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Literature and the Nigerian-ness of Achebe/Soyinka

By Morenike Taire

Some critics love Soyinka’s prose, and it has nothing to do with Achebe.

Though better admired for his playwriting, many followers of the Nobel Laureate find his prose rather overbearing, even haughty. Yet, it is this particular part of its nature that confers on it the insignia of importance, importance not being the equivalent here of big words.

There is nothing wrong with simple prose, particularly if the simplicity is deliberate and cleverly guided away from becoming a constraint to the expression of the  message. Yet, the ability to attain precision in winding prose is the point where science and technology meet art. High art.

But it is a dangerous thing to define a literary writer by his artistic style alone. He is not only an artist- he is, most importantly, a Voice.

Late Prof Chinua Achebe
Late Prof Chinua Achebe

As voices, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka have achieved what a voice is meant to achieve- the command of  listening ears, and millions and millions of them across the globe.

To continue to competitively compare and contrast Soyinka with Achebe and vice-versa is to miss a very important point: that a diverse society not only can but ought to have not two but many different voices, that the voices can be representative of the many different  thought directions that are synonymous  with diversity and that- most importantly of all- like good music all the voices must speak together in harmony before it can achieve a common direction.

If anything, therein lies the whole essence of a writer: his role as a public intellectual and leader of thought, whether it be subtly done or overtly in your face. In the Lion and the Jewel for instance, Soyinka coaxes a laugh out of the average feminist, even with Baroka’s insidious conquest of Sidi, the cheeky maiden.

There was a country, Achebe’s most controversial published work by far, is however a direct socio-political commentary, putting forward strong opinions and ruffling not a few feathers. It is therefore understandable that the whole of Achebe’s repertoire as a writer and his socio-political essence has been tragically summarized into those two works: Things Fall Apart and There was a Country.

It is interesting that a major point generally missed by readers of There was a Country is that the success of Things Fall Apart was the fallout of being in the right place at the right time. He had a different story. He had a story that was a clever social commentary. He had a story written in a new language. Achebe himself alludes to the fact that genius can be both born and made.

And the voices do not necessarily have to be ethnic voices, but sometimes they are.

To deny that the Civil War was the most defining event in Nigerian history is akin to denying that the Holocaust ever happened. The rash of Civil war literature that has appeared on the Nigerian international scene recently is only a beginning of what will, predictably, become in time a deluge.

To refer to it as the Biafran war tells only half of the story, and to correct this imbalance will not be achieved by criticizing available literature, though criticizing literature-and everything else- is the only way literature gets better. It is a call for the other side to retell the story: from their own side.

For Dim Ojukwu as well as for Obafemi Awolowo, being a sectional leader and being a national leader are necessarily mutually exclusive. This is fundamentally so, even as their sectionalism took rather different dimensions. For the one, the part sought to subsume the whole while for the other it competed with the other parts of the whole. The price they had to pay was both personal as well as political. Both were never able to preside over the affairs of a country the oneness of which they considered inferior to their ethnicity. This is only fair.

As the beloved Chinua Achebe goes home (beloved of his village, his country, the whole of the global writing community), it might have been safer to eulogise Achebe as the complete Nigerian that he was, who used his literature, though featuring Igbo characters, to understand our African-ness; our Nigerian-ness.

Women should not expect extra privileges because of their gender

By Dotun Ibiwoye

Nigerian women are not supposed to expect people to give them any extra respect or privileges just because they are women due to the changing trend.

This disclosure was made by Mrs Daba Obioha, the first female President of River Bayelsa Indigenes Association in a chat with lipstick, noted that women are backward financially because they have been home-makers in the past.

The president of the 25 year old association said  women are intelligent but empowerment has to do with adequate finance and  nobody is ready to empower women because men want the offices.

According to her: “We need to get women involved to motivate others. To me, politics is not dirty; it is people that make it dirty. You can’t fight a disease from outside; you have to get in there and uproot it. If all the good people run away from politics then politics will be left for the bad people. I don’t like people complaining and not doing anything about the situation.

