OPEN LETTER TO NIGERIAN WRITERS II
Dear Fellow Writer,
The first letter we wrote to Nigerian Writers caused a little flutter in some quarters judging by the responses that came through in the mail. It is not our intention to ruffle egocentric feathers but we intend, all the same, to wake up Nigerian Writers to the reality of the moment.
It is an acknowledged fact that mankind is in a precarious state globally, nationally and privately. Our world is going through great turmoil of gigantic political, economic, social and spiritual upheavals. It is the contention of this writer that the only group naturally chosen to see this spiritual decadent state of our world are the writers.
Writers, by their callings, are special breed of people. From time immemorial writers have played the roles of spiritual guides to the world. They are the only group of people that, as a result of their introspective engagements, commune with the spiritual world. By their intellectual activities on a daily basis, writers are more alert than any other group of professionals to sense the winds of both physical and spiritual changes in their environment. It is this awareness that compelled this rookie of a writer to use the big stick in language and intention to attract the attention of Nigerian Writers. Now that this little fly has attracted your attention, it is necessary to wrap up the discourse we started in that letter.
The purpose of these letters is to draw out the attention of writers away from their hitherto accustomed lethargy and easy-going lifestyles that love to play academic game with words. It is also to point your attention to a new career path of onerous and momentous engagements geared towards the rescuing operation of Nigerians from their comatose and dying states.
This writer is aware without being told in many words that fellow Writers are wondering who this loud-mouthed one is and what gives him the right to talk to other writers in this fashion? Yes, you are quite right to wonder. It is a known fact that Nigerians are crazy for titles, big names pedigree, glamorous track records even if they are of fudged merits and phoney pretensions. The alarm bell must have gone out, asking, who is he? Where does he come from? Does anyone know him? Is he one of us? Is he Birom, Edo, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Kanuri, Kataf, Tiv, Yoruba, etc.?
These are the kind of mundane questions that would be expected from Nigerians in line with our culture and Nigerianess. We are a people that have been brainwashed with all kinds of cultural prejudices that teach us to listen to only those of our own. We’ve been taught that the words of the ‘outsiders’ are never worthy of our consideration but of our instant condemnation even before the words are out. We are able by instinct and acculturation to tell what the strangers are on about even before they open their mouths. This is the way we are but these myopic cultures are weaknesses that must be understood and to which every enlightened Writer needs to wage a personal battle.
This writer is a common Nigerian, one that developed late and an age-long honorary member of the Silent Majority Party of Nigeria. He is just one of the early birds among the silent majority to have woken up from his deep careless slumber. Other Nigerians of my party, the Silent Majority Party, shall also be arisen shortly in large numbers to demand for a right to be heard and to be listened to. They shall be telling the chattering class, who have hitherto been playing academic games with words and their lives, that enough is enough.
The awakened members of the Silent Majority shall take Nigeria by storm with knowledge, truth and love. Before then, this writer shall continue to sing a unique kind of song of liberty, of redemption, of hope, and of love. He will be urging every one that cares to listen to bury the hatchet of hate, anger and fear and to embrace the spirit of forgiveness after repentance, and the spirits of love and truth after knowledge and understanding. And he will be warning that without allowing these divine spirits to envelope and to refashion Nigerians, the nations of Nigeria shall finally tilt into avoidable dangerous waters.
The omens of such calamities are already in place for all that care to use their eyes to see. This is why there is urgency to wake up and to touch writers who have the skill of communication to spread the words around so as to alert every Nigerian that there is fire on the mountain of Nigeria; to call and cause every hand to be placed on the deck as we put out the fire; and to urge those that wish to run away to wait or those that have run away to come back and join hands with other Nigerians to put out the fire.
Writers need to pass on this urgent message that the fire on the Nigeria’s Mountain can only be put out under a cooperative team spirit, under a united front, and with a concerted effort that shall not veer to the left or to the right of truth but focussed and unrelenting on truth and justice at all times until the fire on the Nigeria’s Mountain is totally extinguished.
The Nigerian Writers must realise that the issues facing Nigerians are serious and deadly. There is an endemic sickness of intellectual and spiritual malady in the country. As a result, a complete darkness like a full eclipse has overshadowed the nations of Nigeria. Writers are also groping in darkness just like every other Nigerian who are constrained by this intellectual and spiritual darkness. This is why writers can no longer differentiate substance from pettiness, edification from slander, building from destruction, peace from war, cohesion from disarray, love from hate, unadulterated truth from tainted truth, and sacred from profane.
Every one that has the skill to string together words and sentences automatically becomes qualified to comment and to pontificate on national and local political, social and economic issues before he/she has won the battle over immoral self; before he/she has overcome the human foibles that afflict all mortals; before he/she has gained emancipation that sets the soul free from the shackles of ignorance; before he/she has awakened the soul from its age long slumber; and before he/she has been redeemed and become truly reborn in knowledge and spirit.
