Captain Elechi Amadi, the great author, school mate to the late Chinua Achebe at Government College, Umuahia, spoke to OKAFOR OFIEBOR in Aluu, near Port Harcourt, Rivers State
The late Achebe is often called ‘the father of African literature’. But others will put Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Ayi Kwei Amah and Sembena Ousmane in the same mould. What do you think?I think that Achebe is slightly in a different mould. At one time, he was the General Editor of the African Writers Series. And he edited the works of the other writers you mentioned. He edited the works of Ngugi, myself and others. He made a special impact in all other African writing which no other African writer did. So, if you regard him as a giant in African literature you are not mistaken. Truly, he is a giant of African literature.
Some critics refer to writers who published novels after Things Fall Apart as ‘Achebe’s Children’. Do you agree with this?
Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I and others drew inspiration and courage to write from him. No, in the sense that while there may be common features, like proverbs for instance, in his work and mine, my style and orientation are quite different. There are no white men in my books, and gods and the supernatural play a more powerful role than in Achebe’s books. Again, while Achebe deeply explores colonial politics, I am preoccupied with the intricacies of our people’s culture. As the General Editor of African Writers Series, Achebe described The Concubine when it was published, as an ‘an unusually successful first novel’. I could not have had a better encouragement than that.
Achebe was a meticulous writer. You cannot find any word in the wrong place. This led Soyinka to complain that he wrote with ‘unrelieved competence to relived incompetence’.
I believe the Civil War affected Achebe very deeply and probably robbed him of the Nobel Prize. Between A Man of The People’(1966) Anthills of the Savannah (1987), Achebe’s creativity suffered a lull of 20 years which dealt a fatal blow to any Novel Prize ambitions. But that apart, I am convinced that Achebe deserved that prize based on publication only.
When I met Chinua in January 1989, he gave me a copy of Anthills of the Savannah, in which he wrote: ‘To Elechi with admiration, Chinua’. This book is one of my treasured possessions. This great literary icon admired my writing: so critics beware!
I will always remember Chinua as a giant in African literature, a literary role model, a consummate craftsman and above all, a friend. He was a great essayist because he wrote well. The command of English was thoroughly in his hands.
He was a quiet kind of man, just like me
Achebe’s book, There Was A Country stirred controversies. What is your opinion on this?
Unfortunately, I bought the book but I have not finished reading it. I have managed to read a few pages where he mentioned my name. He mentioned my name as a friend at Government College, Umuahia. I have to finish reading the book before I can comment on it in any fair manner. All I can say is that Achebe, like most Igbo, felt very strongly about the civil war. He has every right to feel the way he felt. If he felt Awolowo starved the Igbos during the war, well, that is his view. Anybody can disagree with him but that is how he saw it. I don’t think there is anything to quarrel about. He merely expressed his own views. When I wrote my own book, Sunset in Biafra, I expressed my own views.
Is it possible for our current education system to produce the likes of Achebe, Soyinka, Elechi Amadi and other literary greats?
Everybody is unique. You can’t produce another Achebe, Soyinka and other writers in the mould. People are unique, whatever field they find themselves. All they need is to be trained. The current crop of writers may produce works better than ours now. Everybody is irreplaceable, like you are irreplaceable.
What is your advice to budding writers?
My endless advice to budding writers is that they have to read, and read and read. If you have not read a lot novels and books, you have no business writing a book. If you haven’t read plenty of poetry, you have no business writing poetry. Now some of our young men just read a few books, perhaps the ones they used to pass their school certificate exams and as university graduates and they start writing. If I count the number of novels they have read, they are insignificant. We were particularly lucky. Achebe, myself, Gabriel Okara, Vincent Ike and most of us who attended Government College, Umuahia, were exposed to a lot of books in our days in the school. There should be an opportunity for them to read those books. That also shows you what good education can also do to an individual. You may have the books but will not read it. You must design a system whereby children are forced to read them.
Can you suggest ways children of today can be made to read books?
