CHINUA ACHEBE’S THINGS FALL APART : A REVIEW BY NDI CHARLES

things-fall-apart

Interviewer: Welcome Sir, Please introduce our readers to todays book.
NC: The book on review is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It takes it’s theme and title from a poem by an irish poet:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

W.B Yeats – The Second Coming.
The German translation is titled Okonkwo. This is apt considering Okonkwo’s character is a worthy page turner. Every reader is an avid spectator to the macabre dance between Okonkwo and his clan before and during colonialism.

Interviewer: Are there any intriguing characters? Please give references.
NC: There are several. I will mention 10.

Okonkwo: Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the cat. Amalinze was the greatest wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the cat because his back would never touch the earth.It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a sport of the wild for seven days and seven nights.                                                                                                                         (Pg 3)
Unoka (Okonkwo’s father) : Okoye was a great talker and he spoke for a long time, skirting round the subject and then hitting it finally. In short, he was asking Unoka to return the two hundred cowries he had borrowed from him more than two years before. As soon as Unoka understood what his friend was driving at, he burst out laughing. He laughed loud and long and his voice rang out clear as the ogene, and tears stood in his eyes. His visitor was amazed, and sat speechless. At the end, Unoka was able to give an answer between fresh outbursts of mirth.
Look at the wall, he said, pointing at the far wall of his hut which was rubbed with red earth so that it shone. Look at those lines of chalk, and Okoye saw groups of short perpendicular lines drawn in chalk. There were five groups, and the smallest group had ten lines. Unoka had a sense of the dramatic and so he allowed a pause, in which he took a punch of snuff and sneezed noisily, and then he continued. Each group there represents a debt to someone, and each stroke is one hundred cowries. You see, I owe that man a thousand cowries. But he has not come to wake me up in the morning for it. I shall pay you but not today. Our elders say that the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them. I shall pay my big debts first. And he took another pinch of snuff, as if that was paying the big debts first, Okoye rolled his goatskin and departed.                                                                                                   (Pg 6)

Ikemefuna: He was by nature a very lively boy and he gradually became popular in Okonkwo’s household, especially with the children. Okonkwo’s son , Nwoye who was two years younger, became quite inseparable from him because he seemed to know everything. He could fashion out flutes from bamboo stems and even from the elephant grass. He knew the names of all the birds and and could set clever traps for the little bush rodents. And he knew which trees made the strongest bows.
Even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy – inwardly of course. Okonkwo never showed any emotion openly, unless it be the emotion of anger. To show affection was a sign of weakness; the only thing worth demonstrating was strength. He therefore treated Ikemefuna as he treated everybody else – with a heavy hand. But there was no doubt that he liked the boy. Sometimes when he went to big village meetings or communal ancestral feasts he allowed Ikemefuna to accompany him, like a son carrying his stool and his goat skin bag. And indeed, Ikemefuna called him father.                                                                                                                          (Pg 20)

Nwoye: As soon as his father walked in that night, Nwoye knew that Ikemefuna had been killed, and something seemed to give way inside him like the snapping of a tightened bow. He did not cry. He just hung limp. He had had the same kind of feeling not long ago, during the last harvest season. Every child loved the harvest season. Those who were big enough to carry even a few yams in a tiny basket went with grown- ups to the farm. And if they could not help in digging up the yams, they could gather firewood together for roasting the ones that would be eaten there on the farm. This roasted yam soaked in red palm oil and eaten in the open farm was sweeter than any meal at home. It was after such a day at the farm during the last harvest that Nwoye had felt for the first time a snapping inside him like the one he now felt. They were returning home with baskets of yams from a distant farm across the stream when they had heard the voice of an infant crying in the thick forest. A vague chill had descended on him and his head had seemed to swell, like a solitary walker at night who passes an evil spirit on the way. Then something had given way inside him. It descended on him again, this feeling, when his father walked in, that night after killing Ikemefuna.                                                                                                              (Pg 43)

Ekwefi: Ekwefi had suffered a great deal in her life. She had borne ten children and nine of them had died in infancy, usually before the age of three. As she buried one child after the another her sorrow gave way to despair and then to grim resignation. The birth of her children which should be a woman’s crowning glory, became for Ekwefi mere physical agony devoid of promise. The naming ceremony after seven market weeks became an empty ritual. Her deepening despair found expression in the names she gave her children. One of them was a pathetic cry, Onwumbiko – Death I implore you. But death took no notice, Onwumbiko died in his fifteenth month. The next child was a girl, Ozoemena- may it not happen again. She died in her eleventh month, and two others after her. Ekwefi then became defiant and called her next child Onwuma – death may please himself. And he did                                                                            (Pg 54)

