in 1999.
Even though the literary experts made up of probably four or five balding ‘wise men’ in Sweden didn’t consider him good enough for a Nobel Prize, Achebe made his mark on the firmament of world literature. He succeeded in bringing literature to every home. To now say such a man is dead is a mere metaphor. A writer doesn’t die.
Achebe was also a moral compass for Nigeria and Africa. He personified the hero of his Things Fall Apart, Okwonkwo in terms of insistence on principle. The denial of a Sweden’s Nobel Prize could not frustrate him from challenging the orthodoxy of the white world, especially the Euro-American mindset and the racist and supremacist thinking of the white writers. Neither was his anger with Nigerian nation tamed by the offer of a national award. On two different occasions, he rejected national awards, one by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the other by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Till he breathed his last, he was not at peace with the Nigerian nation that killed thousands of his kinsmen and reduced his Enugu home to an harmlet. He was not pretentious about this. He agonised this much in his last book.Now that he is no more, I only hope Achebe would have a peace of mind to forgive his country for denying him a peace of mind when he was alive.
The Enemy Within
Political scientists would talk about an Iron Law of Oligarchy whose custodians and protectors are the barons of the wit cult. The wit cult members are patrons of the cult of weeds, whose protectors are usually drawn from the security circles. A former president of this country once said that “some desperate politicians and people in power are known to protect notorious outlaws often linked to violent crimes”. Curious readers can check The Tide newspaper of 26/7/2019, Page 2. The credo of the Law of Oligarchy is that “whoever has the most power makes the rule and takes the gold”. Gangsterist Law?
What is oligarchy? It is defined as government or control by a small group of people, using democracy as a camouflage. Do we have a cabal in Nigeria? Yes! Who controls that cabal? A Presidency! Who is Presidency? A camouflage! Who are the small groups of people controlling power in Nigeria? Ask General Jibril Musa Sarki (Born to Rule) and Badu Salisu Ahmadu who told Nigerians that there is a standing Fulani Strike Force ready to claim the lands which they inherited from the British.
What does it take to make the rule and take the gold? Power, in its raw form! How do you get power? Ruthless exploitation of weaknesses and loop-holes! Are there weaknesses and loop-holes in the Nigerian environment? Yes! They include ignorance, timidity, cowardice, myopia and the desire to attend to stomach infrastructure, via hustling and scrambling for the crumbs from the table of the champions. Hungry dogs! Kept poor!
Who are the champions of the Nigerian political economy? Someone provided an answer, saying: “the wealth buried in the bowels of Oloibiri and in other oil-bearing communities in the Niger Delta region is being cornered by a few Nigerians and foreigners”. The culture of parasitism had been a long issue in human history, but its modernised version takes the form of national and international politics. At the international level, the culture of parasitism operates through big corporations and conglomerates, via monopolies.
Any intelligent Nigerian would figure out easily that there are spirited efforts from various nebulous quarters to divert attention from what is actually going on in the country. For example, international borders in Southern Nigeria are not only blocked but manned with strictness, while similar borders in the Northern parts are left open. The heightened state of insecurity in Southern Nigeria in recent times cannot be for nothing, but indicative of an effort to divert attention from some ulterior motives. What are the motives?
Rivers State is of a particular importance in the current political drama, because of its status as a major pillar in Nigeria’s political economy. What unsuspecting Nigerian masses must know is that a number of the people are paid agents in the service of some vested interests. Many of such paid agents are not usually aware of whose interests or what purposes that they serve with zeal and commitment. Sponsors of acts of brigandage and banditry are members of an organized cabal, in whose clutches Nigerians are now helpless.
Apart from political parties and their propaganda machines, power holders and power mongers do use security agencies as tools and hirelings in their services. Apart from fueling crisis and animosities where there are stakes for such purposes, security agencies, via security votes, are handy tools in the service of power mongers. We find such tools and errand boys as regular participants in phone-in radio programmes, whose utterances and opinions are usually coloured by ideological leanings and sympathies.
It is particularly pathetic that indigenes of Southern Nigeria can become so myopic and blind that they become willing stooges in the current political shenanigans. “Fall guys” in this on-going power game are not usually insignificant persons but highly-placed members of the political elites. A common strategy of roping in such Southern elite is to lure them into some financial sleaze and scandal, which in the end would allow them the option of joining the party in power. We have seen many of such strategies in the past few years, resulting in political decampment and joining the party in power.
The time has come to alert Southern Nigerians that many of them are being used and co-opted into serving some sectional interests and hidden agenda, to the detriment of such stooges and hirelings. This has been going on for quite a long time, aimed not only at advancing some agenda, but also winning sympathies, via patronage and sinecure. A hate speech law was also crafted for the purpose of intimidating those who discern the game plan.
