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Humanities and Good Governance: Reflections from Igbo Poetry.

By nkyemeka Oct 17, 2012 3824 Words
HUMANITIES AND GOOD GOVERNANCE: REFLECTIONS FROM IGBO POETRY.

A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE 2012 FACULTY OF ARTS CONFERENCE ON THE THEME ‘HUMANITIES AND GOOD GOVERNANCE’.

BY

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR NKECHINYERE NWOKOYE (NEE OKEDIADI)
DEPARTMENT OF IGBO, AFRICAN & ASIAN STUDIES
NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA
nkyemeka@yahoo.com
08033833639

MAY 4TH- 6TH, 2012

HUMANITIES AND GOOD GOVERNANCE: REFLECTIONS FROM IGBO POETRY. Abstract
Literature is a mirror of a society. It reflects the virtues and vices of a society. Literature and society dialectically reflect and shape one another. Literature can also imply an artistic use of words for the sake of art alone. Traditionally, Africans do not radically separate art from teaching. Rather than write or sing for beauty in itself, African writers, taking their cue from oral literature, use beauty to help communicate important truths and information to society. Indeed, an object is considered beautiful because of the truths it reveals and the communities it helps to build. Literature could be oral or written which are realized in different forms as Poetry, Prose and Drama. Each of these genres are used by various artists to encapsulate the humanistic values of the society even while it mirrors the monstrous and decadent experiences that characterize certain stages of a national life. Several poems written in Igbo portray the issue of governance because of the incessant problems associated with the politics and leadership of the nation. This paper used various poems from Igbo Poetry Texts to bring to light the ills of governance in the society. It concluded by asserting that good governance is yet a mirage in Nigerian society. INTRODUCTION

Literature as noted in the abstract is a mirror of a society. It reflects the virtues and vices of a society. Literature and society dialectically reflect and shape one another. Literature makes the essence of the truths come alive. In the words of Chinua Achebe "an African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant like the absurd man in the proverb who leaves his burning house to pursue a rat fleeing from the flames." Utomi (2009) as quoted by Adebisi (2010) says, "For the understanding of the character of leadership to take root in culture, the creative skill of the writer in shaving culture is invaluable”. Many literary artists have addressed burning issues of the day like HIV transmission and control, substance abuse, regional conflicts and the question of good governance, political flash points within and between nations, human rights, etc. Humanities being the academic disciplines that study the human condition use methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural science. The humanities include ancient and modern languages, literature, law, history, philosophy, religion, and visual and performing arts such as music and theatre. The humanities regarded also as social sciences include technology, anthropology, area studies, communication studies, cultural studies, and linguistics. This paper makes a critical appraisal of the interventionist role of literature in society and precisely Igbo society especially with poetry. All societies of the world, in a way, have their own forms of literature Literature as is used here implies an artistic use of words for the sake of art alone. It could be oral or written. African writers, taking their cue from oral literature, use beauty to help communicate important truths and information to society. They are realized in different forms as Poetry, Prose and Drama. Each of these genres are used by various artists to encapsulate the humanistic values of the society even while it mirrors the monstrous and decadent experiences that characterize certain stages of a national life. This is the objective of this paper. The concept "governance" means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). There are corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance and each of these has formal and informal actors involved in decision-making and implementing the decisions made. Government is one of the actors in governance. Other actors involved in governance vary depending on the level of government that is under discussion. They include influential land lords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions,political parties, the military, media, lobbyists, international donors, multi-national corporations, etc. These ones may play a role in decision-making or in influencing the decision-making process. Informal decision-making is often the result of corrupt practices or leads to corrupt practices. The term ‘good governance’ presupposes that there is ‘bad governance’. Values are necessary for good governance and smooth functioning of any society. Values are fundamental components of culture and culture as it is known, is the totality of the people’s way of life which include their pattern of behaviour, arts, language, beliefs, customs, religion and other immaterial components such as folklores, mythology etc. DISCUSSION

