Saturday, March 30, 2013

Azikiwe's Strange Prophecy About Jonathan

By Biko Agozino


Sail on, my trusted ship,
Over this murky creek,
Bound for Amassoma,
In Ijaw land;
To forge the link of love
That blinds the fatherland
-Nnamdi Azikiwe, (On board the "   " sailing from Yenagoa to Amassoma, 1st March, 1957).'

About nine months later, precisely on November 20 that very same year, 1957, a little hungry baby boy was born stark naked (like even the Queen of England, as the Ethiopian-Eritrean-UK-based poet, Lemn Sissay, would say) in those same creeks. And he was named after the great Zik of Africa - Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan was the exact full name given to him by a perceptive grandmother.

That shoeless creek boy, with a nose as red as that of Rudolph the under-estimated reindeer of Santa later chosen to guide the sleigh, that boy whom very few gave any chance in life, went on to become the 14th Head of State of Nigeria, following in the footsteps of the statesman-poet, Azikiwe, the First Head of State. 

Was this a mere coincidence or was Nnamdi Azikiwe being prophetic as he was known to be by his friends and foes alike? Zik bu agbara (Zik is an oracle) as the Igbo used to say!

Was the nameless 'trusted ship' alluded to in Zik's poem a metaphor for the ship of state, the ship of Nigeria that continues to sail (or drift) over many murky creeks across the country but amazingly sure of its destination nevertheless? I mean, how has the country survived so much lack of clarity while sailing on such murky waters that lack any of the certainties in navigational charts characteristic of other nation states? We dey manage am so!

'Bound for Amassoma' as in bondage and not just in terms of a destination; the same sado-masochistic bondage written large into the national anthem: instead of 'one nation born in unity and struggle' as Cabral would insist, we are compelled to chant the macabre anthem to 'one nation bound in freedom, peace (for where) and unity'; as if we are hypnotized to chant of a beloved nation in bloody bondage rituals while we are all being screwed by sadists. Did the great Zik prophesy that too? You bet, it was predictable.

'In Ijaw land', he said, not Igboland or simply the Oritentalism of a geographical East that he could have claimed imperialistically as the Premier of the Eastern Region that he was. Rather he chose to respect local identity and simply seek to forge a 'link of love'. But wait, what kind of love was that?

The kind of true love that is blind - 'That blinds the fatherland'. Maybe that is why Oga Jona is bumbling and stumbling like a blind man from one foot in the mouth to another dissastrous pardon for his ruling class of pirates, sailing the murky creeks and chopping billions of naira in food alone while those same creeks that litter the country continue to be bloodied with the murky juice of the innocent shed by terroristic robbers and kidnappers. They have sobered up sufficiently from their ogogoro stupor, we are told.

So maybe we should pardon Jonathan as one brother recently urged; it is not his fault that he was prophesied to blind the fatherland with love. Jonathan was reported to have said that it was God that asked him to forgive those who are robbing us blind! Someday another prayer warrior will chop bribe and command bro Jona to kneel down and obey because God wants him to pardon ghosts, ghost workers and ghost projects as Baba Soyinka has hinted recently, long after he alerted us (in Ibadan: The Penkelmese Years) that Azikiwe was one of the 'bombastic poets of nationalism' that obviously influenced his own bombast (unknown to even some poetry professors in Nigeria - that Zik was among the poets).

Of course, the phrase, 'That blinds', could have been the printer's devil at work, the bent nail of the carpenter's apprentice (editors) mistaken for a new style. Maybe Zik actually wrote that the love 'binds the fatherland' (in bondage) rather than blinds it. Who knows? Professor Michael Echeruo certainly thinks that it is 'binds' as he cited the poem thus in his introduction to the collection. We are in a bind, it seems; ours is a binding freedom, an oxymoron.

The very next poem in the collection, Thoughts in Retreat: Further Compilation of Poems, compiled by his widow, Profesor Uche Azikiwe and published in 2003 by Triatlantic Books International, New York, however suggests that Azikiwe must have meant every word of this strange prophecy - the poem, 'Transformation', starts thus:

Before I was blind
But now I see...

'Glory glory', goes the chorus! Glory? Forgive me if I am reading too much meaning into a short poem here. After all, poems are open to as many legitimate interpretations as there are readers.

In There Was A Country, the everliving Chinua Achebe chronicled how the architecture for peace, reconciliation and rehabilitation that was presented by Zik as the framework for ending the Biafra war on the basis of no victor-no vanquished was rejected out of hand by those who were bent on crushing Biafra at all costs (precisely millions of lives) only for that same framework to become the blueprint for UN interventions in conflicts around the world. Achebe, nna anyi (our father), tell Zik of Africa that his beloved Africans are still living in the land of the blind in the bondage that he foresaw. 

Let us urge Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to shun deliberate jaundice and see the need for reparations to be paid to the Eastern survivors of that genocidal war as a signal to all the thieves and political abiku or ogbanje (changelings) that Zik, Clark, Okigbo, Achebe, Soyinka and Okri fingered in their self-fulfilling prophetic poems and prose; that the lives of our people are precious and should not be wantonly wasted without appropriate reparations being made by the authorities sworn to protect and to serve

Otherwise what exactly will be Jonathan's legacy after six years as the Executive President of Nigeria if he fails to attempt to deliver reparative social justice?


Uche Ajah said...

This is a beautiful interpretation of Zik by an equally creative mind, Biko Agozino.

Odozi Obodo said...

De Barry, It takes a creative mind to know one. De-eme.