Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Father's House of Words.


Obododimma Oha

It is sometimes through discourse that we remember people: the tone of their voice, their style or choice of words, their favourite expressions, etc. Indeed, discourse remembers these people for us. We know why we have to keep searching for the dead among the living; it is to be able to deal with absence which tortures us. My own father died many years ago and I strongly feel his absence. I can see him in his cherished expressions such as the ones examined here and his characteristic but symbolic "washing of hands." Moreover, who says that style, to some extent, is not the person? My father's favorite sayings (later, one would also examine that of the mother and maybe compare them) are part of his style. Absence is forcing one to go back to discourse to look for him.

The following are among the peculiar Igbo expressions that  I  associate with my father:

(1) Ebe iheoma dị ka Ekwensu na-aga ọnwụnwa.

(Where there is something good that is where the devil goes to  enact temptation)

(2) Nwata ahụ bụ obu afọ ebu uche.

(That child is somebody who carries a belly but not a mind).

(3) A sachaa ezi ahụ, tee ya ude, gbaa ya "perfume," ọ ga-alarịrị n'ụrụ.

(If one gives a thorough bath to a pig, rubs sweet-smelling pomade on it, and perfumes it, it would eventually return to a muddy pond).

(4) A bụkwala meyi emeyi, chere echere.

(Don't be that person who starts something and turns later  to pretend to be combatting it).

(5) Onye emeghị ihe dịịrị ya, ihe dịịrị  ya emee ya. 

(If one does not attend to one's responsibility, the responsibility would become one's liability).

(6) Nkịta m na-egburu ngwere asabeghị anya.

(The puppies for which I am killing lizards are yet to open their eyes).

(7) Ehi anaghị ama uru ọdụ ya baara ya tutuu e bepụ ya.

(The cow does not know the value of its tail until it is cut off).

(8) Ehi ga-eji ọdụ ya tere ihe ọ nyụrụ. 

(The cow will mop up  what it defecated with its tail).

(9) Onye zọrọ ụkwụ n'ala mara ụkwụ ya.

(One who steps on the ground should recognize the footmark).

(10) Ihe onye na-asọ na-abịara ya.

(What  one detests is what comes one's  way).

Yes; the Devil, it is predictable, would oppose what is good, or, at least, make it a disappointment. But, psychologically speaking, what one values most is close to one's heart.  If one's heart is there, it becomesa trap  to one. whatever happens to it touches one in a special way. One, therefore, needs a reasonable measure of detachment from every thing. 

But from a spiritual perspective, such a trap can be used by the evil one. It was in that sense that my father saw the trap as being promising for the Devil. In other words, he was not just asserting what was possible;  he was also warning  all those who  keep certain things closer  to their hearts.

To carry a belly but have little or  no sense is regettable. That means that the person has made his or her stomach a deity to be worsipped with eatables. That statement was a warning for one not to make one's stomach another trap. If one's enemies can get or seduce this  stomach, one is finished. Poisoning may be the simplest weapon they would try to use in the circumstance. 

Now, the pig. Even the word "pig" has become a natural  metaphor for dirtiness. So, the saying is a bullseye in the discourse. The pig has no blame for returning to the mud  and refusing to be turned to  what its life cannot understand. The saying, unfortunately, can only be used to refer to an incurable habit.  It is a confirmation of a futile effort to transform Hell  to Heaven, devil to saint, and shit to delicious meal for the human.

Also, starting a problem but pretendingto  be solving it is a  manifestation of hypocrisy. If somebody has benefitted from evil, the person can be sure that  that very evil would eventually consume him or her. What we promote or exploit is  what eventually takes us. In that case , the "benefit" or reward comes in ways we cannot predict or control.

This brings in the issue of responsibility. If we fail to attend to a responsibility, are we  free from the consequences? Not at all. We are warned again that this responsibility  unattended to becomes a liability we have to pay a huge price to solve. This warning is very frightening and worse still, it is much later that the transformation of responsibility to liability occurs. The miserable condition is unimaginable.