Good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Very few countries and societies have come close to achieving good governance in its totality. However, to ensure sustainable human development, actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality. Many literary works have been written and published in order to show case what good governance should be. These works are there for various decision-making bodies to read and learn from various characters depicted in them who in one way or the other portray good leaders or bad leaders. They will be left with a choice of continuing in their good or evils after reading these works of fictions. Adebisi (2010) says that most successful leaders who influenced positive developments in their societies were enriched with literature. Good governance has in fact often been identified as an offshoot of literature and for any community to enjoy good leadership structure and experience positive development, it must embrace literature. At the 28th annual convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) held in Minna, Niger State, in November, 2009, Utomi, described literature as the art of imitating God, maintained that literature remains both a great tool of reporting governance and a vehicle for shaping how men and women approach governance through history. In his evaluation, he saw an author as a super being who uses the power of the pen to penetrate into the sub-conscious mind of his target audience to influence it positively or negatively as the case may be. Whether it is Chinua Achebe sketching The Man of the People or commenting Wole Soyinka on ceremonial taps, even Chimamanda Adichie making sense of the civil war experience, writers have sought to penetrate the minds of those who govern and the consequences of their actions for how we live and die. A look at some of the Igbo poems would clarify this view more. An x-ray of the various Igbo poems on politics and what may be termed as good or bad governance is paramount in this paper. This would help to understand whether Nigeria in general and Igbo society in particular has good governance or bad one. Many literary works including prose fictions and drama have pointed out the true situation of governance in Nigeria especially in Igbo society. Okoye and Okoye (2009) in their drama text explain that the game of politics is not done according to the rule of law. Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. The political leadership places self interest above national interest. It is the desire of people that government should use their taxes and natural resources to provide them with basic necessities of life like good roads, pipe borne water, electricity and so forth. The above authors’ play uses fictitious characters to expose the frequency of military intervention in political leadership of Nigeria in the pretext of saving Nigerians from incompetent and corrupt politicians who are incapable of offering Nigerians the basic necessities of life. it also exposes the joy with which the masses welcome such military intervention only to discover that the military is worse off as their level of corruption is uncontrollable and beyond imagination. An extract will buttress the point being made here: …onye oru kwesiri ugwo oru ya. Onye ria oji ya kpaa nku; maka na o gbara aka rituo, ndi enyi ya na ndi umunna ya ataa ya uta. Ozo ka anyi gharakwa iche na o bu naani site n’ego goomenti ka anyi ga-esi enwe ego niile anyi bu n’uche wee were ochichi (p.19) (…a labourer is entitled to his wages. He who climbs an iroko tree should collect firewood for if he does not do it, his kiths and kins will blame him. Again, let us stop thinking that it is only from the government coffers that we shall make all the money we intend to make which necessitated our taking over power.) This clearly shows the intention of the leader in taking over power. Even though they pretend to have taken over power in order to fight injustice and maladministration against the masses, they are in fact thinking on how to enrich themselves. A character by name General Ndobi goes further to instruct the Minister of petroleum as thus:

Mu onwe m bu 20% ego niile e retere na mmanu
n’onwa obula. Osote m bu 18%. Unu bu 15-15%.
Ndi isi ami niile na ndi isi uweojii niile n’Ozara
ga-abu 10-10% n’onwa (p.29)
(I will get 20% of all the money accruing from oil monthly. My deputy will get 18%. Yours will be 15-15%. All the heads of the Army and Police will get 10-10% monthly). This portrays the fact that most leaders are after their pocket than what they will do for the masses. Poems like ‘O-O-yes’ by Anozie (2005) also depicts a politician who promises to provide every need of the masses when voted for. Unfortunately those promises would become mirage. Leadership, really, therefore, is a process that begins with building habits of learning and of sacrificial giving of oneself as well as attributes of courage。Utomi further established that leadership has been sadly seen as a commodity to be scrambled for in a bazaar where rules matter little, but that it is a developmental process aimed at advancing the condition of man in the society. Leadership is 'other-centred' behaviour where the motivation of leaders is good to those other than self.. In his view therefore, leadership is about sacrificial giving of one's self to advance the common good. Furthermore, the above author going down memory lane says that the 1960s was a period of much progress, with the benefit of hindsight. At the centre of that progress was a leadership tradition in which regional leaders, the premiers, were in competition about who would most bring the fruits of progress to his people. Many of those leaders, according to him, would be found to have been people of modest material standing when their tenures ended. Of particular interest as example is the case of Dr. Michael Okpara, Premier of the Eastern Region who as the premier boasted that the statistics from his region, when disaggregated from the Nigerian composite would place it top of the league as perhaps the fastest growing economy in the World, was said not to have a home in the Government Reservation Area, Enugu, though he was the dominant authority. Substantiating the relevance of culture in leadership, Utomi said, "For this understanding of the character of leadership to take root in culture, the creative skill of the writer in shaving culture is invaluable. Development must be for man and about man and not for its own sake or for numbers that look good. He concluded that whether art imitates life or shapes it, the works of writers inspire renewal in Nigeria as he assured that regardless of any circumstances, material for great fiction will never evaporate. He agreed that the Nigerian experience is even richer field for this explanation. Nigeria is known for political instability. Take for instance the view of Njemanze (2010) about the slogan-Nigeria: Good People Great Nation- is a far cry from the state of the nation at least in the present times. On daily basis, the print and electronic media report dishonourable acts credited to highly and lowly placed Nigerian citizens both within and outside the country. Nigeria like many other countries of the world is besieged by problems that give her a bad name and bad image such as leadership problems even at the grassroots, electoral corruption, labour crises, sectarian violence, 419 syndrome, bribery, fake drugs, piracy, ritual murder and extra-judicial killings, human trafficking, constant power failure, examination malpractice, cyber crime and lately Boko Haram in the North and kidnapping for ransom in the South. The anonymous author of the SMS below as said by the above author (reproduced in full in Ogbusu 2009), tries to paint a picture of the state of the nation using similes, and a blend of humour and irony.

