Professor Chinua Achebe’s celebrated novel, Anthills of The Savannah published in1987 is a bitter ironic novel by the renowned author of Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God, The Man of The People, among others. The novel presents a candid, trenchantly insightful view of contemporary African state fictitiously called Kangan with capital in Bassa.
“Anthills of The Savannah is a story of conflicts of interest and xrays the haunting theme of power, dictatorship and corruption as it mirrors the sordid reality and erosion of popular will which is akin to governance in contemporary African state, and provides a glimpse of african political unrest”.
Anthills of The Savannah is about three close friends trying to live together under an oppressive military regime. The story revolves around three friends, Sam, Chris Oriko and Ikem Osodi, described as “the three green bottles” who have now come into power in Kangan.
Sam is the defact to leader and President of the Republic of Kangan, he is a hard stern man, a career soldier, and has come into power. Sam began his rule with good intentions, but his hunger for power grows and knows no bounds. As soon as his power is challenged or questioned, he begins to silence those who doubt him and stand in his way including his longtime friends, Ikem and Chris.
It is clear that he does not have his people’s best interest at heart, to make matters worse, he has steadily become increasingly paranoid over time. Sam has change as he ascended to power, in the past, his friends thought he would be a good president, however, power makes him hunger for more power and more oppression of the people and willing to put down resistance with force.
Ikem on the other hand is the polar opposite of Sam, he is a scholarly fellow with and appreciation for arts and culture. He is quickly becoming Sam’s most vocal critics, voicing out his opinions regarding the need to make several government reforms through the nation’s newspaper, the National Gazette which he edits as the editor.
He is having a more difficult time coping with the power the friends have gained and uses the Newspaper, to criticise the government even though technically, the paper is working for the government.
Chris is the most level headed of the three and often plays the role of an arbiter between Sam and Ikem. He is the Commissioner for Information for Kangan. Though Ikem and Chris critical to Sam’s success, with matters taking a turn for the worst, both men came to regret their involvement and as such seek to restrain Sam by leveraging their positions, since they don’t all agree about the direction and methods of Kangan.
The three are vastly different in their political leaning and personal temperament. Chris, however, thinks things can be maintained if they hold the power and make Sam less radical. He tries to convince Ikem to work with him rather than against him, Chris tries to appease His Excellency and believes that there maybe an opportunity to operate from a place of reason.
As the novel progresses, it becomes clear how irrational His Excellency’s despotic behaviour is, there is no reasoning with it or tempering it , the government is corrupt. His Excellency, not only wants to exterminate the people who speak out, but also the ideas they are promoting and he does this in his attempts to discredit them after their death.
Sam in his desire to hang on to power decides that he wants to become president for life, a position unheard of in their nation’s history. This move requires a nationwide plebiscite, but Abazon, one of the regions in Kangan rejects the notion of putting Sam in power for the rest of his life.
In response to their refusal, Sam deprives the region of his support during a drought in the hope that this would break their spirit. His embargo forces the region to send representatives to the capital to plead their cause and get the necessary supplies. Sam however mistakenly suspects the mission of mercy to be a ruse, thinking that they might be planning a revolt. His paranoia fuels his imagination even further and he comesta the conclusion that the revolt may actually be funded and organised by some one privy to private details about his life, some one close to him.
His Excellency will do what he wants, Chris realises that he cannot negotiate with someone who behaves like this, but it takes the majority of the novel for him to accept the irrationality of his friend’s behaviour, there is no point in being reasonable or petrifying His Excellency as he will do as he pleases no matter what.
His Excellency is an example of the old adage, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, while he did not set out to have absolute power and initially shunned the idea of ruling for life, he soon ignores past statements, betrays his friends and ultimately lies to the public in order to advance his own agenda. He is willing to do anything to protect his power by silencing protesters, spreading misinformation and assassinating those who stand in his way. The drive for absolute power drives him to corruption.
The corruption of His Excellency dominates as an overreaching theme, but there is more time and attention dedicated to the ways in which the minions of the government perpetuate this corruption than the actual acts of His Excellency. The behaviour of His Excellency gets tone for the rest of the administration who has a more direct impact on the well being and experience of the citizens on Kangan.