It is natural for puppies not open their eyes the very day they are born. Nature says  that they have to wait and grope about in their temporary blidness. So, killing lizards for  them in their blindness is a waste of time. They only need breast milk. Keep your lizards for yourself. But that one is wasting one's time killing lizards for animals that need breast milk is a statement of regret or a confession of regret. The killer of lizards  is ahead of time, expecting the diet of the puppies to change. The killer needs to be patient, if possible. But puppies need to open their eyes and grow up, to become big dogs. They should not remain puppies forever.

Now, cows. Hmmm, cows. Did I say anything? That a cow does not know the value of its tail is literally disappointing. What does it hope to use in driving away flies? If it waits to value its tail when it is already too late, that's futile. I believe this is a warning. Particularly for those who insist that they have to be the head and not the tail! Tailless cows!But cows with tails have to thank their stars and also value their tails.  They should not wait for  the tails to be butchered off.

Is one surprised that the cow is promised that it will  eventually mop up its defecation, its shit, with its tail? We know that it is not a pig; neither is it a dog. But natural justice holds sway: karma is karma. Its tail has multiple functions; it can also be used to do other important things. One should not be this kind of cow and also wait for the  defecation to be mopped up. It could be terrible. Is  this not clearly a warning of warnings?

Then, that we  should be able to recognise our very footmarks is to say that the human being is the centre of signification and of crime detection. Apart from the palm of one's hand, one should be able to KNOW one's footmark, even if one has to hide one's foot in shoes and sandals or slippers in modern times. Being able to recognise one's footmarks means, as the ancients say, you have to try to KNOW THYSELF, and when that self is replicated.

The one saying that makes one very uncomfortable is the one that claims that what we dislike as human beings is what comes our way! That is shocking. So, one has to be prepared to wrestle with opposition. That opposition is predictable and needs attention. One ignores it at one's own peril.

It appears that my father wanted to summarise his thoughts for his audience, and these that concern our being, our interaction with others, and the dialectics  of earthly likes and dislikes. Obviously, those thoughts have continued to live in and through discourse.

If it is true that when the mother-goat chews the cud, her children just watch and learn, then, my father's favourite words are lectures that were delivered now and again and from which  one could learn.

Saturday, September 05, 2020

The Battlefield of Life


Obododimma Oha

What do we expect to see on a battlefield? Obviously, many depressing sights! Terrible injuries, horrible wounds, rare heroism, shameful cowardice, etc. But above all, capital price: death. Especially horrible death. So, no one goes to battle and expects to watch a football match. Kill or be killed is the rule. And when we attach battlefield as a metaphor to earthly existence, are we not inviting others to view that existence analogously as a context of tragedy? Are we also not asking them to consider the strategies and tactics that can bring them home alive? Generally, are we not drawing their attention to the risky nature of life itself and the fact that they have to have the heart to live it?

The big issue, then, is survival. This survival is a personal responsibility. There are promises that some others would help, but promises are promises. The law, for instance, with all its systems and fanciful structures it can boast of, cannot give it, even though it promises it. The government cannot provide it, even though it has with seeming confidence promised it. One has to seek it, asking one's Maker to step in.  Maybe this supernatural intervention would help.

The Maker has clothed humans with perishable flesh that would vanish one day, which even makes them very vulnerable on the battlefield. But one interesting thing is that it is this flesh that is  afraid of the aftermath of the battle. The flesh is also a weak form of clothing: it possible that it is only a stage to a higher transformation. The human flesh suffers and dies to remain on earth, but the spirit marches on. So,the battle is not the end, luckily. What  a consolation!

The settings of this great existential battle include: child bearing, child rearing, property acquisition and maintenance, health, and relationship. More can be added, depending on the context. We have to display skills in these settings and sometimes make our styles unpredictable, so that we do not expose and endanger our plans, our victory.

