Akonauche (sometimes written as “akonuuche” to reflect what, in phonology is called a feature smear, the attribute of one sound affecting the sound of its neighbour) is an Igbo compound word formed from “ako” (being wary, cleverness, discerning, cautious) and “uche” (thoughtfulness, wisdom, etc.). Both are obviously relatives, and, in recognition of this affinity, the Igbo put them together to form a mega-term that we can translate as a soundness of mind from which somebody critically looks at an issue and makes the right choices. We called it a mega-term, or, as recognized in linguistic morphology, a superordinate where we could locate such terms as amamiihe (wisdom), nghota (understanding), itughari uche (reasoning), etc. Where akonauche is used, we should look out for other related words – its close companions -- that may be used for textual cohesion. Sometimes, akonauche may not be specifically mentioned, but these related terms signal that the text is talking about it through webs of relationship.
Another noteworthy issue is that akonauche may be narrativised to us through its trajectories, even abuses and impossibilities, like the tortoise going round collecting all wisdom in a calabash, with the selfish intention of hoarding them and being the only wise person around. The futility of this exercise is shown at the end of the narrative where tortoise, unable to cross a branch with the calabash of wisdom on his head, is given the helpful advice by a passerby, when he thought he had collected and stored all the wisdom in the community and should be wiser! We also see the pragmatics of akonauche in its use and experience in the narrative of nwa ebulu ako, who is asked to tell the number of times an experience can make him have amamiihe. Question and answer are important in also making us pupils who attempt the question and wonder whether we are right after all! We are also on test in the understanding of how akonauche relates to experience.
We live in an age when things are simplified and compound or complex forms may be given short versions. The term akonauche is sometimes clipped in Igbo discourse and used simply as “uche” (even though the word “uche” also exists as a free morpheme used in the language). In that case, it is assumed that the interlocutor has competence enough in the language to recover the removed part, “ako+na.” Oh, what is the point giving limbs to this word? Many limbs would make it redundant and monstrous! Uche tells us the person is just not talking about the possession of wisdom or not caution or cleverness is entailed in it. Otherwise, how can one be wise if one is not equally cautious? Don’t be fooled by the fact that the two words have been conjoined with “na” (and).
Now, where is ako; where is uche? I have stated that the clipping as a morphological transformational process removes “ako+na” from the structure but “uche” is still there; the trace is there and we can fill the blank spaces.
The next thing to worry about is whether akonauche actually manifests in the utterances of people these days (on social media and in real life). If all humans have the faculty of akonauche, differently distributed in people – obu si na ike di n’awaja n’awaja (obu the bird said that ability is variously distributed) and in families (which is one reason the Igbo carry out iju ajuju or making enquiries before contracting a marriage and if akonauche is something we can acquire, activate or boost from the various interactions we have in our community, is there enough evidence that people are critical enough and are making the right judgments – or do the leave the thinking to others and relying merely on their own akonauche? How many times does experience teach them, or does it teach them at all? As that related Igbo proverb puts it, otu osisi o na-adu ha n’anya ugboro abuo? Do they allow one stick poke into their eyes twice? I hope that the first poking has not caused them to be blind.
I have the feeling that the number of times the same stick pokes into their eyes may be dependent on the lens through which they look at reality. They may be looking at situations through the lens, through the eyes of other people – assuming the first poking blinded them or forced them to look at situations, not with their own eyes, bought through the eyes of others. Obviously, they are being led like goats or sheep to the slaughter and cannot as much as resist. When they are slapped on this cheek, they turn the other one. When both cheeks have been sufficiently slapped, they should turn their buttocks and receive the blows!
Where is ako; where is uche? They are either on vacation or have taken to their heels. I thought that humans were thinking creatures, that thinking separates them from animals! Lower animals should forgive me. Not all of you are “lower”? after all. In some contexts (especially higher institutions where things are upside-down, have you not noticed that while dogs and goats get out of the way when vehicles are approaching), book people don’t! They are too big to keep safe! They have to demonstrate their “bigness” (of people who are learning a lot from the books) by refusing to leave the road! And I still ask: where is ako; where is uche?
There are other strange situations one can cite. All to show that akonauche agbaala oso (has taken to its heels) in the affairs of humans and/or is fast dwindling in some contexts on this planet. Where, my sister, my brother, is ako; where is uche?