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Chinua Achebe’s undying place in our memories

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
MY earliest encounter with Chinua Achebe was not the usual “suspect”; his trailblazing work, Things Fall Apart. That came a bit later. I had my earliest encounter with Africa’s greatest writer, with Chike  And The River. It was set in Onitsha, against the backdrop of the majestic River Niger.

I had grown up literally on that river’s banks and learnt to swim in it; saw it carry away several people; ate from its rich resource of fish and turtle; witnessed how its peoples traded on huge canoes and boats and even remember vividly today, mythical tales about the powers of a river which dominated the lives of its peoples from the Futa Djallon right into the Nigerian creeks.

Achebe’s extraordinary power as a storyteller speaking to children, created a remarkable sense of drama and excitement when I first read the work in 1972.

The fact that he was talking about our great river, but setting his store against a human experience in the sprawling market town of Onitsha, far removed from the laid back reality of Jebba, made it even more compelling for my young mind.

As I said, Things Fall Apart came later and it became part of the necessary ensemble of readings that assisted us to understand the conflicts which the entire baggage of colonialism, including its spiritual, religious element, impacted upon the African personality.

It took the genius of Achebe to write Things Fall Apart, but the Africa of late colonialism and the whole sweep of anti-colonial struggle had provided the backdrop for the great ouvre. Achebe possessed that incredible ability to untangle the theme of his works in an accessible and lucid manner and for me that unpretentious approachability enhanced the enjoyment of the message that he was sending to the listener. His realism was one that could be mobilised in the cause of the African condition which dominated his works over the decades.

Last October, I did a two-part column on the very controversial book on his Biafran experience There Was A Country. It was clear to me that we were not likely to accept conclusions he drew out the tragic experiences of the 1960s in Nigeria, which culminated in the secession of Biafra. It was also true, that the experience and his role within it, burnt an imprimatur on his consciousness which made it difficult for him to accept post-Biafran, Nigerian citizenship again, for a long time. In my view, the book was cathartic and a final return to Nigerian citizenship, with all the contradictions that they conveyed.

It is significant that he had entered the Nigerian politics of the Second Republic, 1979-1983, as a member of Aminu Kano’s People Redemption Party (PRP), which was the most radical, left wing party of that period. I think that spoke volumes about the radical direction he felt Nigeria had to take, to find the liberation it deserved.

Chinua Achebe was Africa’s greatest writer by a mile, and it was not for nothing that Nelson Mandela said of him, that he was the writer, whose company broke the walls of imprisonment. His pioneering example cannot be over-praised for the incredible effect it would have on the literary landscape of our continent. One of my favourite African writers is NgugiWaThiong’o of Kenya and reading his essays we cannot escape his admiration for Achebe. Even at the human level, there was something modest about the man, despite his world-acclaimed success as a pioneer and writer. That modesty came to the fore when he responded to the adversity of losing the ability to walk after an accident.

He did not want to be pitied, reminding that there were people born deformed. He had walked for sixty years anyway and if he was confined to a wheelchair in his latter years, he was going to deal with it. And he did! He never stopped contributing to the betterment of our world from his wheelchair, since his great brain continued to function until he breathed his last. His works will endure through the ages and Chinua Achebe has found a worthy space in our hearts forever!

A broadcasting miscellany

FOR those who follow the emergence of new broadcasting outfits with excitement, like me, they wont have failed to notice that a new station is broadcasting on 92..5 FM, out of Keffi, in Nasarawa state and can be heard very clearly in the FCT. It belongs to the radio arm of the Nasarawa State Broadcasting Corporation. And without sounding too immodest, I have played a small role in the emergence of the radio. At the onset of the Almakura administration in 2011, he had invited me to assist in auditing the entire media infrastructure in Nasarawa state as well as proffering suggestions on how best to reposition them.