During the General Sani Abacha regime discerning Nigerians saw how operatives of the security and intelligence agencies served the sinister agenda of a section of the country. Acts of brigandage and criminality purportedly committed by armed or unknown persons were placed at the door-steps of NADECO or groups hostile to military rule. Now even in a democratic regime “armed and unknown gunmen” are still engaged in their trade. Soon after military rule came the clamour for Sharia Law, followed by the menace of Boko Haram.
Even though a large number of Nigerians are ignorant and capable of being led by the nose like assess, there are a few discerning ones who can perceive the shape of things to come. Behind all the shenanigans lies the truth that a few Nigerians, with the collaboration of some foreigners, cornered the wealth of the nation, represented by mineral oil and gas. Despite the use of intimidation, divide-and-rule strategies and other cover-ups, the game is up and the disenfranchised groups are wiser now. Agitations will rise further.
Let it be added, as an aside, that Scotland-Yard trained private eyes rarely write or speak carelessly. In this case, those who take interest in this article should heed the message, rather than ask that supportive evidence be brought, in chapters and verses, for the message to be considered valid. An enemy within usually operates like a chameleon, whose antics include vengeful attacks when short of further camouflage. The game is up! We have taken too much for the owner to know!
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Checking High Bride Price
Marriage is a sacrament which every couple is expected to obey as instituted by God. But today the reverse is the case, especially in African societies where most people violate this sacrament due to their selfish desires and sometimes, pressure from parents.
It is no longer news that in most African societies today, bride prices have gone so high that marriage ceremonies have become an economically viable venture. As such, most poor young men have remained unmarried until they get so old. Yet, the rich young ones easily get wives to marry because they are buoyant enough to lavish money.
Although many leaders recognise this in Nigeria, especially in the southern part of the country, they are afraid to talk about it. This is mainly because they fear how the society would react. The fact is that whether high dowries are paid on brides or not, there is no marriage all over the world that would enjoy stability if Christ is not its pillar, and the anchor that those who make the contract rely on. Those who have accepted Jesus as their personal saviour also enjoy His spirit of love in their marriages. And there are a lot of testimonies to this effect. This is why most couples are able to stay till death do them part.
Talking about high bride prices in this society, the ability to haggle and bargain has an unhappy angle associated with the process itself. You can agree with me that in every marriage, there is some selfish human heart that comes into play. If not, how can a man pay well over N100,000 for a lady, and another pays as little as N200 and sometimes, no cash deposit to bring a wife under his roof?
However, because the game has become an expensive and dicey one, many young men have been frustrated and defeated, and most end up eloping with their heartthrobs as wives. But as long as the customs of the land remain, eloping with a lady boils down to immorality, which may not be the direct sin of the man in question.
In fact, numerous cases abound where men eloped with their girlfriends, and began to live together as husband and wife. They are, in most cases, blessed with children, even in the midst of illegality. They ignore the parents of the woman or man, and go into their own procreation process.
But the unfortunate thing is that sometimes the problem associated with that strategy is that if the woman dies in the man’s house, the parents of the deceased are likely to demand that the man marries the woman even in death, sometimes at very exorbitant prices. In fact, a lot of things may be lined up as requirements for the marriage of the dead woman. In some other cases, the children produced in that marriage are classified as bastards or children of the woman’s father until the man does the right thing, that is to pay her bride price.
I think as long as mankind lives on earth, high bride prices never make husbands price their wives (like property) better. Instead, there are reported cases of men who have treated their wives as slaves because of the huge sum of money spent as bride price. Methinks that if young men are able to prove to their supposed parents in-law that they can love and hold their daughters, this should be enough dowry than paying fabulous amounts of money that do not equate true love.
The high dowry on women has disadvantages on the bride too. Many women have confessed openly that high bride prices have compelled their real husbands out of the work contest, leaving unlovable wealthy men available in the market. The result is an unnecessary joining of incompatible couples because money has become the name of the game.
High dowries make women slaves as most of them remain unhappy in their marriages. Perhaps, they just stay to satisfy the man who has spent so much on them. The consequence of this is that a wide gap exists for infidelity, and a display of fake and smokescreen love, which is far from being genuine.
This is not to say that those with low income have not married wives. No! On the contrary, some have actually found themselves wives, and they lived as happy couples for decades. But we have also heard stories where men go on to borrow huge amounts of money just to get married. In a situation like this, such couples are forced to go through terrible and agonising marriages.
