Indeed, we live in strange times! That a time would come when we would see sons paste slaps on their fathers’ faces all in a bid to display their prowess is highly unsettling.
The world we live in no longer knows what ideals such as honour, patriotism, chivalry, undying love and devotion, or respect mean anymore. They no longer know that manly honour demands that you do not shoot or stab a man at the back or hit a man when he least suspects or when he is down.
Why do I lament thus? My ears have heard strange things and my eyes have seen the unbelievable so I must cry out. Some time ago, it was Onyeka Nwelue saying Chinua Achebe was naive and unexposed as at the time he wrote Things Fall Apart, I read those words in open mouthed wonder and have since then never taken that man to be anything else but a serious joker. Next was for me to visit Facebook and see the younger generation of Africans berating Wole Soyinka for his refusal to shred his American passport after he vowed to do just that should Donald Trump emerge the president of the United States of America (that I was bewildered would be an understatement). Next, it was Charly Boy they put out in the sun to dry.
Charly Boy’s offence was that he led a protest against the perpetual absence of Nigeria’s sitting president whose perpetual absence has become a cause for concern, subject of discussion, and an embarrassment both in Nigeria and in the international community. These young ones would not come out to protest or lead any protest, they are rather content hiding behind their phone screens reeling out bombasts and blaming others for their misfortune on social media platforms.
They claim Charly Boy has no moral justification to lead a protest considering the fact that he is a nudist with a weird personality, what a reason to condemn one whose sincere wish is to see that things are done in the appropriate manner! Now, they have chosen to fall on Soyinka. They are asking him why he has kept “quiet in the face of oppression?” They say Soyinka was vociferous during Jonathan’s administration but has chosen the path of silence during the Buhari’s administration.
Perhaps, I would also have chosen the path of silence on this issue of denigrating grizzled heads but a friend from Kenya sent a post via Whatsapp and sought my opinion on an issue. It was from him I learnt Senji called the famous Kenyan writer; Ngugi wa Thiong’o; an idiot for his refusal to criticize Kenyatta administration even though he was up in arms against Moi’s (the former president) administration.
This was the last blow and I could no longer be a bystander in this game of insults. I felt the need to talk and my words are for the ears of the African youths.
While I also think it wrong for these old activists to stand down now when it blows hot, I also do realize that we (the African Youths) also have failed ourselves and have no justification whatsoever to force others into speaking on our behalf. Yes, on our behalf because it is our future that the political class toys with. The political class is setting a wrong precedence that history will forever remember but what is worst is that we let them! We failed to cry foul when we should. We laugh at their antics and call it comedy while they loot us dry. I wonder what we would tell posterity when they ask us what we did to effect a change, I just wonder!
So, it may not be wrong to ask Soyinka why he has kept quiet but before we warn the hen not to go near the fox, do we not first send the fox away? Why have we (the youths) failed to first ask ourselves why we have kept quiet before issue Soyinka a query over his refusal to speak on our behalf? Is it not wrong to elect leaders whose age mates have long become one with the earth and equally expect those who have arrived at the dusk of their life to fight OUR fight for us?
Soyinka carried out great feats as a young man, he was a co-founder of a fraternity against social and societal injustice, he held a radio station hostage at gun point, was incarcerated for trying to initiate a peaceful resolution to the brewing civil war, spoke against dictatorship, spoke against the apartheid regime in South Africa and many more. But the man is old today, albeit not too old to lend his voice to the struggle against the wasted breed of the political class in Africa.
However, I do know that even the greatest boxer is easily defeated by age and it is inevitable that Soyinka at some point must submit to age, even if not now. Wole Soyinka has made his bones in the arena of activism (even the grasses on that field grow luxuriously on his blood) that if today he chooses to hang his boxing gloves and sit back to watch events unfold, he deserves that exalted position and we all must respect his stance.
It now behooves us (from the younger generation) to pick up the mantle from where Soyinka and others stopped and continue from there. This is what we have failed to do. We have failed to speak up when and where we should. We have kept looking up to the superheros of bygone days to come be our messiah rather than seeking our own Moses from our midst. If Soyinka is “dead” then we are all dead for Soyinka is not just one man, it goes beyond that. Soyinka is a seed planted in all and we must nurture it to maturity.
Soyinka is the call against injustice, Soyinka is the man who leads a protest against tyrants and confronts their baton, gases and guns without fear. Soyinka is the ordinary man on the streets saying enough is enough and demanding equity and fairness. Soyinka is the frustrated African who feels that there has to be a change in the polity. Soyinka is in everyone of us, are you prepared to reveal the Soyinka in you? We need not wait till people like Charly Boy, Soyinka, or Ngugi lead the way, we, the youths, must take the lead and fight our battles so at the end we can boast to our offspring of our great deeds. We have been too quiet and the political class have taken us for granted. It is time to rise from our political slumber and doldrums.
As for those who think the battle is between ethnic or religious lines, let me make it known to you that such a battle was concocted by the political class to hoodwink and turn our faces from their corrupt and thieving acts, the real battle is between the political class and the poor masses, it is between the ‘die in power class’ and the young ones whose birthright has been denied them, it is a battle between the ‘haves’ and ‘haves not’, between the oppressors and the oppressed.
The political class does not know if you are Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Kikuyu, Luo, Ndebele or of the Shona tribe and neither does it know if you are a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist for no matter the disparity they (the political class) all crisscross hands in holy communion to devour our commonwealth.
Until you abandon Facebook and Twitter activism for real life activism, you have no justification to question the silence of another. The grasses on the field of the activism arena have grown lushly on the blood of past activists because younger ones have refused to walk upon that same field. You are the architect of your own problems because you have refused to say NO when you should have, accept responsibility even if just this once and stop asking others to fight your fight. Stand up or remain dead.
© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2017
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy is a poet, short story writer, literary critic and book reviewer. He is currently the Chief Editor of literarycriticsandwriters.simdif.com