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Soyinka prize in illiteracy

On 13 July 2018, the 84th birthday of Olumo Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Laureate for Literature, I honour him by revisiting a debate that is raging on the Internet over what many call my misreading of his work, especially with reference to my interpretation of his play, Death and King’s Horseman

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Soyinka Lashes Out At Govt , Urges UN Help In Nigeria

On 13 July 2018, the 84th birthday of Olumo Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Laureate for Literature, I honour him by revisiting a debate that is raging on the Internet over what many call my misreading of his work, especially with reference to my interpretation of his play, Death and King’s Horseman. Literary experts have been marvelling about the “Author’s Note” that accompanies Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka.

Most playwrights leave it to the directors and producers of the play to interpret it as they wish but Soyinka was worried that most experts were misreading the play. He took the unusual authoritarian step of stipulating how the play should be interpreted but the critics appear not to notice and have continued to misread the play, in my own humble opinion. Soyinka left clues that would guide readers to decode his original intention in writing the play but most literary critics miss the point and some accuse me of being the mis-reader.

The very first sentence in the author’s note may have led many critics astray by stating that the play is based on real historical “events which took place in Oyo”, which the author defined as “an ancient Yoruba city of Nigeria”. This is misleading in a number of ways that literary critics should have been able to understand. To say that the events took place in 1946 would be to localise the time and space of the dramatic events whereas in the world of theatre, events do not take place exclusively in the setting but also on every stage where the play is produced.

Soyinka expected that literary theorists would understand that the playscript is not simply an archival document or ethnographic report but the work of original creation even when based on real events.

The play was not expected to be read, as the verbatim report of a tragic case that took place once upon a time. This is true of all works of creative writing that are supposed to be inventive no matter how much resemblance there may be between fiction and reality. In fact, many writers include a disclaimer that that any resemblance to real events was unintentional. As a matter of fact, the same can be said about reality genres that are full of inventions too. Soyinka clearly stated in the first paragraph of his author’s note that he made “changes” in the narrative “in matters of detail, sequence and of course characterisation”.

He also informed the illiterate critics that he deliberately set the play back a few years “while the war was still on, for minor reasons of dramaturgy.” Here, Soyinka is guiding the would-be producer away from a simplistic historical interpretation of the play as being only relevant to the case of 1946 given that dramaturgy grants artistic license that defies the laws of historical specificity. In addition, Soyinka may have misled the interpreters of the play by saying that Oyo was an “ancient Yoruba city of Nigeria”. Here he could be challenged by historians who may point out that Oyo was an ancient Yoruba Empire and not simply a city and that by 1946, it was no longer simply a Yoruba city but a multicultural one.

Moreover, nothing “of Nigeria” can be said to be ancient because Nigeria itself is a modernist invention by colonisers. The hint about the Nigerian setting of the play should have encouraged the critics to understand that the play is not only about a Yoruba tragedy but about a Nigerian tragedy. The reference to “while the war was still on” should have massaged the memory of the critics to remind them that the play was published only five years after a tragic genocidal war in Nigeria in which Yoruba elites played a leading aggressive role along with other ethnic elites in Nigeria. This play, in my lay opinion, is better understood, as part of the soul-searching by Soyinka after he was released from solitary confinement for opposing the genocidal war against the Igbo. Why were highly educated Yoruba leaders the ones who cheered on the genocide against the Igbo in Biafra?

Also, Soyinka indicated that those who were interested only in the factual account of the case of 1946 should go and read it in the British National Archives in Kew. He also pointed out that those who wanted to read a more exact historical re-enactment of the case should consult the “fine play in Yoruba (Oba Waja) by Duro Ladipo”. In other words, Death and the King’s Horseman is not that kind of historical re-enactment nor is it the kind of “misbegotten’ German television film about the case. The play was a more urgent intervention while Soyinka was in exile following the end of the war and his release from solitary confinement for having the audacity to oppose tyranny. Unlike his other plays, he did not wait for the play to be produced before he published it. I believe that Soyinka was directly and indirectly challenging his fellow Nigerian intellectuals to account for their opportunism in supporting a genocidal war that took 3.1 million lives in 30 months.

In the third paragraph of the author’s note, Soyinka declared that the “bane of themes of this genre” is that once the text appears, “they acquire the facile tag of ‘clash of cultures’”. He rejected such a label as “prejudicial” in the sense that it is prone to “frequent misapplication” and also because the label “presupposes” a potential equality in every given situation between the cultures of the coloniser and the colonised “on the actual soil of the latter”. Soyinka went on to award “the overseas prize in illiteracy and mental conditioning” to the writer of the blurb of the American edition of his novel, Season of Anomy, for “unblushingly” stating that the novel is about the “clash between old values and new ways, between western methods and African traditions”.

