There was a country

(I share my review of Chinua Achebe’s book – There was a country TWAC – a review I wrote so many years back.)

Chinua Achebe’s new book “There was a country, a personal history of Biafra” (TWAC, for short in the rest of this essay) has stirred up and continues to stir up considerable furore in Nigeria. Reactions to the book cover a broad spectrum of emotions – from over-enthusiastic reception at one end to outright rejection and even condemnation of the author and his book at the other. We are a nation with unique proneness for extreme positions on some matters. My purpose in this essay is to attempt a review of this book as objectively as I can and in the process identify whatever utility the book possesses for Nigeria in its efforts to manage its challenged present and chart its future in the current haze of colossal national dysfunctions. Any effective charting of such a future must, in my view, depend on a proper understanding and acceptance of her troubled past.

Let me start by presenting the structure of the book.  TWAC is in four unequal parts with a postscript (on the example of Nelson Mandela as an icon of leadership in Africa) and an appendix – Brigadier Banjo’s Broadcast to Mid-West. Achebe claims he is writing the book for the sake of the future of Nigeria, for our children and our grandchildren. Let me then attempt a synopsis of this book.

Part 1 recounts Achebe’s early days, his education from primary school days, his secondary school experience at Umuahia, his days at Ibadan, the beginning of his literary career and his meeting with Christie Achebe, his wife. Part 1 also examines the January 1966 coup, the army, the counter-coup, the reprisals, the pogrom, the worsening tensions, attempts at peace, the failed Aburi accord, ethnic tensions, and resentment. It ends with a sub-section titled “the nightmare begins” where we learn of the creation of states by the Gowon led Federal Administration on the 27th May and the proclamation of Biafran Independence by Ojukwu on the 30th May, 1967. There is a lot of nostalgia for the good old days in some portions of part 1 and some of the sections here are teasingly brief and telegraphic, especially his meeting, courtship and marriage to Christie!

Part 2 deals with the Nigeria-Biafra war. It presents a fairly detailed account of the war, Achebe’s wartime activities and his role in the Biafran struggle. We also get to learn of his association with Chris Okigbo and the death of this great poet. Achebe’s narration of this death is so subdued. Part 2 also provides glimpses into life in Biafra, starvation, death, air raids, war casualties, Biafran ingenuity, the Ogbunigwe, the war efforts and theatres,  the role of external parties in the conflict,  the Uli airstrip, the airlift operations and a host of other details.

Part 3 narrates the economic starvation and blockade, the vicissitudes of the fighting and takes the reader through to the eventual collapse of Biafra.  It also addresses the very sensitive issues concerning the use of hunger and starvation during the war and some economic decisions taken by the federal authorities both during the war and at its end. This is the part that has caused most offense in some quarters in Nigeria and also provoked a torrent of ethnic driven and emotive responses.

Part 4 looks at Nigeria in the present and the writer’s hopes and aspirations for a renewed Nigeria shine through. The prose in each of these parts is interspersed with his poems, two of the most haunting being Refugee mother and child and the vultures!

I am Igbo, lived through the war and may therefore not be in a good position to be neutral about TWAC. But I think that Achebe has written a fine book, a book in which he makes every effort to be factual to the point of adopting what I call a flat clinically detached narrative voice in much of parts 1 and 2! One of the strengths of TWAC is the detailed historical referencing and openness to a diversity of sources! The creative writer in Achebe cedes place in major portions of parts 1 and 2 to the cold and detached historian. This is not Achebe that we know, the animated storyteller who knows how to make words come alive, dance and sing with the same virtuosity one would ascribe to Obika in his Ogbazulu obodo role. Not only does he subdue personal voice in large portions of TWAC, Achebe also succeeds fairly well in managing any biases. For instance, he does not spare either Ojukwu or Gowon in his judgments, laying the blame for the conflict on the pride and personal jousts between these two colonels. For someone who served Biafra in such elevated and personal levels to achieve this level of objectivity in a personal war memoir is commendable

