In Dispraise Of Achebe

By Ayinla Mukaiba

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe

ONE of the reasons Africa’s growth is stunted is what I call – pardon the bombast – the fetishization of the dead. We turn the dead into so great a fetish and canonize them immediately they breathe their last. Evil men a few seconds ago suddenly assume the garb of angels the moment they die, so cloaked because of the age-long aphorism that cautions against speaking ill of the dead. In a great way, this emboldens evil men of today and has made their evil hydra-headed.

This rankles my stomach to no end. What bigoted hypocrisy this is that has become the refrain on the lips of the living! Why can’t we progressively shame evil doers in their lifetimes and even at their departure, so as to serve as a disincentive to potential evil doers that whenever they exit, society will reserve the hottest scurrilous tongue against their acts and misacts while alive?

Chinua Achebe, great author, literary scholar, poet and storyteller of note comes under reference here. His death has depleted the literary firmament of writers whose works breathed life into the inertia of our intellectual environment. There are seldom as talented writers as Achebe in this part of the world any longer. In the eulogy penned by John Pepper Bekeredemo-Clark and Wole Soyinka, these equally great authors spoke of the near irreplaceability of Chinua in the literary firmament.

When you read Things Fall Apart and its suffusion with African proverbs, culture and language, you will almost mythify Chinua as a gnome who hailed from the spirit world but was loaned to humanity by the spirit world; that he took temporary residency on earth. How could a man, born of a woman, aggregate the thinking and culture of his people into such an unputdownable book for posterity as this? How could a man codify the worldviews, thoughts, philosophy and ways of life of his people in such a way that he colonizes other peoples as prisoners of his people’s ways of life? For, before Achebe’s book, many of us were alien to the persona of the Igbo man. But Achebe opened the book of the lives of his people bare, threw the gate open into their historico-societal lifestyle, their weltachuung and upturned them into the lives of the rest of the world. Knowingly or unknowingly, since the 1950s when Chinua emerged as one of the authors of note on the African continent with his Things Fall Apart, the centre has refused to hold for the rest of the world, as we have transferred our centre to the Igbo cosmology; we have become slaves of his Igbo thinking which we drink in intoxicating suffusion.

Faces of Biafran children during the war

Faces of Biafran children during the war

We can reel into tomes of Achebe’s literary scholarship, a shuttle of which Wole Soyinka recently made in an interview with Sahara Reporters. But, after all that and all that about Achebe’s literary scholarship, full stop! Chinua was an extremely bigoted man who saw the world only from the prism of his Igbo people. For him, humanity ceases to exist outside the locus of Igbo and indeed, the world could go jump inside the Zambesi River once his Igbo people are sequestered inside the safe haven of a decent existence.

For anyone who was alive to witness the 1966 pogrom and the Nigerian civil war, especially if you were Igbo, you already possess in your being cicatrices that will last you through a life time. The reprehensible massacre of the Igbo in the North, the beheading of Akaluka in Kano and the recent extinguishing of several Igbo in a Southbound bus in Kaduna, are some of the callous vilifications of the Igbo and his unfortunate lot in the Nigerian nation.

The above could anger anyone and it did gnaw at the pancreas of the great storyteller. But Chinua became so paranoid about these ethnic vilifications of the Igbo and refused to forgive any race he presumed had a hand in the suppression of his people. His vituperations were vivid in virtually all the interface he had with the rest of Nigeria in his literary voyage. He amplified most of the character flaws that the Yoruba noticed in Nnamdi Azikiwe and his West African Pilot. Those who were alive during this period would recollect that The Pilot over-celebrated Igbo who travelled overseas for the golden fleece at their departure and arrival in Nigeria. The converse was the case whenever any other ethnic nationality recorded same achievement. Mbonu Ojike, ace Pilot columnist and Zik, with his Weekend Catechism, did a great job of trumpeting Igbo achievers and relegating any other nationality with same achievement. It was this perceived media projective inequality that led to the establishment of other newspapers and the upturn of Daily Service, the National Youth Movement (NYM) organ, edited by Ernest Sese Okoli, into a converse of Zik’s Pilot which also began to fan ethnic agenda the moment editors like Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Bisi Onabanjo took over the editing suite.

If the 1966 pogrom bored crevasse of hatred that could never be filled in Chinua’s heart, the civil war even dug a greater cesspit of anger in his subconscious. Everyone who contributed to the failure of the Igbo Biafran agenda became object of literary crucifixion and denigration in the hands of Chinua. Odumegwu Ojukuwu, whom many Igbo hated immediately after the war, especially over alleged voyeuristic liaison with Cuban imports inside his bunker in Umuahia while hunger and kwashiokor killed children of war-front soldiers; Chinua upped the ante of his heroism. Conversely, administrators on the side of Nigeria who sought every means to return Nigeria to normalcy, he scurrilously disparaged. The archetype of his disdain and vilification, till death, was Obafemi Awolowo whom he disdained in death and even while alive.