When I was Commissioner for Education in Rivers State, as far back as 1986, I went about building libraries in a few schools because I was keen on this reading culture to be imbibed by our children. But each time I built libraries, they were converted into classrooms! The headmasters or principals of those schools complained that they converted them to classrooms because they were short of classrooms. However, you must design a way of making them read. The policy was not continued. Every school must have a library. So if it is a powerful government policy: you build these libraries and employ librarians to man them, and stock them with books and make sure that the children have library hours to read. If you do all that, the reading culture will change.
In Achebe’s The Problem with Nigeria, he says the Nigerian problem is that of leadership, not followership? Others argue otherwise.
No, leadership is the problem. Not followership. If a leader gives direction, people will follow. I have been in political leadership. I have been a Permanent Secretary in many ministries and later Commissioner for Education. So I know what I am talking about. From my experience, you get people to do what you asked them to do if you lead by example. For instance, when I was appointed Commissioner for Education, there was a huge strike by teachers in my hands over non-payment of salaries and other emoluments. I sat the leadership down and found that most of their complaints were genuine. I told them not to worry but they must fulfil their own obligation by teaching well. I did exactly that. All their outstanding allowances and salaries were paid. And I directed my accountant that, 24th of every month, all the teachers in the state must be paid. I warned him that if he defaulted, I would sack him. And I meant it!
The teachers were first to be paid every month. You needed to see the enthusiasm with which teachers worked because they had their pay and had nothing to worry about. This is the atmosphere we had to generate. We don’t just talk about it. In some states, teachers are owed for months; when they protest, they are asked to go back to the classroom. You are telling a worker you have not paid his wages to go back to work! That is not fair. You expect a worker who has not been paid, whose wife is sick and cannot take her to hospital and cannot feed himself and family to work for you and you are in opposition to paying him and you don’t pay him. That is criminal. This is because the man has worked for 30 days. How do you expect him to survive? These are things that leaders should handle.
When you give good leadership, you would be properly followed. Look at Nelson Mandela who was jailed for 27 years, became President and he has no house. Why can’t that happen in Nigeria? Why will a public servant not be contented with his salary? I finished working as a commissioner for four years, I couldn’t maintain my car, and I couldn’t pay my children’s school fees. I was riding okada from here to Choba. My father’s wives protested why I should ride okada and I asked why not? And I took bus to Port Harcourt to do whatever I wanted to do and come back. Why? This is because I did not steal public money. That is the way we were brought up at Umuahia. Honesty was the best policy. I had no car. The car I ride now was given to me by Governor Rotimi Amaechi when he was giving cars to elder statesmen in the state. But for that I would not have known what to do. I probably would have been using a small car. You can preach all you can, but if the followers see that the house you could not build before, you built a mansion in less than six months, you own 20 houses in Port Harcourt, 30 in Onitsha, one in New York and you still sermonise to the followers not to steal, you are just wasting your time. You will be wasting your time because they will steal more than you.
Achebe was seen by many as over-romanticising his Igbo people. What is your position?
Achebe loved the Igbo, his people, very much and I can’t fault him on that. You can’t fault anybody for loving his people. He used the tools he had to his advantage. He stood up for them. He fought for them. They were diplomatic tool, intellectual tool and you can’t fault him. That was why when Biafra collapsed, Achebe also collapsed. It was such a trauma for him.That is why, in my view, for 20 years he could not write a novel. In-between, he wrote The Trouble With Nigeria. But that was not a novel in creative writing. He wrote A Man Of The People in 1966, just before the coup. And it took him 21 years to come out with Anthills of the Savannah, in 1987. That lull was too much. Because of his great love for his people, when Biafra fell, he was almost inconsolable and it took him quite a while to recover.
How do you assess Achebe’s propaganda during the Biafra era?
Ah! It was very, very effective. It was extremely effective. If you read my Sunset in Biafra, I expressed my opinion on it. The propaganda of Biafra accounted for much of the resistance of the Biafrans. When I had people like Okoko Ndem read those things that Achebe wrote over the radio and so on, all Biafrans felt confident and determined to win the war. He was very effective in his propaganda.