Since these serious battles of life have not been fought and won, the writer’s comments and erudite scholarships are powerless to effect the positive changes expected in all those that read them. The essays remain just banal words without power to revolutionise the evildoer unto repentance, without potent balm to heal the sickly souls, and without compassion to comfort the injured and the forsaken.
The Nigerian Writers need to understand the power of words when they issued forth from the hearts of those that believe with passion and conviction in what they write. Words are known to have power to move mountains literarily, to shake and soften the most hardened heart, to give eternal life to the living dead, to set into motion the process of rebirth of souls and to liberate all those under the yoke of slavery of all kinds.
As a matter of fact and experience, the liberation of mankind has always started from within the soul. When Nigerian Writers begin to write sanctified words from the heart, these words shall have power to heal Nigerians from their spiritual blindness, deafness and dumbness. Words are the spiritual medicines designed to set into motion the healing process of all humanity from within. Every type of healing starts from within, because the true healer of the body as well as the mind is within each creation. All that the Doctors of Medicine do and can do is to help the sick to kick-start the healing engine within the soul. As soon as this supernatural engine is given the opportunity to take over the healing duty, the work of the doctor is completed.
Also from personal experience, this writer believes that writers do not have to see or know their audiences personally or physically before they can touch them spiritually. There are some ancient writers that up till today are still touching intimately the souls of millions of all those that read their words. I believe, this is why most edifying books are called living words. The love, affection and wisdom that these books dispensed thousand of years ago are still as effective as when they were first put down in writing.
These are the examples of living words and this is the path that will be recommended to Nigerian Writers as worthy of emulation. We have no alternative choice at this eleventh hour than to adopt this edifying strategy when we come into a full understanding of the high stake ahead of us. The liberation of Nigerians from all inconceivable slavery is a serious task that should no longer be handled with levity and carelessness or with deceit and hypocrisy as it is being done at the moment.
To a Nigerian Writer who has seen the light of the truth of existence, the suffering of one Nigerian is the suffering of all regardless of tribe, religion, or sex. This is the first sign that a writer who has seen the light of truth will intuitively understand. It is called a revelation. This is when an insight of a mystical truth strikes you from the blues. An enlightened writer cannot be a defender of narrow interest, cannot be a bigot to some narrow religious beliefs, and cannot be xenophobic to some narrow cultural interests. An enlightened writer is a universal person. Every suffering creature attracts his/her interest, passion and compassion. The total motivation of an enlightened writer is to serve the benefit of many and not of the few, to defend truth at all cost and be willing to lay down his/her life for the freedom of others, if necessary.
However, writers who wish to defend ethnic or religious or sexist interests should always remember that a writer’s interest should be broader than sectarian or sectional issues. And that it is in the context of the larger picture of ideals and issues that the minority interest can have meaning. When the concern of a writer is premised on the defence of naked truth that is based on the natural laws and on the philosophical, intellectual and commonsense understanding of the principles of equality, liberty, and justice, it becomes naturally effortless to separate the chaff from the wheat. These edifying ideals – equality, liberty and justice – can never be relative anymore unless such a writer is a two-faced character on some dubious commission to sow seeds of ruin and sorrow amongst people.
The truth of these principles shall remain absolute to an awakened writer regardless of where on planet earth he/she is writing from. Until a writer is redeemed or reborn by the spirit of truth, there will always be a tendency to fall prey to a jaundiced and myopic campaign of relative values of justice, of liberty and of equality amongst the people of the world.
Therefore, when writers have been healed from their spiritual deformities whatever Nigerians call liberty, justice, and equality in the North or south or west or east of the country shall hold true and shall have the same meaning at all times in any of these regions. I believe, it is on the fundamental understanding of these principles that well-meaning Nigerians have been calling without ceasing for the establishment of appropriate forum to dialogue in order to set national standards for these values below which a Nigerian must not fall and to set the benchmark for evaluation and monitoring of the well being of Nigerians.
It should be mentioned that it is only when writers are dancing around the periphery of the truth of liberty, justice and equality that the defence of the present civilization of our world becomes visible and possible. It is only when writers have failed to dig deeper in the realm of knowledge that the present economic global system can become permissible and tolerable. It is only when writers are still under spiritual and intellectual darkness that a favourable relativity argument can be adduced for the disturbing poverty that pervades the entire continent of Africa. And it is only when Nigerian writers have not been touched by the truth of the meaning of life that they can continue to make favourable case for the economic integration of Nigeria into the odious and heinous global economic order.
It is on the basis of this awareness that this writer is calling on all Nigerian Writers that you should endeavour to raise your collective imagination and those of other Nigerians to a higher and broader challenges and expectations. We must help the people through edifying words to start to believe in their own innate and potential abilities as they gather their mantle to redress the calamities in their lives. We must educate the people of Nigeria on the need to withdraw the trust and faith they have religiously placed on the feckless groups that answer to the title of leaders in Nigeria. These are the true challenges facing Nigerian Writers.
