Opinion

The Drummer In The Rock And The Lessons From Things Fall Apart

By Lorenz Bajah

“That boy calls you father. Do not bear a hand in his death” Ezeudu, the oldest man who had been a great and fearless warrior and was now accorded the highest respect in all the clan of Umuofia told a surprised Okonkwo who was about to say something, when he dragged him out of ear shot supporting himself with his stick. “Yes, Umuofia has decided to kill him. The great Oracle of the Hills and the Caves has pronounced it. They will take him outside Omuofia as is the custom, and kill him there. But I want you to have nothing to do with it. He calls you his father.” Whatever made Okwonkwo to act otherwise in respect to Ezeudu’s advice is what is making all the hair on my body to stand up as I pen this piece. “If I were you I would have stayed at home. What you have done will not please the Earth. It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families.” Okwonkwo’s friend Obierika told him afterwards.

In 1952, Chinua Achebe the author of Things Fall Apart where the above excepts are derived from, entered a short story competition as an undergraduate student in the English Department of University College, Ibadan, nobody who entered the competition was good enough but he was singled out as someone with some promise. The story he submitted lacked “form” according to his lecturer, when he applied some pressure on his professor to explain to him what form was or meant, it became clear that she was not prepared and could not explain to him. It dawned on him that despite her excellent mind and background, she was not capable of teaching across cultures, from her English culture to his African culture. It was those circumstances [lack of understanding and respect for other people’s culture and custom] that moved him to put down on paper the story that became Things Fall Apart.

Critics accuse Achebe’s works of not been optimal on literal creativity [I doubt how true this is] but one thing they all agree on is his intellectual and sociological prowess which is unparallel in literal circus. For a young man of less than thirty to put on paper a story of fiction that is still relevant and captures the true essence of what is happening 66 years later in the country now is no little feat by any standard round the globe. “The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others. We have albinos among us. Do you not think that they came to our clan by mistake, that they have strayed from their ways to a land where everybody is like them?” Uchendu, Okwonkwo’s maternal uncle advising him against clannish superiority complex and intolerance when he was in exile in the land of his mother.

Okwonkwo was successful at a tender age, it wasn’t as if his palm-kernels were cracked for him by the gods, he cracked them himself by grimly struggling against poverty and misfortune. He was the greatest warrior in the land as such he was chosen by the nine villages of Umuofia to carry a message of war to their enemies unless they agreed to give up a young man and a virgin to atone for the murder of Udo’s wife, he brought back a virgin who was given to Udo as wife, and the lad Ikemefuna, who Ezeudu warned him not to bear a hand in his death because he called him father. Okwonkwo had no respect for women, he believed that women belong to the other room; he disdained those who had respect for women. When Ogbuefi Ndulue the oldest man in Ire village of Umuofia clan died and his first wife Ozoemena went immediately followed him to their ancestors, Obierika told Okwonkwo that it was said the two had one mind, that when he was a boy there was a song about them that said Ogbuefi Ndulue could not do anything without telling Ozoemena. “I did not know that” said Okwonkwo. I thought he was a strong man in his youth” Obierika reminded Okwonkwo that “He [Ogbuefi Ndulue] led Umuofia to war in those days,”

If a young man enlists in the army and is commissioned a soldier that gallantry fought a civil war, rise to become Military Administrator of a state at 34 years, Federal Minister at 35, General Officer Commanding and above all Head of State at 41 years. One cannot call this type of rise in life luck but product of hard work; it is very normal and natural for this kind of person to attract affection and respect from his tribe or ethnic group as the case may be, it is also normal for this kind of person to be the life and grand patron of an association of his ethnic group, and in this capacity the person can be drafted to go to Oyo state let’s say in October 13, 2000 to ask the then governor of the state Lam Adeshina “Why are your people killing my people?” when there is crisis between his people and other people. Such a person may not listen or receive advice from elders; above all like Okwonkwo they may be moved in life by the desire to preserve the agendas of their forefathers to ensure the superiority of their clan or tribes.

