Ibos, Yorubas And The Rest Of Us
We grab a dog with the hands and it escapes; thereafter we beckon it with two fingers. (If both hands cannot detain a dog, two fingers from a distance will not bring it to where it escaped from.)
As a public commentator, I often say its not everything you must have an opinion on, or talk about. You cannot be an expert on all things but there are times when common sense in the face of present realities should guide us.
And for me, this is one such case...Prof. Achebe has no doubt stirred the hornet's nest with his latest work. 'There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra', I love the title, indeed, there was a country. Before I go further, this is not a review of the book, and unlike many that have critic the work without reading it, I have read it, and this is just an intervention.
There was a Biafra, for some 30 plus months. There was also a Nigeria that produced great men in their own right...Soyinka, Awo, Ojukwu, Zik, Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, and co.
These men and a few women were no saints, they erred on various fronts, errors that hunt and continue to haunt us today. They were not infallible. One of such infallible, is Chief Awolowo, he's dead, another is Achebe, and alive. We have Gowon, alive, another is Ojukwu, dead.
Dramatis personae of the country Achebe writes about and others will tell the story and continue to tell such stories from their standpoints and in almost manners that suit their ego and people. It is to be expected but then, there are key issues that Achebe's work has raised.
Sadly we are a nation that, once a list, a comment, an opinion is muted, we look at the name, religion and ethnic cleavage, it cannot be right if it is not from our own side of the pole.
All the war of words have threaded tribal lines, most Ibos support the hauling insults on Yorubas, very few Yorubas agreeing with Achebe. The North viewing the war of words, content with its own internal strife that has almost brought her knees down.
Both parties in the civil war engaged in massive false propaganda both at home and abroad during the war and both sides committed atrocities. However have we gone about reconciliation in the right way? I say no, because today in different ways we continue in the same manner, false propaganda and atrocities against each other.
Deeply rooted in the current argument remains a catastrophic trend of economic, political and social situation in Nigeria, occasioned by undemocratic and irresponsive governance, monumental corruption, high level insecurity, failure in all facets of national life.
Achebe through what he calls 'IMPRESSION' on Awo, brings to the fore, the amorphous form of the Nigerian statehood.
A nation of many impressions, we all have impressions of each other, and on each other. We care less about whether these impressions are right or wrong.
Armed robbers are caught we check the names whether they are Ibos, Yorubas or Indians. Some friends brought to my knowledge the community head of the now infamous Aluu is an Alhaji,...so what is the impression here?
A high profile BH member is caught, a senator says he's my nephew but I do not know what he does; does it really matter, after all these days one is loosing count of the number of commanders killed and caught and we simply do not know who is who anymore in Potiskum and Maidugiri...it's simply a case of impressions.
Is it not true that Achebe' s story is a subject of debate because we have refuse to collectively look at the Nigerian project in a way that it profits the participants, is the civil war not an impression to some and reality to others?
How do we cope, in a Nigeria where the Jos crisis has remained an impression or Borno an impression, a situation where Mubi deaths are impressions because there was no video and Aluu is no impression because there is a video.
Some 40 years after, we are still fighting to define genocide, whose fault it was and is, and more is committed on our roads, by robbers, terrorists and government at all levels. While we are still under the 20 pounds impression, reality of biting poverty remains with us.
We are fighting each other over mistakes of the past, and doing nothing at correcting them, while sadly even committing more grievous ones.
The Yorubas worship Awo, with no effort made to reproduce a near Awo in leadership.
The Ibos are all shouting foul and marginalization but really where are the Achebes, in a very disorganized unit, whose first enemy is herself.
My brothers in the North are blaming Jonathan and government while citizens are led to the slaughter slab and economy killed. My impression is the common enemy is our 19 state governors, leaders of politics, tradition and thought that have sat down, done nothing other than murmur about having lost power which in the first place when we had nothing was done with it.
The minorities live with the impression of its our time. So whatever we do, who cares, infact no one should comment.
We have fought a war, do we want to fight another, our best days truly are gone...The era of Flora Nwanpa, Zainab Alkali, Cyprian Ekewensi, Soyinka, Fawehinmi, Achebe, Balewa, Awo, Zik, and co. These days, there are very few persons to look up to, no roles, no models, only legislators that can barely write their names but earn millions.
We are not ready to address our issues, we are only beckoning with two fingers the dog we could not catch with the whole hand, there was a civil war, genocide occurred, leaders on both sides were guilty...today children born ten years after the war know very little of the war if anything.
We have very little history of who we are as a country, at every turn in national discourse like the axiom, aki í fi ìyá ẹní dákú ṣeré, we joke that our mother has collapsed, always trifling with serious matters, playing with a loaded and primed gun. Forgetting that one does not hide something in one's hand and yet swear [that one knows nothing about it]. We know our problems, it's not Achebe nor Awo, it is us, whether we want to solve it, time will tell.
Prince Charles Dickson