Friday, June 21, 2019

Truth is bitter: Austin Nwagbara and the ‘Smart Move” of the Ghanaian Education Authority

Austin Nwagbara and the smart move of the Ghanaian Education Authority
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Speak the truth and “the truth will set you free.” Well, that’s according to John 8:32. Indeed, on Wednesday 19th June 2019 the Ghanaian University of Education Winneba “freed” esteemed Professor Austin Nwagbara of its educational and institutional rots for drawing the attention of the media to the country’s systemic injustice against Nigerians.

For speaking out on a number of staggering issues about Ghanaian authority’s poor treatment of Nigerians in the country, the distinguished and bold Professor of English was sacked. What more evidence is needed of the ill-treatment of Nigerians in Ghana? This reminds one of the sayings that the oracle hadn’t even decided yet and its prophecy had already come to pass.
Austin Nwagbara and the smart move of the Ghanaian Education Authority
Before it seemed to be a case of rivalry between the highly resourceful Nigerian citizens and their overtly jealous Ghanaian counterpart. But now it appears the issue is backed by the authority too!

When I first saw a post about his argument about “The American Scholar”, a powerful book Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a long time ago, I felt proud that finally, a Nigerian scholar is driving home the point about the need for the African Scholar also to modernize their knowledge. So this caught my attention:

“We should start verbalizing the ideas we write in our papers. In fact, all the great debates in books should be made into films/videos/images that people can relate with easily.”

Little did I know that the worst had happened.

Whatever the Ghanaian authority felt was wrong with Prof Augustin Uzoma Nwgbara’s indictment of not only the Ghanaian government but also that of the Nigerian should not have amounted to a sack, nor should it have led to an arrest as reported by the media.

When I watched the video, I felt very embarrassed that a man as honourable as Prof Austin Nwagbara should be so ill-treated. His offence? He voiced out about the systemic hatred of Nigerians by the Ghanaian authorities. Indeed the professor’s sack has, quite impressively, discharged and acquainted the Ghanaian authorities of all their charges of social-economic and educational injustices against Nigerians. Ghana, how smart you are!     

But let’s face it. It is saddening to see that Africa is yet to learn her lesson. After all these years of political and technological backwardness, we still dwell in sheer self-pity and cross-border irresponsibility. We still wade in the negativity of our differences rather than soar together with the blessings of our diversity. In a rapidly growing world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and The Internet of Things (IoT), it is sad that a Ghanaian Minister would consider the sack of a reputable Professor over his personal observations about the state of things in both Ghana and Nigeria as “appropriate”. No doubt, we really have a long way to go.   

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What do you think about Prof Austin Nwagbara's arrest and sack in Ghana? Let's hear your view in the comment section below.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Plot Summary of The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah

plot summary of the beautyful ones are not yet born by ayi kwei amah

Across the dirt and chaos that is the city of Accra, we see the man, the central character whose name is obscured throughout the novel. The city, as well as its inhabitants, is presented as irredeemably rotten; not to talk of the cursing nature of the motorists, especially the commercial bus conductors and drivers alike. In short, in the city of Accra, everybody is angry. The man is shown as a man with a job at the Traffic Control Office who is unhappily running off to work that he dreads and loathes.

When he gets to work, the normal boring and uneventful jobs he has to do confronts him. His conversation with a messenger at work reveals that for many Ghanaians playing the lottery is a quick way to break out of poverty, even though whosoever becomes lucky to win a large sum of money will eventually not get all the money due to corruption by the official. When the man asks why not complain to the police to get his money back, he replies:  “It costs you more money if you go to the police, that’s all.”

Even the narrator describes the entire Ghana situation thus:
So the sea salt and the sweat together and the fan above made this stewy atmosphere in which the suffering sleepers came and worked and went dumbly back afterward to homes they had earlier fled.
Hungry, the man goes to a restaurant to have a meal only to check his pocket and realize he is broke. Disappointed and famished, he goes back to the office. Then a timber contractor offers him a 10 cedis bribe to help him ferry his timbers even though the job is actually supposed to be carried out by another man who has not yet assumed duty. The man, in spite of his hunger and poverty, rejects the offer, though weakly. For in his mind, the other side of him wanting desperately the bribe is seriously scolding him. The man can’t stop thinking right there why he the one who has refused a bribe is feeling like the criminal while the contractor himself is feeling and even acting like the man has just done him the greatest evil. Here is how the narrator has captured the situation succinctly:
The visitor was angry now, in the special way the upright have of being angry with perverse people. He searched around under his folds of kente cloth stuck the wallet in some hidden pocket. Then, saying not a word of farewell to the man at the table, he strode to the door, opened it angrily and disappeared behind it. The man was left alone with thoughts of the easy slide and how everything said there was something miserable, something unspeakably dishonest about a man who refused to take and to give what everyone around was busy taking and giving: something unnatural, something very cruel, something that was criminal, for who but a criminal could ever be left with such a feeling of loneliness? (p. 31-32)
On his way back home, the man chances upon Joseph Koomson, his classmate who is now an honourable “Minister Plenipotentiary, Member of the Presidential Commission” a beneficiary in the current corrupt Ghanaian government with his wife, Estella, as they cruise in their expensive car.

