The Case of a Nursing Father @ A Glance
By Amen Uhunmwangho*
Creativity is not a property native to both art world and high-technology manufacturing as the digital age has shown. Thus a new mode of hyper-socialized manufacturing has grown up recently alongside digital media in both proprietary and non-proprietary settings. In the 19th century, at the height of the industrial era, the celebration of art provided an occasion for the display of wealth. In the 21st century, under conditions of common-based power production, it has become an occasion for its creation. In The Case of a Nursing Father (2016), Sylvester Odion Akhaine documents in lucid prose that when front yards become frontlines, there is need for deep introspection. The text is blunt and effective, a picture cannily crafted for profound effect. The twenty-three (23) essays taken together, serve as a reminder that we all once came from somewhere else. A varied and an interesting collection, in it, the author is notjust a narrator-historian but as a character in his narrative as he covers a lot of territory.
In a periscopic panorama, the present text serves a cocktail of issues pungently delivered on a myriad of subjects like family support, gender, labour, affirmative action, equity, values, emancipation as a unitary pivot on which other themes revolve. On a personal note, the agony of losing a mother pulsates with emotion as the mystery of mortality is explored philosophically. The inevitability of human transition is gingerly excavated. ‘Season of Ceremonies’ takes a swipe at politicians and capitalists for creating barriers that enslave the people for their gains:
Politicians and capitalists appeared to me the enemy of humanity. Politicians create artificial or ethnic bars to appropriate political power, and capitalists do the same for profit maximization. If power and capitalist motives are allowed to dominate world affairs as they appear to, a world without walls, hunger and diseases is doomed (17).
It is equally revealed that the craze for European visas by migrant and fun-seeking Nigerians and the attendant ordeal of endless waiting may not be restricted to Nigeria alone. He had to make an early morning trip to the Dutch Embassy in London in order to secure a visa for a trip to the Netherlands. A swipe is aimed at the cause of global terrorism for which George Bush and Tony Blair had to take out Saddam Hussein. His take is that suicide bombing becomes the last straw of a race battling for survival in its own land. For those who know better, ‘Saddam is the obstacle in the tunnel of oil-flow to the West’ (22). His deconstruction of seasonal greetings through the social media, applauds creativity of a popular culture anchored on rationalism and introspection. Whether the wishes are in the realm of idealism or realism, he believes the country will prosper not on the prices of crude oil as our deformed leaders hope continuously, but on serious and in-depth creativity and not short term measures as loans from foreign governments and their multinational bodies.
‘Christmas without ponmo’ is an online essay which claims that irrespective of their faiths ‘Nigerians often look forward to Christmas not really for its religious essence but for the leisure it offers, the vent it provides for a momentary mirth of life in which we are at one with the creator; inspired by his work of creation. The manifestation of discontent by the citizenry variegates. There are signs of persons already exiting the state in various forms under our present debilitating condition. Thus the country is contending with Boko Haram in the North-East, Biafra in the South East, Niger Delta Militants, Odua Revivalism and other nondescript discontents. His belief is that these processes are irreversible for a people a beaten to the wall. This is a call for revolt by the toiling masses to ‘claim their day, have their laugh and merry again with shouts of victory over their oppressors’ (41). Although not a football enthusiast himself, his analysis of 2002 world cup mundial would make the analysts of Supersports grin with envy. Football drivers (divas) like Ronaldinho, Phil Scolari and David Seaman are named in their fame and infamy.
His comment on sartorial code for socialists hardly addressed core issues in socialism but just fair enough to punctuate the point that the hood does not make the monk. The example of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is there to tell all Nigerians that politicians are the same: they embrace corruption, live it, swim in it and even manipulate the electoral system. They are also despotic and avaricious. Indeed, ‘today, there is a quite number of comedians in government hoodwinking the masses of our people by their socialist aims’ (57), Our attitude to work is called to question through his detailed visit to Cuba. There he ‘noticed that people performed their duty, in a manner of speaking, with revolutionary precision’(61).