If life is such a battle, it means that it requires courage and is not a place for the gullible or the one that takes whatever he or she sees. It is a place of cleverness, though requiring honesty. We can no longer retreat into our mothers' wombs, neither should we sit and lament over disadvantage. The hunter of a tiger must dress up in a garment of steel. We need to rise and fight that battle in our time, in our own way. Imagine me expecting Chinua Achebe or Oliver de Coque and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Nnamdi Azikiwe to rise from their graves and fight my battle. Nonsense. It is now my battle!

Chinua Achebe should  be resting, having fought his own battle.  If things fall apart now, it is for us the living to struggle  make them hang together again and not  even dwell on borrowed warfare,  borrowed victory, and past glory. If I expect Achebe and Odumegwu-Ojukwu to come back and continue breaking the coconut with their heads, I must be joking.

That this is now  my battle does not mean that I cannot learn anything, or have not learnt anything, from the ways that Chinua Achebe and Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu waged the battle and withdrew. There is always one or two  lessons waiting to be learnt from the past. Does the person who has not witnessed a burial not start anywhere to exhume the body, sometimes from the legside? The past remains an important witness, to be examined and cross-examined. 

That life is a battle means that we are all fighters that look forward to a victory. There are no spectators who only stand and watch things happening. We are all fighters in the war, with our little shocks that require personal attention. Fighters in the battle of life. That is what we are and may get home traumatised.

The battlefield of life says clearly that a fighter may not win a bout all the time. So the fighter has to be prepared. Even prepared for what one is not prepared for! One must be prepared to lose, with the hope of winning some time later.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Authors of Enduring Wisdom


Obododimma Oha

Igbo people sometimes register the authorship of some proverbs. Who says that ancient people have no idea of giving honour to whom it is due? Today, when we talk about plagiarism and create plagiarism checkers, we forget that the ancients had ways of identifying and recognizing authorship.

Including the author of a proverb in citing or using it, apart  from using the opportunity to give honour to whom it is due, is also a testimonial strategy or appeal to authority, that means borrowing somebody's famed knowledge to construct one’s own. In that case, one is expected to weave in the source in the discourse well enough for the listener to realise essential boundaries in expressed knowledge.

This somewhat calls to  question the idea of collective wisdom in the culture, or draws attention to the fact that there are still significant players that are recognized as authors of some things in the culture. There is fossilized collective wisdom, but there is still personal wisdom hailed by many.

Of course, this authorship (of proverbs, particularly) is sometimes playfully given as belonging to animals, not just humans. The dog said X, the goat uttered Y. In such cases,  even animal authorship may be used in constructing "unquestionable" human wisdom!

Another thing to note here right at the outset is the failure or  continuity of memory. Community may forget authorship with time, but appropriate citing (as expected) helps in recuperating and retaining authorship. At this point, let me briefly enumerate some ways that authorship may be kept.

(1) Phrasal introduction that indicates source, as in the case of proverbs.

(2) Personal names or praise names that keep memory.

(3) Faithful recounting of narratives.

(4) Good transmission/Frequent use of narrative.

One proverb that involves the registering of  its author and which I heard from my father during a discussion with him, is the one that says: "Mgbada nyụa ka enyi, ọhụ agbawaa ya" ("If the antelope defecates like the elephant, its anus would break to pieces" ). But who the hell is this Okenwa? The proverb is attributed to Okenwa of Ihiala who uttered it first in response to a challenge in Cameroon in a corn-beer drinking criticism in the early days. This origin was  explained to me, helping me to realise how the original context has coloured the authoring of the proverb. Thus, those who speak  and try to bring up the ghost of Okenwa in discourse would often start by saying, "Okenwa sị: ...." ("Okenwa said....."). Without some knowledge of the original context, one may be lost and would be wondering whether this Okenwa is just a fictional character . 

You see, there is a problem. It means that some knowledge of history still matters. Nowadays, when it appears that we dispense with the past and with narratives that we should know (such as narratives of the family tree), one shudders. We are not aware of the fact that we are dispensing with essential knowledge. So, we  have to  step into the unknown future without knowing about the past or just where we are coming from? Sad.