I did a fact finding tour of these establishments and then suggested that he prioritises the turn around of the broadcasting outfits. My perspective was informed by the fact that his was the only CPC-run state in the country. He needed the state’s media resources to tell his story and to also receive feedback from the people, whose expectations of the administration were incredibly high!

I suggested that his broadcast procurement should be cutting edge and given the surfeit of dilletantes in the business, it was very vital to go for companies with the track record of performance. That was as far as my own brief went. A couple of months later, I heard that the contracts had been signed and that Almakura decided to berth with Lucky Omoluwa’s Pinnacle Communications/Harris Corporation combo.

In my mind, I knew that he took the right decision given the incredible record of broadcast procurement success they have garnered over the years; delivery was on target and the 92.5FM outfit is the first of deliveries that include television. When all these come on stream,Nasarawa state will have one of the best broadcasting outfits in Nigeria and I think it would certainly be a legacy that Governor Tanko Al-Makura can be proud of into the future.

It is also instructive, that the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) has also become more active in recent months, with Segun Olaleye’s appointment as Executive Secretary, and especially as Nigeria draws ever closer to the digitisation of broadcasting, by 2015. It will be a revolutionary development which should impact on broadcasting at levels that we might not even be able to envisage now. But a couple of weeks ago, BON organised a two-day workshop on “Understanding Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting”, which was well attended by broadcast managers and others.

It was equally instructive to note, that the workshop was solely sponsored by Omoluwa’s Pinnacle Communications Limited. It was a very commendable example of a company in the field of broadcast procurement, helping to sponsor the more subtle and nuanced issues of deepening knowledge about the future of broadcasting, which is already dawning upon us.

That is the type of social responsibility that private sector groups must do more often for the development of various aspects of our national life. I have spent the past eleven years editing newspapers, chairing editorial boards and writing columns and other articles; but broadcasting was and remains my first love. That is why I never stop following developments in the field and when there are green shoots of growth as we have witnessed in Nasarawa and with BON, we should acknowledge them.

PDP’s metamorphosis: From do-or-die to all out war

FELLOW Nigerians please be on the lookout. PDP is changing tack. It has undergone a metamorphosis. Not even “do-or-die” can approximate its desire to retain power. Times have changed in Nigeria and the Neanderthal “Ogas at the top”, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and the colonial-era policeman, Chief Tony Anenih have their jobs cut out.

The umbrella is torn; the scorpions are stinging themselves to death inside their basket of troubles; the candidate-to-be in 2015 has alienated the nation with an uninspiring record of service so far; the Niger Delta people whose “turn” it is have abused others to a point where they are gradually becoming the sole owners of a shell of a party, that the PDP is gradually becoming. And despite their huffing and puffing; the threats and abuses, politics remains a game of numbers!

The numbers do not reside in the Niger Delta, unfortunately. And to worsen matters, the opposition seemed to have discovered the ability to unite at a time that Nigerians are yearning for a different direction in their lives. The emergence of APC has become such a potent and potential cure for the nation’s political headache, that the PDP is scared stiff. Fatigue has set in in the nation and after 14 years under the torn and leaky umbrella, things are scattering. As Fela would have inimitably put it, OVERTAKE DON OVERTAKE OVERTAKE!

The PDP boat which Goodluck Jonathan had threatened to sink in 2010, is listing dangerously today. The governors are not amenable to the much-vaunted reconciliation drive. But the party chairman’s eyes are firmly on the ball. Never mind that the old man is not as firm as he was all those years ago. He still has fire in his belly. That was why he announced so honestly, that for his party, 2015 will be an all-out-war. But Baba Bamanga Tukur would have re-written Clausewitz’ treatise on war, by being a general able to win a war, when his troops are threatening to desert.

Maybe the heavy financial war chest of the PDP will be enough to gather political stragglers to throw into a last-ditched battle for 2015. What about a liberal helping of political Viagra, given that we are dealing with an expired political manhood as well?  May you live in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse says; those times are here! Please stay tuned, as we say in broadcasting.

 

 

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