(OPEN LETTER TO NIGERIAN WRITERS)
Dear Fellow Nigerian Writer,
It is a wonderful experience to surf the Internet and to discover Nigeria on the Web through the eyes of her brilliant writers, commentators and contributors. The wealth of knowledge, insight and wisdom brimming through the pens/keyboards of the analysts are breathtaking. It is a galaxy of the best and sadly too of the worst of Nigeria on display on the World Wide Web.
However, this writer became very disenchanted after reading some of the materials on offer by our eminent professional writers, regular commentators and prolific analysts. Some questions have not stopped troubling my soul to which I would like to solicit the help of Nigerians for answers.
Is it possible for a writer to be truly and really an objective observer of events and an impartial analyst of issues? Can a writer ever truly attain a level of development in the skill and practice of observation and analysis whereby truth can remain truth no matter from which angle it is viewed? Is there ever a word like an uncoloured sparkling truth anywhere in the world?
It was some of the materials written by ‘popular and regular’ Nigerian writers on the Internet that led to the above questions. Some of these writers seem to be motivated by a myopic sectional interest of either religion or tribe or ethnic region.
Does it mean it is absolutely true that ones belief has such an overriding influence on the way we see the world and that even writers cannot grow above this acquired philosophical sentiments of religious persuasion? Does ones ethnic background has such an uncontrollable power that it can distort ones judgement of events in the world around us to the point of bigotry? These are the issues confronting and confusing this writer and would therefore like to seek the assistance of knowledgeable Nigerian writers for answers.
However,before the responses come in, this writer would like to reflect aloud on these issues. For instance, if religion motivates a writer and dictates his/her worldview, does it mean that religion is devoid of objective natural truth?
This writer is aware that the truth of Christianity is premised on love, knowledge, freedom and justice, why then must a Christian writer give support in his/her discourses to a culture of hate, superstitions, slave-mentality and economic injustices?
Similarly, if the truth of Islam is premised on knowledge, equality, peace and justice, why then should a Muslim writer or scholar subscribe in his/her discourses give unabashed supports to a culture that thrives best under ignorance, inequality of sexes and peoples and political injustices of rulers and subjects that were often fashioned and maintained by wars and bloodshed?
Again, if ethnic background has succeeded in colouring the worldview of a writer, does it mean if this particular writer were of a Fulani genetic extraction, he would no longer be able to see the strength and weakness of the Fulani’s philosophy of life that harbours supremacist streaks in attitudes, beliefs and deeds; or of the hypocrisy of its religious practices that seem to close its eyes to the doctrine of inequality of persons in contradiction to the doctrinal recommendation of equality of all persons before Allah; or of the entrenched acceptable culture that is unwilling to share the bounty of the gifts of life with other peoples on equal basis except when the Fulani is the lord and master of the arrangement?
Similarly, does it mean if this writer was of a Yoruba national, he would no longer be able to see the strength and weaknesses of the Yoruba philosophy of life and other traditions and cultures that put more than the required naturally permissible high premium on the right of the elderly in political affairs to the detriment of youth, fairness, popular will and progress; or of the impact of secret cults that rely on the use of fear and superstitions as weapons and strategies for settling political matters to the detriment of openness and justice as it promotes a culture of inequality of persons in decision making processes in the communities; or of the destructive uses of African pseudo-scientific artefacts to perpetrate abominable evil ambitions in the pursuit of money, high positions and fame?
Once again, does it mean that if this writer was an Igbo national he would completely lose his ability to see the strength and weaknesses of the Igbo philosophy of life that condones the practices of an extreme republican spirit that is totally devoid of sympathy for the weak and the vulnerable; or of the ambitious desires of her indigenes to conquer and own all at their reach as long as they have the intelligence, the will and the strength to overcome all competitors regardless of the moral and ethical questions; or of the discriminatory social practices against her female sexes who are seeing as mere valuable commodities to be bartered or auctioned for money in marriage deals?
Also, does it mean if this writer has no Fulani genetic trait but just a ‘mere’ Hausa-speaking indigene of the north, he would be unable to see his second-class status in the power structure and relations of the feudal north; or he would be unable to address the historical injustices of his past – the inherited fear of the Fulani and the cowardly dispositions of his ancestors to every issue of economic and political injustices in his locality; or he would still be unable to ask for a redress for the historical wrongs of arson, murder, and unjustifiable callousness perpetrated on his ancestors by the ungodly religious marauders that seized political and economic power of his land and life as they still continued to deny him his inalienable rights to liberty, equality and justice?
