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Tag: Wole Soyinka

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): So? What About The Good Ol’ Days?

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

A nation must be willing to look dispassionately at its own history – Willy Brandt (1913 – 1992).

You just can’t get enough of the *when-Nigeria-was-good discourse*. From the teenager who just completed his secondary school education to the retired civil servant, most Nigerians revel in the stories of how Nigeria was once a great country. Yes, we were once great with splashes of greatness, here and there. Nigerian Airways was once the greatest in Africa, it provided employment to Kenyans, South Africans and many others. Yes, there was the Awolowo free basic education, the Jakande affordable housing scheme, the ‘good’ Murtala years. And yes, Herbert Macauley, Aminu Kano, Nnamdi Azikwe, Samuel Ajayi Crowther all strutted the same soil we tread on today!

However, despite the numerous stories of greatness of the past, I believe that our present predicament takes its root from the faulty foundation set in those years: the 1950s to the 1970 actually.

 In the late fifties, for example “(t)he nationalists, the first generation of elected leaders and legislators of our semi-independent nation had begun to visit Great Britain in droves. We watched their self-preening, their ostentatious spending, their cultivated condescension, even disdain towards the people they were supposed to represent. There were exceptions but in the main, they did not appear to have emerged from the land and people we left behind when we journeyed to acquire some skills and learning. While we dreamt of marching south to liberate Southern Africa, they saw the nation as a prostrate victim to be ravished… This strange breed was a complete contrast to the nationalistist stalwarts in whose hands we had imagined that the country could be safely consigned while we went on our romantic liberation march to Southern Africa”  writes Professor Wole Soyinka in his memoir, We Must Set Forth At Dawn.

 “What other faulty way is there to set an independent nation than to have leaders who were less concerned about the populace take over from the oppressive colonial masters. For one, I believe Nigeria’s problems started at birth. Our first elections which were supposed to set us on the right part were alleged to have been rigged, according to Harold Smith, a colonial officer, “it was the British who taught Nigerians the art of rigging”.

By 1965 when Professor Chinua Achebe published A Man Of The People, Nigeria was all but what our founding fathers thought it would be. Because of this wrong start, by 1966, Nigeria was already like an Augean Stable where corruption and misrule reigned supreme – elections were rigged, coups were plotted, treasuries were looted, riots prevailed, government establishment and civil servants began to demonstrate traces of corruption, and worst still, the military took over. With the military came a new set of societal ills, we had rulers in place of leaders, because the military did not have a training in government matters, their modus operandi differed, by then Nigeria had become an ‘unsteerable’ ship with no knowledgeable sailor in view.

The late 60s saw a civil war that claimed at least one million lives, the 70s, years of the oil boom were not better, we had an outward posture of a prosperous nation; so well we thought we were that the then Head of State declared that we had so much money to know what to do with it. The 70s soon ran into its shell and saw the emergence of a democracy in its twilight, the democracy crawled into the 80s; with news of corruption of government officials an everyday occurrence, the military soon took over again this time they were going to wield power for as long as they could, as soldier go, soldier come for the next 16 years. Towards the turn of the new millennium, Nigeria became democracy-compliant hence the emergence of the fourth republic, soldiers soon changed their stage costumes from khaki to Agbada, who else could out-act those who have tasted and kept a large chunk of the National cake, so like a vicious cycle, the same soldiers and their cronies who had looted us dry came to power.

 I went through this tortuous history so as to explain the reason we have found ourselves where we are. It is however saddening that this part of our history are not always told, we are made to believe that things have been well all along forgetting the fact that every living thing must grow, the untamed corruption that seemed benign at the inception has now grown to be a monster threatening our great nation. By the way, when will they really teach about the civil war in our schools, this event that now seems distant and benign is more emotional and evaluated than one thinks.

 However, all hope is not lost as we can retrace our steps and make things better, as a way of retracing our steps, deliberations from the National Conference should be monitored and taken seriously. Already, as of yesterday, August 12, 2014, drafts of a new constitution were distributed. We should not just scream hurray because a new constitution is on the way, but instead we should explore means through which the content of the proposed constitution is the true yearning of Nigerians.