Achebe had shown his disdain for Awo when this man of uncommon sagacity passed on May 2, 1987. In the defunct Thisweek magazine of June 15,1987, while Nigerians and African political maestros poured encomiums on Awo, Achebe chose to insult the dead. In a rather insipid piece he entitled The Apotheosis of Awolowo, Chinua wrote, “Chief Awolowo was a great Nigerian leader in so far as he was a Nigerian and a leader. But his contribution to Nigerian public affairs of the last 40 years did not qualify him as a great national leader… to turn the burial of a tribal leader to a state funeral with invitations to foreign countries is both absurd and unacceptable”.

The novelist and poet was not done yet. His words got more pungent and caustic. “It is in the light of this simple fact that the decision of the federal government to accord the status of a Head of State to him in death should be seen as no less than a national swindle” As a parting shot, the former professor of English at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka summarized the bile in his lacerating cudgel: “Despite the clowning circus of ex-politicians and would –be politicians in Ikenne in recent weeks, there is no doubt that serious minded Nigerians are highly critical or even contemptuous of the expensive hocus-pocus, which is now being staged in their name”.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo

Chief Obafemi Awolowo

Where Achebe got it wrong was that, at the war front, you are to fight and not to preach morals. The moment Ojukwu declared war against Nigeria, he was no longer the Odumegwu that Awolowo and co. visited but an enemy of Nigeria. All his people (unfortunately) became enemies of Nigeria and they could not be treated as friends. Biafrans didn’t treat Nigerians as friends as well. That was why Murtala Muhammed faced his waterloo in Asaba where hundreds of Nigerians were killed by Biafran soldiers and the heavy casualty suffered by Nigeria in the Abaagana disaster, amply romanticized by Achebe in There Was a Country. How then did Achebe expect Nigerians and Awolowo to deal with Igbo as friends when Biafrans were killing Nigerians at every available opportunity? Indeed, only a fool feeds and not starve his enemies!

Soyinka’s recent interview, where he reasoned that Achebe’s There Was A Country was a poor reading of the ethnically-biased person that Achebe was, was too patronizing. Perhaps, the laureate also fell into the African mantra of not speaking ill of the dead. Achebe’s ethnic irredentism did not just start with his last book. It was merely a continuation of the war against Awolowo and his race. If you read the book very well, you would see his profuse eulogies for the Flora Nwapas, the Christopher Okigbos, the Cyprian Ekwensis and none for any other ethnic national. It was as if only the Igbos existed.

As great as Achebe was as a literary icon of note, his global size was terribly diminished by his consuming tribal inclination. What then is the difference between Achebe the tribal warlord and Joseph Conrad whose Heart of Darkness he vilified for his racist inclination? The eulogy penned by John Pepper Clark and Wole Soyinka made a terse reference to how Chinua, an icon the world venerated, was probably killed by the shocking news of the bombing of his Igbo people in a South-bound bus in Kano. Talk of a tumbling down of another Zik of Africa to Zik of Owelle!

•Mukaiba is an Ibadan-based journalist and newspaper columnist.

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Foundation leads crusade of free treatment for children with cancer

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
Alvarado, Cassandre 2009

SINCE being diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four, Ayokunmi Makinde, had made the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Mushin her second home before she lost the battle to survive to one of the deadliest childhood cancers known today.
It is not only strange to hear, but pathetic to know that children, even as young as a month-old, could be afflicted with cancer – the world’s most dreaded disease. Childhood cancers, like all kinds of cancer, have a common disease process: body cells grow out of control, develop other cells and ultimately spread to other organs and tissues.
For Ayokunmi, there was no sign of a developing disease since birth, but few months after her fourth birthday, her parents noticed a swelling under her nose involving her upper jaw. She was immediately taken to a private hospital for treatment. When the swelling lingered and increased in size, her parents were advised to take her to LUTH, where she was diagnosed of leukemia.
“After some series of tests, it was discovered that it is leukemia. The doctors couldn’t even break the news to me, it was on the third appointment we came for that I was told my daughter had cancer. I did not believe them but I couldn’t withdraw her as she was immediately placed on chemotherapy,” Ayo’s mum said.
After two courses of chemotherapy the swelling reduced and one could once again appreciate Ayo’s beauty. She was discharged to continue treatment at home. She honoured her appointment once but failed to show up again due to the biting debts her parents had incurred on her medical expenses. Six months after, she was brought back to LUTH bleeding and very pale. She eventually passed on before she could be transfused.
According to a matron at the Pediatrics ward at the LUTH, an average of four children are admitted daily for cancer cases. A group, Children Living With Cancer Foundation (CLWCF) is reaching out to educate the public on the reality of childhood cancer in Nigeria and reduce the recovery rate of patients, which is very low.