The best example of this, is the behaviour of the police force, from accepting bribes from the bus drivers to the attempted rape. Ultimately, Ikem is fired from the newspaper for speaking out against the government and he is killed by the state police. When people say Ikem wants Sam to be beheaded, Ikem is killed because he spoke out and the government tries to cover up the murder by saying it occurred in struggle.
Chris tries to escape when they want to arrest him and he does get out of the city but he is later killed defending a woman he met while he was trying to get away from Kangan. His Excellency, Sam was killed by another group of coup plotters taking over his government in response to his lack of popularity, paranoia and bad choices.
Anthills Of The Savannah is Achebe’s most experimental novel, it may not be the best work of the Man Booker Award Winner, nevertheless it is an important contribution to world literature. According to Richard Dowden of the Independent, “Anyone ruling or aspiring of ruling an African state, should read this book, so should the rest of us”.
By: Jacob Obinna
Development Of Art Education In Nigeria
A major constraint to the study of the visual arts as a school subject in Nigeria today is the dearth of art literature such as learned journals and textbooks. Several factors have also contributed to this problem.
The earliest literature on aspects of Nigerian art could be found in the books and other types of literature which were produced by early Western travellers, merchants, Muslim and Christian missionaries, and colonial administrators who had come to the area that is referred to today as Nigeria about a millennium ago.
Other examples of published works with references made to Nigerian arts are those of Captain Hugh Clapperton (1829) in which he commented on the elaborate ornaments which characterised the wooden sculptures that he saw in Oyo in 1926. Leo Frobenius (1913), a German ethnologist discussed Ife bronze sculptures in his account of the African cultures he saw during his trip to the continent at the beginning of the twentieth century A.D.
One of the earliest examples of works with references on aspects of Nigerian art was that of W.H Clarke, a Baptist missionary. It was an account of his exploration of Yorubaland in the late nineteenth century, which remained unpublished until 1972. Samuel Johnson’s (1921) book on the history of the Yoruba has a section devoted to the Yoruba people’s visual art. The work of Johnson, a black Anglican missionary like Ajayi Crowther, was the result of his attempt to document the oral history of the Yoruba which he feared may become lost as a result of the protracted Yoruba civil wars of the nineteenth century.
It is noteworthy that the views of aspects of Nigerian art documented in the published dairies of early travellers to country were not intended to be used as instructional materials in Nigerian educational institutions as these did not exist at that time, and were established some centuries or decades later. The works containing materials on Nigerian art like those of other African people were published at that time for Western readers many of whose curiosity about Africa’s prospects for trade and other imperialistic potentialities engendered the exploration of the country.
The Introduction of Books into Nigerian Schools
Books were not used in the informal education system which was practised in pre-colonial Nigeria. This was because book writing and reading were alien to the traditional Nigerians whose cultural history was oral before Muslims scholars and clergy men introduced the Quran and other Islamic books into northern Nigeria. This was done in their bid to facilitate their Islamisation of the indigenous people of Nigeria in the middle eleventh century A.D (Fayose and Madu 2001:16). Similarly, Christian missionaries introduced books such as the Bible, hymnals, catechisms and the Queen’s primer in their bid to ensure Christian evangelism and “civilize” Nigerians whom they first encountered in the southern part of the country. For instance, this phenomenon in Nigeria took place in the coastal towns of Warri, and the ancient Benin kingdom that was located at the mouth of River Gwatto in the fourteenth century A.D. (Kenny 1083:45-60).
However, art books did not appear in the Nigerian art education scene until sometime in the early twentieth century A.D. after the formal education system had been introduced into the country some eight decades back. Early art teachers in Nigeria such as Aina Onabolu and Kenneth Murray, both employed by the colonial government in 1922 and 1927, respectively used imported art textbooks to facilitate their teaching of visual arts in Nigerian schools, which were few and located in major towns like Lagos, Ibadan and Umuahia at the time. The source of the art books, like the ones which were used to teach other subjects such as English language, history, and mathematics, was mainly Europe where the teachers studied. Aside these points is the fact that publishers such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities presses which produced books abound in countries like Britain. It was not until much later in the twentieth century when printing and publishing began to thrive following the steady growth of journalism and commercial printing that the production and publication of textbooks began in Nigeria. Fayose and Madu (2001: 19-20) inform that the process was facilitated by foreign publishers, who opened branches of their companies in the country in the 1930s and 1940s.
