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CONTEX

A magazine of ideas and literature from Africa
March 2005 - 

THE  NIGERIA  OF  MY  DREAM

Joseph K.Olatunbosun, [An academic/journalist]

A dream simply put is something which one seems to see or experience during sleep,a state of mind in which things going on around one seem unreal, it can also be mental picture of the future .Nigeria came into existence courtesy of the then colonial Governor :Sir Lord Luggard in 1914 ;since then till today, the country has been in series of civil and economic turmoils in superordinate  dimension. No patriotic and god-fearing citizen of Nigeria will be proud of epileptic power and dry taps after four decades as an independent nation. No right-thinking citizen will ever wish that public primary  schools will be plagues by now, secondary and tertiary-institutions are now breeding grounds for teenage and matured cultists armed-robbers, enlightened  and democratic prostitutes and other social-miscreants. How can our post-independence public-hospitals become absurd clinics and mini-mortuaries? How come this nation is now a palatial mansion for idlers, fraudsters and world-class economic terrorists and political hijackers?Why  would Nigeria become a place where civil, academic and once immeasurably-embarrassing Police-threatening strikes are no longer news? Our beloved  giant of Africa  is still a place where good and comfortable privileges of modern-world belong to the very few class of the  super- rich. A nation where basic amenities of life such as food, clothes and decent accommodation are for the very minimal wealthy-mogul of the class of fraudulent contractors, opportunistic retired military officers and coup-generals, pocket- induced militicians and 19th Century politicians, satanic and sadistic capitalist exploiters, materialistic religious leaders and their dubious acolytes.

 People say there is no place like home, but I strongly affirm that your home is where your heart is many Nigerians hearts are really and unfortunately not in Nigeria. You go to Embassies to challenge my above assertion. Nigerians have no business queueing for Visas of emigration to anywhere on this globe. Social critics world-wide are rebels and unpatriotic rabble-russers. In a  critical letter  I wrote of Nigeria while a sojourner in one ECOWAS  country; some overzealous Nigerians in literary, verbal and physical assaults victimized me. Frankly  speaking,the Nigeria present structure is a purified political and economic  sickler, a sleeping giant that must  be up from dangerous slumber and misadventure.

A country of globally acclaimed statesmen, world-class scholars, inventors and scientists, literary-giants of several Nobel-laurretts, economic and business gurus, sports-superstars ,etc can not be a leper among comity of nations.

 The Nigeria of my dream is not a place of  daily retrenchments, unpaid and delayed salaries, weekly galloping inflation, vivid abject mass-poverty grounded railways and pot-holes death-traps called roads. Very recently, on journalism assignment, I sadly witnessed at Murtala Mohammed International Airport; the gory sights and gloomy faces of Nigerian deportees from Libya, where most of them have no business staying if all is well at home. The Nigeria of my dream is where equity, justice, transparency and other virtues prevail. A nation where power supply remains uninterrupted, where masses will not be on monthly new-pricing of petroleum products. A nation where qualitative and cult-free education is taken for granted. Where quality health services is not for the opulence. A Nigeria of good roads ,abundant food supply and exportation ,functioning industries and refineries producing at full capacities.

 I wish for a Nigeria of economic and technological super-power, a nation where un-employment,armed-robbery,fraudsters,kidnappers,hired-assassins,area-boys etc ,shall become history .A nation of  natural and human resources to take her proper pre-eminent position in the world. I longed to have a country where unity, faith, peace and progress will not only be a national emblem .I dream of Nigeria among the [G-10: Industrialized, lending nations by 2020].A nation of hope and tranquility free from religious mayhems, economic retrogression ,political quaqmire and ethnic pogrom.I strongly believe all right thinking  Nigerians will wish for a nation  their progenitors will proudly call their own anytime ,anywhere. May God answer our prayers for a BETTER NIGERIA!!!.