Founder and president of CLWCF, Dr. Nneka Nwobbi

Founder and president of CLWCF, Dr. Nneka Nwobbi

Speaking at a press briefing geared towards raising the bar in the battle against childhood cancer in Lagos, founder and president of CLWCF, Dr. Nneka Nwobbi, said checking the scourge of childhood cancer required collective effort because of the huge amount of money involved in treating each case.
“Childhood cancer is not a death sentence, it is curable though expensive to manage; but there should be enough money to make cancer treatment free for children in this country. If about 10,000 people contribute N1, 000 monthly and with N10 million, it would go a long way to bringing relief to parents because access to drugs is not the problem, but affordability,” she said.
Consultant Pediatrician at LUTH, Dr. Edamisan Olusoji Temiye, underscoring the seriousness of the issue, noted that: “Childhood cancer treatment is very expensive. For example, a complete treatment for kidney cancer (nephroblastoma), which lasts for less than six months and is not as costly as cancer of the blood, will cost parents of an affected child nothing less than N1 million. And we will have to monitor the child up to five years before we can say he is okay. It takes between N7 million and N10 million to cure blood cancer, which lasts two or three years.
“So, it’s not feasible for an average Nigerian family to afford the cure for cancer. That is one of the reasons why our cure rate is very, very low because there’s a lot of treatment abandonment. The parents come and when they see the enormous cost, they just go away. And the next time you see them, they tell you the child died at home.”
Toyin Osoba, Business Development Manager of Manola Pharmaceuticals, makers of oncology drugs used in cancer treatment for children and adults, noted that it is a touching experience seeing children living with cancer struggling to survive. “We are interested in helping patients as our way of giving back by making our drugs available to the foundation for the benefit of the children and more can be done by corporate organizations to support CLWCF.”
She called on individuals to assist government in offering free treatment to children who have cancer, while urging indigenous pharmaceutical companies to manufacture cancer drugs locally.

Children’s Day: Ejigbo pupils march for democracy

By Tope Templer Olaiya

Chairman, Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan (middle) giving his address to students during a Children's Day parade

Chairman, Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan (middle) giving his address to students during a Children’s Day parade

It was a memorable Children’s Day on Monday, May 27, 2013, for over 5,000 students in Ejigbo who embarked on a solidarity march to commemorate this year’s event in a parade tagged Children March For Democracy. In a remarkable difference from previous celebration where a selected few are handpicked to represent the school in a march past, this year’s event was celebrated by all pupils of public schools in Ejigbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and some private schools in the council.
As early as 7am, the parade ground, which is located opposite the Ejigbo Police Station at Ifoshi Road, was cordoned off to road users, while the area was lined on both sides with plastic chairs and speakers, which blared revolutionary songs from late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Early callers began arriving and soon, the parade ground was bursting with children excitedly waving the Nigerian flag and dancing to the melodies of the music played by the DJ. By 10am, all was set for an avalanche of speeches from various speakers, which sought to inspire in the children the promise of a new Nigeria and hope of a brighter future.
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Excited pupils during the Children's Day parade at Ejigbo

Excited pupils during the Children’s Day parade at Ejigbo

The pupils were allowed by the council to truly feel the import that they are celebrating their day, as the traffic was diverted from Orilowo bus stop, where the pupils began their street parade, after coming out from Fadu primary school complex. With the assistance of the police, the council’s traffic men and neighborhood watchers, the road where the street parade took place was cleared of traffic.
From Orilowo bus stop to Ifoshi road, to pipeline junction, where the council chairman, Kehinde Bamigbetan and other dignitaries were waiting, the pupils, in their neat school uniform and colourful flags, walked through the road, led by their teachers, and singing aloud and excitedly in English and Yoruba languages.
The pupils stopped their parade temporarily to listen to goodwill messages from dignitaries and the council chairman who had mounted the big podium placed at the pipeline junction. They resumed the parade after the delivery of goodwill messages.
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Explaining the significance of the march, chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan, said the council decided to use the day to celebrate the culture of civic value and democracy. “The difference we are introducing to Ejigbo is to involve everybody, all our students in public schools in the LCDA to popularise the march that has brought change to this country like the June 12 and January 2012 subsidy protest march, which illustrates the beauty of democracy as government of the people by the people and for the people, rather than the military parade for a selected few that reminds us of the not too pleasant history of military dictatorship.”
Continuing, he said: “The idea of Children’s Day march past is a military hangover, where selected students are primed to march in military style before dignitaries. We believe student parades should play a role in nation building, for them to learn that people that make history are not necessarily elites; and that collectively, they can make things happen.
“This is why we are changing the paradigm from the old system where a selected few are taken to the stadium to march and the rest of the kids are turned to spectators. This system promotes elitism and gives the impression that some are anointed to lead while others are anointed to follow, leading to the misguided conception that only few people can run society,” he said.