Twice Achebe was nominated for national honour and twice he rejected it. What is your opinion on this?
Again, it is also his intense love for his people. He felt why should he receive national honour from a country that was not treating his people well? But from my opinion, he was wrong in rejecting national honour. You have to forget the man on the seat of government, whether Babangida, Gowon or Goodluck Jonathan. They are not Nigeria. It is not the man; who is the man? It is the country made up of about 160 million people, not the man in power.
No man is bigger than his country. In that regard, I thought he should have accepted it. It is the country that nurtured you.You attended the schools in your country and Achebe is what he is today because of the country of his birth. He went to Government College, Umuahia, the University College, Ibadan. So, when the country says ‘My son, you have done very well, take this’, you have to accept it.
Why Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Recorded Increase Amidst COVID-19
Analysts have attributed the recent increase in investment recorded on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange to a lot of reasons, especially on the portfolio investors’ cash trapped in the country.
The MD/CEO, Capital Square Limited and the Acting Chairman Financial Group, Lagos Chambers Of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Obinna Anyanwu, explained that at the beginning of the pandemic, most portfolio investors had sold off their shares only to re-invest the funds when they could not repatriate the remaining liquidated investments.
Anyanwu said, “Before the lockdown, while the world was getting into COVID-19 crisis, the country experienced scarcity foreign exchange, and exchange rate began to go up as the naira was taking a heat from all the other major currencies.
But as that happened, the CBN reacted by subtly devaluation, but they were not clear about it, and this made the Dollar to go up from N360 to N380, which created some level of uncertainty in the market, and a couple of these funds had to exit.
“However, these funds that have gotten out of trading, which were withdrawn by the portfolio investors made the exchange to move up at that point in time.
Secondly, the remaining of those funds that they were unable to move out of the country, as they were stocked in the country was reinvested by these portfolio investors since they could not get out of the country so that they can still remain players in the market.”
He pointed out that at this period, that no economy in the world can yield returns on investment like the Nigerian economy, explaining that the global economy is generally affected.
Commenting on local investors, the financial analyst noted that there is some speculation that a few more funds came into the country due to the quantitative easing that was happening globally, adding that those money were plunged into the stock market since there is high rate of returns in this economy.
“Again internally, some Nigerians that might have held their money in current accounts that are also looking for returns may have probably given mandate to their portfolio investors, assets managing companies they use out there, and also security trading companies to get some stocks for them, which has automatically boosted investment,” he stressed.
According to a recent NSE report, a total turnover of 1.495 billion shares worth N12.894 billion in 20,982 deals were traded on by investors on the floor of the exchange, in contrast to a total of 2.440 billion shares valued at N19.932 billion that exchanged hands in week of review in 18,918 deals.
“The Financial Services industry (measured by volume) led the activity chart with 1.238 billion shares valued at N8.424 billion traded in 12,835 deals; thus contributing 82.82 percent and 65.33 percent to the total equity turnover volume and value respectively.” The report stated.
The report also revealed that the healthcare industry followed with 72.953 million shares worth N386.138 million in 465 deals, while the third place was the consumer goods industry, with a turnover of 48.567 million shares worth N1.904 billion in 2,611 deals.
Sourced From: Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics
Question From A Non-Shiite Nigerian
By Ibrahim Sheme.
Anybody saying the Shiites could be made to become “hardened” through the ongoing strong-arm security response to their demonstration in Abuja does not appear to know them properly.
Theologically they do not harbour “hardening elements” in the mould of, say, the Boko Haram as some analysts think. For one, they fully believe in “Boko” (western education), that is why they are everywhere – in business, politics, government, media, schools, and even the security services, among others. And that is why they do everything in the open. The guys we see demonstrating in the streets are merely the “face of the Shiites”, but they are not the only ones.
From my reading of their history and activities, I do not believe they will engage in an insurgency like that of BH. I cannot think of a country where they did that, including those countries where they were/are severely persecuted – e.g. Iran under the Shah and today’s Saudi Arabia. But they believe in increasing their numbers to such a humungous level where it is possible for them to launch a revolution. Alternatively, they believe in acquiring or utilising power through participatory politics and all other legitimate human endeavours – very much unlike the BH whose core belief centres on armed resistance.