“In the public affairs department where I served for over 30 years, women did so much better and had to do double of what was required not because we are women but because we are doing what we are supposed to do. We have been brain- washed that we don’t like one another and even in the work place, women don’t like working with other women.

“I am a member, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party South South Forum in Lagos State and I know it will take time for women to gain the amount of wealth the men have, because they have been at the forefront in the work place. This is one of the many factors militating against women attaining high position. Men don’t want women in those areas.

If you want to take an office from somebody, you need what it takes to get to such. The solution lies in women going into mainstream politics. Women achieving desired goals

Obioha added that women are not and will never be second-class citizens and should not expect things to be given to them on a platter of gold.

The real meaning of eating healthy

Our health landscape in Nigeria has changed in the most dramatic manner in the least decade or so, with marked prevalence and increase in diseases such as Diabetes type 2, heart disease, kidney disease and the big C. the ages at which these set in are also getting lower and lower, with teenagers and early twenties presenting with shocking symptoms, a totally new phenomenon.

Garbage in, garbage out!

The standard rule applies. Everything that happens starts in the mind, and a healthy eating routine begins with an attitude. You must first of all agree with yourself that you want to eat healthy before you begin to do so. Be aware that eating healthy does not only have to do with food but of being aware of every single thing that enters the body through the mouth as toxins can come in  any form.

Beware of ‘strange’ Supplements

The whole place is dotted with all sorts of so styled food supplements which are supposed to make up for all the food, fruits and vegetables you are not eating. Most of them are overpriced and do not cure what they say they can. If your doctor does not recommend, then shun!

Eat Fresh

Experts say the closer food is to being raw and fresh, the better it is for the body. Most foods-especially fruits and vegetables should be eaten raw, but so are things like groundnuts and milk.

Look out for Roasted Food

A carcinogen found on mouldy food, aflatoxin, has been identified for a couple of decades now. They are mostly found on roasted food such as boli, meat, fish and groundnuts that have been left for some time. If you can avoid dried or roasted varieties of these foods then do so. Otherwise, do the drying and roasting yourself.

Eat Local

The more processed the food the higher the chances of its being toxic. Foods that are grown near you is the best foods for you to eat.

Learn from the Healthy

There are people round the globe whose diets can act as a shining example for those who like to eat healthy.

A study which examined the effects of a Mediterranean diet in men and women ages 55 to 80. Participants received either a liter of extra-virgin olive oil weekly or 30 grams of a nut mixture (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds) daily. In addition they received dietary training in how to eat meals with large amounts of olive oil, fruits, nuts, vegetables and cereals, a moderate amount of fish and poultry, and a low amount of dairy, red meats, processed meats and sweets. Over a 5-year period, both the nut and the olive oil groups experienced a 30 % reduction in heart attacks and other cardiac events compared with the control group, which simply received advice on eating a low-fat diet.

The Mediterranean diet itself isn’t low fat. In fact, it’s a moderate to high-fat diet, but it’s rich in healthy fats and low in the unhealthy, saturated fats found in animal products like butter and red meat. Products full of healthy fats make people feel fuller longer than the “light” products that people eat—and often overeat—in an attempt to lose weight, separate research suggests. Notably, the new study didn’t restrict participants’ calories or promote exercise. The Mediterranean diet group didn’t lose weight even as participants reaped the diet’s medical benefits.

Market vs Supermarket

There seem to be better deals in supermarkets now than there are in markets. Everything here is bigger, brighter and fresher but wait a second. Ask for the source of the veggies and fruits you are buying and if the sellers don’t know, neither do you. A lot of supermarket produce is genetically modified and grown with pesticides, etc.

Natural Water

We have a million and one options to get drinking water but the best remains opening up your tap, taking the water, boiling it, waiting for it to cool and drinking it. Most bottled waters come with a lot of processing which involves the addition of chemicals and the removal of essential minerals.

Wash, Wash, Wash

Even when you are buying organic, residues of herbicides, bacteria and all sorts of things might continue to linger. It is important to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before using, even if you have to peel it afterwards.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.