At home, for his individualistic tendency to have the gut to refuse a bribe at work while his household is languishing in abject poverty, Oyo, the man’s wife likens him to a chichidodo, the proverbial bird that eats shit but hates worms. His wife’s constant nagging at home makes him dread and sometimes wants to flee home permanently. But because he lacks the will, he decides instead to visit his friend, Teacher.

At his friend’s place, the man shows his disappointment in himself for his inability to give his family the best life that they desire. He believes that Teacher is free because being single, he has no one urging him to do what he does not wish to do. So he longs for his friend’s kind of freedom. Completely worn-out by his wife and mother-in-law’s condemning his stance against corrupt practices, he voices out thus:
Yes I feel like a criminal. Often these days I find myself thinking of something sudden I could do to redeem myself in their eyes. Then I sit down and ask myself what I have done wrong, and there is really nothing.  
Then the Teacher replies: “'You have not done what everybody is doing”, said the naked man, ”and in this world that is one of the crimes.”' (p. 54)

Soon Joseph Koomsoon visits the man’s household, as planned. It is a case of the wealth versus poverty as the countenance and attitude of Estella, Koomson’s wife, shows discontent with every dish she is served, not minding that a lot of efforts had gone into preparing the meal. Then Koomsoon, the honourable minister has to use the toilet; the toilet of the poor is a shared one, disgusting and unusable for the likes of the minister, but because shit waits for no one, he has to make do with what’s available otherwise something more embarrassing could happen.

Oyo’s mother is happy that Koomsoon is about to rescue them out of poverty since Oyo’s husband is incapable of doing that. A promise of a boat for fishing is given to the households so they can have a share of the fish, not the boat entirely.   

At work, The man hears of a coup but refuses to join others in the demonstration believing that nothing is going to change except the people who will go on another round of corruption spree.

He gets home to find the minster, Koomsoon, coiled in the dark in one corner of their room like a frightened kid. There has been a coup and he too is to pay the price with his life. As the soldiers approach the man’s house in search of Koomsoon, the man helps him escape through the toilet zinc with all the shits and sanitary pads and what you can think of. With shits and piss all over their bodies, Koosomson with the man is able to get to the boatman’s house unnoticed by anyone. With an agreement that the boatman owns half of the boat and a bribe of a few cedis at the gate where the boat will ferry the minister abroad, the boatman is able to make the minister disappear.  

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Friday, July 13, 2018

The 4 Proven Practical Ways to Building Your Self-Esteem


If you’re feeling depressed and lazy about getting things done, you need to improve your self-esteem.

This is because if your self-esteem is low, you’d achieve little and might even lose the things you’ve already accomplished. People with low self-esteem lack the will to carry on. For your job, your health and your loved ones, this is dangerous. You’d become unproductive, become sick and lose the company of people dear to you.

But the question is, how did you even get here in the first place? You used to be highly-spirited and goal-driven. But suddenly, you just don’t feel like it anymore. It’s strange. But people don’t have low self-esteem because they want to, some things definitely must have caused it.

You can have low self-esteem if you’re…
·         lonely
·         abandoned
·         bullied
·         abused
·         deeply worried about something

All of these can crush your belief in yourself. They can destroy your zeal and make you feel unloved. Worst, they can make you lose your mind.

But, what if I told you there’s a way out. What if I showed you proven practical steps you can take to improve your self-esteem!

Talk your way to stardom

Yes, say it loud. You’ve got a deadline approaching, say to yourself: I’m going to beat this deadline! People with high self-esteem believe in the power of talking about their abilities. When you talk about things you can do, rather than focus on those you think you can’t do, you’re a step forward to achieving that particular goal. So talk positively about yourself, because most times our words become our beliefs. What we believe we act it. When you think and talk positively about yourself, you’re boosting your confidence.

Believe in yourself
Self Esteem

If you really want to overcome low self-esteem, then you should start acting it right now! Start to believe that you can do things your natural conditioning would believe otherwise. And to achieve this, you need to stop comparing yourself with others. Your friend is super good at writing. And so what? Go learn it too. For how could you ever know you are better at something when you haven’t even tried? So Mark Twain is right all along when he said that the secret of getting ahead is getting started. You’re admiring something from a distance and thinking yourself unfit for it. Why would you even do that when you’ve got great skills and talents deposited in you by God. But you would never know that you have greatness within you if you allow yourself to be weighed down by your thinking that others are better than you. Worst is when you think that you cannot even surpass someone in a particular field. Who told you that you cannot become greater than even your coach; who told you that you cannot achieve extraordinary things in life? Go out there and stop comparing yourself with others. Instead, compete with yourself and develop yourself every single day. When you do this, your self-esteem would rise.   