Soyinka explained that it is due to “this kind of perverse mentality” that he was forced to warn future producers (and critics) of the play to avoid “a sadly familiar reductionist tendency” and instead attempt to capture the “the far more difficult and risky task of eliciting the play’s threnodic essence.” Experts on the work of Soyinka are baffled by this injunction and wonder openly what he was banging on about? What is Soyinka trying to hide? He was trying to reveal something.

I offer the original interpretation that Soyinka was referring to the genocide against the Igbo which was the theme of the novel that he referred to, Season of Anomy, in which he recounted the eye-witness account of how fellow Nigerians hunted down tens of thousands of innocent Igbo men, women and children and massacred them in a pogrom that led to the secession of the Eastern region and the intensification of the genocide. In that novel, he mocked the archaeologists for poking around in search of fossilised bones while fresh blood flowed like river in the country and they did not seem to be bothered.

He also challenged the sociologists who came with “erudite irrelevances” about marriage and divorce but refused to join him in opposing a genocidal war. The novel depicted the Marxists who were locked up in a mental asylum as phrase-mongers who failed to recognise the revolutionary situation in the country and instead rallied in support of the genocidal military dictatorship rather than turn the civil war into a liberation war. To suggest that the novel was about the clash of cultures was a strategy to condition the mentality of Nigerian intellectuals towards the acceptance of the propaganda that the Igbo who led the struggle for decolonisation were primitive tribalists perhaps because they had no chiefs while the ethnic groups that ganged up against them were more civilised because they were monarchical, according to the ideologues of colonial domination.

Walter Rodney also observed that to call the genocide against the Igbo a tribal war would be to call Shell BP a tribe (along with the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union) and Ikenna Nzimiro argued that the Marxists in Biafra were engaged in class struggles. The “threnodic essence” of the play refers to funeral songs in Greek tragedies and I believe that Soyinka was inviting the producers of the play to imagine a national mourning for the 3.1 million killed in Biafra that the country has refused to mourn. Agwuncha Arthur Nwankwo has been calling for a National Day of Igbo Mourning to be recognised by the Nigerian government as part of the atonement.

In the final paragraph of the author’s note, Soyinka observed that an alternative structuralist interpretation of the play is to see it as a cruel joke on the British colonial District Officer. He quickly dismissed such a reading as distasteful and added that he deliberately avoided writing dialogue or scenes that would support such a misinterpretation. He dictated that, “No attempt should be made in production to suggest it”. This sounds like an angry response to critics who choose to misread his works for ideological reasons while ignoring the concrete conditions that his works address.

A prominent Marxist literary theorist that I admire, Biodun Jeyifo, who is an expert on the work of Soyinka, was invited by the British Broadcasting Corporation to write about any work of literature that he saw as being representative of the global culture. He chose to write beautifully about Death and the King’s Horseman, as an anti-colonial play that tried to subvert the use of the Queen’s English by creating a “future” tradition of the Anglophone that was more figurative than the English language.

He invoked the work of Marxist cultural studies by Raymond Williams and by Stuart Hall to suggest that the other Englishes around the world serve to subvert the domination of the world by Standard English. I pointed out that his interpretation is too superficial for a Marxist because the “thredonic essence” of the play was not to show that Africans could speak English better than the English. I suggested that a cultural studies reading of the play would not have focused exclusively on the beautiful writing or language of the play but would have tried to see the challenge to monarchism and oppressive traditions in the play.

Jeyifo told me privately that I should go and read the play again because it is not against the monarchy or against ritual suicide but simply against the colonial domination of African cultures. I admitted that I could be accused of misreading the play but I called it a strategic misreading and wondered if it is possible for an expert on the work of Soyinka to misread it. Soyinka seems to think so and that is the whole point of his detailed telling off of the experts in his author’s note.

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Contrary to the claim that Death and the King’s Horseman is only an anti-colonial play, Soyinka concluded his author’s note by stating that, “The Colonial Factor is an incident, a catalytic incident merely.” To him, the central “confrontation” or conflict that he tried to resolve in the play was “metaphysical” in the sense that it played out in the world of “the Yoruba mind – the world of the living, the dead and the unborn, and the numinous passages which links all: transition”.

Soyinka was puzzling about the metaphysics of the Yoruba worldview that made it possible for the best educated characters in the play to be the ones who cheered most vociferously for Elesin to abide by the tradition that expected him to kill himself in honour of a dead king. Similarly, Soyinka was wondering why the best educated Yoruba were the cheer-leaders of the genocide against the Igbo. Soyinka advised producers to try and capture this tragedy by using music to represent the macabre dance to the “music from the abyss” by the intellectuals who danced while millions were being slaughtered in Biafra.