 On a final note, for Nigeria to progress we also have to develop a patriotic zeal in Nigerians, not just one on television stations or radio stations and newspapers but a true awareness that will permeate all sphere of our lives. Citizens of many developed countries are not patriotic because their government pay TV stations millions to launder the government’s image and coerce the citizenry to loving the country nor is it because they go on a mandatory national service scheme. These citizens are patriotic because their governments have given them reasons to, the US government won’t mind sending a battalion of Army to help a distressed citizen in any part of the world, this intense concern by the government has built a sense of patriotism in Americans such that an American president had the moral right to demand his citizens not ask what their government could do for them but what they could do for their country.

To move forward, we must know where we are coming from, where we are going to and what we want.

The Proverbial Crocodile and A Crooked Dame: On a Scale of Sincerity!

Undoubtedly, the latest display by Nigeria’s First Lady is in a class of its own, if considered in light of her usual comedy-like theatrical appearances in time past. For those who know her, this is enough to spur them to practically jump into the internet for a glimpse of her unique First-Ladyship! Seriously, an attempt to characterize this latest with words might be a challenge too daunting for literature!

If anyone is yet to see Dame Patience’s recent act, imagination will certainly not disappoint such fellow just at first guess what manner of episode she must have delivered. I recommend very quickly a google-search. They certainly would not want to miss Dame Patience performance!

For a better grasp, this is what happened: The First Lady practically broke down while she addressed a meeting she called to talk about the over 200 missing schoolgirls in Nigeria. A tissue was at hand to quickly salvage the situation. She at once removed her eyeglasses to wipe clean her tears!

It must not be left unsaid that her voice grew louder and wilder with every shout she made. Apparently in a move to emphasize her sorrow and state of bewilderment! After all, these were over 200 girl-children missing! Her Excellency is a mother (the First Mother!) and was once a girl!

Not to forget, also involved in this problem is Dame Patience’s husband, whose job and government’s integrity are at stake! The burden on the president’s shoulder at the moment could not have been better put on display in practical terms than the increased cleft of the First Lady’s voice while she delivered an episode that was not much different from a cast-down soul bewailing a loss too great to bear! Who would want to or could come to terms with such loss!

Voices were heard, apparently from those present uttering words of comfort. They must have been caught off-guard with the seemingly frustrated and broken First Lady. They forgot that this is a person whose emotional stability might not be medically unquestionable going by her various appearances since her assumption of Nigeria’s First-Ladyship!

In any case, it need be said without mincing words that saving the wailing of Her Excellency, no tear was sighted. It will certainly have been to her better advantage if she had made a successful attempt at shedding the proverbial crocodile tears, and ensuring for the sake of the media, that the *proverbial crocodile tears* were sighted before being wiped off with the tissue offered her!

Notwithstanding this little mishap in execution of the soap-opera-like short comedy, the goal of the short prop was achieved.

As a matter of fact, the handlers of the First Lady, particularly those who authored this theatre of the absurd must be commended for a well-done job. They have once again exploited fully the Femme fatal personality/unusual-woman-power character of the First Lady, and that very successfully. The emotion-prone First Lady was very useful for the singular purpose at hand, namely, diversion away from the heated polity of the moment. The comedic tint for which the First Lady is known was also a tool in this regard.

Come to think of it, it is over two weeks since the uneventful abduction of the schoolgirls, the cluelessness of the presidency has only gotten worse by the day, and the military is not any better in combating the insurgency. Conflicting statements from the presidency and the military on the (un-)successful release of (some) girls and consequent withdrawal or re-framing of the wordings of the press release could only worsen the predicament of the Jonathan Presidency. In a time of total loss within the rank and file of the presidency over the handling of the kidnapped girls, which is fast becoming a problem that cannot be ignored for the government, the First Lady’s show of shame came in very handy, a sort of temporary relief and a tool to weep up sentimental support for the president’s unfortunately helpless situation.

Apart from the diversionary purpose, her appearance is also a continuation of the blame-game. It is very convenient to shove fingers in the other direction to underline one’s innocence. One can be sure the handlers of the First Lady have since returned to their kitchen-laboratory to cook up yet another episode of the never-will-end-comedy-pack!

While this latest faux-pax is making rounds on various social media and has become a subject of serious discussion among the intellectuals, the First Lady had in actual fact reached her targeted audience with the kind of message she wanted to pass across! In fact, the higher viewership the video gets, the faster she reaches her desired group of Nigerians.