‘There were no potholes on the well-paved highway and streets and no traffic gridlock’ (62). Havana presents a lovely tropical city on the Atlantic waters with sky scrapers. You passed them for five star hotels back home. You were wrong, they were all dwellings for the Cuban people. You inquired who planned this city and were told, not to mind, it was modeled in every way after Miami’ (62). Che Guevara is venerated as ‘hardened symbol of resistance, a symbol of the fight for what is just, of passion, of necessity of being fully human, multiplied infinitely in the ideals and weapons of those who struggle. This is what the front men and their omnipotent handlers fear’ (63). The personality cult image of Fidel Castro who died 26-11-2016 at 90 ‘was not a cult but the history of the Cuban people, a history that transcended Fidel and embraced his comrades in arms and their forebears who built the Cuban history of resistance’ (64). The salubrious issue is that in the midst of inflicted hardship by a vengeful neo-colonizer, ‘the wheel of Cuba runs. Out of hardship, it has emerged a world health power despite emigration to the US of over 50 percent of its medical doctors shortly after the revolution. Medicare is free for her people and so is education.
‘The state provides jobs but not to satisfy the appetite of the petit bourgeois brats’ (66). This success story of a determined people is in contrast with our version of nation building festered in insurrection. In a clear innuendo, two military despots are lampooned as an Ogre and Dracula. Thus ‘the pains that the rulers of Nigeria have inflicted on the Nigerian people are immeasurable that one cannot help longing for the day that the people will take their pound of flesh from their traducers; a revolution to consume the bashers of our collective destiny’ (89).
The truth is that the author fictionalized history with offensive stereotypes of meandering plots that include an army of fictional and non-fictional characters most surreal and exciting. He sees the dignity in struggle, and at times showcases that struggle is something beautiful. He celebrates two revolutionaries who devoted boundless commitment to the struggle for a humane society. Olaitan Oyerinde especially became a mystery by the life he lived and even after he was mysterious assassinated in his home in Benin. This death is a clear comment on the failure of a society to protect its people. There is a contrast between the violent transition of young Oyerinde and Carlos Fuentes who died peacefully as a ‘fulfilled old man at 83” (113). Here we have same commitment to the struggle, different circumstances of transition compelling enough to set us reflecting. Reading a good text is actually inhabitation; the same way inhabiting a novel can be transformative.
At times, the text is hilarious, reliably retailing maniacal stories with raspy, dry mirth. Our condition is so bad that ‘even corpses lying in the streets are further objectified by the refusal of state to perform their statutory duties’ (91). The need to strategize to ‘confront (construct?) inroads in the freedom of our world or minimally to expose the new slave drivers (183), puts this collection of essays on an elevated platform. The baseline is to actuate a revolution that will deplume the thorny feathers of neo-colonialism being currently adored by a careless political class. The Case of a Nursing fathers of neo-colonialism being currently adored by a careless political class. The Case of a Nursing Father is a trumpet blaring for people oppressed to get onboard a desired movement for emancipation.
It is well-established that reading boosts the intellect, sharpens reason and expands horizons. Therapeutic reading proclaims that even reading a few pages of a short story could instantly improve your ability to empathize with your fellow beings. Recently, it was confirmed that being able to understand what other people are feeling is critical for binding social relationships. Even though reading is a solitary activity, it could improve our social life. The Case of a Nursing Father is a modern day masterpiece that has much to say about not just love but also religion, race, sex and politics in addition to being a practically perfect piece of art. Its multiplicity of themes ensures that readers can get so much out by engaging it. A great text can as a matter of reality get into your sub-conscious and fully change your very psyche from within. Why not? Reading is fun. It might ease a midlife crisis or provide comfort in a time of grief. This healing function is satisfying when we come up with proof of something which we have always felt to be true.
*Dr. Amen Uhunmwangho is Professor of English, University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria.