Criminal Tendencies In Single Story By Adamu Tilde
There exit, 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. The leader despite having a certain measure of freedom has inevitably to be governed by the system within which he or she exists. And although men and women make their own history, they clearly do not make it as an act of will, or in their own freely-chose circumstances, but under structural constraints of the accumulated past and inherited traditions. Nigerian leaders cannot be miraculous changed men or women of their country but the changed men or women of their country’s changed circumstance. It is not surprising that today, Boko Haram wahala enjoys the same unilateral view from both angle. To many Southerners, particularly those of the lower stratum and those obsessed with false superiority complex, Boko Haram is a grand conspiracy of the Northern elites to destabilize Jonathan’s regime. Never mind the simplicity and hollowness of the postulation and argument. How will a rational human being destabilizes his enemy’s regime by first destroying himself and his economy and environment? Similarly, to many Northerners, at the altar of sounding juvenile, Boko Haram is a grand conspiracy by GEJ-led government to downsize, decimate and decapacitate Northern Nigeria. Never occurred to the proponent of this school of thought the many years of illiteracy, poverty, poor distribution of wealth and economic stagnation that characterized the region for so many years—these in so many ways, may contribute to the proliferation and domestication of terrorism.
Thirdly, it is on religion and sectarian affiliation. The common belief, on which perception is built, with respect to single story, is religion. The usual disposition of thought toward the non-member of one religion is total condemnation of his/her belief system. Narrowing the scope of the writing to intra-religion affiliation, one will quickly seen, as evidently displayed here at home and globally represented—the total intolerance of other people interpretation of text. The usual perception is that, for instance, as in my case, I am Sunni Muslim, even in my Sunni affiliation, I am a living witness to the regrettable way of exchanging words and open despisement of the other fraction of the Sunni as a result of differences in the interpretation of text. Giving the single story that we used to hear from our teachers, parent or read from books authored by our sect’s intellectual arm, which is often a portray of the other sect as bad, evil, and many unprintable names while our sect epitomised everything good. With this mindset, one will be full of empty boast of himself and sect that, they are the only good people on earth and any other person represents devil. Our think-tank will never tell us, Oh! Those people you are seeing, they are good in this or that. No, the only thing we will hear about the other sect is evil.
On this note, I want to illustrate one trend that I found it so disgusting when it comes to unilateral view of issues and single story of personality, says a writer. For instance, since the serialization of HAJJ AND THE SAUDIS; IN DEFENCE OF SHEIKH; IS THE NORTH A LIP by Malam Adamu Adamu, which revealed to many readers a glimpse romanticism of Malam Adamu with Iran and their policies. From that on, I have read many distasteful comments on his personality which was only judged by the afore-mentioned write-ups, one of the menacing effects of single story. Unbeknown to many of the so-called commentators, Malam Adamu epitomized humility and sincerity. He lives a true life without an iota of pretence. It was reported from impeccable sources that, once his brother built a befitting house for him to relocate, Malam said thanks and declined the offer. He was given a slot of deputy governor in his state, yet he declined. His pen could have secured him billions assuming he is greedy–hence, many writers who are unmatchable to his wit and sagacity are today millionaires, until today, he lives a modest life. It was to his integrity that he was to write one of the afore-mentioned articles as a result of his humbleness and humility. He was supposed to be at Sultan Bello mosque for the marriage solemnization of Namadi’s daughters, he could have been the Walee (the person to give a daughter out for marriage) assuming he is after this temporal world, yet, he openly declined and chose to honor the birthday celebration of his teacher. Funny enough, the very teaching and people that made Malam Adamu a potential monster before their audience, were the very one scavenging on the left-over of political loot. What a pity! And what an incidental hypocrisy! One interesting thing with Malam Adamu that will left one in astonishment of that paragon of virtues that he represent is, he is not use to missing the fasting of Monday and Thursday. He is with his people. He lives among them. He loves them and they love him. Alas! Single story put a blind eye to all these virtues and dwell on shortcomings which are not in any way match-able to the virtues. Mallam Adamu, despite the afore-mentioned virtues, is equally a victim of single story and unilateral interpretation of issues and events. Suffice to have a diagnosis of the referred articles of his. In all the articles, Malam Adamu never failed to mock, ridicule, denigrate or look-down on people that did not share his romanticism with Iran. His intolerance, resentment, despisement and pathalogical hatred for their (those that didn’t share his sect) scholars and followers are usually very glaring. To him, they represent anything but evil. Indeed, single story creates stereotype.
Conclusively, life is a journey which man can never carried it all by his self. We cannot live in isolation and can never be independent of others. We have to live in groups and societies. And that society will not necessarily be homogenous. It is certainly going to be heterogeneous. Single story creates stereotype. We should imbibe the habit of giving the benefit of doubt and of course learn how to have a bi-lateral view of issues and interpretation of events. For a peaceful and successful living and interaction among the constituent of the entity called earth, we must learn to live by the ethos that depict our humanity. Unquestionably and undeniably, we must uphold the principle of live and let others live.
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