Egwugwu (ancestral spirit): But the most dreaded of all was yet to come. He was always alone and was shaped like a coffin. A sickly odour hung in the air wherever he went and flies went with him. Even the greatest medicine men took shelter when he was near. Many years ago, another egwugwu had dared to stand his ground before him and had been transfixed to the spot for two days. This one had only one hand and with it carried a basket full of water. (Pg 85)

Royal Python: The royal python was the most revered animal in Mbanta and all the surrounding clans. It was addressed as “our father” and was allowed to go wherever it chose, even into peoples beds. It ate rats in the house and sometimes swallowed hen’s eggs. If a clansman killed a royal python accidentally, he made sacrifices of atonement and performed an expensive burial ceremony such as was done for a great man. (Pg 112)

White man: But apart from the church, the white man had also brought a government. They had built a court where the District commisioner judged cases in ignorance. He had court messengers who brought men to him for trial. Many of these messengers came from Umuru on the bank of the great river, where the white men first came many years before and where they had built the centre of their religion and trade and government. These court messengers were greatly hated in Umuofia because they were foreigners and also arrogant and high handed. They were called Kotma, and because of the ash coloured shorts they earned the additional name of ashy buttocks. They guarded the prison, which was full of men who had offended against the white man’s law. Some of these prisoners had thrown away their twins and some had molested the christians. They were beaten in prison by the kotma and made to work every morning clearing the government compound and fetching wood for the white commisioner and the court messengers. Some of these prisoners were men of title who should be above such mean occupation. They were grieved by the indignity and mourned for their neglected farms. As they cut grass in the morning, the younger men sang in time with the strokes of their matchets:
kotma of the ashy buttocks
he is fit to be a slave
the white man has no sense
he is fit to be a slave
The court messengers did not like to be called ashy buttocks and they beat the men. But the song spread in Umuofia.                                                                                                           (Pg 124)

Reverend James Smith: Mr Brown’s successor was the Reverend James Smith and he was a different kind of man. He condemned openly Mr Brown’s policy of compromise and accommodation. He saw things as black and white. And black was evil. He saw the world as a battle field in which the children of light were locked in mortal conflict with the sons of darkness. He spoke in his sermons about sheep and goats and about wheat and tares. He believed in slaying the prophets of Baal.                                                                                          (Pg 130)
District Commissioner: The commissioner went away, taking three or four of the soldiers with him. In the many years in which he had toiled to bring civilization to different parts of Africa he had learnt a number of things. One of them was that a District commissioner must never attend to such undignified details as cutting down a hanged man from the tree. Such attention would give the natives a poor opinion of him. In the book which he planned to write he would stress that point. As he walked back to the court he thought about that book. Everyday brought him some new material. The story of the man who had killed a messenger and hanged himself would make interesting reading. One could almost write a whole chapter on him. Perhaps not a whole chapter but a reasonable paragraph, at any rate. There was so much else to include and one must be firm in cutting out details. He had already chosen the title of the book, after much thought: The pacification of the primitive tribes of the Lower Niger.                                                  (Pg 147)

Interviewer: What should a first time reader expect?
NC: The settings are village like, however the book says among the Ibo, the art of conversation is regarded very highly. Chinua Achebe fully gives expression to this through proverbs or wise sayings: the palm oil with which words are eaten. A few:
One cannot live by the bank of a river and wash his hands with spittle.

A child cannot pay for it’s mothers milk.

An animal rubs its aching flank against a tree, a man asks his kinsman to scratch him.

Living fire begets cold impotent ash.

The clan was like a lizard: if it lost it’s tail, it soon grew another.

Never kill a man who says nothing. There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts.

Those whose palm kernels were cracked by benevolent spirits should not forget to be humble.

When mother cow is chewing grass, it’s young ones watch it’s mouth.

When the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for a walk.

Looking at a king’s mouth, one would think he never sucked his mother’s breast.

A childs’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which it’s mother puts into it’s palm.

Effort was also made on the part of the natives to engage and understand the white man and his religion:

Mr Brown preached against such excess of zeal. Everything was possible, he told his energetic flock, but everything was not expedient. And so Mr Brown came to be respected even by the clan because he trod softly on it’s faith. He made friends with some of the great men of the clan and on one of his frequent visits to the neighbouring villages he had been presented with a carved elephant tusk, which was a sign of dignity and rank. One of the great men in that village was called Akunna; and he had given one of his sons to be taught the white man’s knowledge in Mr Brown’s school.
Whenever Mr Brown went to that village he spent long hours with Akunna in his obi talking through an interpreter about religion. Neither of them succeeded in converting the other but they learnt more about their different beliefs.
You say that there is one supreme God who made heaven and earth, said Akunna on one of Mr Brown’s visits. We also believe in him and call him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other gods.
There are no other gods, said Mr Brown. Chukwu is the only God and all others are false. You carved a piece of wood – like that one (he pointed at the rafters from which Akunna’s carved ikenga hung) and you call it a god. But it is still a piece of wood.
Yes, said Akunna. It is indeed a piece of wood. The tree from which it came was made by Chukwu, as indeed all minor gods were. But he made them for his messengers so that we could approach him through them. It is like yourself, you are the head of your church.
No, protested Mr Brown. The head of my church is God himself. I know, said Akunna, but there must be a head in this world among men. Somebody like yourself must be the head here. The head of my church in that sense is in England. That is exactly what I am saying. The head of your church is in your country. He has sent you here as his messenger. And you have also appointed your own messengers and servants. Or let me take another example, the District commissioner. He is sent by your king.
They have a queen, said the interpreter on his own account. Your queen sends her messenger, the District commissioner. He finds that he cannot do the work alone and so he appoints kotma to help him. It is the same with God, or Chukwu. He appoints the smaller gods to help him because his work is too great for one person.
You should not think of him as a person, said Mr Brown. It is because you do so that you imagine he must need helpers. And the worst about it is that you give all the worship to the false gods you have created.
That is not so. We make sacrifices to the little gods, but when they fail and there is no one else to turn to we go to Chukwu. It is right to do so. We approach a great man through his servants. But when his servants fail to help us, then we go to the last source of hope. We appear to pay greater attention to the little gods but that is not so. We worry them more because we are afraid to worry their master. Our fathers knew that Chukwu was the overlord and that is why many of them gave their children the name Chukwuka – “Chukwu is supreme”.                                            (Pg 126)

Corruption – ever present in the Nigerian dictionary makes an introduction in page 139 -On the morning after the village crier’s appeal the men of Umuofia met in the market place and decided to collect without delay two hundred and fifty bags of cowries to appease the white man. They did not know that fifty bags would go to the court messengers, who had increased the fine for that purpose.                                                                                                                        (Pg 139)

Interviewer: Any parting words?
NC: Things fall apart has been adopted in several educational curricula. It reinforced my belief in motherhood: A child belongs to his/her father, but when the father beats the child, it seeks sympathy in his/her mother. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness, he finds refuge in his motherland. (Pg 94)

I learnt the solution to ending an ogbanje’s cycle of deaths and births: And this faith had been strengthened when a year or so ago a medicine man had dug up Ezinma’s iyi -uwa. Everyone knew then that she would live because her bond with the world of ogbanje had been broken. Ekwefi was reassured. But such was her anxiety for her daughter that she could nto rid herself completely of her fear. And although she believed that the iyi – uwa which had been dug up was genuine, she could not ignore the fact that some really evil children sometimes misled people into digging up a specious one.
But Ezinma’s iyi – uwa had looked real enough. It was a smooth pebble wrapped in a dirty rag.                                                                                                                                         (Pg 56)
I found out why newly married men are addicted to palm wine. A quote had me in stitches – A snake was never called by it’s name at night, because it would hear. It was called a string.

Finally, I wondered if Ezeudu’s sixteen year old son had a hand in Ezeudu’s death. This is because Okonkwo inadvertently shot him after the dreaded one handed egwugwu’s speech.
Ezeudu! he called in his guttural voice. If you had been poor in your last life I would have asked you to be rich. If you had been a coward, I would have asked you to bring courage. But you were a fearless warrior. If you had died young, I would have asked you to get life. But you lived long. So I shall ask you to come again the way you came before. If your death was the death of nature, go in peace. But if a man caused it, do not allow him a moment’s rest. He danced a few more steps and went away.                                                                                                                (Pg 86)

Interviewer: Thank you for your time Sir.

NC: You are welcome, always a pleasure.

Photo credit:http://payload71.cargocollective.com/1/8/262134/3732305/things-fall-apart.jpg

©Ndi Charles 2015

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Teju Cole’s EVERY DAY is for THE THIEF : A review by Ndi Charles

Teju cole

EVERY DAY is for THE THIEF is a thought provoking, witty memoir of an i- been – to (american returnee’s) encounter with the city of Lagos after a decade and half of absence. The author is also a photographer, so this is a book of snapshots; pictorial and literary on the state of Nigerian affairs.

The first chapter abruptly introduces the reader to national bad habits as experienced in the embassy in New York. Dirty carpets, in orderliness, and corruption. The narrator’s early account of travelling to Nigeria is replete with traffic standstills, bickering policemen, and traffic toll collection corruption:

money, dished out in quantities fitting the context, is a social lubricant here. it eases passage even as it maintains heirachies.
(Pg 19)

The informal economy is the livelihood of many lagosians. But the corruption, in the form of piracy or of graft, also means that most people remain on the margins. The systems that could lift the people out of poverty are undercut at every turn. Nothing works precisely because everyone takes a short cut, and for this reason, the only way to get anything doneis to take another short cut. The advantage in these situations goes to the highest bidder, those individuals most willing to pay money or to test the limits of the law.
(Pg 21)

One cannot stay in Nigeria and not experience a power cut (nepa don cease light).

