Saturday, June 1, 2013


Huzaifa Sani Ilyas

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic country containing many tribes, it is divided into six geo-political zones; however, this division is mainly known as the dominated Muslim north, and the dominated Christian south. Both parts received western education, virtually, with sameness in political participation and leadership. Since independence, the country has been in verbal war between the south and the north. The former, which sees itself as a civilized territory, a land full of intellectuals, scholars, and technocrats, view the latter as barbaric, uncivilized, dormant, and parasite (always found in the southern papers). This argument of whether the north lacks intellectual thinking has been the talk in the nation for decades. However, history has proved that, envy is one of the elements of social struggle especially between the forces of purity and the forces of obscurity. Social envy exists in any society, but it's only those who are objective, sincere and progressive-minded as well as liberal can appreciate and enjoy the difference; furthermore, highlighting the points to the party that challenges the truth. As one scholar says, the truth is never concealed, it is vivid, tangible, and something to the point that you can't deny.

Unfortunately, one of the social viruses the country is experiencing is egocentrism of the southern media, and its atrocity and animosity towards its northern counterparts. It goes along to even show vividly that it is against the northern people and their traditions. The southern media name the northern media Islamist extremist or Muslim extremist papers, (they never call their papers Christian papers) in its pride and transgression. The former disguises under the so-called freedom of speech, and exposes itself to sadism and envy and always couldn't contain its intrinsic animosity against the north. In other words, one can name the southern media 'anti-north crusader'. Meanwhile, it goes beyond the usual expectation of media practitioners or media houses from being objective enterprises, and being responsible in discharging their obligations fearlessly and without any nepotism or tribal orientalism or superiority complex or discrimination in the dissemination of information or segregation of the other parts ( ethnic group), instead, the southern media possesses those calamitous effects and become biased, disrespectful and unreliable to give the north satisfactory information about socio-political life. This is a failure to the whole country at large. Deviating from being ideal example to copy, they become irresponsible and ravaging elements to throw away, because of their dangerous contents. Unlike the northern media that always try to follow the path of unity, tolerance, understanding and togetherness. The southern media proved different.

Some of the characteristics of media and journalism as well as their universal applicability and respect are OBJECTIVITY and RELIABILITY of the sources of information and disseminating the information without discrimination, fear, favour or familiarity. Unfortunately, the southern media, and perhaps their representatives (commenter in both print and electronic media) lack the former and the latter. This is fact and needs no debating; any reader who reads southern papers knows the abuses of character the southerners make against the northerners. What they have is arguably nepotism, sectionalism, tribalism and ethnocentrism. And these are the major attributes that dominate their papers, radio, televisions and of course, even the social media used by the southern people and this becomes the discussion that circulates every nook and cranny in the south.

However, the northern intellectuals and other capable forces of scholars, commenters, analysts and so forth remain indifferent on the abuses, biases, disgrace and unsystematic dissemination of unreliable information about the north, its people and culture. This exhibits their laziness and carelessness, I don't know; maybe because many of them are southerners' apologists. One can't find a northerners' writings in their papers except on rare occasion, one could hardly see even the online comments because they don't or wouldn't post them, and they would rather manipulate or hijack the comments, (only when they want to bring chaos between the south and the north). Though the northerners refrain most of the time from commenting on the papers, maybe because they lack interest or maybe because they are sure their works will not be published.

To dive into the ocean of the whole matter, recently, Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano (IBK), a Professor of Literature and a versatile scholar from the north, paid a tribute to late Chinua Achebe; he called his piece: Chinua Achebe: A Non-romantic View, in which most of the Nigerian dailies published, (published only to open room for attacking the writer for his objective and fearless release of his unapologetic and factual piece about Achebe and his novels which is academic and intellectual, rather than personal and prejudicial ). This opens up the reality of underscoring the northern people, lack of total respect to northern scholars and intellectuals; in other words, IBK exposes the facts that are vivid and undeniable. Thence, the southern people, having jingoist feelings and ethnic chauvinism, and precisely envious minds and as well as underrating the intelligence and capability of the northern people with their altruistic thinking of orientalists who think there is no such thinking and great minds in the north, vehemently rejected IBK's piece and deterred it with biased view. Having recognized there are such big thought and great minds the north, their envy couldn't allow them to accept the fact and appreciate it, but they go along to attack the professor personally rather than establish reasonable and objective views or arguments defending the late Achebe who IBK deconstructed with objective criticism, using structuralist and post-structuralist views of Viktor Shklovsky's and Jacques Derrida's "defamiliarization" and "difference" and Since most of the people venerated Achebe romantically and blindly without knowing who Achebe really was. This is a clear indication that north has been suffering from the southern media intellectually, and of course still suffers discrimination from the anti-intellectual critics, who demystify blindly and selfishly to let their uncontrollable prejudices appear unapologetic. Even though, they are people of the same nationality, same race, and same continent, they would not stop their campaigns of hatred and humiliation.

