The Rise of the Others in a Deeply Divided World
In a deeply divided world and very unequal national societies, the rise of the Other of the powerful is always an event. When Brazil, Russia, India and China barged into the exclusive club of great powers in the post Cold War, American author Fareed Zakaria wrote a book which he called The Rise of the Rest. Here, we have the case of three young Nigerians who collectively fit into the rubric “The Rise of the Other”, other with a capital ‘o’. They signpost the barrier breaking generation demolishing the barricades of exclusion by a combination of very difficult circumstances typical of the distressing modernisation process in much of Africa.
Mukhtar Abashi: Dead men Don’t Come Back?
He recreates the scene in Achebe’s No Longer At Ease where Obi Okonkwo’s father was contesting the view of those describing Obi as a reincarnation of his grandfather. As a Christian convert, Obi’s father thought such was nonsense. Dead men don’t come back, he protested to kindred elders who, though diplomatic, did not yield any ground either. Radical activists in Nigeria are likely to replicate that scenario today over Mukhtar Abashi, with many saying he is a reincarnation of his father, Comrade Chris Abashi, the first president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS).
Like his father, Mukhtar too has developed forthrightness, dynamism and restlessness bordering on the reckless but, in truth, his is partly the problem of the creative minded adolescent. After the consequences of that phase appear to have dawned on him or when all that has led him to what he seemed to have, unconsciously, been seeking, he is now at peace with himself. He started with reading for a First Degree in Economics. He wasn’t totally doing badly in that. But he was still restless and there was a disruption. Who would have known it was a purposive restlessness which would lead him to what accords more with his nature? Somehow, by a combination of God’s kindness and the intervention of other good people, he now landed in a degree programme in Visual and Creative Arts and in which he is doing marvellously well.
If you are the conventional type, his class scores could be your measure of that marvellousness. If you are not, his manuscript of a novel might be the measure. His novel tentatively titled Memories of Another Day tries to do several things at once.
In his own words, it captures as much of campus politics, village love and the traditions of the Eggon people in Nasarawa State where he hails from. It is modelled after Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, he tells Intervention. And the main character is an attempt to paint the life of his father. He has no idea who will publish it yet. All he knows is that the manuscript is set and he has left the rest with God.
At the university, he confesses involvement in campus politics but he calls the degree of involvement “a little campus politics”. The main pre-occupation is his course. “I love it. It is interesting”, he says and goes on to reveal how he also write poems. Dead men don’t come back but here are many features of Chris Abashi in this boy. Chris Abashi was a broadminded activist who ran a model local government administration as Chairman of Nasarawa Eggon LGC in the late 1990s. A big minded doer who was too bold to engage in scheming, Abashi left children, all of whom have managed to acquire solid education by the power of God, their mother and the help of sundry benefactors. It would be interesting to read Mukhtar Abashi’s novel in print!
Owoicho Ella aka ‘Orwy’: The Kid Unstoppable
It was on November 26th, 2007. He was a student at Agada Memorial Secondary School, Efoyo in Edumoga District in Okpokwu LGA of Benue State. His set was in the thick of preparations for the Mock-WAEC examination. But he needed to respond to a communal summoning to the youths of Ogene-Amejo, his village. So, he found himself on a motorcycle in that direction. He never got there. Rather, he was to wake up the third day to find himself amidst people who were praying for him in group. A Gulf car had cleared him from the road in an accident while on his way. He did regain consciousness but the accident had done particular damage to his veins on one of the hands. The doctors took the decision to amputate that arm.
At that time, the late Ben Ella and a relation of his was the Rector of Benue Polytechnic, Ugbokolo. With assistance from him, Orwy as he is popularly called, returned to school in 2008. He appeared to return with vengeance. First of all, he wrote the final examination and got eight credits. Only Literature he failed or failed him, whichever one is the case. Between 2009 and 2015, he wrote JAMB four times. It was in 2016 that the University of Abuja eventually offered him admission into a Bachelor’s in Sociology. The ambition to study Electrical Engineering had to give way with the accident. But not the spirit of Electrical Engineering a lot of which he chipped at even before entering the university.
His story is that while struggling for admission, he got attached to someone who used to come to the village to install electrical and electronic appliances. At the prompting of a brother of his, he hooked on to the man as an apprentice. He followed him to work where the man installed DSTV, Free to Air appliances, took contracts on PVC Ceilings, noggin and tiling. He learnt all of that. “He would give me practical assignments. I would finish and call him to look at it. When he was satisfied, he gave me the code to track the system”.
Orwy challenged Intervention to accompany him to Ugbokolo town where he said he has done numerous installations for so many houses, all of which he says are solid and intact. “If I observe you do something, I can do it the way you did it, he bragged somehow, adding that all his tools are still intact in the village.
When he killed the idea of Electrical Engineering because he had to come to terms with the encumbrance of one handedness, he first ducked in Library Science but concepts such as nation, society, power remained inviting to him. Hence, his eventual decision to get into Sociology. So, intellectual curiosity is his key drive into the university now. Even as his University of Abuja studentship status might even still be in the making as first year students are still registering, (as at the time of this interview), Orwy already fits into the idea of those who come to the university to deposit knowledge even as they have also come to fetch same. The pain and odium of his experience, the drudgery of struggling for admission from a rural settlement in modern day Nigeria for years and the hope that must have died with the death of his rector relation form a body of knowledge he will be, consciously and unconsciously, dropping on the University of Abuja. His capacity for self-propulsion in a very daunting circumstance might interest Social Psychologists. It can be said that he successfully unlocked himself from the village today because he has a unique ability to identify those he thinks can help him and persistently ‘disturbing’ them until they do help him.
Auwalu Mohammed Gwaram: Harmonising Community and PhD
Sometimes in 2010, an Auwalu Mohammed Gwaram responded to a summoning to Government House, Dutse to be part of the governmentality projection edifice. His interview for the job turned out to be no more than a conversation because his response to the first question on post colonialism in African Literature was considered too adequate for a first degree holder in Nigeria in the age in which the World Bank described them as unemployable. Although Auwalu didn’t eventually get to work for long in the Government House, his stay there nevertheless marked his journey from the classroom in the primary school back to the Department of English in Bayero University, Kano for a Masters programme before landing in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria for a doctoral programme. Before the end of 2016, he earned his PhD.
All this while, his native community of Gwaram was watching his progress with keen interest. On December 31st, 2016, they chose to acknowledge his achievement by organising a mock horse riding for him at Government Day Secondary School, Gwaram. Spearheaded by higher institution students association of the area, the occasion attracted academic staff of the Department of English and Literary Studies of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria such as Prof Tajudeen Surakat, the HOD; Prof Abu Liman; Dr Sule Danaudu; Dr Isah Ibrahim among others. Also in attendance were Alhaji Abba Anas Adamu and Alhaji Abubakar Sani, politicians all. The event was hosted by Alhaji Ali Maitama, District Head of Gwaram while Alhaji Ahmed Suleiman, the District Head of Basirka presented gifts under the watchful eyes of Alhaji Shehu Sunusi, the Ciroman Dutse from the Emir’s Palace, Dutse. Participants were entertained by Dankwairon Gwaram, the traditional musician. Who says the communities do not have their own idea of the beautiful ones?