I am not an expert in dramaturgy but I love the work of Soyinka. I cited his essay on Neo-Tarzanism in my criticism of the film, Black Panther, which I called an example of neo-Tarzanism. Following the serialisation of the criticism, I was invited by the KPFK public radio in Los Angeles to discuss the film with an Ethiopian publisher and an African American director of the Pan African Film Festival. During the discussion, the Ethiopian said that we should not condemn the presence of monarchies in Africa because there were popular emperors such as Mansa Musa and Haile Selessie who were admired by Africans and by the African diaspora.

The director of the Pan African Film Festival questioned my reference to Soyinka because he saw Death and the King’s Horseman as an indication that Soyinka was a monarchist who supported even the tradition that the horseman should commit suicide to honour the dead king. As Killmonger asked derisively in the film, I asked, this is your king? I stated that Soyinka used that play and almost every play of his to undermine the institution of the monarchy and call for democracy, which he is on record as admiring in Igbo culture. He spared the life of the Horseman in the play and his other tragedies – Kongi’s Harvest, Madmen and Specialists, King Babu; his novels, his poetry and his memoirs all support my interpretation of his anti-monarchical orientation.

Since the experts who have studied his work have focused almost exclusively on the structuralism, I propose to offer a post-structuralist or deconstruction radicalisation of his body of work to show that the tragedy of the state violence especially against the Igbo is at the centre of the conflicts that he has been trying to resolve. Just as the genocidal war was waged without a cease fire for humanitarian interventions, the author coincidentally instructs on page 8 of Death and the King’s Horseman that “The play should run without an interval.”

I agree with critics who will charge that I am misreading Soyinka here. If so, I will admit to a strategic misreading that is necessitated by placing the text within the context of a recent history of trauma that the author did not simply witness as a bystander but one in which he actively tried to stop the genocide and earned himself solitary confinement without trial. Sociologists approach the work of writers by taking into consideration, the context of the private and the public lives of the authors whereas literary theorists may concentrate exclusively on the technical, language, or structural aspects of the script as instructed by T.S. Eliot in his foundational essay, Tradition and Individual Talent.

What I am offering is a sociology of literature interpretation of Soyinka and I am certain that the rebel in him may force him to disagree with my interpretation and award me a national illiteracy prize. I am not contending that all existing interpretations of Soyinka are wrong. I am only saying that there is something missing in the community of Soyinka interpretations and I contend that what is neglected by critics is not minor but a central aspect of his work – his self-sacrificial opposition to the Igbo genocide in particular as a foundational part of his oppositional aesthetics in the face of tyranny.

Commentator: Biko Agozino.
He is Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, United States of America.

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Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

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Obadiah Mailafia: The Grip Of Grief

By

 Toyin Falola

I spent over 20 years of my working life abroad as a university teacher, banker and international civil servant with an unblemished record. I have no criminal record — not even a parking ticket. Sadly, it is in my own fatherland that I’m being subjected to criminal investigation and such extreme political persecution. Please, pray for me. I have reasons to believe that my life is in danger and that some powerful political forces want to silence me forever for speaking the truth. For speaking on behalf of the Holy Martyrs — of thousands of innocent children, women, elderly and youths that have been killed in our beloved country.

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, 2021.

'How Doctors Shabbily Treated Mailafia While Dying'

Dr. Obadiah Mailafia

Today, I have not come to bid farewell to a compatriot whose resolution to strengthen the political system of his homeland through revolutionizing the minds of the people continues to flog the political merchandisers in their weakest point. Instead, I have come to combine my lamentations with the grief of others who have accepted the deceased as the shining light in the darkness of leadership quagmire that Nigeria fits its description. Justifiably so, I do have reasons to lament because the agitations of a critical voice represented by Dr. Obadiah Mailafia are a reminder that the country called Nigeria might have increased in age, but it remains a dwarf in the practices of federalism and democracy. Any country that cannot protect its minority members is a failure.

Apart from the insinuation that the sudden death of the deceased cannot be excused from the see-no-evil political elite of the country, as implicitly contained in his declaration quoted above, that sudden exit from the face of the earth is an affirmation that dysfunctional systems are not usually ineffective as the general impression against them has indicated. These systems are effective in frustrating and then losing their best brains to different causes—death, migrations, desertion, among other things. Nigerian systems are not especially effective positively, not because they lack the requisite ability and materials to do so, but because they are paralyzed by leaders who lack the needed goodwill to drive the people forward.