Someone in the security circle seems to know only the aspect of their non-violent, participatory bent, in my view, hence the gruesome campaign to depopulate them through the brazen killing of their unarmed members participating in civil protest. But killing them is a misplaced and misguided option. The fact that what they are doing tallies with their constitutional rights makes the killing illegal and untenable and disturbingly smacks of a Sunni plot.
Another thing those authorising the killing do not seem to know is that these gun-shootings don’t scare the Shiites into submission or dispersal because martyrdom is at the core of their theology. The only “hardening element” the killing tends to cause is that it strengthens the Shiites’ sense of martyrdom and galvanises them into more protest. In the end the government is the loser because it is attracting negative world and local attention to itself.
Already, there is a growing backlash. One, human rights organizations have been crying foul, with Amnesty International two days ago giving a damning report on the strong-arm response to the Shi’a protest. Two, more than a million votes (of the Shiites) have already been lost by the ruling APC in next year’s general elections. I daresay most Shi’a votes in the 2015 elections went to Buhari rather than to Jonathan, but this time around your guess is as good as mine! Three, some local legal luminaries and civil rights campaigners are talking about compiling evidence for filing a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) sometime in the future. The question from me, a non-Shi’a Nigerian, is this: Pray, does Baba Buhari need all this awful negativity?
If I were an aide with the President’s listening ear, I would tell Baba this:
1. Stop the brutal killing of the young protesters.
2. Release Sheikh Elzakzaky, his wife and other Shi’a detainees immediately.
3. Rebuild and give back Elzakzaky’s Zaria house and learning centre.
4. Pay compensation to Elzakzaky for the killings and the demolitions.
5. Advise Governor El-Rufai and any other state governor to reach a rapprochement with the Shiites.
6. Prosecute in court any Shiite found breaking the law in due course.
Doing this, I believe, is in accordance with the oath of office the President took. Sadly, I am no such aide and it appears that those who have his listening ear either are afraid to tell him the truth or actually think the present like of action is the best. Or, maybe, they don’t give a hoot about any possible consequences.
Ibrahim Sheme is a bilingual Nigerian writer, journalist, filmmaker and publisher.
Sourced From: The Authority News
Something’s Wrong !!!
I’ve seen youths that are so visionary, proclaiming the future leadership of Nigeria and fervently committed to making it a better place.
It is lamentable that leaders of contemporary Nigeria are now aversive to stealing millions of Naira. You surprisingly become a celebrity when you embezzle billions- could this be called a celebration of engrained kleptomania?
Its often said that when the mother cat chews, the cat watches- is it when the national cake is totally squandered and the condition of Nigeria deteriorates beyond redemption that the mission-critical and incorruptible youths will wake up from their slumber or how will we be tomorrow leaders if today leaders are glued to all available political seats?
Pope expresses hope, Imams preach Iman (faith) even babalawos caution “alawos”, all for the sake of doing things right. Thessalonian 5:22 in the Bible says flee all appearances of evil while the Holy Quran says audhu billah mina sh-shaytani r-rajeem (which loosely translate to seeking protection in Allah, from the accursed Satan) yet, the advocacy of doing things the way they should be done is a phenomenon that is looked down upon in my dear country Nigeria where the law-makers are even involved in several infractions, violating the law themselves. Why this? Im yet to get an exposition. I wondered, are we Nigerians holy at all?
Only if these greedy political leaders know that anything that is natural belongs to everybody, there wouldn’t be a situation where the philosophy of the rich getting richer while the poor and vulnerable are becoming more dispossessed will become the practice of Nigerians.
I took reflective moments to ponder on issues bedeviling Nigerians’ standard of living and reasoning compared to other developing African countries. I found out that we have undermined our values and over-flogged secondary heritages.