The fan resumes spinning, like a broken conversation continued in mid- sentence. Light bulbs hiss back to brightness in the hallway and living room. The heat is difficult to deal with at night, and often I dont get to sleep until the power is restored. Only then, as the fan cools the room down, do I finally fade out of consciousness. But, within an hour or two, the sun comes up, and the muezzin and the cockerels begin their daily contest; and any further hope of sleep is futile. The hardest thing to deal with after weeks of constant powercuts, is the noise of generators. The house, which is quite large, has been carved up into three sizable apartments. Two have been rented out to other families, an arrangement that supplements my relatives income. One negative result of this arrangement is that there are now three loud diesel generators in the compound. When they all come on, as they do nightly, I can feel my mind fraying. The noise, the dark grey plumes of diesel smoke are foremost in my mind. The moment there is a power cut, my evening is finished. The neighbours downstairs watch south african sitcoms at top volume. My bedroom, near the generator house is filled with the din. It is impossible to hear myself think. I would prefer, on these evenings, to sit in silence wit a candle, but that is not a decision I can make for the eighteen other individuals in the compound.
(Pg 55)

Cockerels crows skittering over the muezzins call to prayer in melismatic arabic is very familiar. The narrator suggests that the proliferation of cyber cafes – symbolic of a connection to a larger world, is wrongfully harnessed by youths – who in trying to shake off poverty have emerged as the yahoo yahoo. Some info on 19 boys is given:

While they often work in the daytime, they especially favour the night; that is when they have discounts at internet cafes. Under cover of night, the yahoo yahoo can work for long coffee fuelled stretches, unmolested by censors.
(Pg 27)

All Lagos owambes I have attended, sitted amongst aso oke caps and shiny geles, I have made sure to consume jollof rice and moin moin, just like the narrator. I am fascinated by religion, also the narrator.

Pastor Olakunle owns several mercedes cars. It is not clear if he is living as victoriously as Pastor Michael who well known, owns both a Rolls Royce and a Lear jet, praise the Lord.
(Pg 45)

Church has become one of the biggest businesses in Nigeria, with branches and ministries springing up like weeds on every street and corner. These Christians are militant, preaching a potent combination of a fear of hell fire and a love of financial prosperity. Many of the most ardent believers are students in the secondary schools and universities. This is the world-view in which prayer is a sufficient solution for plane crashes. Everyone expects a miracle, and those who do not receive theirs are blamed for having insufficient faith. Partly in response to this, and partly from internal urgings, Islam has also become extreme, particularly in the north. Some of the northern states , such as Zamfara, are de facto theocratic entities in which sharia is the law of the land. Staying opposite the Zamfara state house in Abuja, I could not sleep for the constant wailing emanating from the official mosque in the compound.
(Pg 109)

EVERY DAY is for THE THIEF gives the reader a glimpse into how suppression of history has negatively impacted the tourism industry.There is a sad commentary on a museum in Lagos. History, which elsewhere is the bone of contention, is yet to enter public consciousness, at least judging by institutions like the museum. It is indeed jarring to recall: artefacts caked in dust under dirty plastic screens, nonchalant staff, absence of brochures on collections, courtyards rented out for birthday parties. Oya ponder on the prevalent ineptitude of government since tay tay ago:

The Queen of England had come to Nigeria for a state visit in 1973. The then head of state, General Gowon had telephoned Udoh Udoh, director of the museum at the time, to inform him that he was coming over to the museum to select a piece as a gift for her. Dr Udoh, the moment he put the phone down, scrambled to put some of the best pieces away into storage and out of harms way. But how does one hide a whole museum? Gowon arrived in due course, picked a fine benin Queen Mother head from the seventeenth century, much to Dr Udoh’s horror, and gave it away to Elizabeth II. The Queen of England reasonably enough assumed it was a replica. She put it on a shelf in the Royal library. The true status of the piece was not discovered until 2002 when it was brought out for the jubilee exhibition. The fact that it was found to be a genuine antique – John Wallace helped detect this – substantially weakened the Nigerian governments case for the return of the numerous Benin plaques currently in the British museum. The strangest thing about that particular Benin Queen Mother head was that it had originally been plundered by the British in 1897 during the punitive expedition, that destroyed Benin city, and only returned in the 1950’s to help set up the Nigerian national museum. It had already crossed the ocean twice before the General, in gratitude for Britains support of the federal cause during the Biafran war, gave it away again. And the British, this time around, had no intention of returning the work.
(Pg 64)

