ADIEU CHINUA ACHIEVER: We are still no longer at ease as our things are still falling apart!
“When the madness of an entire nation disturbs a solitary mind, it is not enough to say the man is mad…” Chinua Achebe through Francis Imbuga (Betrayal in the City).
“What is good of being a democracy if people are hungry and despondent and the infrastructure is not there. There is no security of life.” Achebe on his post-independent Nigeria.
“It is good to show in stark outline what the real situation is, what the person at the other end of the whip is feeling.But I also understood that I must get on with my work and not dwell on one subject or book.” Achebe on injustice.
Chinua Achebe is our senior achiever in the literary independence of our then dark continent. His works have lit our literary road— they have lit mine, too. His spirit that enabled me to pass my O’ Level, A’ Level and University Literature exams is still inspiring me to pass the national test one and a half years after my nation’s independence. In particular, that line keeps me alive, a statement he made after his nascent independent state persecuted him during the Biafra war of liberation from Nigeria; a thought reflected in my other favourite legend Francis Imbuga, who died in Nairobi the same year with Achebe, in his ‘Betrayal in the City’, the book I passed with highest mark in my literature school career.
My Achebe’s achiever’s inspiration did not stop there. I continued to quote him and paraphrase his works in my maiden poetry book, The Black Christs of Africa (now on its way to the publisher):
To be Pennically jealous and Penniquely zealous, just as I would not want Juba defined and designed with Sheik Zubeir’s architecture, I would not want my pages pasted and passages plastered with Shakespeare’s literature; and neither would I want my messages massaged with Achebe’s achievers flavours, nor my torturous tales tailored with Tutuola’s tutorials. Yet again, if this is not understandable – lo, we go!—
To Mr. Aluetluet*, Chinua Achebe reaffirms in his Anthills of the Savannah, “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches.” If so, then I shall have achieved the main aim of this wordware: written to hurt; to give heartaches and headaches to whom it may concern! Ironically, it can also give heart ‘eggs’ to whom it may console. Since my work does my readers both service and disservice as much as such, if one discerns what concerns one herein, one must employ one’s sixth sense. That a friend once gave me compliment in complaint of my being complex, so is my work: complex in the sense that no single theme is addressed in it, and complex in that no simple title could befit me. So if asked, I am not only a poet or a musician, I am a poemusician, and not a politician but a poetician as far as socio-poetry is concerned. Therefore, my critique as a critic through the spectacles of a journalist and a columnist, a preacher and a teacher, an artist and an artiste, an actor and a director, a blogger and a broker, has revealed to me one principle: to pamper the boiling ego of a politician, flatter him orally; to tamper with it, clatter him morally. Either – but the latter – is well catered for in this book. This is to let you watch out lest they wash you out by their rapid motions of their rabid emotions! It is also my belief that politicians are poly-teachers. They reach out as if to teach how…as you yearn, but if from them you do not learn, they from you do now earn. That is why I have stopped relying on their lying and promised Jon Pen de Ngong, my inner man, “Until it won’t work out, still I won’t walk out.” Lo, we go…!
Chinua Achiever, Pray for us writers!
The African book weaver,
Adieu, our literary legend,
Your demise is too urgent!
Why, my literati uncle?
Why orphaned us too soon
Before my book’s honeymoon?
Truly the words your pen perspired
Have creatively had me inspired.
I passed my school exams at ease,
Saved my future from falling apart.
So why so wide do you from us depart,
Just to orphan us wiggling out of your schools
Raw with all and sundry of the best tools?
Well, now that you had been scheduled to go,
May your blessings right from the plateaux of Togo
All the way to the Nile estuary of Egypt,
Float your literary script in your sanctuary crypt.
May for an endless century our pens remain serious.
May your blood be our inkpot to fuel your African Writers Series
Right from Africa’s new town of Calabar to her old islands of Zanzibar.
May your exemplary fighting by writing in all political fields
Bless us with security; blast us into posterity while being our shields.
Umblically corded and umbrally clouded in your home state of Anambra,
May your soul pray for us writers wielding your pen from a penumbra to an umbra.
For when the madness of the whole nation disturbs a solitary mind –
Said you – our politicians think it is (now) enough to say the man is mad.