For all it is worth, Mailafia’s death was avoidable; however, its (un)avoidability is proportional to the leaders’ intentions who control the country’s power. The power controllers of dysfunctional systems are usually impugning on the autonomous right of institutions so that they could get results that align with their myopic vision. Such is the danger of having hind-sighted dummies in the theatre of power of a country, more so, of a country that is supposed to be the most populous Black nation. But when these self-serving individuals at the corridor of power pursue their selfish agenda in their bid to shut every critical voice, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic comment makes it apparent that what they are doing is called a defence mechanism. The relationship between the systematic silencing of a vibrant voice and dysfunctional system is that instead of facing the bulk of responsibilities staring the country’s leaders in the face, they scare genius minds away from the corridor of representation and force them into accepting silence as the preferred mode of political participation. Leaders who are faced with ideas deficit pay more prominent attention to voices that raise contradictory opinions because their ignorance is usually drowned in the ocean of truth, which these voices speak all the time.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

Please make no mistake. I have not alleged that the death of Mailafia came from any particular interest group as far as Nigeria is concerned, but it is difficult to absolve the government of such indictment when it has successfully registered into the minds of individuals who are supposed to discharge their statutory duties without intimidation, that the government is particularly interested in how it handles its clients, be it from bank to its customers, police to the citizens, court to the people, and even hospitals to their patients. This conclusion is inevitable given the agonizing declaration of Obadiah Mailafia on a dying bed in one of the country’s most respected medical services arenas.

For the honourable man, the deceased, to have declared that “I have reasons to believe that my life is in danger and that some powerful political forces want to silence me forever for speaking the truth” suggests that institutions cannot function effectively in a political geography where the government is averse to opposition and perspectives that put them on their toes. Ironically, in a truthfully democratic setting, no government would function effectively without having a persistent voice calling it to order and charging it to undertake its statutory responsibilities.

Today, as I write, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, with whom I shared a communicative space some few weeks ago about raging issues and emerging concerns around Nigeria, exists no more—a victim of institutional decadence that follows nearly all postcolonial African countries. At the departure of the West in the Nigerian political landscape, we thought it would be the immediate euthanizing of invirile leadership, bad governance, and insecure political elites whose sense of safety is ensured only when they victimize the defenceless masses. However, experiences in recent times have not only told us we were too ambitious with our dreams; they have also revealed to us that we were hallucinating, in 1960, about a utopian future.

READ ALSO: ‘How Doctors Shabbily Treated Mailafia While Dying’

What does it matter if the picture of the person who occupies the highest political seat in the country is different when the safety of revolutionaries cannot be guaranteed immediately they decide to speak for the masses? Has colonialism not eroded the sense of postcolonial Nigerian leaders knowing that critical voices against their administration, even when they have ulterior motives, help drive them to a direction where it would be easier to achieve greatness? Who would tell the Nigerian government, and maybe every society that is averse to truth-telling, that intellectual voices like Mailafia need to be preserved for they serve as eyes to their people and the country’s future? Who?

If the statement attributed to the dead is factual, at what point would we collectively, as a people, understand that while you can silence the body that houses the voice of reason, no one can silence the voice itself, for it speaks using different body containers? From the inception of human society, there have been people who would offer alternative perspectives to everything. In fact, these people are usually understood based on the age of collective wisdom that their society has acquired. They consider them good or evil according to what they define as good or bad, which has something to do with their evolutionary progress.

During his time in Rome, Aristotle saw differently from what the ancient Romans had seen and dared the system to improve their vision by considering, as fundamental principles of life, those things they had frozen. Ironically, he was tried before by the law for which he was trying to challenge. It was evident that Aristotle was against a war he would not materially win. He lost his life in the process, but his vision would eventually fire Rome to an enviable position in many aspects of life. Galileo, during his period, saw the world differently as an astrologer and a philosopher. The leaders were paranoid, and they crushed his life because they could not fathom his thoughts. Dr. Mailafia, with whom I communicated last month, became sore in the throat of a particular political class, who derived benefits from the compromised values of a medical system to “silence his voice forever.”

Beyond the deep sore dug in the throat of your loved ones, Mailafia, because of your sudden and unforeseen demise, the memories you left behind are a scent of courage and hope because you showed that a geometric rise of people is possible regardless of their economic and political background. Your life was a lesson that one can be generally successful without having to take the wrong routes. You rose from grass and definitely to grace. From zero, you became a hero just because your determination to defy the gravity of poverty outweighed your zeal for all unnecessary distractions. Because you lived a life of purpose, you were an inspiration to a generation of Nigerians who never imagined arriving at the pinnacle of their career due to the impression that the system is rigged to eternally frustrate and discourage them. This means that while you acknowledged the dysfunctionality of the system in which you found yourself, you never relented or showed a sign of defeat to nature. You made use of the materials available in your surroundings and transformed the life you were given. Today, your fans, starting from your immediate family members (children, wife, and even parents) to the admirers of the legacy you left behind, are proud to have associated with you in your lifetime.