If that did not make you feel bad for Nigeria. This should:

The narrative on the three most recent regimes, printed on paper, are tacked near the end of the circular gallery. No one could possibly form a positive impression of Nigeria on the basis of this museum. The worst of the butchers that ran the nation aground are celebrated, without exception. Abacha is there, in his dark glasses. Babangida is there, with his oily smile. The sequence of plaques gives an impresion of orderliness and continuity in Nigeria’s post independence history, and no analysis of the coups and counter coups that were the rule rather than the exception for changes of regime. What I wonder, are the social consequences of life in a country that has no use for history.
(Pg 66)

If you are a Nigerian reader, it is highly possible your inner shock absorbers have been damaged.

At times, the absurdity makes me laugh. Other times, the only possible response is stunned silence. shortly before I left New York for Lagos, there was a plane crash in Nigeria. A Bellview aircraft plying the Lagos – Abuja route went down three minutes after take – off, into forests near the village of Lissa in Ogun state. None of the hundred and seventeen passengers on board survived. A government inquiry was promised, and there was much public hand wringing and talk about a time of national prayer. While I am in Nigeria, two months later, a plane belonging to the Sosoliso airlines goes down on the Abuja – port harcourt route. One hundred, and six people are killed, and there is asingle survivor. The victims include seventy – five school children returning home for the holidays. Almost all of them are pupils of the Ignatius Loyola Jesuit boarding
school. There are harrowing scenes of parents contending over the bodies of children burnt beyond recognition. Many of the parents witness the accident, because it happens on arrival, when the plane overshoots the runway. The fire department has no water and can only watch as the plane incinerates its passengers. A few days later, mothers of the dead children stage a peaceful protest in Lagos. At the march, these mothers, some of whom lost as many as three of their children, are tear gassed by police, and that is the end of the matter. There is no further protest, and there is no redress.
(Pg 105)

Just opposite the museum is the music school for rich kids (aje butters) with instruction in singing, violin, piano, flute, clarinet, trumpet, cello and classical guitar for all ages. No wonder Nigerians were rated happiest people in the world.
My favourite quote is: Touting is not a job. It is a way of being in the world. Pure attitude: the chest puffed out, the body limber, the jaw set to brook no opposition. There is, in every single tout , the same no- nonsense attitude, the hair trigger temper, the willingness to get into a fight over any and all conflicts. There is a strut they do, a swagger. These are the original wise guys of Lagos, some of them as young as fourteen. They do not go home in the evening and stop being touts: the thing is bound to their souls. The regular Lagosian, too, has to share this attitude. The body language as one moves through the street has to be one of undiluted certainty and self assurance. Because uncertainty in the face or gait attracts attention, and attention is bad. When you catch a strangers eye, the message you send has to be unequivocal: Trust me, you don’t want to mess with me. There are people who roam around looking for victims. People who by dint of practice, can sniff out weakness.
(Pg 33)

I learnt the difference between: a danfo and a molue, a labyrinth and a maze. I wondered why the narrator hated his mother.

Photo credit: http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1345189865l/2320230.jpg

©Ndi Charles 2015

Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen : A review by Ndi Charles

fishermen-obioma-e1424833792611

In chronicling the journey of the Agwu family into the unknown, The Fishermen comes across as an impressive narrative even for 29 year old Benjamin. The narrative which aims to balance explanations against suspense and mystery as though balancing a book on a needle suddenly runs out of air. In search of air, its mouth widens gulping in the prophecy of Abulu, the mad man and subsequently spirals out of control.

However, I wondered if it was possible for Mr Agwu to work in CBN and have a car but not a generator.Was his marriage arranged? Father hardly called home, because mother waited endlessly for his calls, even marking the days he phoned on a calendar. I was aghast that Mrs Agwu padlocked her kitchen on nights she wanted to starve – scold her children. It seemed amazing that this Aje Butter children did not attend lesson, easily took to commoners, trekked turtous miles to Omi Ala, fetched water to bath from a well or went into town to watch televised football matches. Their being aje butter was reinforced by them asking Mother for the video game console father hid. Most especially because this happened immediately after getting into a fight during one of their earlier escapee football matches.

Mr Agwu seems to be a strict man, but the moment he is transferred to Yola, his house literally catches fire. Ikenna, who he left in charge readily falls to the pleasures of fishing, introducing Boja, Obembe and Benjamin. They all end up singing and fishing in the Omi Ala river whenever they are not smashing house windows with their football. Father as usual is an eagle, our National animal. With nests high up to watch over offspring, The Fishermen emphasizes the absence of love and mentorship as should be experienced between Father and son. In its place is a strict adherence to rules and code of conduct: composure, obedience,study and compulsory siesta. Adaku’s soliloquoy and waking up of children in the dead of the night is a Nigerian mothers way of extracting truth similar to the lie detector test.

