In the scattered line of pilgrims
From Dan to Beersheeba
Camphor iodine chloroform
Either sting me in the bum
[Okigbo.C “Distances III]
When Achebe, from nowhere, confronted Conrad in the “Heart of Darkness” all hairs were raised. Certainly he is not a coward. And after 40years of an event, he came back with a bash “There was a Country.” This time he grabbed a dead man—Awolowo—by the jugular and looking straight in his eyes, he confirmed the Biafran affirmation: “you masterminded a policy of starvation” in other words, “you did put away the corn cobs” and subsequently the corn meal—blockade.
All hell was let loose, on both sides of a divide tempers flared. Affirmed enthusiasts of Achebe started raising cane, and for them, he has turned out to be a corn seller with a faulty bushel. In fact, for them there was no country. Achebe just needed camphor to suffuse out a stench that comes after a digestion. On the other side, they are remembering differently. A reminiscence which holds that “despite the withholding of the corn cobs, their pride was not diminished rather enhanced.” In fact, the withholding, they argued swelled their bosom. They remembered how they nursed a breed and raised dough—strong bread, by picking crickets on a flat breast. Thus, Achebe must be hailed; scraps have to be left for generations unborn. Indeed some people must bear the burden of memory.
On both sides of the divide, many are chattering without pouring over Achebe’s book while others are busy tearing it out page by page. Though not bared or debarred from these chattering, I am quite sure that Achebe—the myth-mincer—like the old Sam or proto-antagonist of John Grisham’s novel “The Chamber” will continue to pipe away in his suit or barred chair while playing a game of Chequers, Ludo or Monopoly and raising the muse of stillbirth and rebirth.
For us, however, there are still both cons and a stealing country—Nigeria. And for Africa in general, while ploughing with Achebe’s heifer, there will still be no comfort but mere lies as now seen in Mali.