May you live long like corruption in Nigeria.
May your generosity spread like poverty in Nigeria.
May your blessings increase like fuel price in Nigeria. May your enemies fall like naira against dollar. May your happiness rise like unemployment in Nigeria. May you move freely like criminals in Nigeria. May you never fail like PHCN and may all your prayers be accepted like election rigging in Nigeria. The variables like election rigging, corruption, power failure, criminals, unemployment, poverty, increase in fuel price etc depict entirely the state of the country. This notwithstanding, Ogbusu (2009) as quoted by Njemanze (2010) rightly posits that the message is blatantly unpatriotic. To adjudge the message as a fair or an unfair reflection of the nation is to question the truth value of the slogan. Irrespective of genre, writers who desire a better world select their themes and sub-themes from social ills prevalent in the society. They source their raw materials from the environment. Poets like Anozie (2005); Emenanjo (ND) Okediadi (2003) bemoan on the situation of Nigerian politics whether military or civilian. Okediadi (2003) cries out that we want leaders and not rulers for leaders make change possible. To Njemanze, “writers use language creatively to show us our wrongs so we can make them right and move the nation forward. This is an obligation every serious literary writer and artist owe the society. Unfortunately they are often wrongly accused of projecting the nation in a negative light, simply for telling the story as it is. A look at this excerpt from the poem ‘Ndi Ochichi’ written by Okediadi (2003:41) would attest to the fact that writers help people understand the true position of issues in life. Ndi ochichi!Rulers!

Mgbe unu putara aririo,When you canvass for votes
Onu unu na-ato ka mmanu anuYou had sweet tongues
Unu kwere otutu nkwa ma tii tii ma rii riiYou made several promises Otutu ndi nuru nkwa kudara ume...Those who heard felt good

Ndi ochichiRulers!
Unu ewerela ehihie mere abaliNight has become your day
O bughi ihe gi bu aku ilu na-ada You do not live up to expectations n’onu ka i na-ato
Ewu na okuko na-aju ihe mere The masses are full of doubts about you ngwere ji gbaa aji
O bu na aguba adighi nkoIs the razor not sharp
Ka o bu na okpoisi amaghi akpu?Or the barber is not a professional? Unu lota nkwa unu kwere Remember your promises
The poet bemoans on the resultant effects of political maladies on people. It is so common among politicians to make several promises to the masses at the time of campaign but they would always fail to accomplish. The poet ridicules this particular societal ill with a view to correcting it. The language could be funny or bitter but there are always some elements of parody and hyperbole which brings out the underlying truths. In the poem ‘politiksi’, it is said that politics is a dirty game full of lies, cheatings, bloodshed, bribery etc. An excerpt Politikisi!Politics

