Archive for February 2008

Niyi Osundare At 60

February 26, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Recently, Professor Niyi Osundare, poet, scholar, essayist, humanist and patriot turned 60. Unfortunately, the Nigerian environment was most unreasonably saturated with a lot of animal noise and needless tension as a result of the unwholesome and primitive politics that appears to have found fertile ground in these parts, and so an event of such magnitude was grossly under-marked and underreported. 

 

  

Sadly, instead of Osundare and his sterling contributions to literature, society and the academia dominating the public space at such a time, exasperating din from mere empty containers, who have done nothing but bleed Nigeria pale since they inflicted themselves on the nation as politicians and resilient leeches, grabbed the front pages. 

 

  

In a way, that would seem an apt reward for Osundare himself who has over the years used his poetry, essays and public speeches to vigorously combat the ills these people nurture and represent in his consistent struggle to see Nigeria emerge as a strong, decent and well-governed nation, which everyone one of us would be very proud to call our own. 

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      Prof Niyi Osundare

 

  

Osundare’s commitment to his fatherland has remained exceptional. Even in the most hazardous of all times, he had refused to abandon the country, preferring instead to stay put at Ibadan, for his students and Nigeria. His various interventions, usually crafted in very strong but unique and exceptionally beautiful language, has jolted dictators, emboldened the populace and generally contributed rare insights and motivations to the struggle for a better nation.    

  

 

The literary community, however, defied the depressing mood of the time, and stood up to honour one of its extraordinary giants on his sixtieth birthday. Readings and lectures were organized at several literary spots to mark the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I got the invitation to attend the special reading in Osundare’s honour on Saturday March 10, at The Jazzhole, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, I could not make it. The Association of Nigerians Authors (ANA) also met at the National Theatre that same evening for its monthly reading, which it dedicated to the great poet. There were other equally exciting gatherings of the tribe at other venues in Ibadan and Lagos and Ikere Ekiti, where the leading poet was, was most deservedly, wrapped with shinning encomiums and celebrated with enchanting chants.  

 

osundare1.jpgProf Niyi Osundare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is now widely accepted that Osundare is Africa’s finest poet. His way with words is distinct and rare. It is impossible to read Osundare’s poetry and not be awed by his great insights, and overwhelmed by the great talent he betrays, and the exceptionally overpowering way he deploys words to great effects. His ability to create very vivid and lasting imageries in the mind of the reader, the rhythms he realizes so effortlessly, and the deep, fresh meanings his poems yield each time one reads them, are what, in my view, makes his work stand out all the time. 

 

 

  

Osundare’s 1988 collection, Moonsongs (Ibadan: Spectrum Books), remains my favourite of all his works I have read, and each time I want to thoroughly enjoy myself, admire exceptional talent and immerse myself in the overwhelming power and exhilarating aura of well loaded words, I always go to Moonsongs. And like the poet sang to the moon in the book, I would implore his poetry to “mother me in the surging valley of [her] knowing bosom”

 

  

Perhaps, it is only the moon that can “heal the scars of wounded winds” as the cricket, perhaps, overwhelmed by the immaculate brightness of the full new moon seeks to “slit night’s silence with the scalpel of its throat.”

 

It is impossible to read Moonsongs, and not see yourself under the immaculate brilliance of a moonlit night. It is so pleasantly real. 

 

  

Though a great and loud admirer of Osundare, I have neither met him nor made any attempts to do so, but as I read Moonsongs once again, to mark his birthday, I longed for a full bright moon to “spread” across the sad Lagos “sky like a generous mat”, to illumine my environment, and sack the gloom and darkness that has become an inevitable feature of existing in a badly run country like Nigeria, so I could compose and sing my own “moonsongs” to celebrate this great bard. For which day would be most appropriate to do this than on a moonlit night, when the smile of the moon “ripens the forests”, and men and women are bathed with its golden glory.  

  Spread the sky like a generous mat  Tell dozing rivers to stir their tongues Unhinge the hills Unwind the winds

The moon and I will sing tonight. (Moonsongs, p.1) 

 

moonsongs.jpg

 

I derive immense pleasure from devouring any essay, poetry or interview by Osundare, or anything written on him or his work. I make it a habit to update my collection of materials on him. His words carry almost that same sagely weight, insight and originality that one hears only in the likes of Chinua Achebe. 

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 It is always painful to remember that we would have lost Osundare to Hurricane Katrina which wreaked havoc in some parts of the United States in 2005. When the toxic water took over their apartment, Osundare and his wife fled to the attic and were there in the intense heat, without any drinking water, food, electricity, or any means of communication for 26 hours. Later they were rescued by a neigbour who had come around with a boat, perhaps, to pick some things from his own house. 

 

“That was our escape”, Osundare told the Voice of America (VOA) in October 2005. “It was purely accidental. If our neighbour hadn’t come, we would have been part of the statistics by now.”  

 

At the time this disaster occurred, Osundare was a professor of English at the University of New Orleans. And when he wrote the following words in the dedication page of Moonsongs,  it was doubtful if he ever thought it would one day celebrate his own triumph over death in New Orleans: 

For all who stood for  life when twilight  thundered in with a cavalry of howling axes and death suddenly sprang from the armpit of waking stars But Earth said No to their crimson plot… Noon yet, then, at our forge of busy bellows We shall break many  Moons on the elbow of the river deep, ever so deep, like the rainbow of a thousand dreams.We are grateful to God that Osundare survived Hurricane Katrina. Although he had lost to the floods most of the things he valued so much: his books, manuscripts, computer files and more, I agree with the person who said that what he has is greater than what he lost, for the brain from where the contents of those lost manuscripts emanated remains fertile and active. 

This is wishing the great poet, scholar and crusader many happy returns of the day.

 

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Culled from the Wednesday Back   page column,  SCRUPLES,  of the Independent (www.independentngonline.com ) (March 28, 2007).

scruples2006@yahoo.com ;

www.ugochukwu.blog.com

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Why I Didn’t Celebrate Christmas

February 25, 2008

 By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

On a Tuesday, a couple of weeks ago, what is generally termed ‘Christmas Day” was marked across the world with din, pomp and fanfare.

But in my household, it was just another Tuesday. The reason was quite simple: I do not believe that December 25 is the birthday of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In fact, what my research has shown is that, just like Easter before it, this clearly heathen feast called Christmas, rooted in hideous idolatrous observances, predates the coming of Christ to this world in human form.

For several years now, therefore, I have continued to disregard Christmas. I do not even play Christmas carols. I do not give or receive Christmas cards. I may, however, receive a card, just to avoid offending or embarrassing the giver, but once he looks the other way, I throw it into the nearest dustbin.
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The 1911 edition of Catholic Encyclopaedia states that “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church … the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” No doubt, Christmas is one of the prominent irremediably polluted ‘children’ that emerged from the very ungodly marriage between a distorted and depreciated form of Christianity and (Roman) paganism many years after the death of the Apostles of Christ and the genuine Christians that took over from them.

Although the pagan worship of the SUN god had gained prominence in several parts of the world long before the birth of Christ, and had permeated and gained wide acceptance in imperial Rome, it was Emperor Constantine’s Edict in 321 AD which ordered the unification of the mostly apostate Christians and the pagans of that period in the clearly abominable observance of the “the venerable day of the Sun” that increased the influence of Christmas Celebration in the Roman church. What has, however, become clear, judging from historical accounts is that Emperor Constantine may not have truly become a Christian.

My internet searches the other day yielded an article which rehearsed what many of us already know, namely, that “25th December was celebrated in ancient days as the birthday of the unconquerable SUN god, (variously known as Tammuz, Mithra, Saturn, Adonis or BAAL) centuries before Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem…[but] in order to win Gentile converts…the Roman Church, centuries after the Apostolic era, adopted this ancient winter festival of the SUN god and renamed it Christmas.” And According to Alexander Hyslop, in his book, The Two Babylons (p.91), “…within the Christian Church no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century, and that not till the fourth century was far advanced did it gain much observance.”

Indeed, all those who celebrate Christmas are unwittingly honouring and worshipping the devil in whose honour it had always been observed, instead of Christ, the Saviour.
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The SUN god was known and worshipped in ancient Babylon as the son of the “Queen of Heaven.” Remember that God had clearly warned the backslidden Israelites of Prophet Jeremiah’s time to beware and never worship this “queen of heaven” or they would face His wrath. And when the Israelites of that time insisted that they would go ahead to worship the queen of heaven despite God’s injunction, He pronounced a severe punishment to them. (See Jeremiah 44: 17-27).

This queen of heaven, a terrible demon and enemy of God, had always sought to get the world to worship her instead of God. She had appeared under several names in several places long before Christ was born in the flesh. In Acts of Apostles, for instance, we saw her as Diana of Ephesus, which was always identified with the Greek Artemis. As little Roman Catholic children attending Catechism and Block Rosary meetings, we were told a very beautiful story of how the “queen of heaven” had appeared to little children in Fatima in 1917.

