By Kassim Afegbua
I have read a series of responses to Chimamanda’s odious epistle to her master, President Joe Biden, the President of the United States. Given her professional orientation, she has now tried to make fiction of the 2023 Nigerian election with a view to making some cool wads to support her lifestyle. Typical of writers of fiction, she used third person narration to rake together her jaundiced and very subjective fiction, and tried to dress it as though it was fact. She was jumping from one subject-matter to another, trying to elucidate an election she didn’t participate in. She relied on her cousins and uncles narration of what happened in one or two polling units in Lagos, to draw her conclusion about the conduct of the election in Lagos, which has 13,500 polling units. She made her falsehoods sound empirical and unflappable. She is a bad ambassador of the Igbo race nay Nigeria. The Igbo mind is one that is presently troubled by the realities that stare it in the face at present. The activities of the outlawed IPOB, such a dangerous secessionist organisation that has been sucking blood from her own people, and has left the entire South-East prostrate and economically wounded, have become a sore thumb in the East. The poverty level in that region, is alarming. The education of the people is heavily impaired. The businesses of the people are in dire straits. It is a theme of idiocy that pervades the land.
In the fullness of such odious and self-inflicted maladies of a geopolitical zone, a pro-Igbo mindset like Chimamanda’s sort, ought to provide the ultimate elixir for addressing the debilitating issues that have factorised its commonality. Mere pointing attention to the halitosis of her region in her global conclave, would attract attention to the very issues that have crippled the psyche of her people. A writer need not exploit the negatives for commercial purpose at all times, but must be involved in problem solving also. Adichie’s preferences are very discernible; they are not in doubt. She wants her uncle, Peter Obi, to be president of Nigeria. But Peter Obi must meet all the criteria; Including scoring majority votes in at least 25% of the states of the Federation and the FCT. The reason for this is to engender cohesion and national acceptance across the entire country. To achieve this feat, Obi would have needed Chimamanda’s clout locally but she preferred to remain in the diaspora throwing stones and shaking tables and then follow with writing letters. That Obi failed woefully is instructive. Those who could have helped his aspiration were social media warlords who were busy throwing vitriolic attacks against those who didn’t support Peter Obi. They were armed with data to become social media warriors. Chimamanda falls into this category; and has no voter’s card and is unaware of her polling unit. She did not vote during the election; she did not visit her uncle during the election; she didn’t campaign; she was never an item on the menu tick list. She was mute when her uncle needed her most.
As soon as her Uncle shouted blue murder over the election, without interrogation, she concurred, displaying some kind of amateurish sleuth. Yes, Uncle, it is blue murder!. Ask her how come her Uncle scored 97% of the votes in Anambra leaving others with miserable 3%, she will rationalise it. In the entire South-East geopolitical zone, Chimamanda’s Uncle, Peter Obi, scored an average of 90% in the presidential election. The remaining 10% was left for the other 17 political parties to share. I trust that Chimamanda’s binoculars didn’t capture that. She’s quick to arrive at her preferred destination about the outcome of the elections. Fiction writers are always in a world of fantasy, trying, as it were, to reduce every human endeavour to a nice story. They choose their characters, ascribe roles to them, and set a thematic pre-occupation that would determine the flow of their fictive discourse. Chimamanda often finds it difficult to divorce herself from her world of fiction. It is the reason she wrote an epistle of fiction loaded with subjective footnotes to President Joe Biden. Reading Chimamanda’s fiction, I can easily interrogate her thematic focus. She failed in many respects in empirical realness. She relied essentially on the tales-by-moonlight of her cousins and uncles. She wasn’t a participant. She was an onlooker nestled in her “Igbotic” duvet, from where she was dishing out her ethnic sentiments for the sake of her Uncle. She was far-flong from the furnace. She sat idly in her cocoon, glued to her television, taking breaks to surf the social media to get the gist of what was happening back home. Were she to be that patriotic to the Igbo cause, and genuine in her interests, she would have been in Anambra to partake in the electoral exercise.
