Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Between the writer, headaches and prescriptions

      The writer's place as a component in the social structure may be procative, reactive or both. His musings while being reactions to happenstance in society, can also be foothills upon which society can catch a glimpse of the future. Life is a source of his inspirations, so the writer in us dies when society goes to the gallows. His desire to pursue a particular subject or issue is influenced by a bias rubbed off on his consciousness as a consequence of being a member of a particular society, culture, race, religion or whatever social compartment he finds himself. The pen is the mouthpiece of what his eyes has written down. Thus, it is not uncommon to find subjects such as science-fiction, serial killings, the beauty of summer et al from Europeans and North Amearicans, just as it is not uncommon to be bombarded by literature of wars, revolutions, ethnic politics, religious strifes from developing or under-developed countries. The latter explains why most African literature -especially the award winning ones- evolve round this derogatory theme.
    If we take cognisance of the plethora of phenomena that threaten to negate the foundations underpinning our existence as a country, one is tempted to pose the question: what is the role of the writer in present-day Nigeria? As a social being existing within a particular cultural nexus, should the writer assume an impassive journalistic role, echoing the sentiments of an oppressed confused society or a messianic posture burdening himself with the charting of a new course for society? Should he be satisfied with giving headaches or adopt a contrasting standpoint in the issuance of prescriptions?
   The imperativeness of such inquiry is underscored by who or what constitutes a writer. What parameters should be set when operationalizing the concept 'writer'. Is he one that scribbles with the distant objectivity of a lab scientist or is he a participant observer and actor in society. A writer to me embodies the latter qualities. A writer's duty is to pull society by the ears from the brink of anarchy and drag him towards humanism. The writers role is fundamentally more than that of a journalist. He is a cultural nationalist who aims to level the hills upon which popular supremacist ideologies look down on his society trapped in the murky waters of discrimination as exemplified in Frantz Fannon's 'Black skin, White masks', and Ngungi Wa Thong's 'decolonizing the mind'.
     A writer is expected to be a leader and restore the dignity of his country as personified by Thomas Sankara and Leopold Senghor. Sometimes he may be a scapegoat for peace like Wole Soyinka or a revolutionary like Christopher Okigbo who takes up arms in defense of his rights. He is expected to criticize his society like Achebe did in his 'Man of the People' or record history for unborn generations like Oluduah Equiano. Last year, the Ugandan government issued a statement that sought to demolish the country's only museum, a historical and nonetheless national treasure in favour of a 60-storied trade centre. This move was aborted as a result of the resilient opposition of the writers in that country. Thus a writer is a warrior standing guard against the cultural marauders, a philosopher like Aime Caesar.
     Now what is the role and place of the contemporary Nigerian writer in charting a progressive course for the country and continent? What is his stance in the cultural and mental revolution of his comprades? The fervor of Soyinka, Achebe, Flora Nwapa, Okigbo, JP-Clark, Odia Ofeimum and Niyi Osundare has been doused. The contemporary Nigerian writer is aloof or at best seems non-chalant to his current exiatential realities. He distances himself from society, and like a vulture searching for carcass, chooses to prophesy doom from foreign shores. He is now no more than an entertainer, a literary jester aiming to satisfy the cravings of the bewildered masses. At best he is a journalist echoing the sentiments of a confused group or at worst an ethnic bigot postulating parochial views. He can neither give headches to the political elite or offer prescriptions to the decadence of his society. His literature looks the other way, hungry for foreign acceptance and recognition. It does not stir in us the thirst for development and political change.
     The foundations of world civilizations and thoughts were forged by the steel of pens. Such task does not come from the mass population, for there has to exist a certain class of people not swayed by the currents of society, but who watch and give meanings to the sequence of events. The onus falls on the writers to bell the cat. Would the Nigerian writer be satisfied with writing footnotes and glossary?

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