We do not need to be students of history in every matter, but we can try. If we have deep knowledge about the discourse, it pays greatly.

Let us try to articulate how the citing of authorship often in Igbo discourses:

(1) "Okenwa si...."

(2)  "Nkita si...."

(3) "X bara aha...."

(4) "Ndiigbo na-ekwu na-asi...."

(5) "A si onye...." 

(6) "Ndi mbụ kwuru sị... ."

(7) "Nna nna ha na-ekwu sị.... "

In the first case, there is individual authorship and it is known. Okenwa is known as the source. Indeed, wise sayings are not from Heaven but from humans in moments of reflection. That means that it is in everyone of us and only needs to be expressed. It is also subject to the competence we have in the language we speak. So, the Maker also installed the expression of wisdom in our brains. Okenwa is, therefore, not special as the utterer. Finally, we are back to the expression of a common knowledge among humans.

Then, there is this attribution of sayings to lower animals, which we have said is a mere rhetorical attribution. Any animal could be cited, but that which is cited is often presented as a challenge to rational thinking. The idea is, "If X can say so, what of you?"

But one noteworthy feature is how the phrase introduces the saying.Fom "si" ("said"), a boundary is introduced in the assertions. We do not need a blade to cut the tape of speech, to know what X says and what Y says. This territory creation in discourse, which could be seen in all the examples, is very necessary to the attribution.

Sometimes, it may turn out that the entity to whom a text is attributed is not the real source. This may be because of forgetfulness or sheer misapplication. For instance, the wise saying, "Onye zọrọ ụkwụ n'ala, ya mara ụkwụ ya" ('Anyone who steps on the ground should try and know his or her footmark") is attributed to several people, which only shows confusion on its authorship. Obviously, such a saying is on its way to collective or commonwealth, as we can see in the fourth example. Its authorship is no longer that of an individual. It is that of community or, rather, it has been claimed by the rhetoric of the community.

But, very interestingly, communal ownership may be routed through the ancestors or the ancients. In attributing authorship to them, we are supposedly borrowing a heavier and a more authoritative text in the culture. This only happens in a society or age where the ancients are still revered as  people who saw life better or wrestled with its in a unique  way.

We also need to comment on the use of indefinite pronouns in making attributions. The indefinite pronoun, "A," as in "a sị onye," which, when translated into English loses the indefinite status, has no gender value. The sayer may be male or female and is even unknown. The unknown is better and more strategically marked as such in the discourse. This may look like a mystification of authorship. But the point is that there is authorship and it is unknown.

One of the examples shows that authorship may be suggested in naming, too. In that case, the name is used in giving examples. The idea is that the bearer of the name, maybe by choice, is the authority that deserves to be referenced. One could see that paying due respect to source is the tradition.

One just wants to call attention to the fact that authorship is still very important in the African  world, even if proverbs are involved. In addition, the different shades of authorship are noteworthy. Finally, also noteworthy is how the personal could become communal property.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Ikwu Against Ibe


Obododimma Oha

One disturbing characteristic of the present set of human beings is that such humans do not care about relatives. They do not even try to communicate with relatives, not to talk about knowing who they are. A cousin does not know a cousin. An uncle does not know a nephew or a niece and a nephew and a niece do not and do not care. A nephew does not know an auntie or a niece and does not care where they are. It is an age of isolation and withdrawal. No network of relationships and no servicing of relationships. Ikwu does not know or care about ibe, or what they call kith and kin. Ikwu does not want to assist ibe or lift ibe. Ikwu does not even want to be within the reach of ibe. Isolation and lonesome journeying. Terrible.