 

Motherland

Motherland
Journeying into the unknown,
Journeying into the deep soil,
Into a trunk, which has been
Uprooted and stripped off it’s branches
Removed from its natural soil,
And thrust into a cold and bitter
Climate of an unknown land

Motherland
Journeying into the unknown
Journeying to imagine the unimaginable
Journeying to confront my fears,
To recover my motherland,
The tired, colonized soul of
My motherland

Motherland
We have come,
We have journeyed home
We have come to embrace our motherland

Motherland
Forgive me if I do not understand
Nor speak my mother tongue,
For we have been away for too long
Forgive me if I do not answer
When you hail my name,

The name that mista smith gave me has a
Different tone, an unfamiliar beat
To the name that you persistently call me with,
Like a frightened mother who screams for her lost child
And only to hear the echoes of her own voice

Motherland
Journeying into the pit of my soul
Journeying to recover my stolen identity
Journeying to recover what humanity
Stripped off my flesh

Motherland
We were stolen,
Captured like hunted antelopes
Only this hunter had no love,
Nor respect for the hunted
We were herded onto a boat
And shipped of to an unknown destination
A land that had no sunshine,
A climate that is so cold it cracked my
Soft skin and offered no shea butter
To grease my cracked wounds

Motherland
We have come
We have survived
We have come to give thanks to those
Who lost their lives on the journey
And to those who were not captured
But who’s heart were forcibly pieced
With Kaigama’s arrow

Motherland
Forgive as if we do not bear our tribal marks,
Forgive me if my hips do not move
Ceremoniously to the drumbeat,
For I am of mixed breed,
Part British part Spanish
I am the descendant of a slave girl
A property that mista smith could
Enjoy at his convenience
A property that he could explore the
Benefits of my hips, my upright breasts
And the rhythmic beats of my waistbeads

Motherland
“RAPE�
I heard you cry out
“RAPE�
I cried back

Motherland
I was your untouched child,
But I became mista smith’s property
Part of his wealth and livestock
And a property cannot be RAPED

Motherland
Hush, do not weep
We have survived we have journeyed HOME
Ah Obataan pa due, demirifa due
Due ne amanehunu!
 

Jennifer Maame Prempeh

Copyright © 2003

 

 

 

Commentary

Date: 3rd Feb., 2003.

By Philip Njoku, from Nigeria

In celebration of African Literature

Africa, is a rich and colourful tapestry of ethnic groups-an intricate mosaic of cultures, religious, and social rituals. However, it is also a Tower of Babel of innumerable languages and dialects. If Africa is to develop its unique identity through writing, understanding and respect for its diversity, we must make African Literature the cynosure of all eyes.

Audiences of today focus upon the sensational action, the violence, the loss, the terror. Individually our lives are redirected, our worlds reshaped, and our images warped. While wary of the danger of change, we human beings surrender daily to exploitation of values, opportunities, and sensitivity. The evolution has brought us to the point that we believe little of what is presented to us as good and valuable; instead, we opt for suspicion and disbelief, demanding proof and something for nothing. There in lies the danger lurking for the African writer seeking to break into the market of today.

During the 1970’s not only was a great deal of good work being done on African literature, but the work was being accepted as legitimate scholarship by the profession of literature had become a celebration of regional patriotism and local colour. Of significant mention in this discourse are the torch-bearers of African writing in the persons of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong o, Leopold Senghor, Kofi Awoonor, Gabriel Okara, John Pepper Clarke, Camara Laye, and numerous others. By the next two decades, there evolved an expertise in critiquing the African Writer that involved being able to se beyond the simplicity of language and the scope of the area into the deep and passionate emotions, that are typical in Africa. That means that the leading writers on the scene led the profession into the great days of African Renascence, or Renaissance, which lasted for about twelve years. These writers were in their forties and fifties, and there seemed to be no one of significance coming along to take their places. What had once set Africa and its literature apart from the rest of the world, both for the good and the not so good, was now on the verge of extinction, Literary imagination was fast loosing vitality. The novel appeared to be a dead art from, and a new form, the nonfiction novel, was being groomed to take its place.

This has not become the case, however. In fact during the past decade, there occurred a veritable explosion of important and interesting young writers – African novelists – ranging in age from 40 to 30 and even to 20. Their books were read and reviewed not only everywhere in African, but abroad as well. And, to the surprise of all the so-called nonfiction novel, not the novel, was about to die.

Not enough time has passed to estimate how long this “Renaissance of Renaissance� will last; however, with the important writings coming out of Africa in the 1990s, the reasoning is that the promise is as real today as it was in those early years.

Younger scholars have begun to realize the importance of African Literature and are selecting parts of it for their these, dissertations, essays, and even books. New writers continue to emerge. One of the virtues of African literary study during the past forty years has been its involvement in contemporary writing and contemporary writers, and its merging of criticism with historical scholarship. The writing while anchored in reality is free of never-never land. There is a recognition and a need to explore both the continuity and the change. Tradition is not dead; it is alive and well in African literature.

ONIGANGA:
MASTER OF THE
TALKING DRUM

 

With vexing pride in his wake,

And subtle laughter hued in his fiery

Eyes, he gyrates in a tippling dance

With the dexterity of a champion

Wrestler; wings on his heels, he

Bounces with the stead

Of a masquerade:

 

GAN-GA, GAN-GA, GAN-GA!

Come, my people, says the drum.

Come gather round; thank the gods and

Ancestors of our lands,

Let go of that which breaks your heart.

 

Like the waves on raging waters,

Flowing Aso-Oke blankets him whole,

Save his woven locks; sango-styled.

Characteristically, he beats the drum

With abandon as one possessed with new wine,

Spinning tumultuously like a typhoon,

churning out rhythms only the gods could know:

 

GANGA-GA, GAN-GA, GAN-GA!

His name is known abroad: ONIGANGA,

MASTER OF THE TALKING DRUM,

Tremulous beater and custodian of the age-old

Goatskin instrument of cultural lineage…

 

Kinsmen, women, come listen to the sound

The wind plays; cluster round

And listen to the words of the drummer:

It scythes thru’ the thickness of all hearts.

Come; unblunt your feelers that you may taste

The music, for it’s as fresh palm wine

On the tongue of one sore thirsty.

 

ONIGANGA, your drum be your tongue:

Speak on, master of the talking drum,

For kings will dance with little restraint and

Princes will run with the rhythm your beating.

 

Children surround him, chanting high.

Their parents, too, are not left out. The trees

Flows with the soul of the music

And the winds beat against the rocks…

Nature, too, is caught in the throb of the moment.

 

He now summons us all to a feast,

A feast where bliss may no boundary

Or race know…

 Idowu Otorishe Addison

Copyright © 2003

 

 

The Voice of the Gods

 

The gods call...

their voices drenched in blood

echo from the dept of the River

in the Delta

whence the dislocation

was initiated in the blood of our kinsmen

The blood soaked voice sailed

across three hundred years

to where our lost tribes men

now pitch their tents

But our brothers have lost their flat nose

the clay of their making

mixed with everything but clay

blood mixed with everything but blood

Now the gods call

their voices fall on strange ears

Ears dislocated from the mysticism

of being African...the gods call.

Dave Chukwuji

Copyright © 2003

Lost Forever

Outstanding amidst others in the beautiful garden,

  the tree of love is imposing and alluring.

With such strong magnetic pull as no one can resist,

  all is attracted to eat of its enticing fruit.

 

My son, to my counsel take heed and you shall live.

 

Indeed great and small, young and old,

 the religious and the infidel,

 from every tribe and tongue,

 creed and race;

 none seemed able to resist its awesome power.

None was spared its spell.

 

A tree of love there really is ---

 

And so society’s magazines, movies and music

 manifested this madness,

 and fashion and friends found flair

 in forcing a fruit on one,

 with every culture craving a bite,

 tradition totally ignored.

 

--- in a faraway land called Matrimony.

 

Then she came along like a fair fairy

 with large light brown eyes

 and long, full, fluttering lashes

 like a bird’s wings;

 flaunting her body, beauty and brains.

 

I fell like a pack of cards.

 

Mama’s warnings

 mother’s words

 mama’s wisdom

 you waited so long.

The curious seed of desire

 long has germinated;

 its roots reaching down

 to the depth of my soul,

 inflaming me with its essence

 even before   “fair fairyâ€� came along.

 

Lie they do, the agents of the tree!

For mute they kept

About the sudden, lingering sourness

Of the fruit

After a sweetness brief.

 

The fruit is bad!

The tree not of love

But an evil imposter.

It flourishes on the sorrow of men,

And feeds on the life of their

 spilled seed.

 

 My soul is bound

 to one to whom I have made no vow

 and to everyone else she is bound

 and to everyone they are bound.

How horrible!

 

Now I realize, to my utter despair,

 My most precious possession is lost

    Forever --- my chastity.

 Copyright © Sammy Onyegbuna 

 

SELECTED ESSAYS AND IDEAS -  September - December  2004

________________________________________________________________

 

CONSOLIDATING WHAT UNITE

AND OVERCOMING WHAT DIVIDE:

AFRICAN LITERATURE AND BORDER ISSUES

 By

Chimdi Maduagwu, (PhD)  

info@us-alf.org

Department of English, University of Lagos

 Introduction

Literature conceptualizes situations that make for deeper understanding of people and societies. African Literature, drawing upon this quality, creates, recreates and adapts situations that identify and discuss lines and borders in Africa. African Literature, in this paper, lays claim to all literary works, oral and written, natural and adapted, types and archetypes, realistic and romantic, mythic and time bound stories including documentaries, which are of Africa, by Africans and non-Africans alike, and have emerged from Africa and from Africans in Diaspora. The specific direction to which the literatures of Africa can make meaningful contributions to actualizing a truly united Africa (without boundaries) is conceived to be in as much as they project and consolidate ‘what unite’ and help Africans overcome ‘what divide’.