To be fair to this demon, and according to the Fatima story, which became the subject of a very pleasant Igbo Catholic song, she had introduced herself truly as the “queen of heaven.” I think it was some misguided and overzealous fellows that declared her to be Mary, the mother of Jesus! And since then, in other apparitions in several other places, she has been trying to act like she is Mary, thereby drawing more worshippers. You see, humans can at times teach spirits wisdom!

Michael Harrison, in his book, The Story Of Christmas, reports that in “in a famous letter to Augustine, Pope Gregory directed [him] to accommodate the ceremonies of the Christian worship as much as to those of the heathen, that the people might not be startled at the change, and in particular, the Pope advised Augustine to allow coverts to kill and eat at the Christmas festival a great number of oxen to the glory of God, as they had formerly done to the Devil!” Indeed, this papal directive to marry pagan practices with Christian worship was a very strong pollutant, the fruits of which the unwary have embraced today to the damnation of their souls.
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But nobody would be excused because the Bible is there as the most authoritative guide to salvation and worship of God. Moreover, history books are replete with accounts that the same excessive revelling and drunkenness that marked the feast of the SUN god on December 25 long before Christ was born in Bethlehem are exactly the same unedifying preoccupations that dominate the celebration of Christmas today. Certainly, there is no way Christ can be associated with it.

Barbara Aho, in her article, “Cosmic Christmas: Rebirth of the Sun God,” says: “In the fourth century, the Emperor Constantine designated December 25, the birthday of the Roman Sun-god Mithra, as the birthday of Jesus Christ, thereby placing the true Savior among the pantheon of Roman gods. Constantine succeeded in drawing Christians into the pagan celebrations of Rome, which procured the religious unity needed for the success of the Holy Roman Empire. The empire dominated the world for 1,200 years until the 16th century, when the Protestant Reformers led 2/3 of Europe to break away with the Roman Catholic Church and discontinued the celebration of Christmas by reason of its pagan character. The Puritans who controlled the English Parliament in 1644 declared that no observation of Christmas was permitted, calling it ‘The Profane Man’s Ranting Day.’”

Also, the famous English preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, had this to say as recently as 1871: “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly, we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas.”

On December 23, 1983, USA Today
’ newspaper reported that “A broad element of English Christianity still considered Christmas celebration a pagan blasphemy. The Puritans, Baptists, Quakers, Presbyterians, Calvinists and other denominations brought this opposition to early New England and strong opposition to the holiday lasted in America until the middle of the 18th century.”

Indeed, it was when depreciation and compromise began to set in that people whose forbears had opposed this heathen feast began to return to it. But it was not only Christmas that the depreciation brought. Of recent, for instance, some pastors of some so-called Bible-believing Churches have begun to don priestly robes, complete with skullcaps and the mitre! Just for them to be addressed as Bishops! What a horrible period of great apostasy! (Matthew 24:12).

Truth is: Christmas has no Scriptural backing. The Apostles did not observe it. It is a product of a most hideous compromise. Indeed, no matter the good intentions that led to this unholy marriage that produced Christmas, it is still a heathen feast, in honour of the devil.

When Aaron made the golden calf for the Israelites at Mount Sinai, he had still proclaimed the celebration that attended its inauguration the “feast of the Lord.” (Exodus 32:5). Yet, this did not prevent the wrath of God from falling upon them. The name Jeroboam, the son of the Nebat, is always accompanied with the statement, “the man who made Israel to sin,” each time it is mentioned in the Bible. The Bible said he had “ordained a feast in the eight month… like unto the feast in Judah…” (I Kings 12: 32), when he wanted to prevent the Israelites from rebelling against his kingship. An entry in the famous Matthew Henry’s Commentary states: “Though it is probable [Jeroboam] meant this worship for Jehovah the God of Israel, it was directly contrary to the Divine majesty, to be thus represented.”

A historical record observed that “the point of departure for every major apostasy in Israel and Christendom involved the commingling of worship of the true God with worship of the Sun-god.” In fact, Aaron’s golden calf and King Jeroboam’s pagan worship have all been proved to be in honour of the Sun-god. Just as Christmas is! And God’s attitude towards them can only be the same.

A Scottish writer was right when he said: “Christmas is still a pagan festival through and through. Its change of name from Saturnalia, the birthday of the Sun god, to Christ’s Mass [Christmas] has not altered its true character one iota: and the evil spirit behind its celebrations still produces the deception, debt, drunkenness, misrule and licentiousness that characterized the pagan revelries of bygone days.” Indeed, all other accompaniments like Christmas tree, Christmas log, exchange of gifts, etc., are direct carry-overs from the celebration of the birthday of the Sun-god as history reports it.

But the question is: do we even need to commemorate the birth of the Saviour to obtain salvation? The answer is obvious, and it is NO!

Again, could Christ have been born on December 25? Well, there was just no way those shepherds the angels met on the day He was born could have been “in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8) in the killing cold of winter.

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Culled from www.ugochukwu.blog.com (Published Tuesday 10 January, 2008) scruples2006@yahoo.com

Baroness Lynda Chalker Again

February 20, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

I must confess that I am becoming increasingly weary, sick and utterly disgusted by  the way and manner one British woman they call Baroness Lynda Chalker carelessly throws her totally unedifying and exasperating self and words into the affairs my country since the second term of this “woman-friendly” Administration of President Obasanjo. I sincerely hope that the end of this unpopular and failed regime some few days from now, will mark, to the utter relief of the nation, the end of whatever brings Lynda Chalker (the unrepentant enemy of the Nigerian masses) to Nigeria.

*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye 

What I find particularly irritating is the arrogance that wraps her diction, and the way she carries herself each time she feels compelled to shoot her mouth to remind her naïve paymasters in Abuja that she is still relevant and worth the huge pay packet she takes away periodically. Baroness Chalker was Britain’s Minister of State for Overseas Development when the Conservative Party was in office, and until February 2005, when I stumbled on the report of the outrageous statement she made at the Nigerian Investment Forum in Abuja, I had practically forgotten about her, and even what she looked like.

No doubt, Chalker, had since ceased to be of any real use to her country, and had probably been politely dumped in the camp of yesterday people, but you can trust my country, the Giant of Africa, with an unbridled lust for obsolete “tokunbo” materials, to find her attractive for a very lucrative appointment. President Obasanjo has appointed her the Chairperson of the so-called Honourary International Investment Council (HIIC).

 Her brief, I am told, is to use her real or imaginary “powerful influence” and “wide connections” to persuade the much sought-after foreign investors to troop to Nigeria in droves. But in this job, as any person can attest, she has woefully failed, just like the regime that hired her.

Lynda Chalker

*Baroness Lynda Chalker 

And so in order to justify her devastating failure, she reached into the repertoire of over-recycled phrases of the highly discredited Nigeria Image Laundering Project (NILP) of that time, dredged up the most hackneyed logic therein, beautifully plagiarized it, and slapped it on the Nigerian media and Nigerians in the Diaspora.

Hear what she reportedly said in Abuja in February 2005: “Many good things have happened in Nigeria in the last 18 months than in any other country in Africa but the outside world needs to know this to be able to take positive investment decisions on the country. . . . But often all that we see outside Nigeria are the negative things. The media and Nigerians in the Diaspora must take the challenge of telling the world that good things are happening here. Nigeria stands a good chance of attracting foreign investors if they have adequate knowledge of the real situation rather than the perception which is often wrong”.

As this silly statement reverberated around the country in that February 2005, I imagined President Obasanjo, nursing a wide, pleasant grin, muttering under his breath: Tell them my dear girl; tell these ungrateful people!

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*Olusegun Obasanjo

In my reaction in this column in March 2005, I had taken up Chalker on her clearly preposterous statement. It was clear to me that her conscience, if she had any, had since been seared beyond reclamation, that Nigeria and Nigerians meant nothing to her, and that all she was doing was straining to earn a living. Well, a character in Chinua Achebe’s classic novel, Anthills of The Savannah, had noted that it was okay to admire Castro and sing his praises if you know very well you won’t ever have to live in Cuba.

Yes, to the Baroness, Nigeria was merely a generous casino box where she hoped in from time to time to collect jumbo consultancy fees with a very long spoon, and that’s all. What a hellish way to earn a living. Now, what I found particularly offensive and grossly uncharitable in Chalker’s demoralizing remarks was what looked clearly like a conscienceless attempt to stop a cruelly hit innocent child from crying out? I could not understand why Chalker would choose to descend on me for daring to insist that my country had no business remaining in the prehistoric age of darkness, even after my government had announced that it had plunged more than 2.5 billion dollars in NEPA/PHCN, Nigeria’s official Agent of Darkness? 