READ ALSO: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And The Nigerian Story Of Leadership Failure

But then you have left a wound in our hearts, those of us who have enjoyed the fecundity of your wisdom from a close distance. You have gone suddenly away from our midst, making us feel sharp and robust pains that leave untold emotional wreck in our minds. It was not easy for you to die, apparently, but trust me when I say that your pain was temporary and your agony was very brief compared to what we, whom you left behind, would feel anytime we remember the shining Soul that you were and the beautiful mind that you represented. Mailafia, the path  we have chosen to tread as public intellectuals is becoming lonelier, compounded by the cloudy future we face in this trajectory where voices of freedom and reason are aggressively challenged because they speak a truth that is too deafening for tyrants all over the world to accommodate.

But would we now bow to their pressure and submit the future of innocent generations to their hand, Obadiah? Would we now lose focus and be distracted by those who window-dressed their cowardice and choose to lick the boot of political merchandizer as a way to augment their living and pretend everything is good, Mailafia? Would we now accede to the pressure of selfish leaders who wanted to run a government that does not entertain alternative perspectives, dear erudite?

I ask all these rhetorical questions because of the prescience of your predictions about the country in recent years, and because I was struck by the unusualness of your exit from the face of the earth. In my last conversation with you, you expressed your concerns and mentioned how the welfare of the people in the country has been technically silenced by the emergence of curable security problems. I remember you saying that the future is in the gloom as long as the political machinations in the country continue with such a level of questionable determination. You expressed your feelings about the country’s economy that has witnessed unprecedented deterioration in recent times because of poor policies and an unwillingness to ask for help where and when it is needed. You decried the apparent political misdemeanour that has encouraged this predatory economic geography and explained to the international audience that surviving the current economic hardship that has bedevilled the country is like surfing an ocean without the necessary equipment and with no dependable knowledge of swimming. You never really imagined the courage you enhanced in the hearts of many who share from your optimism, provided the country’s boat is rightly paddled. Together, we recently discussed the expanding dangerous legacies that neocolonial African leaders make from the inheritance they get from their erstwhile imperialists and how it seems they are married to the ideas imposed on them for life.

About Nigeria, Dr. Mailafia dialogued with me on the possibility of internal colonization, which people at the helm of power seem to exploit continuously. The fact that people’s psychology has been complicated by various experiences of disappointment, discriminatory regulations, and marginalization has further emboldened them to take a similar trajectory when they have opportunities to serve in any position of power. I remember vividly when Dr. Mailafia concluded that the rot has permeated nearly all institutions in the country, as it has moved confidently away from being domiciled by the government at the central level to every level where administration of power is demonstrated. Everyone becomes a potential despot, seeking any available opportunity to unleash their mayhem on the innocent people of the country. In essence, seeking power has been considered a great desire to provide some immunity to the individual away from the regulations naturally meant for the majority.

How could you have died, Obadiah, when you came up with lofty ideas about how the country can face head-on the challenges of mismanagement and insecurity that have bedevilled it? Were you not the one who said that fundamental changes will happen to the country the moment the citizens elect politicians of good political will? When I asked you how this is possible and ameliorative to the challenges we identified in the country, you told me categorically that good political will pave ways for other transformational engagements of every country. I remember with keen interest how you demonstrably linked the political goodwill of a leader to their interests in taking active attention to areas that deserve urgent leadership involvement. You said that through this, all institutions landlocked in the geography of dysfunctionality would have the concentration that could immediately propel them into what naturally obtains in a democratic society. You mentioned that to strengthen the country’s government, the quest for equality, which can be promised by the installation of a decentralized system, would be possible only when there is the political will by the commander-in-chief. You concluded, albeit hilariously, by getting a reinforcement of your position by quoting Psalm 11 vs 3 of the Holy Bible: “If the foundations are destroyed – what do the righteous do?”

READ ALSO: The Power Of Positive Difference: Dr. Obadiah Mailafia And His Nigeria

Our belief that the country’s bureaucrats are firmly behind this disruption because they have vested economic interests that they seek to protect at all cost was strengthened by your educative insight when you explained the connection between them and the government policy statements. We both lamented that whenever the country seemed to have made any modest progress in putting their challenging democratic experiences behind, they are usually overtaken by leaders who have no business in the corridor of power in the first place. Temptingly, this is where we almost shelved the blame of irresponsible leadership that has beleaguered the country to the West. While they are entirely absolved of this indictment because of the different interventionist engagements that sometimes have negative consequences on the people, there can be no excuse for the leaders who have made themselves the willing tool for the facilitation of exploitation by the West. Nigerian leaders are vain. They are eternally married to selfish ambition as long as they have financial and economic privileges, notwithstanding the conditions of those underneath them.