Here is another poem dedicated to three of our African literary icons who died in 2007. This was actually my response to Mich Odera, my editor at The Sudan Mirror, who mocked at me when I gave him The Black Christs of Africa to serialize in the weekly newspaper. “John,” Mr. Odero moaned on hearing the consecutive death of the two West and East African poets, one Nigerian Cyprian Ekwensi and one Kenyan Mwalimu Mbega, “Poets die poor!” Now that African authors are well known for political writing endowment, are they also known for a resultant economic endowment? Consider another fate-based consecutive death of another duo from East and West African literati circles, Francis Imbuga and Chinua Achebe in 2013, as then old man warned and moaned, I warned and mourned, thus:
Poets Die Poor!
It was a Sunday,
It wasn’t a sunny day,
But I was reading with a sun ray.
The Sunday Nation had this to say,
“The Irony of a Writer’s fame in poverty:”
Nigerian Lit Legend Cyprian Ekwensi died!
The corner of the same page also loudly cried:
Renowned Kiswahili poet Mwalimu Mbega died!
But not in Nairobi here,
‘tis in his home village there.
Yes, who was there to grab the whistle and blow
That such poets once caused this nation to glow?
Oh, this irreversible path of fate, history,
That swallows and cocoons in oblivion men of victory!
When shall thou vomit Abraham, Shakespeare and Garang,
And release your everlasting prisoners of truth from Soul Grange?
On the right hand page another big one died!
“Literary icon John Rugunda passes on.” I tried
To doubt that heading. The East Africa Theatre Guru
With whose The Burdens I well passed my exam in Gulu?
Three of the same say,
of the same sage,
on the same page,
oh, on the same day!…?
Now in this literature tsunami of the 21st Century, I panicked, who next?
Mitch Odero, my Sudan Mirror editor, on giving him these poems text,
Grinned and groaned, “John, poets die poor!”
“But sir, they die not young, do they, or…?”
John Ruganda of Uganda died of cancer, cancer of the throat.
Yet, he conveyed not along to the sepulchre any sceptre of gloat,
Just like my favourite BBC wordsmith— the late Chris Bickerton,
Whose windpipe caused the airwaves to still bicker with his tone.
And this John of the Sudan is afflicted with cancer, canker of oral bullets.
This, in the advent of our demo–crazy—sound Doom Prophets—
leads to slitting of gullets
by our Lucifer-installed puppets.
O Heaven, develop it not into a tumour that may bloat,
For I do wish my rights to not rot throttled in my throat.
One dislikes to see a man and poet reduced to proclaim on the streets such tidings.
Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881)
Scottish historian and essayist, 1843.
Now that Achebe died in exile, actually at Boston, I swore to my wife and brothers when I was attacked, say, kidnapped in 2006 and stabbed in 2007, respectively, that I would not want to die in Bolton. Here goes the thus interpreted predictions from the Preface of ‘The Black Christs of Africa’:
From words of war to war of words: Having gone through bitter experience upon my mysterious disappearance and reappearance, my wife, Elizabeth Nyiel, and my brother, Job Anyang and cousin, Michael Alith Ngong, teamed up and directly modified my friends’ concerns and pastor’s cautions into questions and condemnations. “John, are you aware of the mentality of our criticism-allergic folks?” she asked, and he reinforced, “Do you know why most African writers publish their books abroad or while abroad?” To me, the answer is this question: come on, guys! During your times as liberation commandos in the bushes of Southern Sudan, had John Garang de Mabior or any of your frontline commanders ever commanded you while sitting in Boston or Bolton?” Of course, no. And if so, then, it needs a series of serious gallant Garangs of various capacities, home-based and hope-based sacrificial lambs, not scapegoats, to convince the whole world to understand what is wrong in and with this southern half of our Sudan. Of course, to my varied worried readers, if you sense villainy, call me a rebel, not a rare devil; but if heroism, call me a daredevil, not a hero, in this book.
Why did Achebe fail to win prizes, and instead, turn down many honours and prizes?
In 1988 Achebe was asked by a reporter for Quality Weekly how he felt about never winning a Nobel prize; he replied: “My position is that the Nobel Prize is important. But it is a European prize.It’s not an African prize, Literature is not a heavyweight championship. Africans may think, you know, this man has been knocked out. It’s nothing to do with that.”