Why should my country in the 21st century remain the biggest dumping ground for all sorts of poorly manufactured candles, hurricane lanterns, and lots of toy generators from that country of criminal prosperity called China?

Yes, why must I write this essay with the aid of candles, while my colleagues in nearby Niger, Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic and even AIDS-ravaged zones like Swaziland, countries not up to the size of Ikeja, and which sometimes look up to Nigeria for handouts, have since forgotten what it feels like to experience a blackout? Now if I must ask Chalker, how many times has she experienced a blackout in her country? Did she hear that whole families have been wiped out in Nigeria due to the generator fumes they had inhaled in course of  providing power for themselves, because the government, whose praises Chalker vulgarly sings, is allergic to performance and success?

So, for fear of scaring away Chalker’s foreign investors, I should keep quiet and die in silence while the immoral bazaar goes on in Abuja uninterruptedly? Would Chalker be able to keep quiet if power supply was withdrawn in Britain during the next winter when she would need to operate her heating device? Will she be able to survive it? Has anybody tried to tell her that Nigeria does not start and end in Abuja, that there are fellow human beings with blood in their veins like her at Ilaje, Badia, Sari-Iganmu, Ajegunle, etc., who are forced by the very ungodly rulers Ms. Chalker is  hugging and cavorting with to live in hell on earth?

She cannot deny that she is unaware that the outgoing regime is the most corrupt that ever passed through Abuja. Interestingly, at the time she was rebuking the media for reporting accurately the sordid activities of our rulers here, a man called David Blunket, in her own country, was being forced to resign as Home Secretary just because he had hastened the visa process for the nanny of his ex-lover? But here was Baroness Chalker hailing flamboyant treasury looters in Nigeria, men who sank billions of naira belonging to Nigerians in clearly spurious and criminal deals and expect to be applauded for that? 

What made her stance so scandalous was that at the time she threw up her outrageous statement, she was still the Chair of the UK Chapter of Transparency International (TI). No wonder the Abuja regime always found it so easy to rubbish TI ratings. One of their own was in bed with them. So shameful. 

How many of Nigeria’s public schools or government-owned hospitals has Chalker cared to visit? Now, say the truth here, Baroness: assuming you had a child or grand-child, would you send him or her a Nigerian university? Would you agree to be admitted in a hospital belonging to the government you said had recorded wonderful achievements? Would you even recommend any of them to your worst (white) enemy?

Now, are you not a bloody racist for applauding clearly dilapidated institutions which Nigerians patronize because they have no choice, but which you would not even risk taking your dog to. I don’t blame you. I only blame those whose inferiority complex goads into the unwholesome preoccupation of inflicting the likes of you on Nigerians to insult us from time to time.    By the way, how much, Baroness Chalker, are you being paid to utter these damnable heresies on-behalf of these clearly reprobate minds in Abuja? Could you please list those wonderful achievements of this government, which only you saw from the comfort of your home in the UK? 

 You are trying to attract foreign investors to Nigeria, what is the fate of the indigenous ones? Have you ever bothered to ask your paymasters in Abuja why Nigerians are moving their businesses to Ghana and some other even poorly-endowed African countries, and developing those places and offering employment to the youths there instead of this place? Have you heard of Slock Airlines now flourishing in the Gambia after several hundreds of Nigerians were rendered unemployed because it had to be frustrated out of this place because of base and primitive politics?

  Baroness, honestly, you make me sick, very sick, to the very pit of my stomach! Baroness, your desperation is so palpable. I can see that you are worried that the incoming Administration may not want to inherit the needless burden that you represent, hence your indecent haste to endorse an “election” that has left the whole world astounded and disgusted. You were quoted recently as saying that “it is all very well to believe that the system in America and Europe are without faults.

They are not. I can tell you that I have had dead people vote against me in elections. We have evidence to prove it.”  What a racist arrogance! So, crimes are acceptable in Nigeria once Chalker can produce evidence that they are also being perpetrated in Europe and America? What a gratuitous insult! May I suggest that Prof Maurice Iwu should move over to Britain to supervise your next election there since you don’t mind his kind of elections. What a bag of rubbish!

Baroness, you must be willing to admit that the sole motivation for these horrifying remarks about the Nigerian media, Nigerians in Diaspora, and now election monitors and the international media, is just the juicy consultancy fees you collect from Abuja, which you are, perhaps, fearing may cease to come once the underachieving, “woman friendly” regime disappears into the pit of infamy on May 29. Nothing more, nothing less. Well, by taking such an immoral stance, which is clearly against the Nigerian people, you have clearly exposed yourself as overly unfeeling and an enthusiastic collaborator in this grand design to kill Nigeria.  Indeed, you have most willingly and most clearly awarded yourself a prominent slot in the infamous list of the unambiguous enemies of the Nigerian people, and if you have any modicum of decency still remaining in you, you should hastily give up the juicy appointment that brings you to Nigeria and retire to the chilling embrace of your perennially inhospitable climate.  That is the only path of honour remaining for you, Baroness.

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First published in the DAILY INDEPENDENT of Wednesday May 16, 2007 in the column, SCRUPLES

scruples2006@yahoo.com

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com

Big Brother Africa: Debasing Self For A Fee

February 18, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Recently, Big Brother Africa (BBA2) Reality Show ended in South Africa amidst much din, slimy scandals and lingering controversies, and the only coherent statement it was able to make was that in this our very unfortunate and bankrupt age, money has acquired an even greater and awesome powers, and its capacity to compel otherwise rational human beings to gleefully part ways with every bit of their honour and dignity, be disdainful all considerations for decency and self-esteem, and enthusiastically indulge in several nauseating, self-debasing acts, has exceeded what anyone had thought was possible in decent society.

I am not a fan of the Big Brother nonsense, and all such shows, like beauty pageants, where people are paid and cheered on to throw their honour and dignity as human beings to the dogs, to satisfy the depraved taste of irredeemable voyeurs. In fact, if there were no generous reports about these events in the media, which one occasionally glanced through, I may never have known that anything like BBA2 ever took place. But I am a grateful that I read some of those reports, because, it would never have occurred to me that some murky-hearted fellows, with excess cash to spend, could go all out to turn their fellow human beings into a little less than animals, confined in some glorified human zoo, where the most depraved among them could go as wild and immoral as he or she could, to dishonour and make a very big fool of himself or herself, before millions of TV viewers in Africa and beyond, in order to earn $100, 000.

While this lure of lucre endures, do these fellows ever stop to think that the footage of their disgraceful outing inSouth Africawould survive tomorrow, and that they would have children and grandchildren whose sensibilities would be perpetually assaulted by the awful pornographic footages they were gleefully producing in their blind rush for $100,000?

According to reports, the Housemates took their bathe together during what they called “Shower Hour,” and while the boys stripped to their boxers, the girls bared everything, not just before the boys whom they had never met until they were selected and confined in the Big Brother zoo, but, also, millions of viewers out there, which may have included kids from their households and neighborhoods! (Forget the age-restriction crap). Imagine the kid brothers and sisters or tender nephews and nieces of the Housemates seeing their big aunties they once held in high esteem flaunting their stark nudity on the screen with every brazenness and shamelessness. What in the name of all that is decent and noble can we possibly call this?

Well, some of the girls, however, occasionally bathed with their underpants on, and only bared their chests, but that, no doubt, did not diminish the grave obscenity the whole thing still constituted.

Now how would these clearly bird-brained fortune hunters rejoin and face the same society before whom they had shamelessly and grossly cheapened themselves, by flaunting the pride of their womanhood before every willing eye? Should even $1billion dollars be enough to compel anyone to do this?

 

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Tatiana(Angola): Her debasing immoral acts with Richard ( a married man!) scandalized all persons of decent disposition

Indeed, Feminists and Women Rights activists would never protest this clear debasement of the woman, because this is not the kind of advocacy that attracts grants. This should not be surprising to anyone because it is still from the same cabal that prosecutes these obscene shows that the major bulk of sponsorships flow.

Although virtually everything about BBA was horrible, revolting and scandalous, a consensus exists that the most horrible scandal it yielded, now popularly known as “fingergate,” reportedly, took place on Saturday, 27 October 2007. I first read about it on Nigerians In America, in an article by Ms. Bolanle Aduwo.

Please permit me to quote her account of the obscene incident:

…Biggie had provided plenty of booze (undiluted, Russian vodka) and what resulted was an incident that will definitely go down as one of the most scandalous moments in Big Brother history. The housemates became crazed, drunken zombies and engaged in acts better suited for a porno movie. The evening eventually ended in what many call a possible rape! Or how do you explain the actions of Richard, the 24-year-old Tanzanian film student and the only male occupant of the House fondling and ‘fingering’ a comatose, blind-drunk Ofunneka, a 29-year-old Medical Assistant from Nigeria?…The whole of Africa saw this girl’s “privates”… What happened… horrified viewers as Richard lying between the two comatose women, undressed them and began to fondle, kiss and ‘finger’ both of them!”