‘What unite’, in this paper, are issues of common interest to the people of Africa, especially those that are capable of cementing African unity. These are mostly integral to interpersonal and group relationships, practices, belief systems, behaviors, etc. On the other hand, ‘what divide’ also consist of issues related to those that unite but in varying degrees of disparities and non-agreement, undermine common interest and unity in Africa. In addition to these are also natural phenomena and land marks. They generally form lines and divides commonly acknowledged as boundaries.

Boundaries, borders and lines (of demarcation) exist at two major levels of human interaction, namely; the visible and the invisible. The visible is the physical or geographical boundary, which literature captures through the artistic technique of setting, and then the invisible is the non-physical boundary, depicted in themes, attitudes of characters and atmosphere (as setting). Both levels of projection of boundaries have functional ways of highlighting ‘the otherness’ or differences. At the physical level, this shows in landscapes, locales, persons and groups of persons, while at the non-physical level, ‘otherness’ manifests in actions, attitudes and manners of characters, among other issues. The physical and non-physical are basically different in appearance. While the former is concrete, like brick walls, mountains, hills, seas, lakes rivers valleys etc, and can thus appeal directly to human senses with which the human being interacts with external world; the later is more or less abstract like thought, imagination, race, language color, (to a lesser extent) belief systems, culture etc and appeals more to deep feeling of the human being. While the former can be rationally discerned, the later is more emotionally discerned. Also the former can be erected or demolished at times and within terms agreed upon by persons or parties concerned, the later, like all emotional issues, is much more difficult to grapple with because elements of ‘the otherness’ are buried deep inside the consciousness and psyche of the persons or parties concerned.

As the world moves towards greater co-operation and tolerance, new options are opening up in relation to boundary management, whether at the visible or invisible level. Creative African literature is capable of making significant positive contributions to boundary issues in Africa. By highlighting: ‘Consolidating what unite and overcoming what divide’ (1).

Africa has passed through some peculiar experiences beginning from a supposed savage and barbarian culture, through the first contacts with aliens that resulted in both trans Saharan and trans Atlantic slave trades, colonialism, struggles for independence and the subsequent political independence of African states to the post-independent dependence of African states on Europe and America. At every point of these unique African experiences, a number of issues have generated lines and divides, in form of boundaries, at two main levels already noted above (physical and non-physical).

The Beginnings

It is no longer a matter for debate or proof that Africa had a past and according to Chinua Achebe (1975), the past is not one long night of savagery, neither is it like what Negritude writers (2) projected to the world, a long stretch of Edenic bliss, where everything was perfect. Whether or not the past was blissful, non-existent or barbaric may not constitute an issue of debate now, but one thing is clear; this past paraded a folk tradition. Like all folk cultures, the typical African society was a folk community and was characterized by native simplicity, more or less enclosed, lacking in modern sophistication and with minimal external contacts. (Chimdi Maduagwu, 1997) This might send out a signal that Africa was a monolithic society or on the other hand that Africa consisted of communities that were distinct and independent from one another, with ‘minimal contacts’. That is not the case. The traditional Africa communities were made up of people who knew themselves and accepted each other as part of single, unified large families, who in turn interacted with other similar units.

In the folk tradition, all human endeavors and activities are marked by native simplicity. These also include thoughts and impressions of boundaries both at the physical and non-physical levels. There has always been the natural tendency in the African, as in all men, to identify and guide what belongs to him, thus there were, in the remote past, ‘lines and divides’, but these lines and divides were very thin and friendly. For instance, families, kindred, clans, tribes were identified with special physical and non-physical traits from stature, complexion (physical), manners, occupations, (non-physical) to residential portions they occupy and farm lands they till etc. Quite often, different folks appropriated natural phenomena as authentic landmarks, which provided reasonable boundaries at the physical level. The most prominent natural occurrences that enhanced boundary erections were rivers and seas, hills and mountains, remarkable forests and trees, valleys and caves etc.