It is, however, doubtful if the writing of art textbooks was included in the agenda of the text book committee which was set up in 1927 by the colonial government in Nigeria because the study of art which began only some five years earlier in 1923 was at its infant stage the text book committee which was charged with task of “seeking for manuscripts and authors that could suit Nigerians” was set up as the result of the insistence of the participants at the Imperial Education Conference in London in 1923 that school text books should be made relevant to the people.
The early text books which were imported from abroad and used in Nigerian schools were written by foreign art scholars. Art pupils in Nigerian schools in the era before and immediately after independence in 1960 will remember reading books like Art: Creative and Mental Growth (Lowenfeld 1947), Graphic Design (Lewies and Brinkley 1954) Art for African Schools (Stanfield 1956), A Concise History of Art (Bazin 1958), Art Teaching for Primary Schools in Africa (Mackenzie 1966), Aesthetics and Art Theory: an Historical Introduction (Osborne 1970), Art and Illusion (Gombrich 1971) and The Story of Art (Gombrich, 1972). General Art text books which were imported into Nigeria during the era in question include the ones written by Fleming (1955) Hoffman (1965) and Feldman (1967). These focused on Western art which they treated from the prehistoric art period, through the ancient Mediterranean and classical European traditions. They ended at the evolution of modern art era with slight mention made of the role of African arts in its dispensation.
Earlier in the 1920’s, a few expatriate artists of whom Kenneth Murray was typical, commenced writing articles on aspects of Nigerian arts. These they published in the Nigeria Magazine, a government journal on Nigeria, her people and culture that was launched in 1927 (Awe 1989: 28). The establishment of the Department of Antiquities with the Antiquities Act. No. 17 of 1953, which mandate was to discover, preserve and research into the diverse traditional cultures of the people of Nigeria provided more impetus for the publications of materials on Nigerian visual arts (Awe 1989: 28).
The results of the ethnographic and archaeological works of the likes of William and Bernard Fagg, Frank Willett, Sylvia Leith-Rosa and Thurston Shaw were not only featured in volumes of the journal but inadvertently became the subjects of books on Nigerian arts. Examples of these are Bernard Fagg’s (1977) Nok Terracottas, Willett’s (1967) Ife in the History of West African Sculpture, Leith-Rosa’s (1970) Nigerian Pottery and Shaw’s (1977) Unearthing Igbo Ukwu.
Experimental workshops on Yoruba art which were organized in Oye-Ekiti, Ijebu-Igbo and Ondo in the late 1940s with a view to using their products in Catholic churches as liturgical objects propelled Rev. Father Kelvin Carroll (1947) to write the book, Yoruba Religious Carving, Pagan and Christian Sculpture in Nigeria and Dahomey.
The seed of interest in traditional and contemporary Nigerian arts scholarship as well as that of a general interest in African arts, which had been sown in the early twentieth century due partly to the international interest in traditional African art and mainly to the fervour to search for and create a cultural identity for new independent African nations, grew immediately after independence in 1960. Ulli Beier (1960), Marshall Mount (1973) and Frank Willett (1971) blazed the trial with their books in this respect. Osa Egonwa (1994) and Kojo Fosu (1986) followed suit much later.
In writing about adult education in Nigeria, Onyenemezu (2012) acknowledged that the country is facing challenges in the 21st century. Recently youth and young adults have been restive in the Niger Delta region resulting in violence and youth militancy in militias. More recently, Boko Haram is wreaking havoc through bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. Onyenemezu argued that examining adult education could help to alleviate the instability and increase political and economic development. Oddly, when Zuofa and Olori, (2015) recently researched adult learning methods in Nigeria, they did not include storytelling. Evidence suggests that it would be an effective method of adult education in Nigeria. Whether in formal, informal, or non-formal learning, telling the stories of historical facts and cultures are significant aspects of connecting adult learners with their cultural heritage.
