Friday, May 27, 2016

The Parable Of The Mad Man (2)

Click HERE To Read Part 1
By Dan Amor
As we were saying, can a sane person allow him­self to be driven by some spurious emotion to run stark-naked into a crowded market for whatever reason? The moral implication of the story is obvi­ous. It shows that it is the soci­ety that creates its madmen that also treats its madmen shabbily as though they were not human beings. If, indeed, we are at first comfortable with the way the first madman who opens the story is ill-treated, by the time the story closes, and we are fa­miliar with the fate of Nwibe, we certainly can no longer be complacent about the treatment of the madman. What is more, we are awed by the realization that Nwibe’s troubles have only begun by the time the story ends. The alternate implication is that Nwibe might in the end become truly mad. This situa­tion certainly urges us to the be­lief that the madman who opens the story might have become a madman through an experience similar to that of Nwibe. This is a devastating indictment of so­ciety. 
*Nnamdi Kanu 
This indictment is addressed not only to the stone-aged so­ciety ridden with superstitions and taboos such as Nwibe’s, but also the modern society because Nwibe’s village is in the end only a microcosm of the larger human society. The extreme vulnerability of the individual within the society is the major concern of Achebe in this epic. Man is revealed to be ultimately alone and alienated in society which is supposed to exist for his advantage but which ironi­cally seems to exist to destroy him. Despite the solicitude of relatives, the existential tragedy of Nwibe is his loneliness in the face of a horrendous natural ca­lamity.

Consistent with the system of ironies in this story, water which is a universal symbol of life becomes the source of human tragedy. It is the local stream which invites Nwibe to cleanse and purify himself from dirt that has also invited the madman to quench his thirst and rejuvenate his tired body. Yet these invitations lead inevitably to a tragic collision. Similarly ironic is the fact that the road, which is the universal symbol of life and irrepressible human quest for knowledge, is also that which has tragically crossed the paths of Nwibe and the madman. The irony fur­ther extends to the name of the protagonist himself- “Nwibe”, which translates from Igbo into “a child of the community”.

Such a child is supposed to be loved, respected and helped along by all to achieve his life’s goals. The opposite is ironically the case with the Nwibe of this story. The community as dem­onstrated in the upper class of society- the Ozo title holders and the medicine men- prides itself in its realism, good sense and wisdom. However, when these claims are put to test, the society is not only found want­ing, but is discovered to be in­capable of distinguishing ap­pearance from reality. Hence, the community rather than be­coming the making, is the ruin of this Nwibe.

As we can see from the be­ginning of the story, Nwibe is surely a tacit representative of the society, with all its boasts to success and sanity. The mad­man, on the other hand, repre­sents the victims of society. In the tragic collision of these two opposites of society and in the symbolic fate of Nwibe there­fore, we can read the poetic jus­tice visited on the callous society by nature which seems to have taken sides with the victim. The fact that Nwibe is the unhappy representative of the society which creates its madmen and treats them badly, is confirmed by the fact that the madman sees Nwibe as the embodiment of all the injustices he has so far suf­fered. This is accentuated by the fact that the whole gamut of the story casts doubts on the sanity of the society which treats its victims shabbily since no sane society treats its members with so much disdain. It is also a well articulated warning on the con­sequences of social callousness. It is proof of the fact that any revered member of a society can through a curious twist of fate turn to a painful victim of that society through either gloss or natural forces. If the first mad­man has acted dangerously, it is the society which created him that should be blamed.

Since Nigeria gained political independence on a platter of gold in 1960, the lackeys to whom the British colonialists handed over power have ei­ther through deliberate effort or through a curious paralysis of the will created a dangerous class in the society. Because they see the entire country as their sole property whose unity cannot be negotiated, they have chosen to treat others in the so­ciety as “joiners” who have no moral right to question how the country is being run. These “in­digenous Nigerians” talk to oth­ers with utmost disrespect and advertise their swagger as lords unto others whose actions can­not be questioned. Unknown to them, their unbridled arro­gance and wanton manipula­tion of corrosive state power is what emboldened the “joiners” to question the veracity and in­vincibility of this forced Union.

Ever since President Mu­hammadu Buhari was inaugu­rated as a democratically elected leader on May 29, 2015, he has failed to lead but rule. His first media chat exposed a man who has failed to change from his commandist military praxis to a more humane and democratic temperament. Rather than sue for peace and extend a hand of fellowship to his opponents to join him in the rebuilding of the country, he has elected to talk tough on every given occasion or opportunity. Group or sec­tional agitation or protest which is a healthy attribute of a free and democratic society is seen by our president as affront which must be crushed. As we write, our pres­ident has no political solution to the grievances of the and other such groups. The only lan­guage our president understands is that of force and belligerence. If a society continues to treat all its “madmen” as though they are not supposed to be part of the society, don’t you think there is a tendency for the “madness” to spread and consume the society which created and nurtured it in the first place?
*Dan Amor is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst (

Click Here To Read Part 1 Of This Essay  


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