This incident had provoked serious outrage across Africa. A Women Rights group in South   Africa had called for the footage of the incident, only to announce later, after viewing it, that it agreed with MNET, that what happened between Richard and Ofunneka was consensual. Nigeria’s House of Representatives, groping for some form of self-redeeming tasks, after Ettehgate, had also waded into the matter, something I had thought was an entirely private misadventure between the girl and the South African prurient millionaires.

But why does it seem Africa has suddenly awakened from its moral slumber just because fingergate happened? Well, if you ask me, the matter is very simple: Even if there were no “fingergate,” all the people who participated in BBA2 had irremediably soiled their honour and dignity? What sort of girls would gleefully strip themselves nude, to bathe, not only in the full gaze boys, but also before more than one million TV viewers across Africa? (If the boys wore their shorts and the girls chose to bare everything, what kind of statement were they making about their gender?) Just the other day, while gathering materials for this piece, I stumbled on a blog where a photograph of Ofunneka was posted holding her towel apart and proudly baring her not particularly appealing chest for all to see! So, even without “fingergate,” was that not self-demeaning enough?

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Richard (Tanzania), ‘Winner’ of BBA2: Rewarded for moral irresponsiblity and unremitting waywardness?
On Monday, I visited a website, www.ofunneka.com, where all sorts of hate posts were heaped on the doorsteps of “Richard the rapist,” who “stole the crown.” All sorts of stories were dredged up to rubbish the Tanzanian, as if he did not rubbish himself enough while in the BBA zoo. But while countless sympathizers were out there condemning MNET for the indecent show and calling for Richard’s head for “sexually abusing” Ofunneka, the “innocent, well-behaved, but stone-drunk symbol of decent African woman,” the girl was at the other place addressing a press conference, apologizing for what happened and dismissing reports that she was raped. Saturday PUNCH of November 24, 2007, quotes her as saying: “I will say that I let down my guards a little, but then I am human.”

I am seriously touched by this girl’s predicament. It is painful to imagine that she might carry the shame of her disastrous BBA appearance all her life. It must be clear to her now that whoever counseled her into the BBA folly has done her a grave harm. The most noble job she must engage herself in now would be to always dissuade any other person she encounters to avoid BBA like a plague despite the money.

 

 ofunneka2.jpg                  

Ms. Ofunneka Molokwu (Nigeria)
In this internet age, it should not surprise her that countless blogs would spring up tomorrow, attracting serious traffic to themselves with footages of “fingergate” and some of her nude pictures from Shower Hour at the Big Brother zoo. A costly mistake has already been made by going to the BBA house, and a costly price must be paid.

But, if by her own painful predicament, other young Africans are able to learn that it is practically impossible to safeguard one’s honour and dignity in such a morally bankrupt enclave like BBA house, created solely to promote obscenity and depravity, to service the vulgar tastes of prurient men and women, she should consider the sacrifice worthwhile. Who is even sure that “fingergate” was not scripted and directed by MNET, to diminish her rising profile in the media as the symbol of true African woman, which would have created serious problems for MNET when eventually Richard was declared “winner”?

By Richard “victory”, what statement has MNET succeeded in making? That it was alright for a man who was married to suddenly “fall in love” with another woman he had just met on a reality TV show; engage in open and revolting adulterous acts with this new lover or concubine on satellite TV, knowing full well that his wife was at home watching; and then while in the same bed with his new lover, he engages in wild sexual acts with yet another woman, on the same bed! And after it all, according to a report in Namibian of October 29, 2007, he excitedly pronounces: “I have seen the rivers and mountains of Big Brother…I’m going to bump all the women in BBA house.” What a vulgar celebration of hideous conquests!

With all the nauseating exploits of Richard’s, which earned him the prize, what MNET is saying is that for anyone to win the next BBA (assuming this won’t be the last), he must simply become an animal like Richard, because it is only animals that win its price; yes, such a person must regard and treat women as mere playthings.
             

  profile_maureen.jpg

  Maureen (Uganda) —Another Housemate
Now the point has also been regularly made, namely, why watch BBA if you know it would offend your mind? Indeed, amateur porn channels and websites like BBA abound, but they do not attract generous positive reviews from “serious” newspapers like BBA does. MNET can afford to inflict its violent obscenity only on interested viewers if it could check its invasion of our newspaper pages the way it does.

Nor should the government show more than a passing interest in shows like BBA, as the Nigerian House Assembly or the Federal Government did recently. Now, I have no problems with the Information Minister, Mr. John Odey, offering a job to Miss Ofunneka Molokwu, as he reportedly did the other day, if that would console her, but he has no right to declare that by appearing on that reprehensible show, she has “represented us well” and has, today, become “the Heart of Africa.”


meryl.jpg

Meryl (Namibia): Relished Flaunting Her Nudity Before The CamerasWhat would her children say tomorrow when confronted with those pictures?

No doubt, it must be clear to the minister that he was speaking himself, and I insist that he makes this clear immediately. In fact, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua must call him to order before he uses the stain of BBA to further rubbish his ailing regime. On no account must the Federal Government appear to endorse such a horribly obscene show that has offended many decent people inAfricaand has even been banned by some African governments.

tats-mauren-ofu.jpg

 

From left: Maureen,Ofunneka,Tatiana: Debasing Selves For A Fee

 

Mr. Odey, since he had excess time to squander, should have merely consoled the girl, assuaged her pain over the BBA misadventure, but more importantly, used that opportunity to urge other Nigerians youths to shun such shows no matter the huge prize money they dangle, if they do not wish to encounter such tragedies like “fingergate.” And I think I am right.
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scruples2006@yahoo.com

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com

English And Its Student

February 18, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Perhaps, it is worth stating that in resolving to use the phrase “The English Student” to refer to my subject in this essay, I am quite conscious of the fact that I have chosen to make myself vulnerable to misunderstanding and misrepresentation as to whom I am actually referring, at least, in this outset.  But then, the phrase suits my taste perfectly and I can only volunteer some explanations to clear the ambiguity my choice has already created.

UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE

For instance, you would earn an instant forgiveness if you have already concluded that I am referring to a student from England.  After all, does the mere mention of a Nigerian student not immediately leave you with the unmistakable impression that a student from Nigeria is being referred to?  Or is an American student or Kenyan student not simply a student of American or Kenyan origin?  What remains to be done here is to remind us that while English can refer to both a person from England and his language, the same cannot be said of Nigerian, Kenyan or American.  One is yet to hear of a single language called Nigerian or American.  We only have many languages known as Nigerian languages, the word “Nigerian” alone not yet being the name of a single language just as English is.  And there is nothing yet derogatory or backward about it, in either case.


Countless authorities on English and acclaimed English textbooks are unanimous in their statement of what English is and who the English are.  Every definition seeks to re-confirm that English is a people’s nationality as well as their language.  A. S. Hornby’s Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary states that the English are “the people of England (sometimes wrongly used to mean the British, i.e. to include the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish)”.   Further, Hornby declares that English is equally “the language of England, used in Britain, most countries of the British Commonwealth, the USA and some other countries.”  Indeed, various respected English text books do not show any disagreement with Hornby.

Many universities in Nigeria and Africa now have English departments and English has since been engaging serious attention as a subject of study and a language of instruction in our schools and colleges.  It may even be observed that many students in these parts prefer to know English more as a subject offered in schools alongside other subjects like Geography, Igbo, Physics, Sociology, etc, than as any other thing.  And because of this, it seems too natural for us (and we have all become so used to it) to refer to any student offering English as a course of study in any of our colleges as “the English Student” just as we have the “History Student”, the “French Student” or the “Economics Student”.  We have always assumed that no one is left in doubt as to what we mean. In fact, little or no thought is even spared for the semantic ambiguity we are creating.  Again, it is equally assumed that any one hearing of our “English departments” will not be deluded into thinking they are merely centres where researches and studies are carried out on England, her people, language and culture or subsidiaries of English embassies in the countries where they are located.  It may even be added here that Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and French which also serve to represent a people’s language as well as their homeland enjoy this dual classification and role as English does.  Hence we occasionally hear of “Igbo department,” French teachers” or “Yoruba students” in our schools and colleges.