In much of TWAC, what we therefore see is the subdued artist surrendering his impulses to the discipline of facts and available evidence. So great is this surrender to the demands of objective historiography that the personal comments one expects are not delivered. Rather the writer presents the views of others even when these challenge the Biafran position! This historical disciplining appears to have been lost on the writers of some reviews who have tried to fault TWAC on grounds of faulty historical methods. One reviewer even went as far as accusing Achebe of Awophobia whilst another accused him of senility! These are good glimpses of how serious minded some of our reviewers in Nigeria are! Incidentally, one also wonders whether some of these reviewers really read the book! I suspect some did not,  given the timing and content of their reviews.  But this suspicion does not in any way reduce my admiration for such gifted folks who can review a book without ever reading it! They are proof of the abundance of paranormal capacities in Nigeria!

Achebe’s voice returns from p.222 through to part 4 of TWAC. With the return of voice, the book then comes more alive. TWAC is inconvenient though useful as we grapple with nation building. It forces us to think of our past.  To move into the future on firmer footing, the present must go back and catch up with our troubled past and learn from it. We cannot deny the reality of the pogrom.  We cannot say that children did not die of hunger and starvation during the war. It is also unproductive to seek through convoluted sophistry to exonerate certain persons from the consequences of their actions or inactions. We need to confront our past, accept our mistakes and learn from them and move on.  This is the inconvenient message of TWAC, its beauty and its social utility. Truth is bitter but it heals!

Incidentally, some of the issues in TWAC had already been touched upon in part in Achebe’s earlier works notably – “The Education of a British Protected child”, “Home and Exile” and “The Trouble with Nigeria” books which overflow with wit, sarcasm, erudition, intellectual energy and boldness! Yet the reception to these books was not as hostile as the one accorded TWAC. A discerning reader noting the focus and thrusts of the hostile reactions will easily know why!

But beyond providing a history of a piece of our troubled past, TWAC, especially pp39-61, represents an important contribution to African aesthetics. It therefore extends Achebe’s thinking presented in his books “Home and Exile” and “The Education of a British protected child” on the role of literature and the artist in reclaiming the past, understanding the present and building the future. I find the notion of beneficent fiction in TWAC (p57) to represent a useful African position on the role of literature and writers in social engagement! For Achebe, the writer must be engaged as a moral obligation and must not “ally oneself with power against the powerless” or run the risk of producing “elegantly tired fiction” TWAC p.59

But TWAC is not only about criticisms, social or literary. Achebe addresses current issues including corruption and Boko Haram. He laments our cult of mediocrity which he believes is at the base of our present malaise. He argues for checks and balances to reduce the decadence, corruption and debauchery of the past several decades (p252) He argues for a strengthening of democratic institutions and for free and fair elections and looks forward to the emergence of a leader humbled by the trust people place on him/her and who is willing to use “the power given him for the good of the people?” p253. Achebe has been prophetic in the past. I hope GEJ and JEGA are listening to him. The successes of Edo and Ondo already encourage and challenge.

Noel Ihebuzor

@naitwt

 

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www.cnn.com/2018/04/13/politics/comey-book-trump/index.html

The Jury is out for candidate Buhari – Elombah News

The Jury is out for candidate Buhari – Elombah News
— Read on elombah.com/amp/index.php/politics/jury-candidate-buhari/

A must read!

We are all wailers

By

Noel Ihebuzor

We are all wailers.

Some wail because their ticket lost. Some wail because a man was chased out of power by a conspiracy drawn up by strange bedfellows each fellow pursuing agendas that had nothing to do with national interests.

Some others wail, largely in silence and within, because they were deceived. They were deceived by smoke peddling spinners who sold them a three sound-byte election campaign of security, employment and fighting corruption, sound-bytes which their principal would forget at inconvenient moments during the campaigns, but like folks bewitched, folks under a spell, they failed to or refused to notice. And now they wail, deceived hunters who voluntarily gave away their semi functional Dane guns for non-functional blunted and rusted knives without handles.