And does the same perceptual deformity go for all other ethnic indigenes of Nigeria to the extent that if this writer belonged to any of them he would no longer be able to see the injustices that accrue to him through the political association of his ethnic group with the other mighty ethnic groups in Nigeria; or he would have lost the faith to believe in himself because of the many years of travail he has suffered psychologically and materially to the point of losing the will to ask for redress; or would he still be perpetually frightened to seize the bull of freedom by the horn; and would he be comfortable to be silenced into submissive cooperation with crumbs of stolen booty from the opulent tables of his oppressors?
It is obvious that the various ethnic societies of Nigeria are the classic dialectical thesis and anti-thesis of political synergy in real life. Each ethnic group has a philosophy of life that runs contrary to the philosophy of life of other ethnic groups. The challenge that should face the thinkers and intellectuals of Nigeria is how to bring out the synthesis of these contradictions in the formulation of new ideals and ways of life that is worthy of a New Nigeria. A New Nigeria that shall be based on universal natural laws and principles of liberty, equality and justice for all and not for the few powerfully rich or powerfully strong or powerfully mendacious or powerfully clever, or powerfully roguish but for every sovereign citizen of the New Nigeria.
Fellow writers, these are the questions that give me sleepless nights every time I surfed the Nigeria web sites on the Internet. To read an article it is easy to tell whether the writer is an indigene of the North or the East or the West or the South. What is going on? Has the sacred skills of sages, prophets and visionaries been corrupted like all other virtues in Nigeria? How can any enlightened writer turn this important spiritual engagement into weapons of hate and poison for the character assassination of others particularly those who are not endowed with the skill of sophistry?
Truly, this writer is a very troubled and worried person. The kinds of materials sent to the Internet by Nigerians that seem to be eager to score puerile points against a perceived enemy are the cause of my worries. This writer is wondering where the redemption of Nigeria shall come from when supposedly enlightened members of the polity are still peddling stuffs that are worthy of only the spiritually blind, deaf and dumb. Maybe the hope of this writer is misplaced. Maybe the Nigerian Writers are still, like their compatriots, wallowing in ignorance and darkness. Maybe they are yet to be rescued from the swamp of mediocrity and narrow-mindedness. Maybe they are the one-eyed elites who became kings in the country of the blind.
It is very difficult to fathom the driving forces behind some of the materials posted on the web. Could they have been motivated by love, hatred, anger or fear? Of course, philosophers like Thomas Hobbes did postulate that these are the four emotions that dictate all human actions. Therefore, each writer should be able to ascertain in all honesty, which of these emotions dictate the kinds of sordid materials he/she feeds to the world as scholarly eruditions. What does each writer hope to accomplish when every essay is tainted with poisoned arrows of hate? Would such essays heal the spiritually sick or would it fuel uncontrollable anger in the societies? Could such essays help the personality under attack to correct his/her failings or would it wind them up for revenge and retribution?
Please don’t get this writer wrong, he sincerely believes in truth but also in the use of a civilized decorum where truth can be split with the high aim of edifying those doing good deeds or correcting those at fault in order to help them towards the pursuit of perfection. This writer has learnt to be a sceptic of the professional journalist since 1985. He was an avid follower of a columnist in the Concord Newspaper of Nigeria in 1984-85. Every Friday this particular columnist came out with incisive and piercing analysis of the then demagogue regime of Buhari-Idiagbon junta. It was an inspirational experience to read this writer every Friday. Then the inevitable happened after the August 1985 coup d’état. The self-proclaimed sovereign military President of Nigeria invited this erudite journalist to serve as his Press Boy. Then the columnist lost his moral senses. The articulate critical political observer and the conscience of the nation disappeared.
Although he still has his eyes but he could no longer see, he still has his nose but he could no longer smell, and he still has his ears but he could no longer hear. Throughout the darkest moment of Nigeria, this voice of the people failed to see or hear or smell any wrongs. In fact he became the Chief Moral Defence Executive Officer of the 1985-1993 military regime. What a transition? That eminent columnist indeed proved beyond any reasonable doubt that it is possible for truth to change its colour at the smell and touch of money, power and fame. Maybe this writer is still very naïve, please somebody needs to help me to understand.
