Let’s continue savouring the analysis of this great piece of work.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Chika Unigwe Consider Chinua Achebe’s There Was A Country by Carolyn on Oct 10th, 2012
While Unigwe says in a review in the New Statesman that
readers who have waited for Achebe’s personal account on this dark
period in Nigerian history have been richly rewarded with the master
storyteller’s “candid, intimate interrogation of Nigeria”, Adichie
writes in the London Review of Books that Achebe’s
recollections are “tantalisingly brief, sometimes oblique”. “I longed to
hear more of what he had felt during those months of war – in other
words, I longed for a more novelistic approach,” she says.
Chinua Achebe’s first book in three years richly rewards
his admirers’ patience. It is the work of a master storyteller, able to
combine seriousness with lightness of touch, even when writing about the
terrifying events of a war that cost the life of one of his best
friends, the poet Christopher Okigbo, and the lives of millions of
others. There Was a Country is a candid, intimate interrogation of
Divided into four parts and interspersed with poetry, the book
provides an expansive, historical sketch of Nigeria from the colonial
period to the present. It also pays homage to one of Achebe’s idols and
one of Africa’s most respected leaders, Nelson Mandela.
Nigeria, at independence from British rule in 1960, was
called the Giant of Africa. With a large population, an educated elite
and many natural resources, especially oil, Nigeria was supposed to fly
the flag of democratic success. It did not, and it is clear now, in
retrospect, that it could not possibly have done so. Colonial rule, as a
government model, was closer to a dictatorship than a democracy.
Nigeria was a young nation, created in 1914, as Nigerian children would
learn in history class in the endlessly repeated sentence: ‘Lord
Frederick Lugard amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates to
form one country and his wife gave it the name Nigeria.’
It is debatable whether, at independence, Nigeria was a nation at
all. The amalgamation was an economic policy; the British colonial
government needed to subsidise the poorer North with income from the
resource-rich South. With its feudal system of emirs, beautiful walled
cities, and centralised power systems, the North was familiar to Lord
Lugard – not unlike the Sudan, where he had previously worked. In the
South, the religions were more diverse, the power systems more diffuse.
Lugard, a theorist of imperial rule, believed in the preservation of
native cultures as long as they fitted his theories of what native
cultures should be. In the North, the missionaries and their Western
education were discouraged, to prevent what Lugard called their
‘corrupting influence’ on Islamic schools. Western education thrived in
the South. The regions had different interests, saw each other as
competitors, and became autonomous at different times; there was no
common centre. A nation is, after all, merely an idea. Colonial policy
did not succeed in propagating the idea of a nation: indeed, colonial
policy did not try to. In the North colonialism entrenched the old
elite; in the South it created a new elite, the Western-educated. This
small group would form the core of the nationalist movement in the
1950s, agitating for independence. They tried to establish the idea of
‘nation’ and ‘tribe’ as binary, in opposition to each other, a strategy
they believed was important for the exercise of nation-building. But the
politicisation of ethnicity had already gone too far.
Source: Books Live
”The truth might be hard to say, painful to bear or even drastic for the truth sayer but still needed to be said”. ALISON.