Alaba’s Rejection Of His Father
GETTING the story out of Alaba was like crushing granite to squeeze liquid to quench the thirst of a land in drought. After all, thought Trouble to himself, the story should be in the public space. He had, right from the first time that he met Alaba, appreciated the courage of a twelve year old who leaves home because he did not see his future in the life that his father was leading.
All over Africa today, millions of young Africans, male and female are abandoning their homes and their parents because they feel that the lives of their parents did not provide the dream of their own future. “Now that I am older,” says Alaba, “I can say that my action was foolish but it is the foolish who do not see stumbling blocks in their way, only building blocks.” Trouble smiles to himself. Alaba and agelessness. He was twelve then, now he is fourteen and he talks of now that I am older! The children of nowadays have not had the chance to be children and it is the fault of the parents. “What pushed you out of your father’s house at the age of twelve?” Trouble asked. “My father was a successful politician in an unsuccessful polity.” “What do you mean?”
Trouble asks more out of the wonder of the vocabulary than of the meaning of the sentence. “Look around you. Open the newspapers, look at the page after page of panegyrics for successful businessmen, iconic leaders, and peerless examples to the world. Don’t you often wonder if you are in a different planet where values are lopsided and anything goes? Or in a society where the absence of evaluators does not mean the absence of values? My father was successful in this environment.
Hundreds of people arrive in our house five six o’clock in the morning and sometimes the last does not leave until past midnight. I hated it. Is this success?” “What constitute success for you?” “I don’t know if my growing up has anything to do with it. I was the second of three children, between an older brother and a younger sister. I could not play with my brother because there were six years between us and I could not play with my sister because the neighbours would laugh and say that I was playing with my wife and it would make me cry for shame and embarrassment.
So, I stayed away from everybody. When the political success came I could not stand the crowd. One day, I opted out. My father asked to do something and I refused and he said he should not find me at home when he came back if I did not do what he asked me to do. I don’t remember what he asked me to do but I left swearing never to burden his doorway with my shadow ever again.” “You have not said what constitutes ‘successes’ for you in a life? Were there other fathers you preferred to your father?” “For a democratic system of government to prosper it requires pre-conditions.
I am quoting from my political science text book now. It needs a functioning state, minimum unity to the nation (which should be provided by the constitution) separation between the nation and the majority religion and a viable economy. For a country that has multiple extra-budgetary provisions for prayers, I ask my father if those who crowd our compound everyday can go to the bank and borrow money using prayer as ‘collateral’? Look at the four pre-conditions I have listed.
The first is problematic because we really do not have a functioning state. The second is tenuous because there is no sense of unity no matter how many times our soldiers turned politicians remind us of their sacrifices for the unity of the country, there is no unity of purpose. Separation of religion from everyday socio-political concerns? Not with budgets for prayers! And banks do not accept prayers as collaterals.
As for the economy where is it? Yet our politicians – Obasanjo, IBB, Abdulsalaam, even Abacha, are paraded as successful politicians in a place where the most minimal of requirements for a state does not exist. Do you wonder why the youth of Africa do not see their dreams in Africa? Why the youths of Nigeria, with their quick tempo music and gratification now lyrics do not see their dream future in Nigeria? Can you imagine a failing United States of America where Obama would be considered a success? Or a collapsing France where the president would be hailed as an icon of leadership in the modern age? Or a China where everything – light, water, roads, food are beyond the reaches of middling people and the president of China would be congratulated everyday as the leader of leaders?
Some university professor once said that when we have no evaluators, it does not mean that there are no values. It simply means that there are no defenders of values in the society, there are no persons holding up these existing values and so everybody pretends that there are no values. Do you understand what I am talking about? And then what are the heritages of my fathers to me? Where is the thing that I point to when the Japanese tell me about their religion and the Chinese indicate their tradition and the British give me their stiff upper lip? Yes, Nkrumah, Mandela, Fanon, and that whole generation of anti-colonial agitators left something behind.
But they are not the only ones who agitated against the colonial governments. The Japanese agitated and fought western colonisers. The Chinese agitated and fought not only Japanese colonisers but also western colonisers. But the day after they won their independence, they changed their tunes and, using what they could from their culture, borrowed from the west to go forward. Why cannot my father do the same? Is my father so daft that he cannot see his way forward? Is he so blind that he cannot see others have done it? Is Chinua Achebe’s ‘Tufa! I cannot curse my father’s generation’ enough to stop me proclaiming loud and clear that my father has been an idiot, an illogical buffoon?”