It seems there is a drummer inside the rock in the middle of the land and those who go into or close to the rock dance and sing to the drum beats of the drummer. On June 7 2016 the minister of Interior came out of the rock singing this song on Channels TV “herdsmen farmers clashes is a non military issue therefore we are not deploying the military.” The chief of the rock himself could not resist the rhythm of the drummer on January 18 2017 when he sang while hosting chieftains of the platform that brought him to power that “I felt I had to invite you to let us eat together and tell you that I am sitting here very much aware of the problem [herdsmen killings] in this country. I will always reflect on historical antecedents. I decided to drop the uniform and come back here, so I have gone through it over and over again. This is why I am not in a hurry to do anything. I will sit and reflect and continue to operate with my clear conscience.” It seems, let’s face it, that while the nation was burning the chief was eating and reflecting with his chieftains.

The Minister of Agriculture [lets add Animal Husbandry] came out of the rock singing this song “the inability of the government to pay attention to herdsmen and cow farming unlike other developed countries contributed to killings [of farmers of minority ethnic groups in north central Nigeria]” he forgot one important fact that rendered his song short in substance which is, since 1973 when the first document titled ‘Agricultural Development in Nigeria [1973-185]’ was prepared by the late Professor Olajuwon Olayide, the renowned agricultural economists and former vice chancellor of University of Ibadan, efforts made by government to encourage settled agricultural and modern livestock farming through ranching as adopted by even underdeveloped countries like Kenya and Botswana has been resisted by Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria.

The governor of the state situated on the rocks and tableland came out of the rock in the middle of the country smiling apparently moved by the drummer inside when he told the country that, he had warned the food basket governor against passing and implementing the legally backed anti-open grazing bill. On January 5 this year, a few days after herdsmen massacred 73 people in Benue state, the Inspector General of Police came out of the rock obviously trilled by the drummer, singing this song “Obviously it is a communal crisis, for herdsmen are part of the community; are they not?” another stanza of his song went like this “Let’s use the example of Benue, you know most of these states where you have several languages, you know it is an issue of communal misunderstanding. I think what we should be praying for is for Nigerians to learn to live in peace with one another; I think it is very important.” If he apologized for singing this song when he left and was far away from the rock, it goes to underscore one fact that the drummer in the rock is sure powerful and influential.

A drummer must be good at his or her art to entertain soldiers, Generals for that matter. Coming out of the rock with all security chiefs in the land on January 25 2018, the Minister of Defence played this song to Nigerians “Whatever crisis that happened at any time, there has to be remote and immediate causes. What are the remote causes of this farmers/herders crisis? Since Independence, we know there used to be a route whereby these cattle rearers use. Cattle rearers are all over the nation you go to Bayelsa, you see them, you go to Ogun, you see them. If those routes are blocked, what happens? These people are Nigerian, it’s just like you going to block river or shoreline, does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes. But what are the immediate causes? It is the grazing law. These people are Nigerians; we must learn to live together with each other that is basic. Communities and other people must learn to accept foreigners within their enclave, finish.”

The chief of the rock told one homosexual advocating Bishop in London that, “The problem is oven older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of gunmen from Sahel region into different parts of West African sub-region. They were trained and armed by Muammar Gadaffi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram. Herdsmen that we used to know carried only sticks and maybe a cutlass to clear the way, but some these ones now carry sophisticated weapons. The problem is not religious, but sociological and economic. But we are working on solutions.” When we blame the dead for our security woes, then it sure means we have reached all time low in security issues. If a failed state like Libya is able fish out illegal Nigerian immigrants to deport back to Nigeria, and Nigeria can’t fish out armed Libyans killing Nigerians in Nigeria at will and for sport, then something is unacceptably wrong with Nigeria.

Yes, accepted the murderous and genocide [the worst crime against humanity] committing herdsmen are Libyans. I flipped pages of my history texts and discovered that El Kanemi, one of Africa’s greatest heroes mother was from Tripoli, Libya. He had more reasons to love Libyans more than all of us and I am searching to see where Libyans the people of his mother where killing his people and he asked his people that “Your Excellency, the governor and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies have been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished. I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your countrymen. You can also be assured that I am just as worried and concerned with the situation.” I am wondering if he could not have deployed his military might on rampaging Libyan herdsmen killing his people or rather ask his people to accommodate them.

Throughout the search I am yet to see where he abdicated the armed forces of their number one duty of fighting off external aggressors to tell visiting Bishops that “I know the Ministry of Agriculture and the Governors Forum are doing a lot to resolve the lingering crisis between herdsmen and farmers, we must give them a chance.” His minister of Agriculture did not advocate for “cattle colony” or Grazing Reserve Act that gazetted 313 grazing reserves mostly in the North-Central covering a total area of 2.8 million hectares representing 3% of the total land mass of his kingdom to be given to armed Libyan herdsmen.

He must have been aware of the fact that Sambisa Forest measuring 686 square kilometers, 8 million hectares and 68 million plots of 100 feet by 100 feet. At five cows per plot, could take 340 million cows; 340 million cows been 18 times the number of cows in his kingdom, with 19 million herds of cattle, 72 million goats and sheep in his kingdom. Sambisa Forest could serve as a grazing reserve area for his beloved and valued Libyan herdsmen if he chose to keep them in his kingdom.

In his 2016 Eid-el-Kabir message, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III advised that “All those so-called Fulani herdsmen, moving with guns, causing violence, fighting with farmers, are not Nigerians. These are foreigners coming into Nigeria to cause a breach of peace of the nation. They are therefore terrorists and should be treated as such by Nigerian security agencies.” Just as for mere posturing IPOB was declared a terrorist organization and pythons were sent to dance with them, and for breaking of oil pipe lines crocodiles were sent to smile with avengers, ordinary citizens demanded for tsetse fly to bite the foreign herdsmen but like Okwonkwo who had aversion to advice and sound wisdom, the chief of the rock answered through his spokesman on 9-21-2017 that “There is a difference a criminal activity and a terrorist activity. Yes some Fulani herdsmen are a criminal gang and they are being dealt with according to the law.” the IGP on February 28 2018, shortly after honouring an invitation by the House of Representatives said “It will do us some good if we avoid hasty formulation and implementation of such laws [anti-open grazing laws] across the country in the interest of peace and unity.” These are sure interesting times to be in Nigeria where the interests of foreigners fly higher than those of Nigerian citizens.

It was because Okwonkwo did not listen to Ezeudu’s advice that his gun exploded and a piece of metal from it pierced a boy’s heart. As his friend Obierika told him earlier, his house was wiped out, him and his family was uprooted from his beloved Umuofia banished to Mbanta the land of his mother for seven years but he did not change, in like manner those who lost power in 1980s for the same reasons that people are complaining about today are yet to change their way of thinking and leadership style. Like Uchendu advised Okwonkwo against clannish superiority complex and intolerance, so is the duo of the generals from Ogun state and Takum advising the chief of the rock, that other tribes in the country are not here by mistake.

Okwonkwo doubted if Ogbuefi Ndulue was really a strong man in his youth for respecting his wife, unlike Ogbuefi Ndulue, Okwonkwo did not have the luxury of dying in ripe old age being attended to by three young wives and an older one following him home to his maker because life made no meaning without him, he died a shameful death by hanging himself. The death of an image and name is more painful than physical death, for a man to be alive and watch his hero worshipping fanatics hang his messiah image, integrity virtue and name on the tree is the worst kind of death. May the 93 year old former chief of the rock from the Caliphate state rise in the likeness of Ezeudu supporting himself with his walking stick to advice the present chief of the rock to “stop the drummer in rock and end the genocide against minority ethnic groups of North-Central Nigeria and Tiv people because these people purchased this one nation with their blood during the civil war, above all they call you Tor and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.” May the Eagle on the Iroko sleep on in peace for the lessons from Things Fall Apart.

This piece was first published in May 3, 2018

 

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