Dare your Mistakes

For many of us, our mistakes are our number one enemies. Why? Because we allow them to be. Simple! But the moment we confront our mistakes and turn them to our strength, we would realize how greatly we’re gifted. Overcoming our challenges then becomes easy. You’re a gift, each and every one of us. We possess the ability to achieve great things in life. It’s just that…

·         We are scared
·         We don’t want to fail
·         We don’t want our friends to make a jest of us
·         We don’t want to appear weak to people

These are the reasons we are damn scared of making mistakes right? Well, that’s not cool. Actually, these should really be the reasons we should make the mistakes. When we make mistakes, our fear of failure is defeated and then trying out new things becomes a hobby. Great people have trodden this path. Also, you wouldn’t know how badly you fared at something if nobody is there to judge you. But it’s not the judging that should bother you, for that in itself is harmless, it is you not learning anything from that experience. And many of us always want to appear superhuman to others, like we only want to be known that we are good at everything. So we don’t want to fail so people wouldn’t see that we are human after all! Ring a bell? Well, that’s not smart enough. Have you suddenly forgotten that to err is human? Want to improve your self-esteem, make as many mistakes as you can, for, for every success, there must have been at least 12 mistakes.  

Here’s the thing

You’ve got low self-esteem and you know it. Wherever you go, you don’t just feel the spirit to own it. Whatever you do, you lack the energy. And then you’ve started to feel like: I’m tired of it all. Maybe you’re a student approaching graduation and you just feel like quitting. Or you’re an aspiring footballer with, no break, not even in a local league. You could even be a jobseeker already feeling all the people employed are better than you, despite your qualifications. And you’ve begun to see life differently, as though you don’t fit in the game. Hang on a second. Let me tell you this: if you can work on your self-esteem by trying to implement the above points, congrats because you’re on your way to success.   
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Monday, April 9, 2018

AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chronicles the intriguing and troubling life of Ifemelu, a young, love-filled girl with ambition.

In Trenton, Ifemelu goes to plait her hair. There she comes to realise the world of the African. Already a blogger about race in America, Ifemelu finds the opportunity to delve into the reality of Blacks from African countries such as Nigeria. Far away from home, from her family and her lover, Obinze, in Lagos, Efemelu stops sending messages to Obinze probably because she has found a better company in Blaire, her new Black American boyfriend.

Obinze attends a party organised by Chief, the man who had single-handedly helped him rise from grass to grace. Shortly after deportation from England, the man, Chief, as he is fondly called, had effortlessly made him a successful estate manager.

Aunty Uju is Ifemelu’s father’s sister who is mistress to the General, a powerful and wealthy man in the Nigerian military government. He is responsible for Aunty Uju's sudden rise to wealth after her miserable post-university life. A week after Aunty Uju delivers a baby boy, the military government is overthrown and the General is among the military officers executed in the coup. Her sorrowful condition is aggravated by the General’s family members asking her to vacate the apartment. Frustrated and confused, Aunty Uju leaves for America where she now stays with her son, Dike.

When everything becomes tough for Ifemelu’s father, who has been sacked from work, Aunty Uju helped Ifemelu get a student visa to join her in the US. There in America is where Ifemelu discovers the realities of living abroad, especially in the utopian country, the United States of America. In America, Ifemelu is first confronted by the fact that America is not really a heaven as has been painted often in the movies. She also observes another problem in America – the issue of race. After battling to get a job using another person’s identity to no avail, Ifemelu becomes fed up with everything. When the rent of Ifemelu’s flat is due, she has no money. But when she eventually gets a job with a man, a baseball coach who desperately needs massage and female company willing to pay Ifemelu a hundred dollars per day, she later hates herself for doing such a dirty job. She then becomes depressed and cut all communication with Obinze and her family.

Luckily, she eventually gets a babysitting job, where she meets Kurt, who suddenly becomes her boyfriend, and with the help of whom, she secures her stay, through a work permit. She later wants to try something new and so she cheats on Kurt by having sex with a neighbour. This marks the end of her relationship with Kurt. By this time, Ifemelu has already become a popular blogger about race in America.          

On the train one day, Ifemelu comes across Blaire, a Black American college professor whom she suddenly falls in love with. Later, they meet at a seminar to which Ifemelu has been invited as a blogger. With Blaire Ifemelu’s discoveries of life in America takes a new turn. Not only does she become more popular, she is also introduced into the fold of scholars in America. Through the help of Blaire she is able to get into the American fellowship where she lectures a group of college students. All of this makes Ifemelu so successful and rich that she is able not to only regularly send money home to her folks, but also to afford her parents’ visit.

Meanwhile, Obinze, who had been denied a visa to America many times, is now in England. But the turbulence of an immigrant life in England renders his travelling abroad a nightmare. Getting a job as a casual labourer for a construction company is soon short-lived because the person whose work permit he is using is demanding a raise Obinze cannot afford. In anger, he informs his place of work and Obinze stops going to work. After realising that he might be able to pay the balance to arrange his sham marriage with an Angolan English girl who seems to have fallen in love with him, he seeks help from his Nigerian friend and classmate, Emenike, who is now also in England married to a white woman. On the day of the wedding, Obinze is arrested and is removed from England.