It should be noted that the audience of the First Lady is neither the (highly/superbly) educated social media users nor the better-informed citizenry like readers of this piece! I am certain many in this category were *pissed* as it is evident on various social media platforms and from comments and op-eds. These (well-informed) Nigerians are angered!

Has it ever occurred to anyone to ask if the First Lady cares about these Nigerians of good taste? To say the truth, she does not *give a damn* (if I may borrow that from President Jonathan’s vocabulary chart!). Her targeted audience is the easily bought-over type. This audience will/can much identify with her predicament. I refer to them as the *Put-Yourself-In-The-First-Lady-Shoes-Category*. This is one typical excuse which sells well among the fan-base of Her Excellency.

Their argument is this:
If I were the First Lady, I would have done same or worse to protect my husband’s interest!
This is a job that feed the family!
I am the First Lady! I would do anything to keep my husband on the job o!
Etc.

These Nigerians would shout you down if you happen to attempt to talk them back into common-sense regarding the urgency of the task at stake. Were they alone, which meant, they happen to be thinking alone, it would take them lesser time to convince themselves that the First Lady had done the right thing! Therefore, she must be right! Other self-convincing thoughts might follow. Before long, the president is forgiven and all his transgressions are blurted out. He is now being looked at with a flowery eye-spectacles on!

With reference to the proverbial crocodile and the First Lady, the former would be better placed if sincerity is a yardstick. Come to think of it, the crocodile shed the proverbial tears, not because the animal willed it into existence. To the crocodile, the shed tears is an unavoidable means to an end in that they were unavoidably shed! How else could she (the crocodile) have been able to crush the bones in her meal but to let the tears flow freely!

Now, fact is, the other of the pair, namely the First Lady, she had long figured out she was going to cry in that piece she acted. She knew what to do and how to go about effectively timing when she would break down! She could as well have started crying before the meeting began, but she did not! She held back her tears for the camera. She could as well resolve to a daily dose of wailing and tear-shedding to underline the genuineness of intention! No, she did and would not! Really, the First Lady would have won me over if she could show she had not slept since the girls were kidnapped or that she has not stopped crying and wailing since after that scam and sham of a meeting ended!

Further on the duo, apart from the sincerity of intention for which the crocodile is the better and sincere of the two, both of them clearly enjoyed the shed-tears. The shed-tears for the crocodile is a confirmation of how much she enjoys the food being crushed/eaten. The pleasure the crocodile derives from her tears can and is only comprehensible when described in orgasmic terms! If she could laugh and cry aloud, she could have done so to underline how pleased she is for a good meal!

Take it or leave it, like the crocodile and her tears, the First Lady did enjoy that show of shame she put up for the camera. Her brokenness is insincere. Readers should view it in this light: What exactly is the purpose of the meeting? Did she seriously mean to discuss the missing girls? Did she really have any reasonable solution or suggestion at hand, which she has since not discussed privately with her husband? Let us be clear: The First Lady’s pretended brokenness is a farce. I hope the Nigerian public is far better informed to be taken in by this farcical show of emotion which is best described as fraudulent emotional trickery.

Seriously speaking, one would do well not to discuss this First Lady at all, because she is a very unfortunate happening to Nigeria and a real waste of precious time! One is best advised to follow the Nobel Laureate’s wisdom when asked by Christiane Amanpour of CNN for his opinion of Nigeria’s First Lady.

Prof. Wole Soyinka aptly responded: That one that calls herself the First Lady of Nigeria, I don’t want to talk about her!

I second the Nobel Laureate.

Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM): Advocacy for Nigerian English (Tiwantiwa)!

Mr. Tanimomo is a scholar resident in Germany. He guest-blogs on http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com He is author of the popular bi-weekly: Tanimomo’s Piece of Mind (TPoM).

You cannot expunge your language from your culture and by extension your identity. Words possess the meaning we ascribe them and who we are helps us give meaning to words.

I bear no grudge against the English Language. However, I dislike the pretence the language assumes; for example the Queens English is never wrong. Only speakers in the post-colonial countries can be wrong! The language changes according to the culture of the Brits. Consequently, the Anglophone keeps adjusting all along like train-waggons attached to the locomotive engine. So we grapple with what they call pronunciation and grammar problems. I have however realized that pronunciation problems like languages are constructs too. A few examples will suffice.

