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Published On: Thu, Jan 1st, 2015

Criminal tendencies in single story

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By Adamu Tilde

There exist, sometime in the life of a person, particularly, someone obsessed with pursuit of excellence, when he/she will encounter a literature or article or even a mere statement that will instantly transform his/her thought and almost in a single move change his total perception of issues or an event. This is one of it. Of course, this is not the first time. Recently, I came in contact with a jewel authored by Rev Mathew Hassan Kukah. The lecture he delivered at the occasion of the 80th birthday celebration of Prof. Wole Soyinka. The lecture titled “Wole Soyinka: 80 Years of Genius and Prophetic Outrage”. Even though I was not opportune to there in person, it was no less the authenticity of the rendition as contain therein and the powerful message conveyed. It was to the delight of the attendees and at the same time to their bewilderment when Rev. Kukah raised powerful and thought-provoking questions to the celebrant, the attendees and to any person who will come in contact with the lecture. He said “Our celebrant has committed most of his adult life exhibiting genius and making trouble by banging on the doors of African leaders. But at best, he might have been blowing a muted trumpet. Of course at another level, we could ask why, beyond the entertainment and artistic value, what is the value of writing? Who exactly are we writing for and for what purpose? Why has writing not effected any change in our societies? What is the scope in our narratives? We blame our politicians but in reality are they not doing better than us? Are there lessons we can learn from the distances they cover to sell their messages? How is that members of political parties crisscross the country in a way and manner that writer do not?”

A friend of mine transferred a recorded audio of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to my phone she was talking on a general perception of story-telling and the making of herself and her writings. In the course of listening, I stumbled on so many jewels which left me wanting, thinking and meditating. One of the many jewels that got me thinking is “Single story creates stereotype”. Instinctively, my conscience temporarily got me thinking whether I have been fed of more than that I can chew with single story. An instant introspection puts me on a not-too-distant victim of single story. And my story is not different with many. Prior to my exposure to some literatures and writers which is of very recent, the very Kukah was once a victim of single story in my mind. I remember vividly, when President Obasanjo constituted his political and constitution reform in 2005 which Kukah was a prominent member, as at then, he was among the members of the conference that I detested with passion. And this is the resultant effect of the polarized environment that got over-charged as a result of the selection procedures of the members. Until very recent, I am ashamed to confess, my perception of Kukah is from single line of thought.

Let’s make a quick glance on some issues and events that were/are usually premeditated on single story. Firstly, it is almost a unanimous stand by the authors of Pro-Biafra and their sympathizers that the civil war was only fought out of enmity that the non-Igbos harbored to Igbos. In their narration, what led to the secession was pogrom in the North. On the other hand, they failed to acquaint their audience of what led to the pogrom. The single story was/is Hausa-Fulani are anything but evil. Have they spared some space in their narration by telling the young ones that, many Easterners celebrate the killing of their leaders (the Hausa-Fulani), In fact, some conveyed a party for the killings. Never mind open-mockery that the very Easterners: who were/are earning their living in the North yet mocked and even mimicked a goat-bleating-sound depicting how the very leader of their hosts died or get killed in the hands of their kinsmen.

Of equally important was/is the story from the side of the anti-secession. The single story was/is Igbos killed the Northerners and their allies because they were/are Muslims. So, Igbos to Northerners represents everything evil. Have the story-tellers spared some space and inform their audience of the corruption, tribalism and nepotism that characterized the regime, the story will have been different. Assuming the actors (Pro-secession and Anti-secession) have provided a balanced account of the causes and effect of the civil war, at least the persistent hatred/strife that seems to appear un-repressible, which defined the aftermath relationship of once a United entity, would have been much less.

Secondly is of leadership and followership. It is a common belief that usually occupied the mind of non-actors in the governing scheme of Nigeria that Nigeria fails to realize its potentials and lives to its expectation because of the failure of leadership. Even the celebrated author, Chinua Achebe shared this notion. At least in his small book, The Trouble With Nigeria, depicted so. Achebe argues that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. The unwillingness and inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility to the challenge of personal example.” Achebe did not shared this perception of leadership alone as can be evidently seen in the way Nigerian discuss their leaders and the often insults and denigration that are celebrated in social media or any other media outlet. Nigerians love to criticize their leaders and country perhaps far more than any nation in the World. Yes, we have all earned the right to be cynical and even contemptible about the way we have been governed and about how the resources of our nation have been frittered away mindlessly. In as much how sweet the argument may sound it is as well cheap and too romantic to say the least.

The postulation that the problem of Nigeria is leadership ignores the deep structural constraints on human action and psychology. It is pre-critical to ignore the complex ways in which social structures mediate, modify, condition and constrain human choices. Leadership works within institutional, historical, cultural and economic contexts which place limits on what human agents can and cannot do.

This notion of structural determination of leadership means that a leader has inevitably to work within and exist in a system and a political logic whose proper system, laws and operation his or her leadership cannot, by definition, dominate absolutely.

Tilde could be reached on


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