Even Aunty Uju, like all emigrant Blacks from Africa, is not spared the racial prejudice by White Americans. Her practice as a visiting doctor is wrought with racial comments and acts by her white patients who feel she is unfit to occupy her post because of her skin colour. Even Aunty Uju’s case is understandable. What is extreme is the racial insults and abuse hauled at the young and fragile but intelligent and witty Dike. In short, the frustration resulting from this nearly costs the young boy his life through an abortive suicide attempt. It is for this reason that Ifemelu has delayed her return to Nigeria.

Ifemelu finally returns to Nigeria and comes to realise how torn apart she is within herself. She now feels a sense of loss – a sense of dual identity. She can no longer fit into the Nigerian life she was once used to. When she gets a job at Aunty Onenu’s celebrity gossip blog named Zoe, she is exposed to the lies and fake of most Nigerian establishments. As if she is no longer Nigerian, she shrugs at the revelation that most celebrities Aunty Onenu’s Zoe interviews actually pay for the services. For acting this way, her co-worker, Zemaye and Doris see Ifemelu as someone who seems to have fallen from another planet. She quits and starts her own blog in which she features the realities of life in Lagos. Dike visits Ifemelu in Lagos.

Finally, Obinze re-unites with Ifemelu and their love life is reinvigorated again. Unlike when they started dating, were young, and still in school and trying to avoid mistakes, sex now seems a pastime for both of them, as they engage in it almost every day. Without a doubt, Obinze does not love his wife and mother of his children, Kosi, because he feels his life is in no way connected with hers.

Kosi finds out about her husband’s escapade, but instead of being mad at him, she begs that they sustain the relationship, at least as father and mother to the children. Unyielding and determined, especially for the marathon of sex he now enjoys with Ifemelu, Obinze packs out of the house, set to be living alone in his flat at Parkview. He begs Ifemelu to allow him in, which she finally does.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is indeed an eye-opener for a lot of Nigerian youths or even African youths who are American wannabe. After reading this witty and well-crafted novel, I interviewed some readers, who enthusiastically told me that the novel, Americanah, has sprouted in them an unquenchable yearning for America: that through this novel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has resuscitated their deferred dream of travelling abroad.            
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alkali: A Synopsis

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alkali

The Virtuous Woman by Zainab Alkali is a love story about the easy and principled life of a young beautiful woman named Nana Ai, as she discovers love at first sight and the strangeness that often accompanies such a feeling.

The village of Zuma has just been blessed with the news that two of their daughters, Laila and Hajjo have made it into the prestigious Her Majesty’s College at Birni Dala. Even though the two girls are not the first to enjoy this privilege (already a student there is Nana Ai, but now on a holiday), the entire village often takes the pride that one of their own are in the popular school. This is because Her Majesty’s College is the kind of school mostly attended by children born with a silver spoon in their mouths.  

But the girls have got different reasons they are excited about attending the new school. For Hajjo, a sixteen year old girl, who lives with her grandmother, the admission is an escape from a life she believes she does not deserve. She is not only maltreated by the rest of the members of the family but she is also poorly fed and clothed. In her extended family home, she feels like an outcast. For this reason, she so longs for the journey. Laila on the other hand, is a spoilt brat and a forward girl. She is loquacious and uncouth. She is Hajjo’s cousin. She longs for the journey to the new school so she could be free to do as she pleases.

But the two younger girls have already been placed under the care of a more mature and principled Nana. Time for the journey and the girls are accompanied to the bus park by Nana’s father, Baba Sani, who never stops reminding Nana never to relent in exhibiting all the good virtues he has taught him.

But as soon as the old man goes back home, Laila gets into her element. She goes into the nearby bush only to resurface with a painted face and lips, looking like a slut. She believes that is the only way they can get a free ride and gets to their destination on time. A car stops by but Nana will not allow them to take it because the man in the car does not look responsible.  

When they get to the Secretariat the Secretary is not around. They meet the clerk-receptionist instead who is hostile to them. But of course, Laila enjoys the company of two boys, Abubakar and Bello. Bello is a rich boy while Abubakar is from a poor home. They are both students at King’s College. When the girls go back to check the secretary the next day they find out he is the man whose free ride they had rudely turned down the other day. The man is to give them the transport fare and an escort. As a way of punishing the girls, especially Nana for her rudeness, the secretary gives them Mallam Jauro, a seventy years old man as escort.

The journey is a long one and everybody on the bus has started to know one another. The driver is a very careful one, unlike those of other two buses speeding in front of them, Allah Kiyaye and Allah Seriki. When the rain begins, the two buses with the reckless drivers are now stuck in a little ditch, making it impossible for other vehicles including the one the girls are travelling in to pass. So together all the passengers in the three buses are stuck.