Wife of Ejigbo LCDA chairman, Fatimoh Bamigbetan, leading female council officials on a parade

Wife of Ejigbo LCDA chairman, Fatimoh Bamigbetan, leading female council officials on a parade

He concluded that it is common knowledge that children are leaders of tommorrow, but to help the society groom future leaders, government at all levels must create an enabling environment for them to develop.
Bamigbetan added that his administration, since its inception in October 2008, has motivated pupils of public primary schools and youths in the council with free meal, free uniform, free desks and benches, annual free GCE and JAMB forms, sponsorship of 100 youths on skill acquisition programme, internship programme for youths at the council secretariat and recently, provision of employment for 176 unemployed youths in various private organisations in Lagos state.

Corps members serving in Ejigbo removing 'Head Dresses' in honour of the children at the parade

Corps members serving in Ejigbo removing ‘Head Dresses’ in honour of the children at the parade


Other dignitaries who spoke at the occasion, admonished the children to concentrate on their studies and ensure they desist from social vices that can make them enemies of the society. Dignitaries who delivered goodwill messages included the Executive Secretary of Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Education Authority, Alausa Adekoya; DPO of Ejigbo police station, CSP Oliver Inoma Abbey, who advised the pupils not to roam about during school hours; Chairman of Ejigbo parents forum, Alhaji Adeyemo Aliu, Chairman of all Community Development Associations in Ejigbo, Chief Sharafadeen Alimi, Chairman of National Youth Council, Ejigbo Chapter, Comrade Olawale Fashola, representative of Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Ejigbo Chapter, Comrade Mohammed Adekunle and Chairman of Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, Ejigbo LCDA branch, Comrade Jelili Balogun.

An Owanbe special for Olu of Mushin at 35th coronation anniversary, clocks 75

By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA, Assistant Lagos City Editor

Olu of Mushin, Oba Fatai Ayinla Aileru II

Olu of Mushin, Oba Fatai Ayinla Aileru II

The grounds of Archbishop Aggey Memorial Secondary School, Ilasamaja, Mushin, was last Saturday trampled by monarchs, politicians and dignitaries, who had gathered to celebrate the Olu of Mushin, Oba Fatai Ayinla Aileru II as his subjects rolled out the drums to mark his 75th birthday and 35th coronation anniversary.
Long before the arrival of the celebrant and his high-ranking guests, the area leading to the school and its premises appeared to be under a State of Emergency, as stern-looking anti-riot policemen and patrol vans laid siege on every square metres of the school, with three Black Marias stationed at the gate to take care of trouble makers.
Soon, some civilian activities commenced and the only criterion for entry into the fortified school premises was the brown Ankara Aso Ebi of the celebration. Not long after, a big van carrying instruments of foremost fuji musician, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, popularly known as K1 De Ultimate arrived to set up stage for the band.

The Olu flanked by his Oloris

The Olu flanked by his Oloris

All residents of the area and passersby could do was stay away from the scene of action and stare ahead as early callers began arriving for the Owambe party. And they had to wait for several hours in the scorching sun, as dignitaries did not start arriving until 1pm.
The roll call was impressive as commissioners, legislators, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) chieftains, obas of near and faraway kingdoms and celebrities drove into the school to be ushered into their reserved seats by skimpily dressed delectable ladies.
Eventually, the celebrant arrived in a motorcade serenaded by his Oloris and palace chiefs and decked in his full regalia. The party got underway and more VIPs arrived in intimidating SUVs and luxurious cars.
Not a man of many words, he spent few minutes listing his achievements on the throne in the last 35 years and didn’t fail to bring to the notice of his audience the myriad of problems facing the community. One of which is the recurring violent clash between cult groups and warring factions that has defined Mushin in recent years.