The worst is that in many cases, ikwu is fighting ibe, devouring ibe. Check the pending cases in courts and see ikwu at the throats of ibe. If they are not fighting over irnherited property, they are seeking separate identification. The prayer of ikwu is that ibe should die or quickly get out of the way. Ikwu is on the warpath, and is wearing a garment of steel. Almost every homestead. Every family. Every village. Every town. Every ethnic group and every  country, not to talk of every planet. It is worse than a pandemic! 

Everywhere, every time, ikwu against ibe.

But ikwu is ibe and ibe is ikwu. A tụọ n'imi, o hube n'anya. When the nose is struck, it flows through the eyes. And why should the palm kernel be neighbours with its relative but has a high and hard wall of boundary? Why?

That ikwu is accused of wanting to have everything. Is it true? That ikwu is accused of wanting to have many things. He holds this and holds that that. Are they true?

But ikwu is ibe and ibe is ikwu. Where there is ikwu, there is always ibe. Ikwu always needs ibe. Ikwu is ibe.

That ibe thinks that it is a championship. That ibe wants to outshine or, at least, equalize. That ibe has shot himself or herself. 

Ikwu and ibe need to come together, because it is the intention of creation to make their roads cross. At the end of the journey, ikwu and ibe will explain how their roads have crossed or how they have managed the crossing of roads.

Where ikwu is talking with ibe, there has to be sincerity; there has to be openness. Ikwu and ibe have to build trust, nurture trust,reproduce trust.

Ikwu and ibe are the model of the best in relationship and must remain good examples. Ikwu and ibe cannot afford to let umunnadi divide them from the outside. It is the desire and hope of nwannadi to come between ikwu and ibe. Ikwu and ibe should know this early enough.

Ikwu and ibe make the ụmụnnadị uncomfortable when they walk together, sleep together, feed together. Nwannadi does not like it that they are still together.

Nwannadị is the against between ikwu and ibe. Nwannadị wants ibe to think that ikwu is the problem, the "against" that must be dealt with. But ikwu is not the problem. Ikwu and ibe are rather the answer. Ikwu and ibe have to discover that answer.

Ikwu should know ibe, ibe should know  ikwu. That knowledge is important and will lubricate the relationship. As an important knowledge, it is the guide they need; in fact, the lamp unto their feet in this dark world.

It is ibe that gives ikwu meaning, and vice versa. Ikwu and ibe enter together through the portal of sense to emerge in a semiotic world. Ikwu is ikwu because of ibe.

Now, can you see why ikwu and ibe being at each other's throat is surprising and unusual? Ikwu  and ibe have to turn and return to themselves.

A prophecy : ikwu and ibe shall look for each other one day. Ozu sibe isi, enyi ka nwanne alaa. Yes, when the corpse starts smelling, that friend that is greater than a relative would disappear. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Learning from My Father's Life


Obododimma Oha

Some of us think that one learns only from what is in the books or what proceeds from a teacher's mouth. That is wrong. Life is a big classroom itself and we learn from the lives of others most of the time. We are all teachers and all learners. It is with our lives that we teach; it is our lives that we teach. As one would expect in a relationship of a son and a father, there are many lessons. But I am trying, only trying, to articulate some I consider most outstanding, hoping that someone would learn, too.

Perhaps the part of the experience that stands out significantly in my relationship with my father was the numerous accidents he had, most of them very fatal, but he came out of all a survivor. One ghastly road accident that he had in the fifties took the lives of all in the truck but he survived it! After being in a coma for days and being transferred to Government Hospital, Port Harcourt, where a doctor had to be coming weekly at his expense from Igbobi, Lagos, he came to,  and ended up  limping. It was with that bad limp he struggled and climbed palm-trees, rode bicycles and even motor cycles, and did significant manual labour. Of course, he was also active in the local polilics, too.  In fact, he was not deterred by physical handicap.

His life was, in fact, characterised by accidents. In one, he fell from a palm-tree but survived it after passing through excruciating pain in the treatment. In another, he once fell with this blogger while riding a motorbike on a busy highway. Of course, we survived. Several accidents! Shocking. But he survived and later died in ripe old age. Who says that it is not worthwhile to fight on a battlefield of life, trusting one's chi as the real soldier in action?