Dear Nigerian Writers, the hope of Nigeria nations depends on your ability to be impartial, to be truthful, to be courageous, and to be honest at all times regardless of circumstances. Not when money speaks, or when position beckons, or when fame visits. If writers cannot heal themselves of the human vices that bedevilled all mortal persons, what moral right have they got to sermonise to the hapless world on sentimental idealisms. It is the mark of hypocrisy for anyone to preach ideals he/she does not believe or which he/she cannot practice. The position of a writer is similar to that of Imams in Mosques and of Priests in Churches. You will have a more difficult question to answer when you face The Creator of earth and heaven in your quiet moments and within your souls
If you are in the business of deceiving your readers without faith in the things you preach, definitely you are a soulless bunch set up to corrupt and to put the people of the world in grievous dangers. So far this writer will say to you your regime of pandering lies and deceits is over since the world is gently and steadily moving into a new age of truth and peace. In this new age, your kind of work shall no longer be required. The new age of truth and peace shall succeed in putting the spirits of hate, fear and anger under lock and key. Love nurtured by truth shall be the reigning spirit.
Fellow writer, you need to reconsider your career. Do you still want to peddle lies or you want to sow the seeds of truth and love in Nigeria? The decision is yours to make. You need to think deeply and you will be able to see the great work ahead of all us. The spirit of truth is now recruiting cleaners who are ready to scrub, sweep and clean Nigeria of the moral filths that were planted in the garden of Nigeria by enemies of mankind. The spirit of truth is now recruiting architects of ideas capable through the use of words and language to design the edifice of a New Nigeria. And the spirit of truth is now recruiting moral and social engineers to craft together the moral and intellectual foundations on which the structure of a New Nigeria shall be built.
Dear Fellow Writers, you need to reconstruct the premise of your purpose when you dabble into this sacred activity. Whenever you sit down to pen that beautiful sentences and essays, ask yourself over and over again what do I intend to achieve? Is it to promote a distorted self-image as a very important member of the guild of writers? Is it to cover up truth or to reveal untruths? Is it to propagate the seeds of hate or the seeds of love? Is it to edify or to corrupt the human spirit? Is it to teach the truth in order to set the ignorant free from slavery? Is it to pander to the lies of the powers-that-be in order to keep the ignorant in perpetual servitude? Dear writers ask these questions of yourself before you publish that beautiful essay. And please allow these words of Lao Tzu to ring in your ears always: “True words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not true.”
A new dawn is breaking forth in Nigeria. A new spirit is moving into the fatherland. The spirit of truth is calling on all those who are ready to look higher than the myopic horizon of hate, fear, anger and wickedness in which we have constrained ourselves for so long. The spirit of truth is advising every writer to open his/her eyes to see the glory of a new dawn of liberty, equality and justice for all. When any writer is still motivated by a narrow ideal of liberty, equality and justice for only his own kinds, then that writer needs to go back to the school of moral and ethics. When a writer cannot see the need to fight for all and not just for ones ethnic group or family enclave then the new dawn is yet to break into the heart of that writer. A new dawn is breaking forth in Nigeria, let every writer opens his/her spiritual eyes to see and watch as the darkness in the land is rolled away forever even in our lifetime.
In conclusion let me share with you these words from Alexis Carrel, a French scientist in Man, The Unknown, “The weakness of many of the scientists [writers] … is due to the mediocrity of their goals and to the narrowness of their life. Men grow when inspired by a high purpose, when contemplating vast horizons. The sacrifice of oneself is not very difficult for one burning with the passion for a great adventure. And there is no more beautiful and dangerous adventure than the renovation of modern man [Nigeria]”.
May the spirit and the passion of adventure for the revolution and renovation of Nigeria enter your life. May the spirit of truth open your eyes to the breaking of the new dawn in Nigeria. May you be mighty in love and selflessness to the glory of The Creator and for the peoples of the New Nigeria under preparation regardless of tribe or tongue or belief or sex.
In the Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Nigerian
8 March 2002