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, K1 De Ultimate on stage with his band

King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, K1 De Ultimate on stage with his band

As a royal father that he is, he proffers some suggestions to this dilemma: “It is our special request that relevant authorities should see to the removal of abandoned vehicles along the road, which is not only impeding the free flow of traffic, but is usually an hideout for criminals.
“The Federal Government must also improve on the welfare of our policemen and equip our security force with gadgets and training to boost their morale. With all these, it will be easy for the police to have the courage to combat crime and violence and nip it in the bud.”
He, however, bemoaned the spate of kidnapping in the state, which came to a head recently with the abduction of the chairman of Ejigbo LCDA, Kehinde Bamigbetan. According to him, it is worrisome and security operatives must redouble their efforts to arrest the situation in the cosmopolitan state of Lagos.
“Now is the time for government to address the problem of youth employment. There is need to encourage our children to aspire greater unemployment. There is need to encourage our children to aspire to attain greater heights in the future and I am committing myself to this with the sponsorship of all Mushin indigenes studying sciences in any Nigerian university.”

Olu surrounded by other traditional rulers in Lagos, with the Ojon of Ejigbo, Oba Moruf Ojoola on the right

Olu surrounded by other traditional rulers in Lagos, with the Ojon of Ejigbo, Oba Moruf Ojoola on the right


Alagodo of Agodo, Oba Mudashiru Odejobi at the event with his Olori

Alagodo of Agodo, Oba Mudashiru Odejobi at the event with his Olori

Oba Aileru is born into the family of Oba Jimoh Gbadamosi Aileru and Olori Elizabeth Alake on 11 March 1938. He is the first child of his parents. Having started his primary school career at the Christian Public School, Mushin, he proceeded to the Metropolitan College, Surulere, for his secondary school education.
On completion, Fatai joined Pan African Metals (NIG) limited, Ikorodu Road, Yaba where he worked as a cashier. As a result of his interest in public service, he joined the Mushin District Council, created in 1955, which later became Mushin Local Government in 1964. In 1977, while still with the council, he was called upon to take the place of his forefathers as the next in line to the throne of Mushinland.

Olu of Mushin, his wives and children cutting the birthday cake

Olu of Mushin, his wives and children cutting the birthday cake


Donations were raised for a palace endowment fund for the completion of a befitting home for the Olu of Mushin as a Grade A monarch in Lagos, which is presently situated inside the Ojuwoye market.

Elegy for a nation

For Chinua Achebe
By WOLE SOYINKA

Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe


Ah, Chinua, are you grapevine wired?

It sings: our nation is not dead, not clinically

Yet. Now this may come as a surprise to you,

It was to me. I thought the form I spied

Beneath the frosted glass of a fifty-carat catafalque

Was the face of our own dear land — ‘own’, ‘dear’,

Voluntary patriotese, you’ll note — we try to please.

An anthem’s sentiment upholds the myth.

Doctors IMF, World Bank and UNO refuse, it seems,

To issue a certificate of death – if debtors die

May creditors collect? We shall turn Parsees yet,

Lay this hulk in state upon the Tower of Silence,

Let vultures prove what we have seen, but fear to say –

For if Leviathan is dead, we are the maggots

Probing still her monstrous womb – one certainty

That mimics life after death. Is the world fooled?

Is this the price of hubris – to have dared

Sound Renaissance bugles for a continent?

Time was, our gazes roamed the land, godlike,

Pronounced it good, from Lagos to Lake Chad.

The hosts of interlopers would be exorcised,

Not throwing the baby out with the bathwater,

Enthroning ours as ours, bearing names

Lodged in marrow of the dead, attesting lineage.

Consecrated brooms would sweep our earth

Clean of usurpers’ footprints. We marched

To drums of ancient skins, homoeopathic

Beat against the boom of pale-knuckled guns.

We vied with the regal rectitude of Overamwen –

No stranger breath – he swore – shall desecrate

This hour of communion with our gods! We

Died with the women of Aba, they who held

A bridgehead against white levy, armed with pestle,

Sash and spindle, and a potent nudity – eloquent

Abomination in the timeless rites of wrongs.

Grim cycle of embattled years. Again we died

With miners of Iva valley who undermined

More than mere seams of anthracite. All too soon,

Ma, we would augment, in mimic claims,

In our own right, the register of martyrs. Oh,

How we’ve exercised the right of righteous folly

In defence of alien rhetoric . . . what God has joined, etcetera.

For God, read white, read slaver surrogates.

We scaled the ranges of Obudu, prospected

Jos Plateau, pilgrims on rock-hills of Idanre.

Floated on pontoons from Bussa to silt beds

Of eternal Niger, reclaimed the mangrove swamps,

Startling mudskipper, manatee, and mermaids.

Did others claim the mantle of discoverers?

