Intervention’s interview with Dr. Emmanuel Egar, Veritas University, Abuja literary critic and his main contention that Achebe messed up Africa in his Things Fall Apart has, predictably, continued to generate reactions. While many would not want to be quoted, Dr. Tivlumum Nyitse of the Department of Mass Communication, Bingham University in Karu, Abuja – Nigeria doesn’t mind the publication of his reaction.
A graduate of Literature; a PhD holder in Mass Communications; a journalist; a civil servant; a politician and now an academic, Dr Nyitse can, more than many academics, roll up the sleeves and stand up for his convictions. His reaction reads:
This is great shout from Dr. Egar, especially his characterization of Achebe and Soyinka for all they stood and stands for in the discourse on African literature and literary growth. I think Dr. Egar has been frank enough that I, personally, agree with him in both instances. Achebe though appears to be on the opposite side of the colonial stand point, falls short in his characterization of Okonkwo in terms of edifying the African individuality versus the colonial assault in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
I am in agreement with Egar in his characterization of Soyinka whom I personally see as a very stubborn person by birth, always going against the establishment, be it cultural or governmental. He’s of course not a revolutionary as some scholars would want us to believe. Heroism is not compatible with revolutionary endeavors and it takes the mobilization of everyone to attain liberation in that sense.
Dr. Egar is also very direct to the extent that he’s not afraid to be above sinking into the polarization of literary criticism and scholarship in Nigeria along ethnic lines. While most Yoruba literary critics tend to deify Soyinka, those of Ibo extraction see Achebe as the magnum opus of African literature and to take any stand such as Egar’s is tantamount to committing harakiri. This polarization of African literary criticism especially among Nigerian scholars is what tended to diminish the stature of the late John Pepper Clerk until he died. Since his Ijaw ethnic group were not so much in the business, there were no persons to project his literary outpouring. He was almost completely neglected in Nigeria while his stature continued to soar abroad. I read the tribute on J P Clark by the prodigious Nigerian literary scholar, Biodun Jeyifo and I pitied Nigeria.
In addition, I am of the view that Nnoka, Okonkwo’s father who is characterised by Achebe as a failure should be seen in the present context as a very creative and talented musician who would have been living heftily on earnings from his musical talent. But by the expectations of the locale of Things Fall Apart and seen from the prism of Okonkwo, he was lazy, unproductive and not fit to be his father, he being a valiant and chivalrous character. It also brings out vividly the downside of Okonkwo’s character as structured by Achebe.
Generally, the interview brings out salient issues about Things Fall Apart, a novel that has not failed to excite the literary world and would never fail to intrigue even students of Sociology and Anthropology of the African Society in the precolonial times with even critical implications for the now.