Although Achebe first wrote of the impact of colonizers on Igbo clans in 1959, as recently as 2014, Nduka expressed concern that the Igbo culture will be lost. He lamented that when fathers do not know the history and stories of their own culture, it is a tragedy that they cannot answer the questions of their children about festivals, the indigenous calendar, the age-grade or age-group system, chieftancy within the community, or meanings of proverbs. Storytelling is useful for members of the African diaspora not just to remember their own history, but to adapt to their new homes. Tuwe (2016) studied African communities based in New Zealand and argued that the oral tradition of storytelling was useful when dealing with work-related challenges. 96 Decolonization involves challenging Western epistemologies and embracing an indigenous paradigm and traditional knowledge.
Recognizing the power and influence of native stories can assist decolonization and reverse the perception of colonizers being knowers and indigenous people as being ignorant. First, the legacy of the helping Western colonializing Other must be resisted…As agents of colonial power, Western scientists discovered, extracted, appropriated, commodified, and distributed knowledge about the indigenous other. (Denzin, Lincoln & Smith, 2008, p. 5) In order to undo western dominance and unravel colonialism, it is necessary to create knowledge based on African philosophy which includes “community-centred [sic] ways of knowing, the story-telling framework, [and] language as a bank of knowledge” (Chilisa & Preece, 2005, p. 49). Storytelling satisfies all three of those aspects. Since storytelling was a social practice and a participatory experience, it is community centered. The storytelling framework has been used for millennia in Nigeria in the oral tradition, which continues even with the evolution of written stories.
Finally, language is a bank of knowledge since proverbs and cultural history are included in both the oral and written tradition. Although European colonizers renamed lands, bodies of water, and other African assets by inflicting names related by the colonizers and missionaries, in stories, Nigerians could reclaim their indigenous knowledge and language by reclaiming the original names. In addition, storytelling as a motivational tool has the potential to expose learners to the path of success using inspirational stories that can foster strong connection. Denning (2011) noted that much of what we know is composed of stories, and many of them describe how circumstances and situations in the past have been successfully handled. In other words, through the application of stories, adult learners can gain knowledge that will be useful for undertaking life’s arduous tasks. For example, hearing stories about conflict resolution, one could learn how to resolve a conflict. A personal life story could culminate in learning transformation and new understanding (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2007).
When people organize their experiences into stories, the resulting narrative “may be an ideal process in that it characterizes movement of development toward some future end” (Weissner & Pfahl, 2007, p. 28). Dillard (2008) has capitalized on this notion by adopting the idea of using the term African ascendant rather than descendant to describe “the upward and forward moving nature of African people through the diaspora as well as on the African continent herself” (p. 291). This is itself a decolonizing perspective. When people examine their own stories, they can examine them in relation to larger cultural contexts (Rossiter, 2002, p. 4). Adults have the potential to make changes and rewrite their lives stories (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2007), reducing their colonized world views. Storytelling allows individuals to rewrite themselves, but it can also have a larger impact: indigenous peoples who are combatting the effects of colonialism can unite a group or community and rewrite communal memory (Weissner & Pfahl, 2007).
Eczema And Depression In Children
Eczema does not just irritate children’s skin. The often disfiguring condition may also be tied to depression, anxiety and sleep difficulties, new research warns.
A study of more than 11,000 children and teens found that those with severe eczema were twice as likely to become clinically depressed as eczema-free children.
“Eczema is an itchy complex skin disease,” said study author Dr. Katrina Abuabara, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco.
“The disease course and severity can be quite variable,” explained Abuabara. “It often presents in early childhood, but can occur at any age. It tends to be episodic, flaring up, then remitting, but these cycles can be chronic over years.
“For many children, the disease seems to improve by their teen years, but we’ve found that some continue to have episodic disease into adulthood,” she added.
Risk goes up among those with a family history of the disease or related conditions like asthma and allergies. And the condition “is quite common, affecting up to 20% of children and 10% of adults,” Abuabara noted.