My grandmother pronounces the number 7 as seh-bin; a pronunciation that will earn her the tag of a semi-literate. Interestingly, Germans pronounce the same number almost in the manner just that theirs begin with sie and not seh. No one dares call them semi-literates as a result of the non-alignment of their pronunciation to English pronunciation rules. They have their own rules and culture which are products of history, fantasy, culture and experiences.

Another example is the French way of pronouncing tomato. To the French, it is tomate. This pronunciation is close to the prononciation by Yoruba speakers of the English language. We call it: tomati. Some pronounce tomat depending on which part the Yoruba speaker comes from. So if the British and American speakers of the English language evolve and alter several pronunciations for their convenience, what stops the Yoruba speaker of the English language from doing same?

In trying to convince me to see reasons to speak the ‘proper’ English, a friend argued that for every invention, the manufacturer’s manual should be followed. To me, that argument is not valid on two grounds: Firstly, Inventions are made with the cultural atmosphere of its target society in mind. The car manufacturer Toyota does not send left-hand drive vehicles to the UK or South Africa. Secondly, inventions are products of inventions. My knowledge of the Sciences betrays me here but I am aware of the fact that inventions by Einstein, Editon, Newton and other scientists inspired other inventions. Here is an example: The invention of smartphones are not unconnected from the existence of electricity. The world started with Abacuss. now there are modern and faster computer products. Inventions need be altered to suit the times.

Some have also argued that it is easier to understand each other when there are universal rules of usage. I do not subscribe to this argument. If comprehensibility is the premise for this argument, then the argument may also be flawed. Homi Bhabha, Prof Soyinka, Gayatri Spivak are some of the best post-colonial users of the English language but they are not easily comprehensible to the ordinary man. In fact Spivak has been accused of using inaccessible euphemism and academic jargon to avoid comprehensibility.

Furthermore a constraint to this universal rule of language usage is the question of who cares for the minority in the vast sea of the major Englishes? I like food and it pains me that any time I have to write Fufu and Egusi (Yoruba/African food) etc, the words are signaled as incorrect. Thus, I have to italicize them.

And the simplest reason I have heard for keeping the Queens English is this: It is more intelligible than our languages. In protest, I point out severally that ‘the response you are welcome is the weirdest I have ever heard to thank you.

By the way, I have learnt not to trust a language that says a slim person is skinny. Skinny should refer to a person with (a lot of) skin: So skinny should mean fat or something close to that if the English language was so intelligible. In the same light, how can inflammable be synonymous to flammable? Does the prefix, in- not negate?

Also, we may have to interrogate why the middle of the ocean is called sea , as in high-sea. Take a look at this too: Why should the earliest part of the morning be called night as in –midnight– in an intelligible language?

Beyond this, there is a pertinent question: What happens to words in the English language that have assumed different meaning in usage in the commonwealth countries like Nigeria? Here are some examples: A word like tribe and a sentence like I am coming do not have the same meaning as they do in the English language of the UK.

In addition, concepts in our native languages are at the risk of extinction if we keep up with the Queens-English-only-mentality. This is my proposition: Words that can only be translated loosely into English such as Alakoba, Olofofo, Ekule, Eleda among others should all be incorporated into the suppositional Nigerian English.

On a final note, let me remind of my submission at the start of this piece of mind: A language is a construct; it is an invention and it is dynamic. Therefore, it can be dynamically de-constructed and re-invented. So let the discourse begin. I strongly believe, we can all find our voice and put it into even better use by the tool of the language speak.

Of Africa by Abiola Oladimeji

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Mr Abiola Oladimeji is a scholar resident in Germany and guest-blogs for http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

It is no more news that stories of war, hunger, poverty and underdevelopment shape the image of Africa. Many believe (Africans too) that the continent has never contributed to world civilization and that she still has nothing to contribute. In today’s world order, the West appears as the saviour of this continent, which is definitely not the case.

This essay aims to achieve two goals: to restore the necessary confidence in Africans and to provide friends of the continent with another perspective to fully understand her situation. In the same vein, the essay does not intend to put the blames for the woes of Africa on other continents, but stating that the West has played/is playing a significant role in the disorder in Africa.

We all know that bad governance is the main problem of Africa ( I have even argued that it is the only problem of Africa). There are questions to ask; two of them are these: (1) How did Africa get into this situation? (2) Did Africa have good leaders?