Now bound together by fate, all the passengers have to come to terms with how to survive their predicament. As they are in the middle of a forest with no dwelling in sight, they have to make themselves happy. To start with, they need to have something to eat. At first, nobody wants to volunteer to go to the nearby village to get food. However, Bello and Abubakar volunteer, and each passenger contributes the money with him or her and the boys go with the teacher’s bicycle to get them food. When they return everybody eats and has enough and Musa Doggo treats everyone to a nice music and entertains them with his jest. The man becomes a jester and a lively person to disguise his unfortunate situation about which Nana is told by the mother of the twins.

When the road is dry, the lorries are finally moved back on track and the journey resumes. As though what happened earlier was a warning, the two carelessly speeding Lorries are later to be found wrecked in a ghastly motor accident. Almost all the passengers in the two buses are dead, except for the drivers. Some other people sustain a very serious injury. Abubakar is dead but Bello is alive with an injury. The injured ones, including Bello, are taken to the hospital.

The girls are on the train to Birni Dala. While on the train, Nana and the two girls, Hajjo and Laila, sit in front of a sleeping boy who appeared to have sustained some injuries. Because he uses a newspaper to cover his face, none of the girls can recognise him. An army officer aboard the train relates well with the girls and invites them for lunch. The two girls consent except for Nana, who is bent on not collecting anything from a stranger. While the girls are gone with the officer, Nana recognises the sleeping man as Bello. Both get along well and have a hearty conversation, with each unable to conceal his or her affection towards the other, even though none of them mentions it directly. It is very clear now that Nana is in love with Bello but is very shy to express it. Both understand this and decide to communicate only telepathically. When the train arrives Birni Dala, Nana reads the letter sent them by the old man, Mallam Jauro, their escort. It also comes with some money. They are happy to know that at last the man is still alive, despite all he had been through during the long journey.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Themes of Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine

Elechi Amadi's The Concubine

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi is an interesting novel replete with several issues bothering on communal life, love, superstition, death, widowhood and fate. All of these have been well-crafted into the main thrust of the story, which makes the novel one of Africa’s masterpieces ever, both in terms of content and form.

In the novel, The Concubine, Elechi Amadi demonstrates an exceptional bond borne out of communal co-existence. Life in Amokachi and the surrounding villages is filled with deep love and respect for one another. Though the inhabitants of these villages are not related by blood, they care about one another and are there for one another in times of anguish and sorrow. When Emenike dies, Ihuoma is not left alone when the raining season starts. Ekwueme and others feel the sense of responsibility to help her thatch her leaking roof. Houses are built so close to one another that one person can overlook the other in case of trouble or any external invasion. This makes it easy for people to be their brothers’ keeper. In short, one villager’s worry or glory is another’s. It is such near-perfect, beautiful world that characterised the African life before the intrusion of the heartless and mischievous white colonialists. It is what the highly celebrated African literary icon, Chinua Achebe demonstrates in his award-winning and widely translated novel, Things Fall Apart.

Of course, love, being a universal theme, often forms a major concern of most African novels. Little wonder, even Elechi Amadi takes a different view of the subject in the novel, The Concubine. The question that often pops up is, is Elechi Amadi trying to show that love is blind to convention? Truly, parties in love, especially for the first time, are usually blinded by their own inclination so much that they tend to ignore everything else. This is the case with Ekwueme in the story. Despite his awareness of the position of custom and tradition of the land that a betrothal marriage must be sealed, he goes ahead to propose to Ihuoma, the beautiful widow. The question is, what does true love imply? Must two people in love with each other necessarily get married? Does love between two marriageable opposite sexes always end up in sexual intercourse, in the form of boyfriend and girlfriend or in the form of married couple? No doubt, EKwueme’s relationship with Ahurole heads for the rock, not because the young man does not enjoy sexual pleasure with her, but because his heart longs for someone else, which is Ihuoma.

Superstition is another theme in the novel. In the traditional African life, superstition surrounds individuals like plague, especially with regard to their health. For example, small pox is considered extremely ominous. The disease is so dreaded that people dared not call it small pox. Instead, they call it “the good thing” when referring to it. Also, when a person dies of small pox, people are forbidden to mourn him. Even during the person’s illness, people must avoid him like plague. That is not all, even some animals are attached to some superstitious belief. For instance, it is believed that a vulture does not perch on anyone’s roof except that it brings a divine message to the household. And after this, people go to consult the oracle on the import of the message and the befitting sacrifices must follow. With all these scenes of superstition in the novel Amadi seems to be concerned with how much harm people must have brought upon themselves due to ignorance. Due to ignorance in the form of beliefs, lives have been lost, property and resources wasted and bright hope and future dashed.