We wail because the man we want to hail, the man we set up to hail, the man we set out to hail is failing so dramatically, has failed so dramatically and continues to do so in acts of omission and acts of commission, in appointments that disappoint all save a narrow cabal, in selective acts that are deficient in nobility, poor in conception, but rich in meanness and mostly driven by revenge and spite.

And our pride will not let us own up to these facts.

So we mourn internally, and frustrated as we are, we manifest our frustration as misdirected aggression on any one bold enough to speak the truth we hide from.

Misplaced loyalty traps us and shields us from the truth. It prevents us from owning up that we were wrong, yes, wrong in the choices we made, that we were foolish and deliberately dishonest in the lies we told and sold,

Foolish pride stands between us and genuine contrition, and instead of contrition, we spend our energies rationalizing incompetence, finding lame excuses for lame and limited competence. Our intellect is turned towards a perfection of a puerile blame game, a game that is now lacking in conviction and which is becoming very unproductive with each passing day. The groves of the blame game disc have now worn thin, its content is now shallow, our lies hollow before our eyes, sorrow eats us up, both from within and without.

Of Decampees, Self Internally Displaced Politicians (SIDPs) and the party of “righteous”

The claims below require some fact checking (Rochas was initially elected on an APGA platform, for instance). If the claims are true in a number of instances, then we have good enough proof that most of our politicians are persons of doubtful honour for whom words like principle and integrity have no meaning.

NI

WHO ACTUALLY LOOTED NIGERIA FOR 16 YEARS?

Out of 24 APC governors today, 22 of them were members of the PDP that ruled for 16 years.

As if that is not enough 20 former PDP governors are now in APC and many of them with corruption cases, but PMB’s corruption fight “no reach their side.”

Do you also know that:
1. The first and current APC Senate President was in PDP?

2. The first APC Speaker of the House of Representatives was also in PDP?

3. Three out of five former Speakers of the House of Representatives under PDP are now in APC?

3. A former PDP senate president is also in APC?

4. Two former national Chairmen of PDP are also now in APC?

5. Thousands of current APC legislators at both state and national levels were in PDP?

6. Hundreds of current APC ministers and commissioners today were in PDP?

7. Thousands of other former PDP leaders and members including former ministers, legislators, commissioners, etc are now in APC?

Now who are the PDP members that APC keeps referring to that looted the nation’s treasury for sixteen years?

Current APC Governors that Migrated from PDP:

1. Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State was a PDP Senator.

2. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State served as FCT minister under the PDP.

3. Governor Aminu Masari of Kastina State was a Former House of Representatives speaker under the PDP.

4. Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State was a PDP Former Commissioner.

5. Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto was a Former PDP Speaker of the House of Representatives.

6. Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State was a Commissioner and Governor under PDP.

7. Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State was in PDP.

8. Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state was also in PDP.

9. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State was in PDP.

10. Governor Samuel Orthom of Benue State was a PDP Minister.

11. Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State was in PDP.

12. Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State was a Former PDP Senator.

13. Governor Bindow Jubrilla of Adamawa State was a Former PDP Senator.

14. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was in PDP.

Former PDP Governors now in APC:
1. Aliyu Wammako -Sokoto
2. Rabiu Kwankwaso- Kano
3. Sai’du Dakingari -Kebbi
4 , Bukola Saraki – Kwara
5. Murtal Nyako- Adamawa
6. Rotimi Amaechi -Rivers
7. Temiprye Sylva – Bayelsa
8 . Sullivan Chime- Enugu
9. Obong Victor Attah- Akwa-Ibom
10. Chris Ngige – Anambra
11. Joshua Dariye -Plateau
12. George Akume -Benue
13. Adamu Abdullahi – Nasarawa
14. Orji Uzor Kalu- Abia
15. Oserheimen Osunbor- Edo
16. Segun Oni -Ekiti
17. Alao Akala- Oyo
18. Danjuma Goje- Gombe
19. Olagunsoye Oyinlola -Osun
20. Garba Umar- Taraba

Anybody who says PDP members looted the nation’s treasury and are therefore corrupt is distorting the facts and therefore a shameless / barefaced liar, innately corrupt, fraudulent, self-centred, deceptive, wicked, broad day robber, oppressive and has no decency and humanity in them.