Let them lay patents on ancestral lands, lay claim

To paternity of night and day – ours

Were hands that always were, hands that pleat

The warp of sunbeam and the weft of dew,

Ours to create the seamless out of paradox.

In the mind’s compost, meagre scrub yielded

Silos of grain. Walled cities to the north were

Sheaths of gold turbans, tuneflul as minarets.

The dust of Durbars, pyrotechnic horsemen

And sparkling lances, all one with the ring of anvils

From Ogun’s land to Ikenga’s. Rainbow beads, jigida

From Bida’s furnaces vied across the sky with

Iyun glow and Ife bronzes, luscent on ivory arches

Of Benin. Legend lured Queen Amina to Moremi,

Old scars of strife redeemed in tapestries

Of myth, recreating birthpang, and rebirth. And, yes –

We would steal secrets from the gods. Let Sango’s axe

Spark thunderstones on rooftops, we would swing

In hawser hammocks on electric pylons, pulse through cities

In radiant energies, surge from battery racks to bathe

Town and hamlet in alchemical light. Orisa-oko

Would heal with herbs and scalpel. Ogun’s drill

Was poised to plumb the earth anew, spraying aloft

Reams of rare alloys. Futurists, were we not

Annunciators of the Millennium long before its advent?

In our now autumn days, behold our leaden feet

Fast welded to the starting block.

Vain griots! Still, we sang the hennaed lips and fingers

Of our gazelle womenfolk, fecund Muses tuned

To Senghorian cadences. We grew filament eyes

As heads of millet, as flakes of cotton responsive

To brittle breezes, wraith-like in the haze of Harmattan.

Green of the cornfields of Oyo, ochre of groundnut pyramids

Of Kano, indigo in the ancient dye-pots of Abeokuta

Bronzed in earth’s tonalities as children of one deity –

We were the cattle nomads, silent threads through

Forestries and cities, coastland and savannah,

Wafting Maiduguri to the sea, ocean mist to sand dunes.

Alas for lost idylls. Like Levi jeans on youth and age,

The dreams are faded, potholed at joints and even

Milder points of stress. Ghosts are sole inheritors.

Silos fake rotundity – these are kwashi-okor blights

Upon the landscape, depleted at source. Even

The harvest seeds were long devoured. Empty hands Scrape the millennial soil at planting.

But Chinua, are you grapevine wired? Do you

Tune in, listen? There is old music in the air.

The word is out again, out from the closet.

Renaissance beats are thumbed in government lairs, In lobbies, caucuses, on promotion posters,

In parliaments. Academe’s close behind. Renaissance

Haunts beer and suya bar, street and rostrum,

Inhaled as tobacco smoke, chewed as kola,

Clerics beatify the word, lawyers invoke it.

Never word more protean, poised to incarnate

In theses, conferences, investments. A historic lure

Romances the Diaspora. Gang-raped, the continent

Turns pregnant with the word – it’s sworn, we shall be Born again, though we die in the attempt.

But then, our offsprings, Chinua, have they leisure

To play at love? To commune with Source, shaded

By coarse-grain village walls at noon? Crush wild mint

Between their fingers, let the agbayun coat

Their tongues, at war with the bitterness of kola?

Raid the hoards of gods and ancients,

Recite their lineage praise-names, clan histories?

Or have the rigours of survival bred a race

Of naked predators? Is sharing out of fashion?

Community a dirty word, service an obscenity?

Are ours the emerging children of Molucca

Born to burn at six, slaughter at seven,

Rinse their hand in the throat’s death gurgle,

Secure in the arch-priest’s absolution? Attuned

At noon to dissolution of the bond of dawn, deaf

To neighbour cries? Easy reddened are the wafers

Of communion – have we been here before?

Still, here you sit before the travelled world, gathered

To pay homage. Survived the kwashi-okor days.

You’ve fed on roots, barks and leaves

Your world contracted, ringed with iron

Fenced with the wringing hands of the world

As unctuous in neutrality as Pontius Pilate.

But you made flesh what is so often said –

Sweet are the uses of adversity – as even now

Your silent eloquence attests. The ancient pot-stills

Turned refineries. Neglected herbs, mystery silica

Powered transistors to accuse the world, screaming

We are not dead, but dying. And iron monsters

Rose furtively from forest bays, hammered

From the forges of Awka. Who can forget the errant

Ogbunikwe that rose skywards, plunged to blast

A fiery tunnel through encircling steel?

Absences surround your presence – he

The great town crier, Okigbo, and other griots

Silenced in infancy. The xylophones of justice

Chime much louder than the flutes of poets,

Their sirens lure the bravest to their doom.