Also prominent in the novel is the issue of death. Death, the destroyer of desires, is portrayed in different lights in the story. When Emenike dies, because of what many believe to be lock-chest (even though Okachi, Ihuoma's mother believes Madume caused it), everybody saw the need to bury him the proper way. In short, Ihuoma with almost all the people of Omakachi believe that Emenike was highly honoured, due to the expensive and glamorous burial ceremony for which many people came from far and near. In contrast, Madume's death is an eye-sore. Therefore, the tradition dictates that he must neither be mourned nor be given a grand second burial. This is because suicide is considered a taboo. In order to prevent his evil corpse from affecting others, his body will have to be disposed of in the deep forest, like an animal. Also noteworthy in relation to death in the story is the idea that, there is no natural death; that one way or another a man's death must have been caused by either man or a supernatural force. For instance, both Eminike and Madume's death is linked to the Sea-King who so love, and is jealous of, his mysterious wife Ihuoma, he punishes anyone that threatens or loves her with death. Even the fine, admirable character in the story, Ekwueme, is not spared the wrath of the fiery Sea-King.

Closely related to the theme of death is widowhood. Interestingly, this theme is recurrent in many African pieces by prominent authors such as Isidore Okpewho in The Last Duty, Mariama Ba in So Long a Letter, Bayo Adebowale in Lonely Days among others. In all of them, the maltreatment and psychological trauma the widow goes through in the name of custom and tradition is never left out. This practice is so ingrained on many traditional African cultures that one wonders if being a woman in some parts of Africa is a curse. If not, why should there always be widow's rites and not widower's rites? Why on earth must a woman go through pain and suffering because her husband died? Most writers who have so much dwelled on this issue of marriage ask these questions often. To many, marriage is regarded as the eternal union between a man and a woman sealed by an unconditional love. While many people might agree to this definition, others might ask that the last part "...sealed by an unconditional love" be removed. In any case, these questions usually come to mind any time this issue surfaces: What makes a successful marriage? Is it sex or true love? Must the partner be a virgin? What is the problem with marrying a widow? Children or not, do not widows also have the right to love or to sex? Why must couple quarrel in their first few weeks of wedlock? All of these seem to be Elechi Amadi's concern in the novel. Ekwueme’s love affair with Ahurole then Ihuoma is reflect these questions. In short, when we consider Ihuoma's reluctance to accept Ekwueme's advances and the latter's defilement of the tradition of betrothal, we would realise that neither love nor sexual desire precedes a successful marriage. What happens when two people are "forcefully" made to enter into marital union is reflected in Ekwueme's disappointment in himself a few days after marrying his betrothed Ahurole. About this, the narrator observes:
"Ekwueme was annoyed with himself. Before marriage he thought he know all the answers to domestic problems and vowed that when he got married he would never have to call in a third party, not even his parents, to decide anything between him and his wife. He used to despise men who had to beat their wives call in arbitrators to settle disputes every other day. Now that he was one of them, he felt confused." (page 143)
The indisputable fact that all human beings are bound to their fate is also an important issue in The Concubine. The freer we think we are from our fate the closer we get to it. Whether we like it or not, what will be will be. This moral essence seems to be the major thrust of the story. Just as Odewale in Ola Rotimi's classic play, The Gods Are Not to Blame cannot escape from the grip of his fate, despite all efforts made to achieve that, Ekwueme's determination to marry Ihuoma by all means is also to no avail. With this, Elechi Amadi appears to aver that nothing in life is done or undone except that there is a supernatural touch to it.

In conclusion, Elechi Amadi's The Concubine is a unique novel written in such a way that we as readers see ourselves in it. The struggles, pain, love, hate, death and other issues treated therein are indeed a reflection of our humanity. 
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Monday, May 1, 2017

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi: A Plot

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi

A 216-page story of the fantastically intriguing life of Ihuoma as she goes through life in ways too difficult for her to fathom, The Concubine by Elechi Amadi is a deep, detailed and traditionally enriching account of love and uncertainty of life.

The village of Omokachi is the centre of events; it is bordered by Chiolu, Aliji and Emigwe.

The Concubine by Elechi Amadi centres round the 22-year old Ihuoma, a beautiful, gentle and charming woman whose personality is second to none in the entire village of Omokachi and its environ.

Emenike, Ihuoma's husband has just had a scuffle with Madume over a land dispute. Even though Emenike beat the stubborn, egoistic Madume in the fight, he is later to suffer from what is regarded as 'lock-chest'. But after series of divinations and medicines by the highly regarded Anyika, the medicine man, Emenike passes on, leaving his wife, Ihuoma and their four children behind.

Quite naturally, the rumour has spread that Emenike could not have died naturally; that Madume must definitely have killed his enemy with the use of juju. Even, Okachi, Ihuoma's mother is not surprised by this rumour. Consoling her daughter in her compound, she has this conversation with her:

'Kaka, do you think that that fight caused his death?' Ihuoma asked in an undertone.
'What else caused it?'
'I thought it was "lock-chest.'
'But what brought about the lock-chest?'
'He worked too hard in the rain.'
'Was that the first time he had worked under the rain? No, my child, we know what happened to him. Amadioha will kill them one by one.' (page 21)

Now a widow, Ihuoma has metamorphosed into a full woman, in spite of her young age. Even though she has her doubts and fear of the unknown in the guise of nightmares and hallucinations, her doggedness and homely character through the lonely, dreadful period of widowhood has won many people to her side. Everywhere she goes, she is often regarded highly and is envied. But what seems to be so charming about her is her resourcefulness throughout the burial rites. It is such a huge ceremony that many believe will wear her out.