In perspective, it has been imperative that high bride prices are no guarantees to long, stable and well-enjoyed marriages. High bride prices only help to force men who are not rich into borrowing, thereby putting men with such financial crisis into slavery while the women are boxed into a corner, with little or no choice than to settle for men with the money. In the end, such women look more like the men’s personal properties.
It is high time the state government or better still, local government councils fixed equal amount to be paid as dowry for all women. Although this suggestion may sound primitive, I think it is workable and the right path to toe. This can be done by encouraging would-be husbands to go to their local governments to pay for their wives. This action should attract receipts, and such monies should later be handed over to parents of the brides.
If all Nigerians go to the same markets, schools, workplaces, among others, then I do not see any reason why bride prices should vary. And until this is done, women will ever suffer, and men without money will remain unmarried.
Etim writes from Port Harcourt.
By: Sintrials Etim
No To Abolition Of NYSC
A bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to abolish the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme has been initiated by a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Awaji-Inimbek Abiante (PDP, Rivers). The intent of this bill is to invalidate Section 315 (5a) of the 1999 Constitution and the National Youth Service Act.
The Youth Corps programme, which started on May 22, 1973, was established during the military regime of Gen Yakubu Gowon under Decree No. 24 of 1973 to reconcile and reintegrate Nigerians after the Civil War. It was also created to bridge ethnic and religious divisions across the country and promote the spirit of nationalism through understanding and appreciating others’ cultures and religions.
At the initial stage, it was compulsory for all graduates of tertiary institutions to be part of the service, but the age was later pegged at 30 years in 1984, while holders of the National Certificate in Education (NCE) were excluded perhaps to reduce the number of participants in the service to save costs.
Despite the goals of the NYSC, many Nigerians believe it is time for the scheme to be abandoned or reviewed, contending that it has lost its pertinence. Abiante’s suggestion to abolish the scheme undoubtedly strengthens this argument that the objectives of the NYSC should be reviewed or updated following the present realities of modern Nigeria.
Abiante, in his explanatory statement to the proposal, gave reasons for abandoning the NYSC. He noted the incessant killings of corpers and their frequent rejection by some public and private organisations as some of the justifications.
Furthermore, the lawmaker said public and private agencies are no longer recruiting qualified and skilled young Nigerians. Rather, they rely heavily on the availability of corps members who are not well remunerated and get discarded with impunity at the end of their service year, without any hope of being gainfully employed.
Available records show that in 2011, seven corpers were killed in the post-election violence that broke out in some parts of the country specifically after the presidential election. Regardless of these glaring problems, the question of whether NYSC has surpassed its usefulness remains controversial.
First and foremost, we must address the raison d’être of the Youth Corps programme, which aims to promote national unity and integration, among other things. Forty eight years after the scheme was established, can we say that this key objective has been achieved? Have we become more integrated than before? Certainly not.
Another significant objective of the NYSC is to make the members self-reliant. But since employment is hardly available in Nigeria because of the current economic challenges, this goal is scarcely achievable. The majority of industries have closed and the remaining ones are operating at less than 50% capacity.
Though the scheme has in one way or the other benefited Nigerian youths such as exposing them to diverse groups, persons and cultures, promoting inter-ethnic marriages and discipline, it is inundated with numerous problems that if nothing is done urgently and differently would contribute less to the unity of the nation, especially in these troubled times.
As could possibly be seen by many Nigerians, insecurity appears to threaten the scheme in a way that affects its sustainability. In the light of this, we question the appropriateness of posting corps members to places that are subject to serious security threats. Maybe, the government can examine this issue and allow everyone to serve in their comfort zone.
Any system that creates a disparity between the rich and the poor cannot accomplish its purpose. Even before the security problems, corps members were already influencing where they wished to be posted, especially children and wards of the elites. That alone has thwarted the objective the NYSC was established to achieve. The system itself is very skewed and grafted. Huge amounts of money are sometimes offered to influence postings.
Notwithstanding these shortcomings, we reject the view that the NYSC should be eliminated or scrapped. Rather, there may be a type of restructuring to make it more efficient. New ideas need to be injected into the scheme while the government should review its goals and focus training on self-defence, vocational skills and entrepreneurship.
Several Nigerians are highly tribalistic and believe in ethnic supremacy, which clearly goes against the objectives of the project and has made it almost worthless today. Hence, we believe that NYSC should become zonal and each geo-political zone should be allowed to accommodate its corps members, sharing them in their areas as they deem best. This would solve a lot of problems since many Nigerians are no longer enthusiastic about serving in specific parts of the country.
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