But some survive, and survival breeds, it seems,

Unending debts. Time is our usurer, but earth remains

Sole signatory to life’s covenant – and thus I ask:

Whose feet are these upon the storehouse loft?

Shod in studded boots or jewelled sandals,

Khaki crisp or silk embroidered – who are these?

Did time appoint these bailiffs? Behold

Enforcers out of time, shorn of memory but –

Crowned are the hollow skulls, signets on talons.

Their advent is the hour of locusts – behold

Cheeks in cornucopia from the silos’ depletion

While the eyes of youth sink deeper in despair.

Death bestrides the streets, rage rides the sun

And hope is a sometime word that generations

Never learnt to spell.

Chinua, I think with you I dare

Be indelicate – we scrape our feet upon

The threshold of mortal proof, denying

The ancestors yet awhile our companionship –

May that day learn patience from afar! –

On the stage at Bard, behind the lectern,

Gazing across time to your staunch spirit

Wedded to a contraption we neither make nor mend

My irreverent thoughts were – There sits the nation,

All faculties intact, but wheelchair bound.

Your lesson of the will, alas, a creative valour

Marks the gulf between you and that land

We claim our own.

II

There are wonders in that land, Chinua

Are you wired? Tuned to images of cyber age?

Severed wrists will soon adorn our walls

And Conrad’s Heart of Darkness be fulfilled.

The cairn of stones is building for the first

Butchery in a public square, a female scapegoat

Tethered for primordial rites that men devise

To keep their womenfolk obedient to the laws of man.

An encampment is on the move, biped

Amorphous tents, a sorcerer invasion choreographed

In castration shrouds, visors no less secretive

Than face-masks, twin to ancestral masquerades

Proclaimed infidel. They slink through streets

And markets – yes, it is our women on the move

Our mothers, wives and sisters, comrades-in-arms

Bereft of limbs and faces, haute couture decreed

By encyclicals of eunuch priests. Features

Mummified by laws of terror. Oh my compatriots,

Shaved bare-skull at initiation, convertites

Dipped body and soul in the waters of salvation

Are yours these zombies of the age, are these

The paracletes of the new millennium?

They’ll murder heritage in its timeless crib,

Decree our, heroes, heroines out of memory

Obliterate the narratives of clans, names

That bind to roots, reach to heavens, our

Links to ancestral presences. The Born-Agains

Are on rampage, born against all that spells

Life and mystery, legend and innovation.

Imprecations rend the air, song is taboo,

The stride of sun-toned limbs racing wind a sin,

Flesh is vile, wine, the gift of earth, execrated.

These tyrants have usurped the will of God.

How did we fail to learn, that guns and boots

Are not essential to a coup d ‘état?

Shall Ala die? Ahiajoku be anathematised? Does

Oya defile her streams, Ifa obstruct the paths

Of learning and councils of the wise? Praise the Lord And launch the bulldozer – they’ve razed

The statues of mbari to the ground, these

Christian Talibans. Their brothers in Offa

Murder Moremi in her shrine, shrieking Allah akbar.

Rivals else, behold their bonded zeal that sanctifies

Alien rape of our quiescent Muses, extolling theirs.

We who neither curse their gods nor desecrate

Their texts, their prayer mats or altars –

What shall we do, Chinua, with these hate clerics?

While we sleep, their fingers spread as brambles,

Deface our Book of Life. How teach them:

Some are born pagan, wedded to life’s seamlessness

Tuned to the breath of things, magma and animus.

The waters of the Holy Gospel bounced against

This splinter of Olumo Rock, retreated

In despair, seeking more porous earth. How reveal

The sublimity of godhead that abhors

The murdering tyranny of Creed? Has gore

Proved godlove on Kaduna streets – ten thousand

Mutilations and three thousand dead of faith?

But the sun rose still the following dawn, indifferent.

Let all creeds be recast. If the gates of Paradise

Are locked behind the Pope’s demise,

We wish him blessed occupancy of yonder realms

With all the Heavenly Host. Has the last Imam

Been here and gone? Then, Bon Voyage

Seek me out among the questers, creed-divorced,

In covenant only to that solvent that is earth.

How shall they be taught, Chinua, that Ajapa

Lives, but no longer borrows feathers from the birds

To survey earth? Myths are our wise cohabitants. Icarus .1.

Transcended wax, new trajectories lace the spheres.

The galaxy is boundless host to a new race

Of voyagers, seeking the once forbidden. Cinders

From Promethean dares, shards of Ajapa’s shell,

Are constellations by which ships of space are steered.