It would have been so good to proceed with the main issue of this discourse with the refreshing feeling that the initial ambiguity occasioned by the use of the phrase “the English Student” has been cleared if there was not a more worrisome angle to this issue of misrepresenting and misplacing anything with the word “English” prefixed to it.  In fact, this has nothing to do with lexical, structural or semantic ambiguity as any fair-minded person would expect.  One may not even make a strong case for obtuseness.  Rather, it all has to do with an attitude born of colonial hangover and ill-defined owner-of-all mentality which inform the line of reasoning of a certain group of “experts” who are heir to an attractive but specious criticism that insists with temerity that any work done or expressed in English belongs to the English people, i.e., the people of England.  Some have even widened the English constituency to include all Europe and even the entire Western world, deliberately and conveniently forgetting that English also came to some of those “advanced” nations the same way it  came to Africa.  (Merrian-Webster Collegiate Dictionary says that English is the language of “many areas now or formerly under British control,” and this does not apply to Africa or the so-called first world alone).  Indeed, this contrived and simulated misconception which has attained dogmatic status is propagated with even greater intensity and renewed vigour to the utter discomfort of some English students and some African writers.


It is with mild surprise that Africans watch some literary colonizers, who are of completely different and even strange cultures and who possess different values and experiences, as they spread their hands in clumsy attempts to appropriate works and records of other peoples’ cultures, values and experiences because of the lame reason that they are expressed in “their” language.  It is (at least in my view) the same spirit and motive that led to the colonization of the peoples that own those cultures, values and experiences that are now informing the bid to indirectly recolonize them by appropriating their works and records.  In fact one looks forward with bated breath these days to seeing a Ghanaian who knows and speaks only English and whose parents spoke only English while bringing him into this world being declared an Englander with full rights and privileges.  That will perfectly dovetail with Adrain Roscoe’s bold, magisterial assertion in his book, Mother is Gold: A Study in West African Literature, that, “if an African writes in English his works must be considered as belonging to English letters as a whole.”  John Knappert, in an essay, “Swahili as an African Language”, which appeared in the journal, TRANSITION, No 13 (1964), was even more explicit: “In Europe,” he declares, “there is no literature in a non-European language.  Even in India, literature in English would not be called Indian literature. Every piece of literature written in English even if written in Africa, is a contribution to English literature, not to any African literature.  Literary History has always been classified by language: Greek, Latin, Sankrit, not by country or continent.  I do not think there can be any other African literature but literature in African language.” 


Unfortunately, John Knappert’s deductions and conclusions, delivered with dogmatic absoluteness, are amazingly arbitrary and misleading.  Who, by the way, made the law that literature should be classified by language only and not by country or continent?  Who said that the nationality of a writer, his subject-matter, setting, “colour” attitude, environment, professed values, ethos, etc., should not play a leading role in classifying his work?  And why should this law (assuming one exists except in the imagination of the Knapperts of this world) automatically apply to all peoples’ literatures without due cognizance and regard to the diverse linguistic histories of various peoples?  That a phenomenon has always been taken for granted in the imagination of Knappert and his literary ilks does not automatically mean that it is right and acceptable and also binding on all peoples, more so, in a multi-faceted discipline like literature that does not easily admit absolutes and dogmas.  The only lesson here is that those who revel in making dogmatic pronouncements on literature would occasionally find themselves in tight corners.  Ask Ngugi and Wole Soyinka. 


Certainly, one amazing flaw in John Knappert’s much-vaunted logic is that it failed to take notice of the reputation of English as an international language, a reputation English acquired due to colonialism and overbearing meddlesomeness.  That one speaks and writes in English does not make one an Englander. (It is even tragic that vestigial remains of the products of this warped mentality are still being peddled in some literary and intellectual quarters even till today.

Chinweizu& Co. in their thought-stirring book, Towards The Decolonization Of African Literature (1980) have deftly dealt with these appropriation bids based on language claims and I will just be content to briefly summarize their views here.  These scholars called our attention to the distinction “between English as a language used in literature by many outside the British nation, and English letters as a body of works of the British nation.”  They outlined some situations existing in world literature whereby we have regional literatures, e.g. the European regional literature, which include national literatures   in different languages, and then the American regional literature, e.g. U.S. literature (in English), that of Canada (in English and French) etc. Then they talked about the language literatures, “many of which include many national literatures.”  The following are English language literatures: “(a) British national literature; (b) the national literature of those countries where an exported English population is in control, e.g Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand; (c) the national literature of those countries where English, though neither indigenous nor the mother-tongue of the politically dominant population or group, has become, as a legacy of colonialism, the official language or one of the official languages, e.g., Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, India, Jamaica, Trinidad and Malaysia”.

According to these writers (Chinweizu&Co) “Inclusion [of a work] within a national literature is something to be determined by shared values and assumptions, world outlook, and other fundamental elements of culture– ethos, in short.”  Since “language and nation are not the same, and language criteria are not the same as national criteria” especially as some “fundamental differences in values and experience” may often be noticed “between two nations who use the same language” these scholars   insist that the “language employed to carry out larger and more important cultural functions, is hardly by itself to be considered sufficient, let alone exclusive grounds for assigning a work to one tradition or one body of literature rather than another”.  (Pp. 9-14)


What can now be restated here is that English, the language of England, refused to confine itself to its ancestral home.  It is equally true that all those who use English now (beside the Englanders) are aware that they are using a borrowed language.  And this, I am sure, does not apply to Africa or the so-called Third World alone.


 It is possible that the English student on whose head and career this gratuitous din takes place may not allow himself to be bothered by it all.  After all, even if English is not the national language of the country of the English student and writers from his country do not write in English, the serious task of learning to not only speak English well but also to write it well would still have seriously engaged him.  But then, the English student cannot just distance himself from his people whose literature is being appropriated by foreigners.  Unless, perhaps, his studies have compelled him to swallow and internalize imperialist prejudices and dogmas about him and his people.


We may have to see Chinua Achebe’s thought-provoking questions and the interesting remarks which he made in a paper he entitled, “Thoughts on the African Novel”, (Morning Yet on Creation Day, London: HEB, 1975, p.50):  “But what is a non-African language.  English and French certainly. But what about Arabic?  What about Swahili even?  Is it then a question of how long the language has been on African soil?  If so, how many years should constitute effective occupation?  For me it is again a pragmatic matter.  A language spoken by Africans on African soil, a language in which Africans write, justifies itself” (emphases not mine)


As we try to chew over that, let’s attempt some form of stocktaking. In the course of this survey, we saw some of the nations whose literatures appear in English.  Also, it is self-evident that such an awkward situation arose out of contacts and gratuitous migrations that have much, if not all, to do with English-men. But an entirely new situation, which would certainly throw up fresh challenges for language and literary colonialists is quietly emerging, and it is interesting that speculations about this are commencing with by two bright English scholars. Declaring that “Geographical dispersion is in fact the classic basis for linguistic variation”, Randolph Quirk and Sydney Greenbaum in their book, A University Grammar Of English, toyed with the possibility of the emerging dialects of English growing to become distinct languages. This would seem to be true, because, already, American English, for instance, has come to mean more than English spoken in America.  A lot of disparities in grammar, vocabulary and spelling now exist between the American English and the British English. Again, whatever is the history and origin of America, the truth is that it is presently, just another continent, far removed from the home of English like Africa is.  One wonders why the English contact with Africans should not qualify them for a use of English like the others to produce autonomous, indigenous works?  “Is it then a question of how long the language has been present on the African soil?  If so, how many years should constitute effective occupation”, to quote Achebe again.


One trite point we just cannot be tired or ashamed of re-echoing is that colonialism must continue to carry the can for my having, for instance, to address you in this column in English, instead of a “Nigerian language.”  If the colonial intruders had not brought distinct African communities together and imposed on them a language with which to communicate with each other ever before they were ready or tried to achieve such amalgamations by  themselves, all these language controversies and talks of annexing other peoples’ recordings of their cultures, values and experiences just because of the language used in expressing them  would not have even arisen. It is indeed disheartening that these annexation bids have already created undue anxiety in some Africans.  Such anxious states of mind, I believe, gave birth to such outcries like late Dr. Obi Wali’s famous essay, “Dead End Of African literature,” published in the journal, TRANSITION No 10 (1963).  Said Obi Wali: “…until these [African] writers and their Western midwives accept that any true African Literature must be written in African languages, they would be merely pursuing a dead end, which can only lead to sterility, uncreativity and frustration.” I think I can fully understand the worry and discomfort that throw up these kind of outbursts.  It all has to do with the avuncular air and the owner-of-all disposition the European appropriator assumes when declaring any work written in English as belonging to the English people or even asserting that an English student is an Englander in the making.