These challenges, if properly handled and pursued with passion and genuine interest, are capable of transforming the age-long submissive doormat Nigerians that every ruler has kicked about and taken for granted into a formidable, vibrant and articulate personality. This new creature shall be ready to stand up in the defence of his/her belief and interest without any external covert prodding. This is the path that can lead to the design, construction and beautification of the nations and peoples of Nigeria. It will be of a New Nigeria and of new nations without rulers or subjects but of partners of people with common equal stakes that decide voluntarily to work together for the common good and agree to share equally as well the fruits of their equal labours.
Dear Fellow Writers, let us call a stop to non-edifying polemics and to the academic game of words. Let the real battles for the soul of Nigeria and Nigerians begin in earnest.
This is my testimony. That this writer was once as equally blind as a bat, chasing the shadows and the noises but now that his cataract and deafness have been cured he is now able to see clearly and to hear properly. As a once blind fellow to another he is aware that when a person stayed too long in darkness he/she runs the risk of total blindness when suddenly exposed to powerful rays of bright light. This natural fact of life might account for the inability of Nigerian writers in the Diaspora to see the great challenges brewing in the fatherland. It might also account for why some of them are still trapped with the mentality of the past and are unable to shake off the biases of the past. The glare of the fiction of the western world might have been too strong for their frail eyes and they might have inadvertently lost their sights completely. The over-exposure to the fictions and the glitters of America and Europe must have done serious damages to the senses of some Nigerian Writers. It was on the need to draw attention to this unforeseen deformity that dictated the writing of these letters.
Dear Writers, let the words of your essays speak to you. When a writer’s essays ceased to talk to a writer that writer should understand that the engine of his/her life has stopped to function. A writer’s intellectual output is a form of ablution, a spiritual cleansing ointment for the soul. It is also a mirror for looking inwards to ascertain the state of the spiritual well being of the writer. This is why an old adage says ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’. In order to understand the kinds of materials present in the heart of a writer, you need go no further than the essays of the writer. If the heart of the writer is full of hate or anger or fear or love, the intellectual output of the writer will confirm this unmistakably.
Dear Writer, if you are not sure of the state of your soul, go back to the past essays you wrote and read them afresh. You will be able to deduce instantly the nature of the spirit/forces you are fellowshipping with. It will reveal where the passion and the motive that drives you to spit venom, hell and brimstone at every opportunity you have to express your mind in writing is coming from.
And if the words of this writer give you pain and indigestion, it is a good sign that there is still some life in your soul. It is like when iodine is poured on an open wound, the unbearable pain that follows is accepted as a good sign that the wounded part of the body still has living nerves running through it. If there is no pain, the Doctor will recommend amputation to safe the rest of body from poisonous infections. It is in this sense that the pain of a bruised ego you feel at being insulted by this Mr Nobody should be taken as a healing balm that will eventually help in setting into motion the healing process of your soul. Surely, we all need healing and until we recognise our spiritual sicknesses and our intellectual weaknesses, the New Nigeria of our dream shall forever remain a superfluous dream or mere illusion, a scientific and sociological fiction, an economic aberration and a political mirage.
Dear Writers, this is not an issue about going to paradise in heaven or about how to escape from fire and brimstone in hell. This writer is firing a millennium challenge at every writer as he summons you to see the urgent need for the building of our own paradise and our own heaven here on earth, on our own native soil and on the continent of Africa now. This is the vision of a new reality being offered to fellow writers for your consideration.
This vision calls for a change of gear in our mode of thinking and in the way we see the world. It challenges us to raise our goals and our horizons higher towards more noble ideals that can in its wake bring a true paradise to all our citizens. This writer writes in pain and ache in the knowledge of the lost opportunities we carelessly threw away as a people. But again what keeps him going is the hope, the vision and an intuitive assurance that there is a brilliant and fruitful future ahead of us.
This writer desires to ignite other Nigerians with the fire of similar hope and confidence that will be powerful enough to cleanse and pack away from our souls the thorns and thistles of anger, hate and fear. And he desires that The Creator of Life shall rewrite new programmes on the chips of our souls that shall be based on the values of truth and love, that shall be strong enough to free up our energy and creativity for the great sacrifice ahead and inspiring enough to spur us on until we achieve our true potential as human beings.
May the spirit of truth bring us into the awakened state of the truly enlightened writer. May our spiritual blindness, deafness and dumbness be truly cured. And may the spirit of truth give us powerful wings to fly higher above trivialities so as to behold the glory of the New Nigeria ahead of us in order to realise that it is worth fighting and dying for.
In The Spirit of Truth
SAM ABBD ISRAEL
A Concerned Nigerian
20 March 2002