Listening to the announcement of your demise came with a rude shock, the magnitude of which I struggled to contain with a powerful price. For a man of your zeal and bravado, of course, you cannot evade death, just as nobody will, but then, death happening to you at that age and stage is something of a generational loss to the country, even in their ignorance. Beyond what could be imagined, you placed the Middle Belt of the country within the proper frame of relevance, where national concentration on them became inevitable, and their travails and challenges have become an international discourse. It was because you strive to arrive at excellence that you won the opportunity to serve at the apex of your career, in which such has been systematically drawn away from your people for a protracted period. You have produced ideas and philosophies, made informed decisions at the national level, and have contributed significantly to the promotion of excellence in the country while you had the opportunity to do so. Even when you left the public office, you continued to offer vital support to enhance the country’s progress.

Within the period of your existence, haven’t you challenged the stereotype by defying all the pressure from offensive camps? Unlike many revolutionaries, you never saw yourself lacking power, even when it was apparent you had no political one. You believed that your voice was strong enough to carve out the voltage of energy needed to electrify the world that appears very committed to selfish ambition and purposeless aggrandizement of wealth. You would not bow out for pressure, and because you were committed to the course of freedom and egalitarian society, you have won for yourself a place that would continue to exist beyond your anticipation and which already is outliving you. Without minding whose ox is gored, you were brilliantly critical of political moves that flagrantly undermined the economic and security safety of people. Your voice was not shaky whenever you educated the world on the importance of alternative perspectives. When others speak with their tongues in their cheeks, you came boldly to face the power brokers who have no single trace of passion for the country they lead.

Saying adieu to you now that you have departed is in the correct order. Wishing that you face a joyous experience in your spiritual journey is the least that we can do. You have gone to a place where we believe you would face less pressure, yet it is a place we are not in a hurry to go. We would be more content to have your presence amidst us so that we can continue to absorb the pressure of the unyielding African political leaders together. We would have loved more that we engage them in the intellectual world where we arm the defenceless people with the power of the pen to stand up for themselves and their exploitative leaders that are causing them all manner of pains. Undoubtedly, the fight started by generations before us, which obviously cannot disappear in our generation, would continue to have our contributions because nobody is free until everyone is free. Your voice has become immortal:

https://06475114472589781935.googlegroups.com/attach/7c9165d670ae2fe7/VIDEO-2021-09-20-13-57 28.mp4?part=0.1&pending=1&view=1&vt=ANaJVrFwYatGvPfSV2iyH98u9TFz8gQrwijhhjl_YRkIAXja1fEYfkzcCc8yYkEmHM6eHxFwwx_qghrunWxybUsNFn3O6J9ms-9EzK16Fi1FADzgvOMq46s

May the Almighty God give your family the strength to bear the irreparable loss and fortify them to move on in the right manner. Your disappearance has caused them some grief, certainly. But then, may they be consoled by the understanding that you led a fulfilled life while you were here.

Adieu, dear Obed!

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

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Why I Love Kids

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Why I Love Kids

By

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

I love kids. I love childhood. I love children. I refer to real kids, the unsoiled ones. The ones who see this world as a world of no impossibilities. Daddy is a hero, a magician. With daddy around they can get all they need, all they want. The ones who say ‘I will tell daddy for you’. If they tell daddy for you, daddy will deal with you. Or the ones who say ‘Mommy said I should tell you that she is not in the house! And unwittingly cause a war between two families!

I love their unspoilt nature, their innocence, their simplicity, and their lack of pretence. With them you know where you stand. They will not scheme against you nor hatch an evil plot to destroy you or derail your career. They will not envy your successful life. They do not pad things. They may make things up for their world to flow. But they do not mean to destroy your world. Their world is governed by truth, truth as they see it. They may be, they are often naïve but they are genuine. They may not act right. But they keep no malice. They trust adults. They believe adults. They want to be like adults in some respects. Yet in their world, the mindset of the adult is dangerous!

When daddy has no car, it is because daddy does not need a car. Not because he cannot afford one. When daddy says ‘there’s no money’, they say to ‘daddy go to the bank and take money’. and to dad’s ‘There’s no fuel in the car! they say ‘Let us go to the fuel station to take fuel! They do not have fake identities. They are who they are. They are, they could be fun to be with, especially if you are a grandfather, not obliged to pay their fees or be with them twenty-four hours. They make you forget the uglies of the world. You stay with the beautiful, the good, the kind, and the testimony of sainthood. In the world of kids, there is no malice. In malice, be like children. In understanding be like men. So, the Apostle Paul says. The assumption is that all men have understanding. We know however that sometimes, the naivety of a child is more powerful than the wicked understanding of an adult. It is our peril. It is our doom. Adults rule the world. Not children. Wish they could rule the world!

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Some powerful men, like most rich men, treat women like kids. Their kids. Their play thing. Their toy. The gambit is money. Influence. Access. The women look at them in awe. Treat them with awe. They exhibit the innocence and charm of the kid. They throw up the charm of a kid. The men fall for it. They lap it up. They fall for it. And the relationship becomes sweet, remains sweet. Until when the innocence disappears, that is, when the woman discovers the web of deceit, lies, and cunning. Innocence or the appearance of innocence in a woman portrays the image of the child, the vulnerable. It makes men want to protect them.

Childhood is innocence. It ought to be innocence, that is, a child ought to be innocent. Childhood is synonymous with innocence. At some point innocence disappears. They grow out of it, into the adult world. Like the children in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies in which Ralph ‘wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of a man’s heart’ as the beast in children rises to the surface and dominates the landscape, their lives, their stay in the wild.  Maturity comes. Maturity? Perhaps, not maturity. Savagery. Exposure to the greed in the world. The hate. The jealousy. The spite. The bile, hidden one. You could be an adult without being mature. But you cannot be a child without innocence. Once innocence is lost, the sanctity of the contract between childhood and innocence evaporates. Golding also writes about ‘the world, that understandable and lawful world’, which ’was slipping away!

The child is the man. The child is the father of the man. This is belief in the future. It is hope. It is faith.  It is a seed that is planted to be nurtured when, if all circumstances are equal. It is no apotheosis of any kind, no epiphany; nothing near it. It is no divine revelation, no. It is the reality that we contend with daily. That hope is humanity. That hope is the future of humanity, the earth, the cosmos. So, when we destroy the kid, we destroy the future. Not in the physical sense may be. But in essence. To be sure there are consequences.

The kid dies in the child that is exposed to or plunged into the ugly dangers and filth of the adult world before the age of innocence naturally ends. And that is the plight of our world. Our fall. Our doom. Our death. Too many things kill innocence. Sheer brigandage rules the airwaves through the power of technology. Social media. Blogs. Porn sites. Wars and rumours of wars. The smartphone. The Internet. Brigands in power. Disappearance of sacred values or nonrecognition of sacred values. Muscles of the adult world squeeze life out of the chest of values, of decent codes, of mentorship.

There is a sense in which an adult loses innocence after trauma. This is another form of innocence. Experience, sometimes traumatic, opens the eyes to the realities of existence. Or when a sibling or a close friend or blood relation betrays you. Or when the husband is discovered for who he really is. Something gives, something dies, something flies away. Never to return. It is a story of no return often, even when there is forgiveness. Their spirit cannot rise to that level.

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So, I love children. I love the kids. And I want them to enjoy the beauty of innocence as long as they are Naturally entitled to it. We should guarantee childhood. But we are destroying the world of kids. The kid in Nigeria. In northeast Nigeria. The kid growing up in the wild killings in Owerri. The killing fields of Kaduna. In Jos. And the ones abducted from school. Innocence is destroyed, not lost. And they will never be balanced adults because there was no fitting transition. There was no transition. There was a staccato of shots. Suddenly that blind belief in the world of no impossibilities vanished in a puff. It is not a story to be told, neither now nor in the future!

There are tears for destroyed or murdered childhood. Tears for a compromised and destroyed adulthood. So, when a young adult breaks down or cannot face the world or cannot handle a family or cannot handle his kids or remains tied to the apron strings of their parents, where rests the blame? Has blaming exculpated the guilty or the vanquished? The answer is not blowing in the wind!

Loss of innocence is inevitable as the child grows into adulthood. But a destroyed innocence is a scar that not even time can heal. ‘The death of innocence causes an imbalance’, writes Bowers, ‘and initiates an internal war that manifests differently in each individual, but almost always includes anger, withdrawal and severe depression’. What have we done to innocence in the land?

 

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The Audacity Of False Prophets

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The Audacity Of False Prophets

Dear Omoh Giwa,

Would you think it satirical to ask how you are faring (considering the state of affairs in Nigeria)? I bring you warm tidings from Osalobuwa (though He dissociates himself from the filth and treachery of a particular individual that claims to be led by the spirit of God).

I do not envisage a response from the Lioness of Lisabi or the great Awo (like the gods of ancient Greece, there are weightier issues than those iterated in your previous missives like our bets on the VAT brouhaha).