I may only have to remind us here that one gets a child either by giving birth to one or by adopting one.  Nigeria and some other nations have found themselves with no ready alternative than the English language, forced upon them by colonialism, and so had to adopt it to facilitate easy communication among their multi-lingual people, who were arbitrarily forced to come together by the thoughtless, but self-serving initiative of the colonialists.  Put differently, they have adopted an English solution to a problem created by the English, at least for now, although I do not foresee a credible, workable, acceptable alternative even in the distant future; what with the hyper-politicization of all efforts at facilitating a national language adoption and evolution.   Forgive me if I pitch my tent with what would appear as Achebe’s disarming, pessimistic finality on the matter.  English in Nigeria is simply a child of circumstance, serving Nigeria faithfully as the language of state administration, with our laws and status books written in it.  This adopted ‘child’ or rather, now, acquired slave, has served most faithfully in preventing Nigeria and a section of Africa from re-enacting a modern-day Tower of Babel situation.   Justice demands that even the devil be given his due.


It may be stated here that this essay is not a contribution to the language controversy that has plagued African literature right from its cradle, a controversy, one may dare say, that has almost irredeemably become trite even before it has been successfully resolved.  Nor am I here to emphasize the already over-stressed obvious point that for Africans or even Nigerians, with their multi-lingual and multi-cultural environment to continue to hear each other and ensure unhindered communication and mutual intelligibility, they will have to remain condemned to the use of this language shared by a majority, a language that cuts across the ethnic and linguistic blocks that make up their domain. I think I am only concerned here with the English student, the obstacles that stand between him and his learning of English and the need for him to overcome those obstacles in order to make a success of his learning since he has voluntarily decided to study English.


We have so far secured two re-assurances, namely, that a Nigerian or simply a non- Englander can answer an English student comfortably without engendering any confusion about his nationality; and that if a non-Englander writes any work in English, the mere fact that he wrote in English cannot be a justifiable reason from appropriating his work into the body of the literature of England.  We may then have to insist that the English Student, whether in Africa or anywhere, has no choice but to endeavour to learn to speak and write English well or else, he should not have bothered nearing an English Department of a university or college in the first place. 


But, the belly-aching truth, which has exploded us in the face today is that many English students do not try to go beyond speaking and writing semi-literate English.  What makes this situation so bad is that in this trying era of decolonization and recolonization, cultural nationalism and domestications of foreign languages, the English student may hide under one of these slogans to justify his inability to do well in a course he freely chose for himself.  Achebe’s statement during his famous 1965 lecture at the University of Ghana, Legon, that “The price a world language must be prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of uses” appears to have opened the floodgate for a lot of crazy experimentations with the English language.  And I am certainly not thinking about Amos Tutuola here!


When Tutuola hit the literary world with his Palm-Wine Drinkard (1952), Western critics decided that he wrote in “young” and “infant” English.  In fact, a certain Tom Hopkinson excitedly spoke of the emergence of a “new ‘mad’ African writing” produced by those who “don’t  learn English; they don’t study the rules of grammar; they just tear right into it and let the splinters fly”. Prof Bernth Lindfors was to observe much later in the book, Critical Perspectives On Amos Tutuola, that “No one has tried to imitate Tutuola’s  writing, and no one probably ever will.  He is not the sort of writer who attracts followers or founds a school….  In this sense he is a literary dead end.”


How untrue!  So many English students have consciously enlisted in Tutuola’s school (innocently founded by him) and Tom Hopkinson’s statement will more appropriately describe them today.  At least, Tutuola never for once answered an English student.  Achebe had observed that Tutuola had “turned his apparent limitation in language into a weapon of great strength — half-strange dialect that serves him perfectly in the evocation of his bizarre world”  (see Achebe, Morning Yet On Creation Day, p.61).  One hopes that no English student aims at being applauded in these, one must say, no less glowing terms!


I want to state here in passing that the din, excitement and even applause the late Ken Saro Wiwa attracted because of the language of his novel, SOZABOY, not withstanding, his rule-less and syntax-less language is the best example of how not to domesticate English.  It lacks an audience and fits in properly as the best false step in the bids to evolve an indigenous language that will replace colonial languages.  The style is escapist since it has no rules.  It cannot even be said to be addressed to the barely literate Nigerians whose ‘language’ the novel purports to use since it may even demand high academic attainment to even understand it.  So, it is a futile, defeatist rebellion against a colonial language, one which is even insidious to the African learner of English since many may now either emulate him or use his paradigm to explain away their ineptitude.  If Mr. Ken Saro Wiwa had not been hanged on October 10, 1995, on the orders of late Gen Sani Abach, it would have been interesting watching Saro Wiwa to also try disorganizing his Ogoni language in his next book in order to see how many people that would understand him?  Or is it only English that is fit for mutilation?   The challenge now is for all those African and European scholars who have made so much din about the book’s astounding literary, linguistic or stylistic merits to go ahead and further the work that Late Ken had pioneered by extending his brilliant model to their own indigenous languages.  We are waiting.



When Prof Chinua Achebe talked about subjecting English to different kinds of uses, it is clear from his works what he meant.  B. I. Chukwukere explains Achebe’s language-use thus, (see African Literature Today vol. 3 p. 19): “Part of the greatness of Achebe, part of the pleasure we get in reading him, lies in the very fact that he has a sure and firm control of his English, exemplified particularly in his rendering of Ibo language-processes  — idioms, imagery, syntax and so forth  –into English.   The characters speak in a manner any Ibo or allied language-speaker would easily recognize as natural to them… Achebe neither rudely shocks nor seriously wounds the basic English sentence-pattern or sentence-structure, and at the same time he does not reduce the fundamental Igbo language idiom, sound and flow, to obscurity.” In short, what Achebe has done was to achieve some local colour for his English without endangering international intelligibility of his work.  In this sense, Achebe is a good model for many learners of the English Language.


Now, the point is that most English students who have failed to perform well in their studies are not just those who have consciously decided to speak and write like the hero of Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy.  Complete honesty demands that we concede that many genuine, but clearly avoidable and surmountable obstacles stand on the way of our English students, especially, in this part of the world.  One of these genuine obstacles is certainly not this naïve obsession in some English students today to evolve what they call “Nigerian English”(whatever that means). I wonder how I would feel if some Englishman shuffles onto my presence tomorrow and attempts to address me in what he calls “English Igbo” or “Anglicised Igbo”, which I may have some difficulty in understanding! Please, spare me the joke.


Truth is that for any language to be understood by all who share its codes, it must possess some established set of rules. And once these rules are flouted by any user, whether in the spirit of domestication, decolonization or nationalism, the language automatically loses its capability to be mutually intelligible. We must also concede that the English student is not exempted from the poor background in education which our public schools have become such experts in giving out to their pupils.  Good teachers who write and speak English well are increasingly disappearing from our landscape.


But the student who decides to study English in an institution of higher learning should endeavour to purge himself of the poor English he had imbibed in primary and secondary schools. For instance, for him to articulate literate English speech, he must without delay identify the instances of mother-tongue interferences in the English he produces and try hard to overcome them. It is common knowledge that because of the absence of certain English speech sounds in most Africa languages, the African speaker of English tends to do what linguists and phoneticians have called Sound Substitutions while speaking English. That accounts for the reason the words “tank” and “thank” are not pronounced as different words by many learners of English. Indeed, the target of the African learner of English should be to realize what Anke Nutsukpo calls  “Educated West African Standard English Speech”.  In this “vowels, diphthongs and consonants are accurate in quality, and length (where necessary); sound clusters are fairly accurate, stress, rhythm and voice modulation are accurate.  Intelligibility is of a high level” in fact, this is the closest approximation to what is called the Received Pronunciation (RP) English speech sounds.


Indeed, the English student should not allow himself to be distracted by some ill-defined ideologies about language domestication and make a flourishing failure of his studies.  If the Philosophy or Sociology student is not barred by some pseudo-Afrocentric slogans from making a success of his career, one wonders why the English student should endure such an undesirable, unprofitable and totally needless sanction.  The English student should learn how to resolve the phonological conflicts between his mother tongue and the English langauge. This becomes easy if student makes up his mind to practice the articulation of the speech sounds regularly after disabusing his mind on the impossibility of pronouncing English speech sounds intelligibly by a non-native speaker or the desirability of such an attainment.


The same care and determination should be exercised in all attempts to produce elegant and edifying written English. Here too, genuine, institutional obstacles exist. The course contents designed these days for our English students by our universities do not really offer the students practical solutions to their grammatical problems.  Most English students who have offered the course that go under the name of “Discourse Analysis” are still wondering how the wonderful knowledge they got from it could help them write better English. Yes, the English student has also studied a lot of the history of linguistics; he knows so much about Ferdinand de Saussure, the father modern of linguistics, about his Acoustic Image and Concept theory, also about the Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic relationships he identified in the study of meaning; he also has heard about Ogden and Richards and their Triangle of Signification or Semiotic Triangle and how they disagreed with de Saussure’s tripartite approach to the study of meaning, otherwise, called Semantics.  What of Bloomfield the Behaviourist and Chomsky the Mentalists?  All these the English student has heard about. Yet, he lacks the good grammar to express all these wonderful knowledge!

