I cannot think of a better a time to write this note than now,because I read yesterday that the price of crude oil has dipped to an all-time low of below $50/barrel. And the naira has been forecast to exchange for N202 to $1 this New Year.
It is believed that the book “Things Fall Apart” was inspired by true events; the truth is that all books are inspired by true events; they just become a different story after passing through the mind of the author. But “Things Fall Apart” is said to have been a story that really happened and thankfully for our benefit, it was well told. Okonkwo a.k.a.Amalinze the cat was a man among men, he farmed the best yams in his village,he had a seat among the elders, and he was revered by everyone in the entire province. But none of these great things defined him, he was defined by only one factor; his impetuous, his reason for living was only that “Okonkwo will not become like his father – Unoka”. Unoka was a joke, his wives laughed at him, and the villagers reviled him, why? He could not farm yams – the crop of men, he was not macho enough – he feared the sight of blood, he couldn’t take care of his children and he owed everyone. Okonkwo’s entire life was based on not repeating his father’s mistake(s), what was that mistake? Now, this is the point to pay attention, so you don’t think I am endorsing Unoka’s life when viewed through the lens of irresponsibility. I am only trying to make a point.Unoka’s only mistake was that he lived before his time, in other words, he was not trendy. He was not doing the things that were generally acceptable at the time and that earned him poverty and widespread contempt.
Unoka according to this great book was very gifted at playing the flute. Imagine a man of Unoka’s traits living in our world today; dainty,musically inclined, and effeminate; he’ll be on the cover of all the magazines,he’ll be labelled with terms like sapiosexual, metrosexual, and uber-cool. If this is interesting, imagine if Unoka had lived in the same time he lived, but in Europe, and he was known as very talented with the flute, but he’d probably be a Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, or Unoca if his name was gentrified. But, we rejected him with every gift in him; I just hope that Lagbaja or Pastor Aremu came back with those gifts.
Everyone is quick to point fingers at the successive governments that have not diversified our economic portfolio as a nation. But the truth is that this applies to all of us, it is a progressive culture and mindset, not a singular action, or a periodic anomaly. This applies to all the parents who insist that their children must toe only a particular line of study, to all the girls who will only date the guys that work in oil companies,to all the people who will strive relentlessly to work in banks, to enter into Nollywood, and to open up a church. To all those who believe that success is impossible except beyond the shores of Nigeria, to all who believe that the fountain of well-being is flowing only in Lagos, to all who think that they have to hold political office to be wealthy, and to all the innumerable examples of those who believe only in farming the crops of men.
We don’t know if Unoka believed in yams, or maybe he was just innately unable to excel at farming. He played his flute and survived on borrowed funds, he pursued or remained who he was but he could not make it in a society that regarded him as unworthy. On the other hand, Okonkwo proceeded on the accepted path at the time, and gained the admiration and respect of the people; the worthless feelings that turned him into a stone. He killed Ikemefuna because he never wanted to appear weak (like Unoka), which would have made him lose the respect of the people, something he worked for all his life –his reason for living. More than anything, this note applies to that society that has misplaced its values, that rigid society that appreciates and accepts only those who farm the crops of men. If Unoka had been accepted and perhaps celebrated, if he had a few students learning the flute, playing soothing music to the wrestlers, warriors, and dancers, a new channel of wealth and learning would have been created. And definitely, Okonkwo would have felt much less pressure, he would have lived a full life, he would have considered that Ikemefuna called him father and spared his life. He would not have despised and condemned Nwoye. He would have farmed some, wrestled some, laughed some, and danced to his father’s flute. So, for all of you who respect only those who farm the crops of men, and despise the dignity of those who play the flute,this note is for you. If you change, the economy will be diversified, men will stop killing each other over political offices, there will be fewer aristos,Lagos will be more livable, other cities will develop, and peace will pervade the land. After all, people mostly gravitate towards what is generally accepted.
Of course, I have to acknowledge that in Umuofia of the“Things Fall Apart” days, the yam farmer would have been more prosperous than a flute player. Just the same way a senator would have been more prosperous than a musician in the heydays of the Roman Empire. In the end, money drives the traffic, money drives our traffic. Yes, ninety-nine percent of these decisions are made for money. If this makes you feel funny, that’s your nobler nature getting nudged. And it’s time to answer some questions, if you don’t feel anyhow, it does not mean there is no nobility in you, you may just be more honest or more aware. Either way, let’s answer the questions; can we respect anything other than money? Can a well-behaved, conscientious, and consistent human being who has a not too lucrative job command our respect? Or, since people always look for that which they do not have, and we are largely a resource challenged society. If we must pursue money by all means, can we find other ways of making the money? Rather than everyone trying to knock on the same doors and doing anything possible to get through those doors.
If we respect money less, newer channels will open up and we will all be better for it. The irony of following the traffic is that the traffic moves. My parents told me how actors and actresses used to be looked down on in their days, not anymore. Just stay where you are and pursue your dreams, you’ll be alright. But, more importantly, respect the trend less,respect money less, give due respect to those who play the flute – they are the future. And for you, as an individual, insulate yourself from the pressure,there are too many examples that show us that it is worthless to succumb to it– it is like chasing after the wind. I once read a quote “there is no limit to what a man can achieve, if he does not care who gets the credit”, for me I’d say “there is no limit to what a man can achieve, if he does not care if the ball drops”. Ultimately, the first quote is true, but I believe the second to be truer. Those who do anything and everything to appear like they have it altogether to the society are the ones who eventually do the unthinkable. Be ready to lose some and win some, understand that there will always be richer and poorer people, and that it’s okay to rise and fall. Know that the value of your pocket is not the value of you, and you’ll be amazed at the possibilities.
So I’ll not be guilty of some form of plagiarism, I have to acknowledge Pastor Bankie (www.kwm.com.ng)who brought clarity to the thoughts in my mind.