Sunday, 5 May 2013

IKEMEFUNA ~ by Collins Uma

IKEMEFUNA  ~ by Collins Uma
I am sitting in my friend’s house at Ogidi, Anambra state and I am looking around wondering how this community was in 1930 when Albert Chinualumogu Achebe was born. Of course, so much has changed. I do not think that the Afor-Igwe market across the road, for example, was here then. I had earlier gone round the town, in company of my host, to try to understand the influences behind Achebe’s opera magna comprising of Things Fall apart, No Longer At Ease, Arrow of God, A Man of The People, and Anthills of the Savannah. One question that lingers in my mind is ‘Where is Umuofia?’ A few kilometres away are Umunya and Nawfia, but no Umuofia. The name could have been changed. Recently, the people of Ifite-Ukpo, close to Ogidi, decided that they would prefer their town to be known as Ifite-Dunu. The reasons are still unknown to me.
One thing that has remained unchanged is Ikemefuna, a character Achebe created in Things Fall Apart, and what Ikemefuna represents even today. Ikemefuna, according to Achebe, was a ‘doomed lad who was sacrificed to the village of Umuofia by their neighbours to avoid war and bloodshed’. The Oracle of the Hills and the Caves had pronounced Ikemefuna’s death but Okonkwo, the main character under whose shelter Ikemefuna lived, was to have no hand in his death. Okonkwo however, turned out to be the one who struck the blow that ended the young lad’s life.
I see similarities between Ikemefuna and the Nigerian youth.
Like Ikemefuna, we have people we look up to as ‘elders’ and we even call some ‘father’ but they will not hesitate to truncate our existence just to score cheap political goals or prove a point to their fellows.
Like Ikemefuna, we work hard to contribute our quota to the development of the society we have found ourselves in but there is always an ‘Nwoye’ being groomed to take over leadership regardless of his qualification for that role, or the lack of it.
Like Ikemefuna, we are in limbo, a midway state, and we belong to neither here nor there.
We have not helped ourselves though, the Nigerian youth. We have not articulated what it is we actually want. We do not yet have a banner behind which we can all rally. Like Ikemefuna, we just sit and await the decisions of the elders.
The tragedy of the Nigerian youth is that we have been so mentally pummelled over the years by the oligarchs that we have come to believe that we are what we are not and we dare not attempt to reach higher than the level on which we are at the moment. This is why it now seems like an unheard of achievement among young people to be appointed as a personal assistant to a government official or even an aide to an aide. This is in the same Nigeria where Chinua Achebe wrote Things Fall Apart, the most widely read book in modern African literature, at the age of 28. This is in the same Nigeria where Joseph Sarwuan Tarka got elected into the House of Representatives in 1954 at the age of 22, became the President of the United Middle Belt Congress at the age of 25 and got appointed as Minister of Transport at 34. This is in the same Nigeria that Yakubu Gowon became Chief of Army Staff at the age of 31 and Head of State before he was 32. This is in the same Nigeria where we had a Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who obtained his Masters’ Degree in History from Oxford University at the age of 23 before joining the Nigerian Army from where he later got appointed as Governor of the Eastern Region at the age of 32. Yes, in this same Nigeria, we have Patrick Okedinachi Utomi. At the age of 26, Pat Utomi was already a senior Special Adviser to President Shehu Shagari. The list goes on. Chude Jideonwo started Red Media in 2004 at the age of 19. YNaija and The Future Project are fruits of that enterprise. In February 2013 he was named by Forbes as one of the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs. Onyeka Nwelue wrote his multiple award-winning book, The Abyssinian Boy, at 21.
If young people in Nigeria could stand out this way against all odds, what is it that restricts us from taking the reins of leadership in this country and directing this ship in the way it should go? Arguments have been heard both for and against direct participation in partisan politics by young people. Those for it say this is the need of the moment as this is the only way we can influence decision making. Those against say we do not all need to become politicians for change to happen. Valid points, all. It is true that we can create the needed change without becoming members of political parties; however it is high time we started putting our money where our mouth is. Registering as a member of a political party gives one a greater sense of responsibility before, during, and after elections. Rather than just wait to become ‘special’ assistants, it is high time we had young people aspiring for the highest offices our age brackets allow us to aspire for. To do this, we must first locate the nearest office of the political party of our choice, walk in there and announce our intention to become members. What do we have to lose by doing this? Nothing! What do we gain? The chance to influence decisions within these parties and, by extension, the country. As has been said, if you have no interest in politics then you should have no complain when you end up getting ruled by fools.
2015 will soon be upon us. The future awaits us. Posterity is getting ready to judge us. Are you waiting to step into the future created by others for themselves or are you going to take action now and decide how you want that future to look? Are you going to fold your hands and wait when you can join a party and do something? Now is the time. Today is the day.
I leave you with this Igbo proverb from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart ‘’When a man says yes his chi says yes also’’.
I am on twitter @CollinsUma

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