It is time we get down to meaningful business and begin to formulate curriculum and courses whose contents will effectively address the grammatical malady of the English student in a most practical way.


But this does not excuse the English student from the serious work he has to do on himself. Reading culture in Nigeria has achieved an all time low, and so, if the English student fails to avail himself of the rich literatures, produced by serious writers, which we can still find today despite the literary drought in the land, then, he should have now one to blame for his sickening grammar. The practice of restricting oneself to only the books recommended for the courses one is offering, is one way working hard to fail. There should be that curiosity, that greed to devour and swallow every good book that one can find. And while reading literary works, a keen eye should be reserved for beautiful styles and good presentations, and not just the story itself. In the process, one gets one’s grammar polished without knowing it.


But talking of writing today, how many English students actually write?  How many try to take their time to formulate admirable prose beyond the scope of hurried assignments and barely literate term papers?  Indeed, writing regularly affords one opportunity to improve, mature and produce better materials.


Reading here, by the English student should not be restricted to novels, poems and plays. Granted, there is a lamentable dearth of literary materials nowadays, because, many universities do not consider it a priority anymore to order them, but a serious English student can go into the library and look for the old issues of literary journals gathering dust in some obscure corners of the University library. The old ones are even better, because they were published when serious-minded scholars invested time and rigour in the critical enterprise. Such journals like, African literature Today,  Research in African Literatures, The Literary Griot, Black Academy Review, Presence Africaine, Journal Of  Commonwealth Literature, Black Orpheus, Transition, Okike, Matatu, and several others. Some of these journals are no longer coming out, and the universities have virtually stopped ordering the ones that are still being published.

  It is most unfortunate that we are blessed with a government that parades a noisy army of “intellectuals” yet the government’s apathy towards literary development has reached a nauseating height.  What indeed is this government’s policy on the development sustenance of its literature?  What has it done or plans  to do to promote literary culture in both our schools and colleges, and in our entire polity?  I have once argued that this government has the resources to help re-invent the robust literary culture that flourished in this nation in the 1960s, 70s and even much of the 80s and go on to make Nigeria the centre and rallying point of literary activities in Africa.  This will, to a great extent, exert considerable impact on the English Student and make him infuse a greater sense of purpose in his study.  It will equally provide sufficient incentive for re-enthroning challenging literary scholarship which appears to be lamentably vanishing in our universities.

What is the future of literary scholarship in Nigeria. Indeed, what is the furture of our education? In many English students today, the excitement of academics is, lamentably, at its autumnal stage.   How many English students bother to see if they could get at some of the books and journals cited in bibliographies of some of the books they have been forced to read, to try to get additional knowledge?

The point is that the present teachers of English will retire someday and today’s English students will become tomorrow’s English teachers.   The sooner adequate preparations are made to safeguard that tomorrow, the better for everybody.  Already the public primary and secondary schools are in pitiable states.  The rot may soon become intractable if allowed to eat deep into our university system.  Achebe has already lamented the poor reading habit among many of us in an essay in Times Literary Supplement as far back as 1972 which he called, “What Do African Intellectuals Read”  It is even worse today even among our English students.

 

Finally a word must be passed to University admission seekers who enter for English for reasons other than that they have a love for the course.  It needs no saying that they may never do well.  The same applies to those who are more interested in reading just for examination purposes while studying English.  That they won’t do well is quite obvious.  They may even end up not passing their examinations well.

 

 The English student is one who loves to learn the English language and literature in English with admirable enthusiasm and excitement.  He may not be an Englander nor will whatever he writes be appropriated to the body of English letters.  Rather, he is one who makes effort to study English well, in order to speak and write it well. He reads good literature, good newspapers and journals in order to enrich his vocabulary and style.  He is careful in deciding what to believe after reading some declarations like “A novel may be badly written by Western standards, in terms of language, and still portray life vividly and meaningfully for us” (Ezekiel Mphahelele, The African Image (1962) p. 11; or this by the celebrated English novelist and literary theorist, Virginia Woolf,  “any method is right, every method is right, that expresses what we wish to express, if we are writers; that brings us closer to the novelist’s intention if we are readers.”   Whatever choice the English student makes should be influenced by a desire to make a success of his chosen career. 

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NOTE: This an old essay, on an equally old debate. A greater part of it was written as an undergraduate, many years ago. I can’t really say why, but I feel compelled to put it out here today. If any information it contains is able to help a student out there, my day would have been made.

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scruples2006@yahoo.com

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com

Who Cares If Kenya Bleeds To Death?

February 18, 2008

 

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

War is young men dying and old men talkingOdysseus, the King of Ithaca (in a film based on Homer’s epic poem, Iliad)
 

Two days ago (Monday, February 4, 2008), The Standard, a Nairobi-based national newspaper published on its front page the heart-rending picture of the Kenyan Minister of Special Programmes, Dr. (Mrs.) Naomi Shabaan, carrying a two-day old baby, John Nduati, who was born at one of the very “inhospitable and squalid camps” where hapless Kenyans, brutally displaced by the insane political crises that have engulfed their country for more than a month now, have sought refuge.

UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE


This tender child never asked to be born at this time. He neither knows President Mwai Kibaki nor Mr. Raila Odinga, whose bitter quarrel over the disputed December 27 polls have continued to exact enormous toll on their once beautiful and peaceful country. Hopefully, someone would preserve a copy of last Monday’s The Standard and show it to this hapless boy when he grows up. I doubt if he will forgive all those who had plunged his nation into such horrible crises and caused him to be born in such an inhuman condition that brings tears to the eyes of even the most hard-hearted.

At least, more than 800 persons (some reports put the figure at 1000) have so far lost their lives in the Kenyan crises, while 350,000 others have become refugees in their own country. Although living in very poor sanitary conditions in over-crowded camps, it is understandable that most of the displaced families have refused to heed the call of the MPs to return to their homes. By Sunday morning, two days after the call by the over-fed and duly protected MPs, many of the people camping at police stations in Nyeri and the Central Police Station were yet to move an inch. Indeed, they have every reason to doubt every assurance that adequate security arrangements have been put in place to ensure their safety, or that peace was returning to Kenya.Indeed, while the MPs were issuing their assurances, some Kenyans were still being massacred. “At the Borabu-Sotik-Bureti border, 10 people were reportedly killed, bringing to 17 the number of those who have lost their lives in the past three days. Also burnt alongside several dozen houses were three schools — Koiyet Primary and St Ann Academy on the Sotik side of the border and Ribaita Primary School in Borabu,” The Standard reported on Monday.

Pres Mwai Kibaki

President Mwai Kibaki: His Ambition To Remain In Office Based On Highly Manipulated Polls Has Plunged Kenya Into Very Costly Crises

 


   

It should be clear that President Kibaki is far from being battle-weary and appears bent on continuing to stoke the fire presently devastating in his country. In fact, there are fears now that the Kenyan President may snub the resolutions of the high-powered Negotiation Team led by former United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Anan, whose mediation talks have this week entered key areas that are central to the restoration of peace in Kenya.

Following Kibaki’s remarks at the recent African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa that the crises in his country could only be resolved locally through the Kenyan courts, the leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Mr. Raila Odinga, has accused him of planning to sabotage the talks whose outcome the world eagerly awaits.

“He should come forward and renounce the statement. He should not utter things that could worsen the current problems,” last Saturday’s Daily Nation  (Nairobi) quotes Odinga as saying.

The Kenyan crises had erupted when Kibaki, on noticing that his party’s dismal performance in the parliamentary elections could only lead to his loss of the Presidency allegedly manipulated the figures, mainly in his Kikuyi mainland, to ensure that he emerged “winner” of the presidential contest. Mr. Odinga is insisting that since his party, the ODM, had won 99 parliamentary and 998 civic seats as opposed to 43 and 322 won by Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU), there was no doubt that the ODM won the elections. In fact, twenty-three serving Cabinet ministers were floored in the legislative election by candidates of the ODM.


kibaki-and-crowd.jpg

It is reassuring that Mr. Odinga is asking his supporters to refrain from acts of violence and pledging not to withdraw from the Anan-led talks. He is also ready for fresh elections, an option Kibaki is not very comfortable with. Pressure must, therefore, be mounted on Kibaki by the African Union (AU), the United Nations (UN) and his Western friends, to respect the wishes of the people and allow peace to reign and the carnage presently ruining his country to stop. The seeming helplessness of the AU in the face of Kibaki’s crude determination to destroy Kenya with himself only reconfirms the hollowness of the so-called Peer Review Mechanism, once parroted by such unrepentant renegades like Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. Indeed, Museveni is today a key factor in the continued degeneration of the Kenyan crises. Just last Friday, two Ugandan newspapers, Daily Monitor and Weekly Observer, published an open letter to President Museveni by Ugandan opposition leaders signed by Mr. Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, a respected opposition leader in Uganda. The letter drew Museveni’s attention to overwhelming media reports about Uganda’s overt involvement in the Kenyan crises to which “no categorical response” has come from Museveni.“It is absolutely important and imperative that your Excellency distance yourself and the people of Uganda from the unfortunate events taking place in Kenya. Otherwise the people of Kenya and indeed of Uganda will hold you personally accountable for the disintegration of our sister neighbour and the destruction of lives and property, which [have] so far claimed more than 800 innocent Kenyans,” the letter said.