Imagine the Nigerian National Flag of the combination: Green-White-Green of which green denotes agriculture and the white sandwiched in between which denotes peace has now been put to shame as agricultural sector today receives little or no attention compared to other sectors like the oil and gas, banking sectors and their like. Peace in Nigeria is shattered to pieces by different disasters like the recent outrageous flood, the heavy rainfall that affected virtually half of the country over the last year leaving a lot of Nigerians homeless and dispossessed, the insurgences of the Boko Haram sect, kidnappers, MEND, Niger/ Delta militants and a lot more that continue to perpetuate insecurity which have consequently turned off potential investors both home and abroad and automatically decreasing the rate of commercial inclination in the country considering the cosmopolitan nature of my dear country. Now, is our national flag not outrightly defeated?
Nigeria, the proclaimed Giant of Africa, before reaching any conclusive decision constitutes an x-men committee, where x ranges; it could be 4,5,6 to tens, in which their outcome is always not applaudable rather, condemnable. To buttress this, I remember the recent Boston marathon bomb-blast in the U.S (an incident which I followed closely) that claimed three innocent lives and injured many. The two perpetrators were apprehended within four days after the incidence. FBI killed one and the other subjected to the law quite immediately without constituting any committee or panel to look into the situation. Boko Haram has gone a long way in disreputing Islamic religion and discrediting Nigeria in the face of other nations by their incessant bomb-blast claiming peoples lives and properties in tens and hundreds, still, nothing spectacular has “successfully” been done to put a final halt to their menace and operations. Now, are we practically not the dwarf of Africa?
Isn’t it pitiable that 20 percent Nigerians feed on less than $1 daily? (POLL Vanguard 21 May,2013.). For how long will this high rate of poverty, wretchedness and low standard of living persist?
Amongst all odds, as a matter of fundamental urgency, the Federal government and ASUU leadership MUST as soon as possible reach a compromise that will consequently put an end to this strike that has left millions of Nigerian students Idle and frivolous. Remember, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I cease to imagine how anarchical it would be if the aggrieved Nigerian students should decide to stage a protest .
Looking at the enormity of the problems that Nigeria is encountering in comparison to the epileptic approach taken by our hedonistic “rulers” to proffer a far-reaching solutions to them, it then occurred to me that “Something’s Wrong (with Nigeria)”
Notwithstanding, I speak in oneness of young Nigerians, like you and I, claiming no other heritage or lineage, believing in Nigeria’s potential to become a developed nation, her futuristic plans of eradicating corruption, in whom the destiny of Nigeria lies to contribute our quota to making Nigeria a world class nation
Remember, today is that tomorrow we wished for yesterday. How good we make use of today will determine how better tomorrow will be. Contributing our quota to the betterment of our dear country Nigeria is just like building a reputation of a legend for ourselves as whatever we do today will definitely make up our history tomorrow.
Written by Kazeem Bolarinwa.
Kazeem is a graduating student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
Business Administration Department.
TO THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS (NANS)
By Kazeem Bolarinwa
From the inception of this strike, it’s my consistent belief that if NANS happened not to have been “financially impressed” to remain dormant on this issue, I’m utterly sure that a substantial or rather commendable action would have been taken to suppress the threat of this ruthless industrial action. Knowing the power of students, it’s not rocket science.
It’s important to note that protest is an expression of objection which can take different forms, it could be by words or actions. Therefore, to all myopic thinkers that believe that protest means shouting and rubbishing ourselves on the street, I’m sorry that’s not it. This is 21st century, things should change for better if pessimistically not the best.
To the NANS president, remember that; A flock of sheep led by a lion will surprisingly be defeated by a group of lions led by a sheep. Here, it’s time for NANS’ leadership to realise that we students shouldn’t be played like a ball between the two aggrieved parties who are indecisive and uncompromising.
You keep asking what you should do, so laughable! You wouldn’t have assumed the mantle of leadership since you know that you are not a good manager as far as running the affair and leadership of the over 25million tertiary institution student in Nigeria.
NANS! This is the time to demonstrate how reliably active you can be by letting all ASUU strike victims benefit from the exhibition of your competence.
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