So, what is the lesson? It is obvious. This earthly life is a battle-field. One should stand one's ground and fight on. No excuse. One cannot retreat into one's mother's womb again. No cowardice. No retreat; no surrender. As the Igbo say: "Ebe ọkụ nyụrụ, a wụsa mgbọwa!" (Wherever the fire goes out, one has to drop the burning faggots). That means also that one should be ready to wrestle fearlessly until dawn with one's chi, asking to be blessed. Kwa onye kwe, chi ya e kwere? Is it not when one agrees that one's chi agrees? One's chi is superior but waiting to be made a tool, too.

The man who had a tragic accident, who walked with obvious difficulty and with a bad limp, one of his legs ending up being shorter than the other, could have started begging for alms. He could have tried to evoke sympathy by displaying his incapacitation, how he was one leg away from Heaven and badly needed to be assisted. Father could have done all that with great success, coming home smiling from ear to ear with big money and thanking God for making one of his legs shorter.

But he chose to suffer more by climbing palm-trees and bicycles and motorcycles with one leg, and even repairing fences and singing away, enjoying his work. Was he not "unwise" in choosing to punish himself?

If the alms-begging father had added a holy book to his persuasive tools, maybe that would have helped further, too. Imagine if he knew some choruses or the rhetoric of preaching or the magic of praying (especially praying in tongues), he would have hit it big. Maybe father was not a good student of begging or did not even think of it, his Igbo culture that discouraged begging a strong yoke. Maybe he was proud and saw himself as being like others or wanting to compete with peers still.

I would have learned the art and science of alms-begging from him. I would have perfected it and would tried to outdo him (a son should be greater than his father!) I would have developed theories and models of it, as my modest contributions to the world of begging. Alms-begging International! Does it not sound elegant? Would it not have attracted trillions of Naira as loans from sympathetic countries out there?

That means that my learning from my father was incomplete: he missed something; therefore, I missed something! Two victims in a culture. One victimhood causally developing from another.

But the serious lesson from him still remains. Not to find an excuse for not trying, for not living one's life to the fullest and being ready to give a good account of it anywhere, as a good soldier at his or her post.

Yes; he taught me to fight on and not be discouraged because I have been injured at the battlefield. A soldier should expect injuries but soldier on still.

Another lesson: illness likes being worshipped, covering oneself up with a bedspread or blanket from head to toe and responding to words  of consolation from sympathisers. Illness likes being illness. But father was stubborn and did not worship illness or handicap. So, there was no palm-tree to be climbed with one jeg? No bicycle or motorcycle to climb and ride with one leg? No local politics to feature and fling one's hands in rage?

Father taught me with his life that life is meaningless unless we try to put in something there as our achievement. Father taught me with his crowded working life that I should wake up when others are sleeping to write this essay. Father taught me that writing this essay could change somebody's life and that is one reason I must write it and share it. You can see why I called this man my hero in another essay.

If I did not learn anything from the life that was a book always open to me, then it is a waste of time hoping to learn from other books, from the formal classroom, from research, from social media and listservs like USAAfricaDialogue, from research, and from society generally. It is a colossal waste of precious time!

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Rat Following the Lizard to Dance in the Rain


Obododimma Oha

One thing that is noteworthy in the highlife music of great ones like Osita Osadebe and Oliver de Coque is the couching of messages in proverbs. As such, the music provokes deep reflection and could be highly memorable. One of such proverbs popularized by the highlife music of Oliver de Coque is "Oke soro ngwere maa mmiri, ọ kọọ ngwere, ọ ga-akọkwa oke?" (If the rat follows the lizard to move around in the rain, if the body of the lizard dries later, would that of the rat dry too?). Couched as a rhetorical question, the proverb addresses mindless imitation and condemns it. Is it not ideal for counseling and especially on the human tendency to compare self with the other?

The rat wishes it were like the lizard with scales and able to dance in the rain. But it does not know that it is not that easy to be a lizard. It is, for instance, not easy to jump down from a high tree. It is not easy to kill a bellyache by lying face down all the time. It is not easy to be covered with scales as if one is prehistoric and even a monster. It is just not easy to be a lizard.

Who knows what the other might be facing and does not voice out? It could be terrible. Who knows how terrible this terrible situation really is? And so the rat should just think first and be content with rathood that it has got.

OK, look at this: last time, the ration of the lizards was in short supply because the ants were not streaming out of a hive, because it had not rained for a long while. The lizards had to eat hot pepper. Hot pepper! And drank no water afterwards. Which rat would be ready to do that? Please, my friend, it is not easy to be a lizard.

Dancing in the rain and getting waterproof dry might just be the beginning. There could be other terrible experiences waiting. Even the process of getting dry could be full of thorns and thirstles. So, the rat should just think and be satisfied with rathood.

And I hear that is how the Maker wants it. That is His preferrred aesthetics! No one has any choice in the matter. This not your distorted politics. Damp rathood or lizardry!

When you begin to think that lizardry is better when a rat, you are beginning to upset things and looking for trouble. Every condition of being is good, though experimental. Hairy and damp rathood is good. Scaly lizardry is good, too. But thinking one is better is trouble-making. My hand no dey!

Indeed, lizards in the rain are not really dancing. They are taking a risk, or rather, taking advantage of the rainstorm to look for food, hoping predators would not be abroad, too. Risk taking for food. Now, can any rat be willing to take that kind of risk?

But if one is on a rathood project,it is better for one to finish that project. Then, go over to lizardry and be ready for it, really ready. But, as warned before, lizardry itself is not easy. It is full of scales!

Lizardy is nakedness. No clothes. No shoes. No slippers. They just stay out, exposed there. Waiting for the sun to bake their backs. When the snakes are coming, they just have to run fast!

Now, you  still want to be a lizard? Get ready! Prepare to receive scales and scare of slithering demons. Get ready.

Now you are talking about the headache of traps for rats. As if lizards are not sometimes trapped. Long tails and burdens you have to drag along and walk like Nebuchadnezzar forever! Long tails that they grab and you are lucky if you can drop yours and run for your dear life.

Have we forgottten the rainstorm and the shivering cold. Even the sneezing and the cough that make you look like a COVID-19 patient! Where my sanitizer? Anyway, it is always better for a rat to avoid the rain, what more joining the risk-bearer, Mr. Lizard, to dance in the rain. It is very risky.

You want to join the lizards in dancing in the rain? Do you know that some lizards are carnivorous and can even eat other lizards? I have seen it! Risky, very. That means that dancing in the rain with the lizard could be a dance of death. One could get some sharp bite! And the bite could be fatal.

O yes. That warns us about the need to apppreciate limits. For every creation, there are limits and there are limitations. It could be fatal to be a rat and want also to play the lizard. We are only prepared for what we  are prepared.

The rat needs to see and appreciate that idea of having a rug over its flesh, a rug of rich hair. Oh, the lizard goes water-proof in the rain, but it is naked and exposed, stark naked. It is one thing to be able to dance in the rain and another thing to be covered. The rat has its own joy; the lizard, too.

Whenever I listen to that highlife tune that asks why the rat wants to dance in the rain along with the lizard, I know that tune is talking to me. It is not musicians boasting or indirectly gossipping. I know that I am being asked to appreciate what is given to me (as "suffering") and not have my eyes on other people, always. That thing is great, too, just great. Moreover, I have to use it and use it well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Ndị Awutuo