Ihe so gi kariri akariwhat follows you are many
Nkwafu obara na iri ngariBloodshed and bribery
Okwu ugha na ila aku n’iyiLies and destruction of wealth The poet Okediadi (2003:46) expresses her disappointment on the way people play politics. Recently it has become a do or die affair amongst the politicians. Many of them have committed so many atrocities amongst others like killing, kidnapping, stealing, bribery, fraud, embezzlement of public funds etc. Utomi (2011) infers that issue of leadership is a thing of intellectual deposit rather than muscle. Poets like Ezeuko & Anowai (2006) in their poem ‘Ndorondoro Ochichi’ criticize the politicians, letting them to know that the masses will no longer be deceived by their unfulfilled promises which they give during campaign and election. Hear them: Ndi oji onu egbu ojiThose who use mouth to cut Iroko tree Usu bere n’oji abughizi nwaA bat that flies and rests on Iroko is nolonger a small bat Sooso ndi nzuzu ka unu ga-aghogbuIts only the fools that you can deceived Anyi amatala iheWe are now wise

Okoro (2006) laments on the incessant cases of leaders refusing to vacate the various offices they occupied for so long for others to contribute their own leadership prowess. This he calls ‘sit tight’ rulers. In his poem ‘Puta n’uzo Ochichi’, he pleads with such leaders to vacate the sit of authority for others to occupy. An excerpt of the poem Puta n’uzo ochichiCome out of poltics

Gi onye bujuru akpa giYou whose bag is already full
Puta ka onye ozo rituCome out for another to eat
N’ihi o bughi ozo nna gi Because its not your father’s title Nke o ji abu ihe i butara n’ubu Not what you got out of struggling Ofomata (2009:52) in his poem titled ‘Ochichi’ opines that good governance would gladden the hearts of the masses while bad governance would create room for sorrow and falsehood in the minds of the masses. To the above poet “a chita mma/a chiwa ochi/ mana a chijoo …ochi ime obi aburu ochi obi mmee/ (rules well/ laughter follows/ rules badly...laughter turns out to be sorrow). The masses want good governance which is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. Suffice it to say that late Odumaegwu Ojukwu as it is written by Nwaozuzu (2012) is “like a shepherd who went on dry throat and parched lips so that his sheep may be filled. He spreads his arm as branches and made them a shade for Ndi Igbo…”. How many of the present politicians or military men could be likened as above. They are all what the Igbo says ‘foo nfoju akpa’ (pack and press all in a bag). Nwaiwu (2012) in his poem eulogizes Ojukwu as ‘onye Igbo huru ego ma horo odi mma umu Igbo’ (An Igbo man who saw money and prefer the welfare and safety of his people). Can this be said of our leaders today? Ojukwu and his likes assure that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. They were then responsive to the present and future needs of Igbo society. CONCLUSION

Good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Very few countries and societies have come close to achieving good governance in its totality. However, to ensure sustainable human development, actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of making it a reality. Many literary works have been written and published in order to show case what good governance should be. These works are there for various decision-making bodies to read and learn from various characters. . Development is primarily about enhancing the dignity of the human person. Since all persons are created with equal and undeniable dignity of God's children, the purpose of being in society should be for man to organize to draw on the various gifting and talents to achieve a higher quality of life for all. The fact of equal dignity does not mean equal income for all but it should mean that none lives below conditions which damage the dignity of man. SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

For the humanities to enjoy good governance, they should be allowed to participate. Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. There should also be transparency. Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement should be done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It calls for information being freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement as well as having enough information available and provided in easily understandable forms and media. Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community. A society well being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being. Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law. REFERENCES

Adebisi, Y. (2010). “Nigeria: Attaining Leadership, Development, Good Governance Via Literature” Daily Independent,31 January 2010 Anozie, C. C. (2005). Uche bu akpa. Onitsha: Varsity Press
Emenanjo,.N. (ND). Utara nti. Ibadan: Evans Brothers.
Njemanze, S. (2010). “Words in action: Purging our national image” The ICACD Journal. Vol.1 No.1 Pp 150-152 Nwaiwu, M. C. (2012). “Asi Ojukwu nwuru?” Oja Dike: Chants for Odumegwu Ojukwu. Owerri: Cel-Bez Publisher. P.37 Nwaozuzu, C. (2012). “Ode to a superman” Oja Dike: Chants for Odumegwu Ojukwu. Owerri: Cel-Bez Publisher. P.17 Okediadi, A. N. (2003). Ije uwa. Enugu: Fulladu

Okoye, P.I.N & Okoye, H.C. (2009). O kpotukwala. Enugu: Teo publishers

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