In the article, Ibrahim Bello-Kano asserts that even though Chinua Achebe was a great writer (he uses the phrase 'outstanding writer' in the first place), he notices chasms and failures in Achebe's writing career, which he says ended his career by writing There was a country: A Personal History of Biafra. Many scholars, critics and analysts condemned the book, and tagged it as the wrong book at the right time. This is almost the same view Achebe's disciple holds, the Igbo female novelist Chimamanda Adichi Ngozi. She said in her Tribute to Achebe at 82:

"Achebe's most recent book, his long-awaited memoir of the Nigerian-Biafra war, is both sad and angry… I wish THERE WAS A COUNTRY had been better edited and more rigorously detailed in its account of the war."

While IBK points out that Achebe's first novel Things Fall Apart, came out in a time when African 'educated and cultural nationalists' were looking for things on culture that would be documented as Africa's pre-colonial intellectual possessions and legacy. In his Non-romantic tribute, he calls Achebe a tribal nationalist, because of his failure to hide his sentimentality and tribal concern for only his people, Igbo. As a writer, one is a preacher, a leader and a father in bulk whose task is to guide, lead and reconcile between two conflicting issues, ideologies, or misunderstandings. The good father creates the best way for dialogue and reconciliation among his children in order to clear away grudges and animosity among them. But Achebe proves otherwise as he favours one site only. In other words, IBK is persistent on his stand that Achebe was communal jingoist and even ethnic nationalist, igbo-phie, post-colonial and Biafran apologist as well as anti-colonial writer, more especially when he deconstructs Achebe's last written work, There was a country. That's not IBK's major concern, his was when people across the nation keep re-iterating things such that Achebe is 'the father of African Literature', he became provoked and reactive, and perhaps this is the reason why he decided to write his A Non-romantic View, perhaps, non-hero worshipping tribute to Achebe, making it crystal clear that Achebe was not the 'father of African Literature."

IBK underlines some recipe to those who stick to the claim and believe that the Achebe was the 'dad of African literature' (to make it informal). He shed more light saying that the claim is an unacceptable not only to African writers, literary historians and scholars but also to Achebe himself. IBK continued saying there were many African writers who contributed long before Achebe was born and their contributions were excellently compelling. IBK called the claim as a 'partial and reductive view of Africa's literary history, or a diminution of African writing to a minor position...'

To summarize it all, he says, 'in any case, the idea of Achebe being the 'father of African Fiction' isn't a scholarly argument but a romantic and naïve one because it ignores the major contributions of pre-colonial African Authors and a huge corpus of African writing in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish.'

To cash it down, few days ago, the renowned playwright an poet, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, came out with harsher words against the hackneyed phrase that Achebe was the founding father of African Literature. He says it's: "Literary ignorance'' or "momentary exuberance to which we are all sometimes prone." Soyinka added:

"Those who seriously believe or promote this must be asked: have you the sheerest acquaintance with the literatures of other African nations, in both indigenous and adopted colonial languages?"
He continued:

"What must the francophone, lusophone, Zulu, XHOSA, Ewe etc. etc. literary scholars and consumers think of those who persist in such a historic absurdity? It's as ridiculous as calling Wole Soyinka father of contemporary African drama! Or Mazisi Kunene father of African epic poetry. Or Kofi Awoonor father of African poetry. Education is lacking in most of those who pontificate."

And for Achebe's last work, There was a Country…, Soyinka termed it as "a book I wish he had never written-that is not in the way it was. There are statements in that work that I wish he had never made."

However, Ibrahim Bello-Kano, said similar things about the work, his is more intellectual, academic and frank than Soyinka's which was more personal and harsher than IBK's, but the whole nation, especially the south, came out with innumerable attacks on IBK, calling him names, in fact, they not only ended the insults on him but also to the generality of his ethnic location, his religion and his tribe.

In the journalism profession, it is not allowed everywhere in the world to cast such abuse of character in papers. On online papers, there is a law that prohibits that, telling you before you comment, for instance, on the online papers, that any abuse of character, defamation or slander comments would not be entertained. Southern papers always don't practice the law; they go ahead after reviewing to post them. Who criticizes Soyinka now? Where are the harsh and abusive rejoinders against IBK? Where are those selfish, egoistic writers who backed Achebe blindly? To make it clear, Soyinka referred to Achebe's early novels as "market literature", which was more or less aimed at making money rather than contributing to intellectual progress, yet the southern commenters remain as silent as grave. Are they afraid of Soyinka's scathing censure or have they regarded him as Literature's 'final authority?' Everybody is hiding quietly because the lion appeared in the middle of the field, no talk, no cough, no move, nothing but silent egocentrism of biased forces and ethnic jingoism.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld from Glo Mobile.