The jealous gods are no more. Age by age

We inched towards the sun, then raced beyond

To drink the heady draught of space, returned to earth

Emboldened. The voices of new prophets are not voided

In the wilderness but fulfilled. Applause

Is the new music of the spheres – it’s heard

In other lands, I am told. I have not heard it here.

But we survived, Chinua. And though survival reads

Unending debt – for time, alas decrees us

Witnesses, thus debtors – earth alone remains

Our creditor. Yet I fear the communion pots

Lie broken at the crossroads, kola nuts and cowries

Scattered by scavengers. Couriers turn coat,

Turned by profit, priest, predator and politician.

The masquerade’s falsetto may reveal, not

Artifice but loss of voice, its gutturals camouflage

Death throes, not echoes of our spirit realms.

The strongest eagle, wing-span clipped, talons

Manicured in gilded thumbscrews may not hold

Nor bear the weight of sacrifice. Our caryatids

Are weary of cycles of endless debts. Incense

Of burnt offering, heavy with abominations

Hangs dose to altar, dissipates between Earth

And Sky. Shorn of new alibis, our intercessors

Falter at the door of judgement. What shall we say

To the years that drift past, accusing?

What shall we chant to their dew-bright notes –

Our new tuned buglers of the Renaissance?

Wole Soyinka

Editor’s Wild-goose Chase To Apprehend A Cyber-criminal

PROMPTED by the desire to debunk the claim that Nigeria is the weakest link in the battle against cyber crime, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, editor of The Guardian on Sunday, embarked on the chase of a scammer, (name withheld) who hacked into the email-box belonging to a Guardian correspondent and who wanted to swindle the editor through the following unedited email exchange:

Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 5:17 AM

Subject: Urgent

I’m in US presently, and unfortunately my niece had a nearly fatal accident yesterday night and needs to undergo surgery, which needs 187,000 naira to start the treatment on her.

Can you lend me some quick funds that I can give back as soon as I get in. Sorry for the inconvenience but I heard she is in a very bad condition and needs urgent attention as fast as possible.

I can forward you details on how to pay the funds directly to the doctor, since am not around so that her treatment would commence before I return. You can only reach me via my email for now.

I await your kind response.

Thanks.

Below is the reply to the editor’s request for the scammer to send the detail:

Sent: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 12:38 PM

Subject: Re: Urgent

Thanks a lot. Here is the doctors account details:

Account no: 0059984456

Account name: Amayo Ososa

Bank name: Accessbank

Please send me a scanned copy of the deposit slip when completed so I can forward to their accountant.

Thank.

Satisfied that he had got enough evidence and information to nail the fraudster, the editor summoned an experienced reporter to track the thief.

First, the police were contacted and they advised that the bank should be informed immediately to place the suspect’s account on ‘fraud alert’, so that if the amount the suspect requested is paid into the account, he would be apprehended if he attempts to withdraw it.

They also directed that the bank should provide the town of domicile information of the account owner to enable the Police Area Commander in the zone be on the alert to apprehend the culprit at his next attempt to withdraw from his account either directly from a bank branch or an ATM machine.

In compliance with the advice, the bank was notified. But the corporate communication officials of the bank, after a long delay, directed The Guardian to do an official letter of complaint to the bank’s head of Investigation and Audit department.

This was done and submitted by hand to the department at Victoria Island, Lagos, the bank’s corporate headquarters. After submission, The Guardian reporter was tossed around because neither the audit or investigation sections of the bank were willing to process the complaint.

The audit section directed that the letter be taken to the investigation department. But the investigation unit referred the reporter back to the audit section, saying it was not their responsibility to handle such complaint.

At last, the audit section accepted to do the job on the following conditions: that the bank would place the account on fraud alert, but that the town of domicile of the customer would not be provided because the bank, by law, is not required to disclose customer’s information to anybody except the Inspector-General of Police, who must submit an official application to the bank’s Managing Director to that effect. The MD is the only authority to approve such request.

Faced with this frustrating challenge, the reporter notified the editor not to pay any money into the scammer’s account because it will not be possible to get the suspect apprehended even if the bank places the account on fraud alert.

When the Police was informed of this development, an officer, smiling wryly, said: “If you make a request for the Police I.G. to write an official letter to the bank, do you know how long it will take to get a reply? Do you think the bank will get quick response from the Police to apprehend the suspect if the bank gets the suspect? Who will be financially responsible for the expenses to be incurred when the suspect is arrested? Is your editor sure he will get the money he would pay into the account back immediately the suspect is apprehended? The bank will not refund the money except the scammer himself endorses the payment of the money back to your editor. This is why ‘yahoo yahoo’ crime cannot be tamed or fought in the country.”