The author is well read, there is an introduction to locusts, leeches, falcons, egrets and other species of the animal kingdom. Readers might skip a few pages of detailed description of Abulu, the mad man. The details have caused me apprehension whenever I encounter a mad man.

My favourite quote is the Igbo proverb at the beginning of the book: The footsteps of one man cannot create a stampede.

The author seems drawn into the myth he has created and is sometimes guilty of abandoning the story:

Pg 9 – At my suggestion we begged Mother to convince father to release the console game to play mortal kombat, which he seized and hid somewhere the previous year after Boja – who was known for his usual first position in his class – came home with 24th scribbled in red ink on his report card and the warning Likely to repeat. Ikenna did not fare any better; his was sixteenth out of forty and it came with a personal letter to father from his teacher, mrs Bukkky. father read out the letter in such a fit of anger that the only words I heard were Gracious me! Gracious me! which he repeated like a refrain. He would confiscate the games anf forever cut off the moments that often sent us swirling with excitement, screaming and howling when the invisible commentator in the game ordered, Finish him and the conquering sprite would inflict serious blows on the vanquished sprite by either kicking it up to the sky or by slicing it into a grotesque explosion of bones and blood.The screen would then go abuzz with fatality inscribed in strobe letters of flame. Once, Obembe in the midst of relieving himself ran out of the toilet just to be there so he could join in and cry That is Fatal in an american accent that mimicked the console’s voice over. Mother would punish him later when she discovered he’d unknowingly dropped excreta on the rug.

Frustrated, we tried yet again to find a physical activity to fill up our after school hours now that we were free from father’s strict regulations.

Did Mother try to find the console? There are cartoons even on terrestial Tv for Ben at 9.What occupied Obembe and Ben before Ikenna started taking them fishing?

There is an obvious bending over backwards to please the immediate audience. I wonder how beans transformed into black eyed peas marinated in palm oil sauce. Can you guess that a motorcyle taxi is the same thing as an okada? The disconnect for the Nigerian reader is further accentuated:

pg 9 – The rest of the kids cheered and lifted the boy up, their voices molding into a chorus of victory complete with boos and uuhh uuhhh.

What happened to ohonyi or obenwe? uuh uuhs in Akure?

pg 292 – whenever we and the children of akure saw them flying in the sky, we rushed out and flapped our fingers after the low flying white flock travelling overhead, repeating the one- line saying:egrets, egrets, perch on me.

My robust imagination interpreted this as leke, leke give me water finger. Did you?

Ben’s dream is typical of every Nigerian: I will be a rich man, pilot, president of Nigeria, own helicopters.

There is a constant interplay of phrases using big big grammar. By the first page, Adaku had acquired the gait of wet mouse; the two ventricles held silence.I reached for the dictionary a few times, my vocabulary has improved.I learnt a new word: copse.

Photo credit: http://brittlepaper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/fishermen-obioma-e1424833792611.jpg

©Ndi Charles 2015

#BABAGOSLOW : WAKE UP

buhari 2buhari3buhari

Happy Eid al-Adha, Mr President. As a concerned Nigerian citizen, I wonder how many of these black jallabiya you have. Are you in mourning? Travelling upandan will present photo photo opportunities, will you always be wearing black cloth? An excerpt or maybe the full speech during the UNGA copy pasted off Linda Ikeji’s website is represented below:

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I welcome you to this important event. Let me express Nigeria’s sincere appreciation to UN-AIDS for the support and collaboration in organizing this event.
2. We are on the threshold of history as world leaders adopt the successor development agenda to the Millennium Development Goals. For over 30 years, HIV as a public health challenge has been causing havoc and untold hardship in virtually every part of the world. To date, several million children have been orphaned and some communities have been devastated, while economic activities have been disrupted.
3. Unfortunately, Sub -Saharan Africa bears a disproportionate burden of this epidemic. The good news is that the effort of the global community has resulted in greater control, less spread and better management.
4. Furthermore, we have made significant progress towards the interception of mother to child transmission of HIV. In 2014 alone, over 3million pregnant women were tested for HIV and 63,000 of these tested women, accessed anti – retroviral therapy.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
5. What is required in our continued fight against HIV/AIDS is improved health delivery system, education, and cheaper production of anti – retroviral drugs through technology exchange. Our countries should also look at the whole field of medicare and strengthen our partnership with all stakeholders including the civil society, inter- faith and cultural bodies for education and dissemination of information at all levels. Nigeria will also like to call upon all pharmaceutical companies for more cooperation and understanding in reducing the cost of anti – retroviral drugs through production of generic items.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates.
6. Nigeria will continue to work with development partners and key stakeholders to strengthen the means of implementation of the SDGs as elaborated in the Post- 2015 Development Agenda. At the continental level, Nigeria remains fully committed to the outcome of the Abuja process as evident in the 2002 Declaration, the Action Framework on Roll – Back Malaria. In addition, the 2013 Abuja + 12 Declaration is a strong commitment towards eliminating HIV and AIDs in Africa by 2030. Globally, the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS of 2011 is a major reference point for intensifying efforts to eliminate the epidemic.
7. Nigeria appreciates the support of our development partners for their support and commitment to the total eradication of HIV/AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria as well as other deadly communicable diseases, for example Ebola, when an epidemic arises.
8. I therefore encourage you to continue in your efforts to sustain the fight against infant and maternal deaths, HIV and AIDs, Tuberculosis, Malaria and other communicable diseases, high on the global development agenda.
9. Let us work together to make HIV and AIDs history by 2030.
10. I thank you.