I am contacting from Nirvana as I could not but notice in your tirades, a disconcerting notion. (Digressively, are you really surprised that over fifteen million Nigerians voted not once but twice the nepotistic general or is this your weak attempt at humour?)

I have been called ‘Father of Pentecostalism in Nigeria’ several times and it is on this authority I want to discuss the subject of Christianity in Nigeria. How can you honestly expect a response from He who is addressed as the Holy One of Israel while wallowing in your filth like swine (blocked drainages or heaps of refuse on major roads?

You are an unclean lot spiritually and physically) However, this is insignificant compared to my reason for writing. I am bothered about the increase in false prophets and the gullibility of the sheep.

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When our messiah charged Peter with the care of the flock, it was under the impression that as a religious leader, he would lead and act in the footsteps of the Nazarene but consider the perversion today. I understand the epistle of Paul to Timothy prophesizes that men would be lovers of themselves and practice heresy and idolatry but should this be associated with men of the cloth? The role of the priest is to act as ambassador between the sheep and the master of the flock but these wolves are more interested in exploiting and extorting the flock than caring for them.

Remember how politicians hoarded palliatives during the lockdown from the pandemic (do not get me started on the importance of cleanliness and abstinence which you are now being compelled to obey but at what cost?), well how did your general overseers care for you (you weren’t expecting anything or the miracle of the five loaves and two fish doesn’t apply to you?)

Instead they capitalised on avenues to ensure the steady inflow of wealth through tithes and offerings. You don’t believe me? Did one of them not recently boast that he acquired not one but two private jets during the pandemic as though that is a reflection of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

A nation enormously blessed with vast reserves of mineral resources yet is the poverty capital of the world coincidentally boasts of elegantly constructed cathedrals but has less than a tenth of the total number of churches in factories that could improve the economy and standard of living.

Is this not the same church leader smeared in a sex scandal of funding the rich and extravagant life of a certain actress? We particularly like the social media captions of “small girl big God” when they speak of their blessings and source of their lifestyles.

Ironically, the blessings are from the pulpit (a gathering of the widow’s mite. Jokes! Jokes! Relax, humouris not reserved for the living).

What about the one that was exposed as a sexual predator, preying on young girls (you’d probably remember him as the ‘Krest’ Pastor?) and intimidating them when they go public?

The feigned public outrage and anger lasted mere weeks and the nation carried on, business as usual and service continued as usual. Is he not back on the pulpit and his cathedral bursting at the seams? What about priests that not only engage in fornicating with women but have added young impressionable boys to their list of victims?

I especially like the one that calls himself “liquid metal” and has turned his church services into a carousal. One time he claimed to be casting demons out of a member and kept kicking and throwing the victim on chairs as though the erring demon is physical and could feel the torture. Do you remember a certain pastor that asked her congregation to tap into her special anointing of rearing virgins (I’m as confused as you are) for a paltry sum of one thousand dollars as though God’s blessings could be repackaged for sale like exotic wine?

How can you be comfortable with the denigration of Christianity? Was the blood of Jesus shed for this? This reminds me of Simon the Sorcerer who attempted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit but was rebuked by Peter but look at stomach-infrastructure deacons.

My lengthy harangue seems to have gone off-track because I wanted to address the role of religious leaders in the political affairs of a nation. A certain influential religious leader has been tagged ‘Kingmaker’ because a sitting president and British prime minister knelt before him for re-election success (coincidentally didn’t go as planned).

I wish to remind you of the biblical story of Elijah and Ahab where the prophet faced the dictator without fear even though he knew the implications of such actions. You do remember that Elijah went into hiding for fear of his life and pleaded with God to take his life? What do these clerics do with their influence? Amass more wealth, influence and build bigger cathedrals during economic hardship and political unrest/instability when they have been charged with speaking truth to the powers that be. Do they even consider creating avenues for
economic growth for their members? I guess they have no intention of inheriting the kingdom
of God (the Beatitudes).

My daughter, men of the cassock have become influencers for politicians and have no regard for God whom they profess to call. Have they forgotten the prophecy that God’s judgment will start from the church? When did the pulpit become a poverty alleviation scheme?

How did the church get to this point where one cannot differentiate the heathens from the righteous? When did we lose focus and sight of the goal?

I think it is time to get off your knees in reverence to your religious leaders (I like how you are quick to quote ‘touch not my anointed…’ does having a pulpit make one God’s anointed?) and take the bull by the horns. Our Father considers the prayer of the unrighteous an abomination.

Yours in His Vineyard, Benson Idahosa.

Giwa is of the Department of English, University of Lagos.

 

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