Chimamanda belongs in the bracket of those authors who write art for art sake. They just pour impotent venom. They pour out their innate feelings and ascribe them to a humanity cause. They never really offer solutions. Never! They write for the sake of writing; story telling. The society is usually in a state of permanent flux, so piecing together a few biased thoughts and emotions is all that interests them; story telling I call it. Rather than offer a therapeutic tonic in their pieces of fiction, telling us what society ought to be, they just document their whimsical and capricious position and pour out their anger and discontent, without offering even useless solutions. Useful writing has its own temperament and healing properties. A piece of fiction drawn from experiences of the writer, using her socio-political milieux is usually embellished along the lines of the author’s worldview. It doesn’t necessarily represent the general reality. Chimamanda has failed on several levels to address the key ingredients that should enrich our democracy. Describing our democracy as hollow, on the basis of her Uncle’s failure at the polls is the hauteur of an intellectual snob. Even in the world’s advanced democracies, of which Chimamanda is presently a habitué as I’m told, have their own kettle of democratic “issues” and shortfalls. Did she notice when Trump’s supporters invaded the Capitol? During the Bush era, outcome of election in Florida fell short of credible rating, yet, it wasn’t enough for her to embark on letter writing to the Pope. Ditto for Hilary Clinton’s experience with majority votes that couldn’t fetch her the White House; did she notice? Nations will usually have their own peculiar shortcomings in their human endeavours but their citizens never call for the cessation of their own countries.
Nations get solutions to their problems by improving on shared experiences and the antecedents of their historical trajectories. Subjecting Nigeria’s democracy and sovereignty to the magisterial intuition of America is the height of inferiority complex and slavish mentality that has remained in us after the end of slave trade. I am proud to be a Nigerian with my green passport. I love the culture and tradition of our people. I love our sense of communalism and congenial relationship of the African mind. Those who tell one side of the story are often imprisoned by their jaded perspectives and pigeon-hole parochialism. Chimamanda falls into this category. Describing Nigeria’s democracy as “hollow” is an unfortunate profiling in view of our improved electoral engagements and election conduct. Nigeria’s democracy is just twenty four years old, and we have begun to see a marked improvement in our democracy: seven serving Governors lost their Senatorial bid, an Okada rider defeated a serving Reps member, a personal assistant emerged as elected Senator, and the list goes on. There were several “upsets” in the last election which were indications of a deepening democracy in Nigeria. For writing to President Joe Biden, it does appear that Chimamanda wanted him to flog us on our bum with a stroke of the cane as in a master-servant kind of relationship How ridiculous!.
Chimamanda has a lot of themes begging for her attention. She should devote her time to them: The theme of poverty in her Igbo land and Nigeria is eternally discomforting. The theme of growing educational backwardness walks the street of Igbo land with perfunctory ease. The theme of terrorism and a seeming guerilla warfare in Igbo land has continued to put the country in bad light across the world, ditto for armed banditry in the North. As a social commentator and author that she is, she ought to have carried out deliberate and conscious campaigns to end insurgency in her native Igbo land by drawing global attention to the ills and biles of the zone. All these subject matters, which are a metaphor for our collective sufferance, are tenuous enough for Chimamanda to focus on, and proffer solutions. She chooses rather, to lie routinely as an addiction, to sail through life’s struggle in our bramble forest. Chimamanda should be reminded that her fellow “Igbotic” Uncle lost the 2023 presidential election woefully on account of his jejune strategies that put religion and ethnicity on the front burner; telling his followers that the Christians should take back their country was the height of infantile approach to rein in the votes in a plural and secular country like Nigeria. Obi and Chimamanda may cry from now till tomorrow, it won’t change the fact that this last election has been won and lost. Obi lost. A thousand letters to President Joe Biden and Vladamir Putin, cannot take away our sovereignty. Democracy has come to stay in Nigeria, and the earlier Chimamanda realised this, the better for her so short, yet long letter.