Amongst the 17 new SDGs being canvassed for 2030, your speech writers decided to deliberate on hiv/aids, the number 7 MDG (which is just a part of number 3 SDG).  And we were imploring the west to work with us? On HIV&AIDS? Your speech claims 3 million pregnant women were tested last year. Oya El Presidente where are the 63,000 that accessed anti retroviral drugs? What is the drug called? Empty boasts of declarations and no actual facts/success stories. No report on our success in polio eradication, and subsequent removal of Nigeria from polio inflicted countries in this same general assembly you attended. Would it not have made common sense if we presented a paper on poverty, prevalent in your north which has led to youth embracing boko haram.  Alternatively we could have talked about hunger which is even ravaging the IDP’s all over Nigeria. But we decided to talk on HIV/AIDS, and we are still appealing to the west as our development partner? As for the other SDGs, can this government deliver on quality education or gender equality? What will be the proposed indicators or targets for these goals.This is 2015 oooo El Presidente. Corruption is not our major problem. The major problems are Unity and Faith, emblazoned on our coat of arms. They can be defeated by this goals if you have the heart to tackle them. Please consider how all dis oyibo men really percieve you. You have been fortunate to have had 12 years to plan for this presidency. For the past four months, Nigeria has been in limbo as #Change seems a mirage The people spoke when they elected you. Some say your body language has brought nepa light, yet street lights are not working. If your body language can do that, what will your speech do?

Photo credit 1: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WOnGqgUPBz0/VgglSZVSMQI/AAAAAAAGtXw/OCdpCWZRwJg/s1600/1.jpg

Photo credit 2: http://pulse.ng/politics/muhammadu-buhari-president-meets-german-chancellor-other-world-leaders-at-g7-summit-photos-id3841424.html

Photo credit 3: http://lindaikeji.blogspot.com/2015/09/photos-of-buhari-addressing-un-general.html

©Ndi Charles 2015

EXCERPT- PERKS OF EAGLES

image

Francess lies in a sea of pillows, the sheets in disarray as OJ pulls on a pair of shorts. It is the moment after. OJ wonders if she wishes she can walk away from him, or if she can love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying.
I need money to buy hair.
Okay. I want you to stake out one Alhaji, he’s vital to my operations.
Okay, my Oga! I will send Warebi. Don’t forget my % sha.
You know the drill. Have I ever let you down?
No. You’re my knight in shining armor.
Flattery will get you nowhere.

Outside bar of the hotel, I lay out plans to Mani.
Good good. How we wan do d springboard?
One step at a time.
I nor go screw you. I came all this way na?
You came on my Naira.
We be partners. I nor go tell anybody
Mani nor bother, you de lie.

An announcement comes on. The Freedom hall initiative is starting. Anyone interested in presenting a drama, song, or poem can take the microphone. OJ and Mani find three quarters of the terrace tables are taken. It is a mixture of office clothes, idle sprinkling of jeans and jerseys. A petite lady cautiously approaches the microphone avoiding cables strewn across the floor. She coughs, then introduces her and her art studio location. She claims responsibility for hand painting the art adorning the walls. More pieces are available in an observation room across. Next up, a dreadlocked heavyset male launches into a diatribe on the continuous rape of the oil industry. His take on a Christine Amanpour interview leaves revelers reeling. He is quiet for a few seconds.

O’ my God, it could have been me
O’ humanity, it could have been you
Sleeping on a bed cursed by death
Slaughtered like rams in an abattoir

Those children said their prayers
Some recited spiritual mantras
Before giving sleep it’s right
Oh! O’ sleep, why allow death kidnap them from you?
You’re a weakling to give them away as preys
To demonic vampires, whose consciences
Are seared by brutality…..fostered by cruelty

O’ nation, behold your future
O’ future, behold your nation
Has it any right to one?
Was your throat not slit while you soundly slept?