Among the children she and her colleagues started tracking in 1991, the annual prevalence of eczema — also known as atopic dermatitis — ranged from 14% to 19% between the ages of 3 and 18.
Roughly 22% to 40% developed a moderate or severe form of the disease; the rest of the cases were mild.
In addition to being linked to a doubling of depression risk, severe eczema also doubled the risk for the kind of depressive and/or anxiety-linked behaviors that typically indicate underlying emotional and psychological difficulties. Severe cases also drove up the odds for sleep troubles.
The depressed children were more likely to be female, and from a higher social class, the authors found.
Mild and moderate eczema were not linked to a higher risk for childhood depression, the team stressed. But among children as young as 4, even less serious cases of eczema were associated with a 29% to 84% spike in the risk for internalizing behaviors.
That’s concerning, Abuabara and her colleagues noted, because children who struggle with depression and/or brewing emotional turmoil may face a higher risk for depression, anxiety and poor overall health as adults.
“Many parents of children with eczema will tell you it can be a deceptively devastating disease,” Abuabara said.
“Eczema has long been known to cause sleep disturbances which impact the whole family,” she added, “and certainly can take a toll on emotional well-being. Increasingly, studies are revealing that some types of eczema are more than ‘skin deep’, and can impact overall health in a variety of ways.”
In general, “skin disease is well known to affect patients’ quality of life and cause depression,” agreed Dr. Robert Kirsner, chairman of the department of dermatology and cutaneous surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Children are often thought to be relatively resilient in that respect, said Kirsner, who was not part of the study team.
But “understandably, severe eczema, even in children, can cause depression and associated internalizing symptoms such as low self-esteem, fear and worrying,” he said.
Of note is the finding that even “less severely affected patients apparently are emotionally affected by disease, and may internalize their feelings and manifest symptoms,” Kirsner said.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
Malaria: Trial Vaccine To Protect Young African Children Underway
A new approach to protecting young African children from malaria could reduce deaths and illness from the disease by 70%, a study suggests.
Giving them vaccines before the worst season in addition to preventative drugs produced “very striking” results, London researchers say.
The trial followed 6,000 children aged under 17 months in Burkina Faso and Mali.
Most of the 400,000 deaths from malaria each year are in the under-fives.
And the mosquito-borne disease is still a major health issue in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
This trial focused on giving very young children a vaccine already in use and anti-malarial drugs at the time of year they are most vulnerable – often the rainy season when mosquitoes multiply.
“It worked better than we thought would be the case,” said Prof Brian Greenwood, a member of the research team, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), which led the trial.
“Hospital admissions were less, deaths were less in both countries – and we really didn’t expect to see that.”
Over three years, the trial found three doses of the vaccine and drugs before the worst malaria season, followed by a booster dose before subsequent rainy seasons, controlled infections much better than vaccines or drugs alone – and, the researchers said, could save millions of young lives in the African Sahel.
Among the children who received vaccine doses and drugs, there were:
624 cases of malaria
11 children treated in hospital with severe malaria
three deaths from malaria
Among the same number of children who received preventative drugs alone – the current approach in those countries – there were:
1,661 malaria cases
37 admissions to hospital
11 deaths from malaria
Scientists say the combined effects of the vaccine and drugs in the trial appear to be surprisingly powerful.
The vaccine – called RTS,S and created by GlaxoSmithKline more than 20 years ago – kills parasites that multiply very quickly in the liver, while anti-malarial drugs target parasites in the body’s red blood cells.
Vaccines against malaria have been rolled out before, such as this one in Ghana. Flu vaccines have been used seasonally, to protect people ahead of winter, for many years – but it has rarely been tried for malaria.
The World Health Organization’s global malaria programme director, Dr Pedro Alonso, said: “We welcome this innovative use of a malaria vaccine to prevent disease and death in highly seasonal areas in Africa.”
The vaccine has already reached more than 740,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, as part of routine childhood-vaccine programme.
And researchers in Mali say they look forward to “a quick policy decision” by the WHO for this new approach.
No concerning side-effects were found in children in the trial.
And the children involved will continue to receive vaccines, drugs or both until the age of five, with additional findings from the study available next year.
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