Monday, May 29

Nigeria: The Tale of the Old Manchild at 57


Independence from the ordinary meaning of the word signifies freedom. Every human being and every people (nation) do reach the point of ecstasy once they are able to say; yes we are free! Post-independent African literature is littered with gritting tales of hope raised and hope cascading to the point of abyss. Nigeria is not an exception of the harrowing tales of most independent African states. As she becomes 57 years as a nation, we are haunted by these words from one of Africa’s best novelists, Ayi Kwei Armah, that we wonder how the young can be this tired! As he said: “Now, whenever I am able to look past the beauty of the first days, the days of birth, I can see growth. I tell myself that it is the way it should be. There is nothing that should break the heart in the progressive movement away from the beauty of the first days. I see growth, that is all I see within my mind. When I can see, when there is nothing I can feel, I am not troubled. But always these unwanted feelings will come in the end and disturb the tired mind with thoughts that will not go away. How horribly rapid everything has been, from the days when men were not ashamed to talk of souls and of suffering and of hope, to these low days of smiles that will never again be sly enough to hide the knowledge of betrayal and deceit. There is something of an irresistible horror in such quick decay . . . completely old in everything save the smallness of its size, a thing that deepened the element of the grotesque. The manchild looked more irretrievably old, far more thoroughly decayed, than any ordinary old man could ever have looked. But of course, it, too, had a nature of its own, so that only those who have found some solid ground they can call the natural will feel free to call it unnatural. And where is my solid ground these days? Let us say just that the cycle from birth to decay has been short. Short, brief. But otherwise not at all unusual. And even in the decline into the end there are things that remind the longing mind of old beginning and hold out the promise of new ones, things even like your despair itself. Everywhere he wore a symbolic evergreen and a faraway look on his face, thinking of the escape, from corruption and of immorality. It was of consumption that he died, so very young, but already his body inside had undergone far more decay than any living body, however old and near death, can expect to see.”   As we all can see every year, we all gather to hear the leader broadcast hopes but before he is gone from his table all promises made at the broadcast table would have disappeared and we are made wonder if we have not been dreaming. But all hell has now broken loose as the cacophony of our new existence is determined to drown all symphony of hope that had occasioned from our independence. Hope we have not abandoned, despite the ringing notes of damnation everywhere.

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