40 children, 43 children, 59 children
Ah! See the death figures above
Statistics are confused men
Blame them not
Those are lives in their prime
Cut off before their time.

O’ People, rise up and confront the woes
That shred your tomorrow like papers
Hear me, You, who wear a fedora,
Proffer solutions to terrorism and stop misplacing priorities

O’ Fathers
Behold your children gruesomely murdered
O’ Mothers
Behold your children violently butchered
O’ Brothers
Behold your sisters badly burnt
O Sisters
Behold your brothers gunned down
O’ Mr President
Behold your citizens bereaved
O’ God
Behold your gods utterly destroyed

Invite fury if positivity is it’s motive
Tell commiseration to shut up
Order solution to speak up
Call out the lion in every sheep

This pen desires to write no more
It is not as indifferent as man
It weeps uncontrollably
But just before it faints
Heart it’s blatant truth:
“IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU”

He abruptly dropped the microphone. It is picked by a female who proceeds to read a script. A trip in history shows Yugoslavia broke up into five countries in the 90’s. Many had called for a conference or a peaceful breakup along ethnic lines, but Col. Tito, silenced them. Every one of the five major ethnic groups except for Bosnians began to stock arms caches.

The Bosnians were accommodating and tolerant of Serbs, Croats, kosovars and Montenegrins. Onetime, Serbs claimed parts of Bosnia were Serb territory because Serbs moved there and contributed to its development. Tito died and the civil war broke out. The Bosnians were slaughtered and could not procure arms due to an embargo.

She flipped pages. I have a personal request to make to our leaders, if any of their relations are here. Majority laugh, a few smile.
Our Anthem reads thus: The labor of our heroes past shall not be in vain. The last visit of Zik, the founding father of nationalism to Zungeru his place of birth was on Nov 16, 1991. It was after a ceremony to mark his 89th birthday and raise funds to build Zik center which he promised during the 83’ second republic campaign as presidential candidate of NPP to promote education and tourism. Eight years later, the dream ALMOST came to fruition with a fundraiser at the Bako Kontagora memorial stadium under the chairmanship of Maradona. From the fundraising venue, guests drove to the site for the foundation laying ceremony.
There Zik said, my wish and joy is to witness the commissioning of the center.

Alas it was his corpse which was brought to the uncompleted building 5 years later on Nov 12, 96’ as part of funeral activities, 24 years after the center remains uncompleted.
Silence envelopes all, then a clap followed by a smattering of applause. By this time, OJ and Mani think they are in a political gathering of some sorts. The next minute brings relief with an expert rendition of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 on the piano as an usher drops invitations to a concert cum drama presentation: For Love of Country.

A lady reads out Christopher Okigbo’s Elegy for Alto as Mani wanders to the bar to get more drinks. The breeze is getting chillier as OJ puts his hands in hisjacket pockets. He fingers a piece of paper. OJ smiles, peering at the small note.

My prince: Pat Utomi’s 4 C’s- competence, commitment, character and compassion will take you everywhere. Frances must have stuck it in my pocket, she wore this Chelsea jacket the other night.

The next morning Oj and Mani cruise along Herbert Macaulay way in a taxi. Mani repeatedly eyes the mannequins displaying shoes.

How you take hear about dis guy?
Usual sources, na street to d core. The taxi pulls into a plaza, and OJ points to a store.
Na there inspector gadget de kpai people.
Mani and I enter the boutique and are greeted by a bespectacled male, dressed in expensive clothes.
Oga you’re here?
Yes oooo. I de supervise my boys.
The customers thin out as OJ and Mani inspect different shoes. Prices start from 70k. As the last one leaves, OJ turns the OPEN sign on the front door. Mani approaches the counter with a Zara Moccasin. He hands over his bank card to be used on the Pos machine. It slips out of the clerk’s hand, he stoops to retrieve it. When he straightens up, he finds OJ right next to him.
What happened? OJ asks, eyeing the tiny machine the clerk has run the card through.
Sir, you are not allowed behind the counter.
Where did you buy it?
It’s an antifraud machine, the clerk says firmly. It checks valid cards. With all these wayo boys, our Oga said we should be using it to confirm. I hope you understand. Their Oga approaches.
Oh yes I do. I reach out, take the machine, pull out the connecting wires and say to Mani and their Oga. This was used to clone your card details, either he sells the details or he charges your card in other locations.
Are you policemen?
No Ugo, we are people like you. We lead him to the opposite end of the store. Oj is recruiting Ugo for the intro operation. Oke and Tunde will also join for the springboard. Tunde will apply for a prospecting license. Funding from the springboard op should guarantee access to living their dreams.

(NB: It could have been you – Kolawole Freedom Olanrewaju)