Wednesday, 4th October 2023

Birthday essay for Professor Akachi Ezeigbo

By Tony Afejuku
17 February 2023   |   3:04 am
Let me urgently make this open confession: the current condition of this land - this land, your land, my land, our land - has consigned me to nothing short of a pretty long time to dilemmas upon dilemmas - seriously speaking indeed. It would be unjust of me not to make this open confession to you my chief reader today (and readers) in order to escape an almost inevitable calamity.

Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo

Let me urgently make this open confession: the current condition of this land – this land, your land, my land, our land – has consigned me to nothing short of a pretty long time to dilemmas upon dilemmas – seriously speaking indeed. It would be unjust of me not to make this open confession to you my chief reader today (and readers) in order to escape an almost inevitable calamity.

As my today’s reader-in-chief and priestess-in-chief to boot you should help me, after hearing this confession, to wean me from anything untoward that would impair my judgment and essential character and value of my thought relating to our Emefielenic monetary stamp of bewildering proportions that would be of selfish benefits to his fellow politicians, no, polifoolicians, and cabalistic cabals than to our nation. My attempt to philosophize on this with one of the hammers of my thoughts of intensity would lead to a futile end. This is a cardinal dilemma I tried to save my humanity and cultural moments from until you the worthy matriarch of Nigerian Literature summoned and enticed me with the stamina of your imaginative prodigiousness. Thus I consigned Emefiele’s monetary stamp of monetary economics and mortal masks of deception to the flames of hell with the emotions of your words and captivating craftsmanship.

As a matter of fact, the luring and endearing matriarch came to me at the right time and moment. It was on the occasion of her latest birthday which began this past Saturday, 11 February, 2023 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, in Anambra State, and which continued at AE-FUNNA, Ebonyi State (where she now teaches after leaving University of Lagos on mandatory retirement) on Wednesday, 15, February, 2023.

The birthday events in honour of Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo reminded me that I was in debt of our amazing amazon, matriarchal scholar, novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, non-fiction writer, children books’ writer, critic and essayist whose matriarchalism is an essential part and worth of her total quality. Let me underline the statement that I am in her debt. I have through her generosity been in possession of some of her recent offerings as soon as they left the press last year, but I was unable to take a bite of any of them with the expected common-sense and critical gusto.

The birthday events allowed me to compel myself to enter the world of her illuminating new works such as, for example, Do Not Burn My Bones and other Stories and Broken Bodies, Damaged Souls and other Poems. The first mentioned is a collection of short stories – as the title indicates – while the other one is a collection of poems as the title also indicates. In each book we see a human being speaking with serene dignity, calm, limpidness of style and of expression, and its capacity to enervate the mind and one’s sanity at the same time.

whatever she makes the subjects of her stories and poems, she, like the French writer and activist Jean-Paul Sartre, “seizes our attention and drives us to grapple with the living issues that are at stake.” The two books, neatly and delightfully published by Purples Shelves Publishers, Lekki, Lagos towards the tail-end of 2022, have helped me personally in these difficult times to “give voice” to my “fears and sorrows as well as” my “successes and triumphs.” Reading these books at this material time has helped practically to steady my nerves and will-to-power in order to grapple with the tyrannical instincts and wickedness of Emefiele and his paymasters he now ironically is financially and monetarily bossing to the extent that even the apex court in the land is seemingly afflicted by his ailments it seemingly is powerless to exorcise from the land despite the apex court’s enormous powers. The man is a war wager who is bereft of the milk of concern for the masses of our people.

My further thoughts on Professor Akachi Ezeigbo took me to the realm – if I must impose the term on the rhetoric of my engagement here – of agrarian literature, or better stated, Nigerian agrarian literature, which is really yet to be visibly or consciously in existence in our literature. I searched in vain in her new books for the rhetoric of an agrarian perspective or alternative to our dominant critique of politics and urban culture. Because I detest the idea of literary or critical prescriptions for our writer and critics, I am not in any way going to compel our matriarch to do what she does not want to do in her writings.

Yet I should state here that our writer, our poet of Heart Songs who always movingly wields the power to stir emotions – of sadness, “sorrows or nostalgia” – should endeavour to give serious thoughts to “agrarian fundamentals” in her next book. Those of us who are disillusioned and are in no un-mistakable terms dissatisfied with the pain, strain, tension, apprehension, sickness, troublesomeness, the destructiveness and the disintegration of contemporary Nigerian institutions and culture will welcome a new challenge from her pen.

Our farming rural communities and local economies that are presently culturally out-dated or culturally no longer relevant or clearly no longer healthy should be vigorously made the subjects of her (and our) new creations. It is not easy to get rid of the economic or corporate practices responsible for the ill-health of our human and communal surroundings, but the day surely shall come when our matriarch’s (and other writers’) creations shall count in a peculiar sense to redeem our land after the amputation at the appointed time of those not to be defended. The time soon shall visit your country my country our country.

On the recent occasion of her healthy birthday celebrations, I offer this slim essay to salute what Professor Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo has done so far for Nigerian literature. I hope she will be kind and good enough to accept this gesture that in my compositional thought was not in any way intended to be a superfluous birthday thing given to a literary matriarch of supreme value. I should like to terminate my performance by stating that I am currently reading her very refined essay entitled “Migration, Displacement, In-betweenness and Integration in Black and Diaspora Writing” contained in a very recently published critical/theoretical book on Nigerian Literature commissioned by TetFund.

The book entitled Literature in English for Tertiary Education in Nigeria was edited by David Ker, Olu Obafemi and Tanimu Abubakar, three eminent professors of Literature in our clime. Professor Akachi Ezeigbo’s essay is really, from my impression of it so far, a well-wrought one in an outstandingly edited book that contains essays solely written by experienced and new Nigerian professors of renown who reveal themselves as brilliantly original thinkers. Akachi Ezeigbo and all contributors to this magnificent book emerge as the champions of “responsibilities and priorities that serve the health, vitality and happiness” of the whole community of tertiary education in Nigeria in a time of unbearably painful pain in Nigeria.

I recall, in making this remark, Wendell Berry, an American novelist, poet, critic and non-fiction writer as well whose imagination is as vast as Akachi Ezeigbo’s (and other scholars and eminent writers who contributed essays in the cited book above).
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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