KENYA BURNS

The High Cost Of A Fatal Ambition: Kenya In Flames

Earlier at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Museveni had told the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, that what was required in Kenya was a Commission of Enquiry (to be set up by Kibaki?) to probe the elections and proffer solutions. That was his way of rejecting the Anan-led talks currently holding in Nairobi, and assisting Kibaki to consolidate his illegitimate regime. Also, Museveni is yet to deny media reports that Kibaki is now being guarded by his country’s elite force, the Ugandan Presidential Guard of Brigade, as the embattled Kenyan President, apparently becoming distrustful of his own security outfit is reducing its presence around him. Given these flagrant signs of Uganda’s meddling in the Kenyan crises, the Ugandan opposition is asking Museveni to retrace his evil steps and support efforts by decent and progressive minds to find lasting peace in Kenya.“Let us align ourselves with Kenyans and not with either of the protagonists. Let us join them in finding a solution, which … should be advocating for fresh elections supervised by AU and UN. Let us prevail on Mr Kibaki to resign and leave room for a government of national unity which neither he nor Mr Raila Odinga should head, and whose main task shall be to prepare for fresh elections within a period not exceeding one year,” they told him in their open letter.With Museveni solidly behind him, Kibaki is also reaching out to the West. On Sunday night, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, left Nairobi on a four-day tour of the United Kingdom and United States. In London, he would brief the House of Commons and “friends of Kenya” on the “true position” of things at home. He is also scheduled to meet with the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon and US Congressmen and Senators.
Against the backdrop of threats by both the US and UK to review developmental support to Kenya if nothing concrete was done to urgently halt the crises, the vice-president would deploy all his persuasive powers to dissuade them from withdrawing their assistance despite Kibaki’s intransigence and determination to supervise the ruination of Kenya. It is unfortunate that instead committing himself to the on-going peace talks at home, Kibaki would rather waste scarce resources on shuttle diplomacy, to win support for his illegitimate regime, with the blood of nearly 1000 Kenyans dripping from his cruel palms.

raila-odinga.jpg

Opposition Leader, Raila Odinga: Insists His Party, ODM, Won The Elections

He needs to urgently recall the wise counsel offered him by the LondonTimes in its editorial of January 3, 2008, and face the raw truth that there is just no way the manipulated elections in Kenya can “give him mandate to continue as President.” He can only hang on there at the expense of more lives and further destruction of Kenya.

Indeed, Kenya is bleeding profusely today, but who cares? Certainly, not Kibaki who is currently blinded by his naked lust for power to read the handwriting on the wall. Instead of coming to terms with the harsh reality staring him on the face, he thinks the press are the cause of his problem. The obnoxious order by Government Spokesperson, Dr Alfred N. Mutau, stopping all live broadcasts in Kenya is being challenged in court by the KTN, one of the leading networks in Kenya. But, unfortunately, the case has been effectively paralysed with a very ridiculous adjournment, obviously inspired by Kibaki. Dr. Mutua’s explanation that “by requesting media houses not to air live press conferences and call-ins into radio shows” Government is intending to “empower editors to be in control of the information relayed by their media houses,” has failed to impress anyone. No doubt, Kibaki is simply rattled by the force of public opinion, which he is not prepared to respect.
One African leader deeply pained and embarrassed by all this mess is Mr. Paul Kageme, the Rwandan President. During the 14th Heroes Day Celebrations in his country’s Southern Province on February 1, he could not hide his disgust and disappointment.

“People do not want to relinquish power peacefully until they are forced out after a spell of destructions and this has affected the development of the continent…They have also ended up in flames. Today one country is in total chaos, then tomorrow another follows suit and the next day violence is reported in another African country … and all these conflicts are fuelled by bad leadership,”last Sunday’sMonitor(Kampala) quotes Kageme as saying.

On Monday, in Kigali, during his monthly press conference, Kageme called for a re-run of the disputed elections in Kenya. ““I want to make my position clear on this matter. There are three scenarios of ending this situation and one of them is a re-run … the violence in Kenya is worsening and human rights violations are increasing. This must stop. Both PNU and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) should go back to elections all together,” Tuesday’s Daily Monitor quotes him as saying.

 

Kenya crises victim

The Bloody Face Of Violence

Well, Kagame has spoken, but who will listen to him? How many other African leaders and so-called statesmen would be bold and sincere enough to speak forthrightly and sincerely on the Kenyan crises? Is Kibaki not still hanging on there because he is yet to feel any pinch of condemnation and isolation from other African leaders? Who really cares if Kenya is bleeding to death?
Well, it is reassuring that Mr. Ki-Moon who was in Nairobi the other day has thrown his weight behind the Anan-led Mediating Team. The UN must insist that Kibaki abide by the outcome of the talks.

Also, troublemakers like Museveni and others giving more covert support to creatures like Kibaki must not be allowed to escape justice once they leave office. They must be made to tread the inglorious path the likes of Charles Taylor have since trod, to face a duly empowered UN Human Rights Court for their clear and unambiguous crimes against humanity.

kibaki-and-lucy.jpg

Mwai Kibaki And His Wife, Lucy

On no account should Kibaki be allowed to drag Kenya down with him. Right now, he must have moved his children and quarrelsome wife, Lucy, to safety, while the children others, goaded by the grand illusion that they are Kibaki’s “supporters,” are mowed down in the prime of their lives.

In short, this whole madness must stop.

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scruples2006@yahoo.com

www.ugowrite.blogspot.com

 

Dinner From A Lagos Dustbin

February 16, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

It was a very beautiful evening in Lagos. I was in the car, waiting for my wife to get her bag from her office so we could go home together.

 dinnernigeria1.jpg

Then, I saw him, as he passed, looking very hungry and haggard. The general consensus here is that he is not mad. At least, not yet. He is clearly traumatized by the impossible condition in which he struggles to exist each day. 

Suddenly, his hungry eyes caught the dustbin, outside the office complex, a few meters away from where my car was packed. He appeared so elated at his find. His face creased into an awful gesture, which he probably meant to be a smile.

Then, with a quickened pace, he made for the dustbin, and began to desperately rummage in it, among its decayed, putrid, stinking contents. He seemed afraid that someone might come out to drive him away before he was through. 

An idea occurred to me immediately. Nigerians ought to share this heart-rending image with me. Yes, my camera was at the backseat, I remembered. I quickly reached for it, and with a greater part of me hidden behind the windshield, I took two shots of him while he was still busy searching and collecting some items triumphantly.  Then my third shot caught him as he made to move away with his booty.  And within a few minutes, he went down the street and was gone. 

dinnernigeria2.jpg

This, too, is a Nigerian. Like you and I. Like Umar Musa Yar’Adua. Like David Mark. Like Patricia Etteh. Like Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (the founder/father of Modern Nigeria). Like National Assembly Members. Like former State Governors. Like former ministers and Super Special Advisers. Like some Local Government Chairmen. All now incredibly wealthy after just a few years of “self-less service to the nation”! 

If this hapless Nigerian had heard that houses are renovated and/or upgraded in Abuja with a mere “ paltry sum” of N628 million, he didn’t show it. He was just content to invade the dustbins, to fill his stomach with its putrid contents, until life, his life, reaches a T-junction, where, his candle would be cruelly extinguished by the violent wind of the unspeakable callousness of Nigerian leaders. 

By the way, is Umaru Dikko reading this? Where is Olusegun Obasanjo? Shouldn’t he come out to see an undeniable evidence of the marvellous success of his economic reforms?  That is the reality of present day Nigeria. And make no mistake about it, there are several others like him out there, who would never have anything to eat today, until they are able to find a dustbin rich enough to yield them a meal. 

Perhaps, this fellow voted in the last election. Perhaps, he did not. But those who are supposed to take care of him are out there in Abuja and other points of power engaging in unspeakable profligacy, with the commonwealth, from which they have carefully insulated him. While he dies slowly, and miserably. 

What a nation.

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ANOTHER LINK TO THE ARTILCE

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www.ugochukwu.blog.com

scruples2006@yahaoo.com