At the end of her mourning period, Ihuoma looks radiant, as before; her beauty is so enchanting, she has become the cynosure of all eyes in the entire village. The raining season approaches and Ihuoma's roofs need some thatching. His well-meaning brother-in-law, Nnadi alongside his friends: Wakiri and Ekwueme come to her aid. But unknown to Nnadi, Ekwe as he is fondly called by many, is interested in the widow. His first attempt at winning Ihuoma over fails; his guts to bear out his mind to her fail him and he goes home dejected. The next day he tells his mother about the nightmare he has had in the night: 'Emenike and others tried to drag me across a stream in a dream.' (page 50)

Even Madume, a man believed to have killed Emenike, is lusting after the beautiful woman. After a failed attempt to make his wife, Wolu, convey his message of love to Ihuoma, he goes arrogantly to tell the woman himself. But his mission is soon aborted and he comes home limping, with a badly injured toe. Anyika, the famous dibia, has barely helped him overcome the injury when again he decides to harass the young Ihuoma at her husband's farm. Threatening to cut down a branch of a banana in reaction to Nnadi's daring him to do so, he is spat into in the eyes by a spitting cobra. Then he transfers his aggression to everyone around him including his household and the elders. Frustrated and miserable, he commits suicide. As a tradition, his body is to be taken far away from the village and thrown into the deep forest. Worse, there will be no mourning, no second burial in his honour.

Madume's death notwithstanding, music, which has been a very potent medicine that heals every wound of worry and tribulations anyone might be dealing with in the village of Omokachi, cannot be stopped. It is a successful Dance Festival as Ekwueme, Mmam, Wakiri, the clown, treat everyone to sonorous and interesting songs to which people, man, and woman, young and old gyrate their body. After all, life is too serious an experience not to have some moment for pleasure. Amidst this fanfare, Ekwueme finally proposes to Ihuoma. But as a wise woman who is deeply rooted in the ways of the people, she declines because he is already betrothed to Ahurole, another girl from her own village, Omigwe.

Upon hearing the love affair between his son and the widow, Wigwe, Ekwe's father, cunningly asks Ihuoma on his son's behalf whether she will marry him. Expectedly, the answer is no. Wigwe along with his wife, Adaku, will not stop there. They must eliminate every obstacle in the way. So, the marriage ceremony that is supposed to take a year is speedily arranged in six months. Finally, the young man is successfully married to Ahurole. However, the marriage is soon short-lived, as Ekwueme cannot put up with his wife's consistent nagging and sulking. This makes him remember Ihuoma a lot. But the last straw that broke the camel's back is when Ahurole catches his husband inside Ihuoma's compound, pretending to be searching for the lost she-goat. This so anger Ahurole that she goes to her mother's and explains what has happened. She advises her to get a love potion from Anyika, if she must tie down her husband’s love to herself alone. But the expert medicine man warns her thus:
'I am sure you have seen active and intelligent men suddenly become passive, stupid and dependent. That is what love potion can do. So go and settle your differences with your husband peacefully. If you insist you must go somewhere else.' (page 159)

The mother is indeed persistent and she goes to Chiolu where she gets the love potion. But the resultant effect is devastating: rather than love Ahurole Ekwe goes berserk, to the extent that the entire village goes in search of him. He is later to be found on top of a tree armed with a cub daring anyone to disturb him. All efforts to make him come down from the tree proved futile until he starts to mumble Ihuoma's name. She is fetched and on seeing him, the troubled young man descends the tree.

Thereafter, Ekwueme will not take any medicine unless Ihuoma is present. In fact, she is the only one he talks to. After his recovery, he convinces his troubled parents of his intention to marry Ihuoma. Fearing that he might resort to his old self, and thinking the move worthwhile a reward for Ihuoma's assistance during their son's troubled moments, they give in.

Meanwhile, Ahurole has fled and has joined her parents. Wagbara, her father has to return the bride price paid on her.

But that is not the end of the trouble with the poor Ekwueme. Though Nnadi, Ihuoma's brother-in-law has consented to the marriage, Ekwueme has one more hurdle to cross: Anyika proposes divination before the bride price is paid.

Most shocking is the dibia's divination. Ekwueme is taken to Anyinka, the best medicine man in Omokachi who divines that the lover boy will be destroyed if he goes ahead to marry the widow. The reason is that Ihuoma is a sea-goddess from birth whom has been married to the proud and jealous Seak-King who kills anyone who marries her. However, if the Sea-King is appeased through powerful sacrifices he could still allow Ekwueme to be Ihuoma's concubine.

But Ekwueme and his parents will not believe this story entirely unless they try another medicine man. So off they go to Aliji, another village far away from Omokachi. There they meet Agwoturumbe, an equally powerful but boastful dibia, who tells them the same story as Anyika has done. However, unlike Anyika, he believes he possesses the powers to disarm the deadly Sea-King from harming Ekwueme. But this will be in the form of sacrifices that will involve himself, Ekwe and Wigwe.