Obododimma Oha

Abandoning the masked dance and the moonlight play of the village square to search for good fortune out there did not start in Alaigbo today. Very long ago, many young men and women got annoyed with village life and escaped to Equatorial Guinea (Panya), Cameroun (Kamaro), and Gabon, to work in the plantations, homes, hotels, and some to learn buying and selling goods. The fact these people looked for a better life is worth paying attention to. They preferred the life of hustling to farming and playing masquerade, and being chased around by tax collectors. Whenever they returned home, things were much better for their families. That betterment was linked to the name they were given -- "Ndi Awụtuo (Those that Jumped Down), for most of the time, they say  sat on tailboards of lorrries and jumped down with bags when the vehicles got to stopping points at the stations. Ndi Awụtuo brought new life to their people, for they jumped down, figuratively speaking, from poverty heights to having the means, having respect. So, Awụtuo, which has persisted today in the form of hustling in Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Dubai, China, South Africa, Ghana, America, Canada, UK, etc has that interesting long history. People learnt long ago that they have to move in order to improve. Becoming Awụtuo is not bad in itself. It is when jumping down from the tailboard means death for the elderly in the villages that I frown and tremble with anger. Jump down from the tailboard of poverty for that elderly man, that elderly woman. Bring smiles to their tortured lives not greater bitterness.

I like it that Ndi Awụtuo have repaired the terrible roads and have provided good drinking water to their communities, something that the thieving governments back home have not been able to do for years. I like it  that they jump from the tailboards of poverty for their local communities. I like it that it is their people jumping down with their sufferings, hanging their bags of wisdom and wealth, and things are getting better.

Look at the idea of better governance for the people. Is it not Ndi Awụtuo championing it? Is it not Ndi Awụtuo who know what is happening in government and are the very first to sound the alert? Those playing still on the village square are to carried away by laughter and childishness to know what is really happening. Deceit is also part of the performance, and unless the young people get annoyed and refuse to continue with deception, the abnormal would continue to look normal.

I know that some Ndi Awụtuo are up to some bad games, a carry-over from their home communities. I know that some Ndi Awụtuo  can do just anything to make it big and fast. But Awụtuo does not mean that. Awụtuo means doing it courageously and wisely and rightly to get the powerful magic bag that one hangs to jump down. Awụtuo has a spirit and that spirit fears no spirit and is just.

Awụtuo is the light and brings the light. From darkness to light. Some Awụtuo did not know how to read and write but have remained messengers that bring the light. Some have not been to any school but later know how to read and write, for "Agakarịam-ije ka onye isiawo ihe mara" (The person who has travelled far and wide knows more than the the hoary haired person). And so Awụtuo remains a beacon of knowledge, a beacon of hope.

When you label Awụtuo a criminal, that is unfair. You are trying to mess up the real sense because your own thievery back home is worse and cannot face the drowning. Awụtuo is not thievery. It is the adventurous spirit armed with wisdom which gets what you cannot get. Awụtuo is asking you rather to jump down from petty crimes of deception and lying. Awụtuo exposes and hates outdated criminality.

From what my late father told me, those warrant chiefs like you hated Awụtuo culture, because they were exposed and prevented from eating it. Ignorance is  seen as a better weapon for conquering and enslaving own people. So, that ignorance is seen as being better than enlightenment that Awụtuo brings. Why can't that chieftain be held down with ignorance masquerading as the light, especially with stupid and meaningless titles? Yes, ignorance has always been the weapon countervailed by Awụtuo and some rulers do not like it.

I like it when I learn that three or more wise men from the East leave their communities, following the star that would lead them to the crib to chat with their chi. I like it when the chat ends with the wrestling match -- "Unless you bless me, I will not let you go!" And their helpless chi blesses them. Onye kwe, chi ya, e kwere."

Awụtuo looks towards the future. Awụtuo sees a future coming and wants to chat with it courageously. Awụtuo wants to see the bad roads re-created by a mean war becoming streets of gold. Can't you see that the mud houses have already become high-rise buildings? Can't you see that where those planes that dropped bombs to enact a genocide have turned to rich warehouses and money-making shops? It is Awụtuo spirit at work. Are you surprised? Is anyone surprised?

Awụtuo is a classroom asking you to come and learn.

Awụtuo is life happening creatively.