Harold Smith, a formal British colonial officer in Nigeria, revealed in an interview (New African Issue 440 : How Britain Undermined Democracy in Africa) how Britain taught and rigged politicians from the Northern part of Nigeria into power before Nigeria’s independence in 1960. Britain feared the Southerners and preferred the Northerners, who would serve British interests. The former were simply too brilliant. Harold Smith referred to one of the political parties in Nigeria in the 1950s and 60s as a great party too much for African standard. Such parties posed threat to British interests.

Britain wanted a weak Nigeria in order to perpetrate Neo-Colonialism in Africa. That is obviously the birth of rigging incompetent politicians into office. Harold Smith’s confession has always been suppressed; his autobiography, in which he reveals the undemocratic acts of Britain, was rejected for publication. That should not amaze anyone, because books always terrorise those who want to suppress the truth.

If Nigeria appears to be an isolated case, what about the assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Congo? February 2002: The Belgian government admitted to a moral responsibility in the death of this great leader. Britain and the United States were also part of the conspiracy against this Pan-Africanist. This marks the beginning of disorder, or rather the crescending of the already Western-created/fuelled existing disorder into new heights in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We should not forget the case of the young Army officer Thomas Sankara. He got into trouble with France immediately he started working towards transforming Burkina Faso from an enclave of France to a great country. If Western powers had left these great leaders, it is most probable that Africa would not be this terribly bad today. Instead, puppets were installed and things started to fall apart. Africa has not recovered from this quagmire till today. Does any Western politician even have the moral ground to blame the current rogues in power across Africa?

Diamonds in the Congo and Algeria and crude oil in Nigeria are few among the resources that are in abundance in Africa. Corruption has been institutionalised in most African countries and most Africans thus live in poverty, despite the wealth of these countries. Switzerland is the safe haven, where these corrupt leaders keep the wealth of Africans and as long as these leaders do not offend the West, the booty is safe.

When Western media report about wars in Africa, they only show us the Western soldiers on ‘’peace keeping’’, they seem to forget the substantial role that weapons from the West play in these wars. I attended a seminar on German security policy abroad. The story is still the same: War, war and more war. Then I asked these questions: (1) Africans do not manufacture many of these sophisticated weapons, but how do they come into Africa? (2) Is weapon control not a better policy other than send soldiers on peace keeping?

As expected, I got a very diplomatic answer: We are still looking into how to control weapons from getting into wrong hands. Weapon industries provide jobs in the West and taxes for the government only when the produced weapons are sold; thus they must be sold. Who cares if that leads to the destruction of others! Without foreign weapons, how would some people in Africa wage war? I do not argue that foreigners mastermind wars in Africa, but the role their weapons play is very significant. Yet, they claim innocence. The truth is this: The West is in fact (only) interested in helping to manage the problem(s) they partly (sometimes wholely) and indirectly created/fuel and from which the West benefit greatly.

In terms of contribution to civilization, Africa surely has a lot to contribute, if only the ‘’superior’’ cultures would desist from the claim to superiority . Imperialists portrayed African culture as inferior, whereas they stole a lot of artefacts from the “so-called inferior cultures”. The West demonized the traditional religions. However, the Ifa Corpus of the Yoruba people is a very good example of what Africa has to contribute to the development of the world. Professor Olu Longe in his Inaugural Lecture at the University of Ibadan in 1983 argued that the innovations that were introduced into computer science in 1963 had been in Ifa divination, an oracle, for more than 1000 years.

I would want to point out that the title of this essay, Of Africa, is actually the name of a book by the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. He discourses the continent at length and it is a book I would recommend to Africans and friends of Africa. He argues in this book that Africa has more to offer, if the continent is allowed to. He narrated a scenario in which an African sustained a spinal injury. Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles among other specialized hospitals could not help his situation. He found solution only in a clinic managed by a Ghanaian doctor who trained in the West, but he got treated with leaves from the bush in Ghana. This points out again, that Africa has enough in her culture to contribute to world civilization. The story of Africa is certainly that of paradox. I hope this discourse would provoke reflections on what is wrong with the continent.

Notice: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer/columnist and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of http://www.ahjotnaija.wordpress.com

Comments will be forwarded to the writer/columnist for response if necessary.

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