Are these the kind of people that should rule a nation?

Copied

Of Decampees, Self Internally Displaced Politicians (SIDPs) and the party of “righteous”

The claims below require some fact checking (Rochas was initially elected on an APGA platform, for instance). If the claims are true in a number of instances, then we have good enough proof that most of our politicians are persons of doubtful honour for whom words like principle and integrity have no meaning.

NI

WHO ACTUALLY LOOTED NIGERIA FOR 16 YEARS?

Out of 24 APC governors today, 22 of them were members of the PDP that ruled for 16 years.

As if that is not enough 20 former PDP governors are now in APC and many of them with corruption cases, but PMB’s corruption fight “no reach their side.”

Do you also know that:
1. The first and current APC Senate President was in PDP?

2. The first APC Speaker of the House of Representatives was also in PDP?

3. Three out of five former Speakers of the House of Representatives under PDP are now in APC?

3. A former PDP senate president is also in APC?

4. Two former national Chairmen of PDP are also now in APC?

5. Thousands of current APC legislators at both state and national levels were in PDP?

6. Hundreds of current APC ministers and commissioners today were in PDP?

7. Thousands of other former PDP leaders and members including former ministers, legislators, commissioners, etc are now in APC?

Now who are the PDP members that APC keeps referring to that looted the nation’s treasury for sixteen years?

Current APC Governors that Migrated from PDP:

1. Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State was a PDP Senator.

2. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State served as FCT minister under the PDP.

3. Governor Aminu Masari of Kastina State was a Former House of Representatives speaker under the PDP.

4. Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State was a PDP Former Commissioner.

5. Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto was a Former PDP Speaker of the House of Representatives.

6. Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State was a Commissioner and Governor under PDP.

7. Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State was in PDP.

8. Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state was also in PDP.

9. Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State was in PDP.

10. Governor Samuel Orthom of Benue State was a PDP Minister.

11. Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State was in PDP.

12. Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State was a Former PDP Senator.

13. Governor Bindow Jubrilla of Adamawa State was a Former PDP Senator.

14. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State was in PDP.

Former PDP Governors now in APC:
1. Aliyu Wammako -Sokoto
2. Rabiu Kwankwaso- Kano
3. Sai’du Dakingari -Kebbi
4 , Bukola Saraki – Kwara
5. Murtal Nyako- Adamawa
6. Rotimi Amaechi -Rivers
7. Temiprye Sylva – Bayelsa
8 . Sullivan Chime- Enugu
9. Obong Victor Attah- Akwa-Ibom
10. Chris Ngige – Anambra
11. Joshua Dariye -Plateau
12. George Akume -Benue
13. Adamu Abdullahi – Nasarawa
14. Orji Uzor Kalu- Abia
15. Oserheimen Osunbor- Edo
16. Segun Oni -Ekiti
17. Alao Akala- Oyo
18. Danjuma Goje- Gombe
19. Olagunsoye Oyinlola -Osun
20. Garba Umar- Taraba

Anybody who says PDP members looted the nation’s treasury and are therefore corrupt is distorting the facts and therefore a shameless / barefaced liar, innately corrupt, fraudulent, self-centred, deceptive, wicked, broad day robber, oppressive and has no decency and humanity in them.

Are these the kind of people that should rule a nation?

Copied

Diversion and distraction as defence – but they won’t work this time.

WHY IS THE PDP SILENT ON THE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA HACKING OF BUHARI’S 2015 PERSONAL DATA? – http://signaturetv.com.ng/2018/03/24/why-is-the-pdp-silent-on-the-cambridge-analytica-hacking-of-buharis-2015-personal-data/


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