All is set for the sacrifice except one thing -- the multi-coloured lizard. Even this Ekwe has sent for the little boys around to handle. As Agwoturumbe, the hired dibia, is getting set for the sacrifice, Nwonna's barbed arrow which has missed a lizard it was targeted at, hits Ekwueme in the belly as he stands from where he and his wife-to-be, Ihuoma, have been fondling each other, to see how well the preparation is going.

And then: ‘The Spirit of Death was known to take away people's souls shortly after midnight. That was when Ekwueme died.’ (page 216)

This closing of The Concubine by Elechi Amadi is particularly striking. It leaves the reader with thoughts on the irreversible power of destiny.

Did you enjoy this essay? What particularly interests you the most about The Concubine by Elechi Amadi?

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Monday, April 17, 2017

13 Unique Ways to an Exceptionally Successful Life

successful life

Of course we all want to be exceptionally successful, right? Sure. From being financially independent to getting married to the best woman in the world, our success is tied to the things that make us feel fulfilled in life. But the question is, what do you do that will lead you to discovering those things from which you can derive true happiness.   

Below is a list of 13 unique ways to live an exceptionally successful life.

1. Find Yourself
What brings you to life? What makes you glow with pride? What’s your passion? Look inward; know your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and don't let your weaknesses weigh you down. When you do this, you have already set the ball in motion towards living an exceptionally successful life.

2. Set your goals
What’s your ambition in life? Put them into writing. Make a list of daily activities and follow it religiously. Note the things you enjoy doing consistently. Give yourself a plan: within five months, for instance, work hard on your plans and stick to them. When you do so, you’re on your way to living a successful life.

3. Personal growth
You can't be exceptionally successful if you don't develop yourself. Attend seminars and workshops where you will get ideas on how to do things differently.  And by doing so you get to meet successful people who will inspire you.

4. Align yourself with positive and like-minded people
Be with those that understand your dreams and your goals, those that will encourage you to go on. People that will put you back on track when you fail and those you can look up to.

5. Be productive
Try your best to work hard and be productive both at work and at home. Don't use the whole day to watch TV when you have things to do. Be innovative too, try new things and see what works best for you. Being productive entails doing what one knows how to do consistently without fear of failure.

6. Read always
Use at least an hour a day to read books that will develop you personally. But reading alone isn’t enough; learning from it is more important. When you read and imbibe the lessons from what you’ve read, you’re opening up a new world of opportunities for yourself. Read biographies of great men, especially in your own field. It will motivate you and make you live an exceptionally successful life.

7. Partner with people
You don't have to have the money to start that business. You also need the drive. You should be able to convince that person that has the money, write the business proposal, look for the best in the field, partner with them and rise through them. It's one of the unique ways to be exceptionally successful.

8. Take risks
You want to venture into that business but you’re scared to take the plunge? Come on, just do it. How would you know what you’re capable of when you haven’t tried. Make your findings and take the big leap. It's always worth it, and if it doesn't work that way, it doesn't mean you will relent. If you make mistakes, you try to learn from them.

9. Live within your means
Living within your means is the best thing to work towards the success ladder. You can't be earning less and be living large. How do you want to balance it up? Even if one has the money to spend, that doesn't mean you should spend it frivolously. Save for the rainy days, you will be glad you did.

10. Be generous and kind
Generosity takes you a long way. Don't be selfish in your act. Those you are generous to will look up to you. Find time to help people. At some points in our lives, we often realize that it's not all about money. Try help with the household chores if you are a man, help your kids, help people in your neighbourhood; bekind to people. Set up a water stand where you know people will pass to drink, plant a tree, lift people up, pay for someone's school fees, see life in other people's perspectives. The fulfillment in doing it is much better than the ‘thank you’ you'll receive. According to Albert Einstein, ‘only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.’

11. Have a good mentor
Have someone you will look up to, someone that can advise you, someone that will put you through life. I realized people that have mentors climb up the ladder of success very fast and are always exceptional.

12. Be honest
Be honest in your dealings. Honesty and success are inseparable. If both you and your partners agreed on something, don't go behind their back to do something else. If you really want to become exceptionally successful, you should try to protect your integrity. Nothing good comes after losing one’s dignity.

13. Take care of you
Taking good care of everything of yours is an indispensable ingredient for becoming successful. Charity begins at home, right? Chasing after success at the expense of your loved ones isn’t a great move. Keep friends and foes close. Without any of these, you won’t know how far nor how well you’ve fared. Your body is key: nourish and exercise it. Feed your mind with positive thoughts always. When you do this, you’re on your way to being successful.

We all want to become successful in life. But often times we think we must engage in tedious activities and surround ourselves with demigods to achieve this. But this is not the case. If we can only follow the unique ways to becoming exceptionally successful above, we would realize how close we are to our goals. 
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