Although these ‘natural boundaries’ appear integral to human existence, they however predate human life in areas where they are found. Virtually, all myths of creation attest to this. The Judeo-Christian myth posits that the Hebrew God, Elohim, created the heaven and earth; imposed order on the earth, separated water from dry land and causing to come into existence level lands and highlands, valleys and caves, rivers lakes and seas etc (The Bible, Gen: 1). It was after all these that life was founded. This popular myth underscores the fact that neither God nor nature and super nature erected boundaries per se. Rather, the human intellect, acting on behalf of God’s wisdom restructures creation and recreates a parallel order to the divine order. The new human order admits boundaries and while it does so, it utilizes the natural landmarks.

An African writer, Ngugi Wa Thiong’O, in his novel, The River Between (1965), draws upon oral tradition (myth), to demonstrate how physical structures, of course natural phenomena, existed before they eventually become strong boundaries which transcend physical structures to initiate a deep emotional divide:

                               

                                  The two ridges lay side by side. One was

                                Kameno, the other was Makuyu. Between

                                them was a valley. It was called the valley

                                of life. Behind Kameno and Makuyu were many

                                more valleys and ridges, lying without any

                                discernible plan. They were like many sleeping

                                lions which never woke. They just slept the deep

                                sleep of their creator.

                                                                                                 ( p.1)                                  

In Ngugi’s artistic consciousness, the valley between Kameno and Makuyu (physical) has been appropriated by the indigenes to serve as a boundary. Being separated therefore, by this valley, the two ridges mark out two distinct communities who develop disparate socio-cultural qualities at the non-physical level. The major element of divide, in the socio-cultural lives of these communities in Ngugi’s Kenya is belief system, drawn upon different religions – Christianity and traditional African worship.

Religion is a major element, which creates boundaries (at the non-physical level) in Africa. While Ngugi’s artistic impulse reveals how Christianity, a foreign religion, clashes with traditional belief system to create a gulf in communities that hitherto existed in co operation and tolerance, other writers broach the issue of religion in border determination from some other perspectives. The mythic consciousness of the Nigeria writer, Wole Soyinka (1965, 1967) establishes a functional relationship between deities (gods) and human beings but maintains a ‘boundary’. This is another approach to boundary issues. Soyinka is a mythic symbolist and uses deities to symbolize a class of human beings who wield power and authority over others. The deities live in ‘Idanre hills’ (3), a unique natural landscape akin to the classical Greek mount Olympus, the abode of gods. Like their ancient Greek counterparts, Soyinka’s Yoruba deities also appear to have been created by human beings.  The different environments in which they dwell suggest there is a boundary between them and human beings. However, if Soyinka’s symbolism is stretched out, Idanre creatures (deities) represent the all powerful and domineering human beings, who occupy the upper echelon of the societies (the powers that be). Thus, while at the symbolic level we are faced with a case of a boundary between deities and human beings, the literal reality is a functional boundary between human beings (of a kind) and human beings (of another kind) in the same society. In other words, strong beliefs, supported by some perceived supernatural forces reinforce boundaries.

African Writers, who consciously or unconsciously engage Literature in addressing boundary issues, speak of the validity of their own experiences (culture) thus they write with a high flavor of Anthropology and Social History. According to Boehmer (1995), ‘they cast their meaning across a wide textual spectrum, producing anthropological studies, social history and journalism as well as poetry and fiction to promote their cause’ (p.100). A general look at their works reveal that they have common experiences and thus seem to project the same messages, all of which are deeply anthropological and historical or one may say, cultural. So African writers explore and adapt their unique experiences in broaching unique boundary issues. This initiative unravels essential parts of ‘what unite’ and ‘what divide’. Writers engage subjects and themes, which reveal different African experiences, for instance, experiences of common history of slavery, colonization, independence and post-independent dependence (on Europe and America). 

Disintegration.

For over 200years, Africa has been under various forms of exploitation by Europe and later, other developed nations of the world. Particularly, European activities in African have left deep and painful ‘marks’ on the entire continent and her people. The most gruesome and traumatic experience is the obnoxious trans-Atlantic slave trade. All Africa came under this irreverent human ordeal. Although, Africa had earlier battled with the incursion of Arabs who were equally slave dealers, but the magnitude of trans-Atlantic experience made a mockery of the Arabs’ Tran Saharan adventure. Africa is still nursing the wounds of slavery. Consider this:

  

IN THE EVERLASTING MEMORY OF OUR ANGUISHED ANCESTORS

                                  May those who died rest in peace

       &