Friday, November 18, 2016

Sylvester Akhaine’s Logic Of Struggle And Humanism

By Paul Onomuakpokpo
The world is a theatre of struggle. Every stage one finds oneself at, one should know that it is a struggle; it is one of the principles of social Darwinism – Sylvester Akhaine

With Donald Trump clinching the United States’ presidency on the back of the promise to privilege the welfare of Americans and deport immigrants he considers as parasites, such foreigners have only the option of making their own countries great to cater for them and obviate the need of seeking succour overseas. To make their countries to attain a level where they do not need to be economic refugees in foreign countries like that of Trump imposes on such citizens the necessity of a struggle to remove impediments to the development of their societies.
*Sylvester Akhaine
For African states and other formerly colonised countries of the world, the need for a struggle to attain their national destinies is very familiar. It was such a struggle that paved the way for political independence in the 1950s and 1960s in African countries. Thus for these African states to overcome their new masters, whether internal or external, there is the need for them to resume the path of struggle. This validates the intervention of Sylvester Odion Akhaine, through The Case of a Nursing Father, in the contemporary discourse of resistance by the citizens of post-colonial states against their economic and political oppressors to create prosperous societies.
Beneath the veneer of a preoccupation with existential affairs such as those at the home front as signified by the title of the book are weightier issues of a people’s struggle to be free from oppression in its multi-faceted forms. But then, even at the home turf, a struggle is required for the solidification of humanism. This is demonstrated by the author’s refusal to align with the members of his elite class who objectify their fellow human beings by making children from poor homes as housemaids.
While such housemaids spend their days in drudgery in the service of oga, madam and the children, no one spares a thought for their education. The author resolves the conflict that could ensue from his resistance by becoming a nanny in order to accommodate the professional demands of his medical doctor wife. By both husband and wife accepting to take turns to care for their first child, they avert a feminist war of equality.
Thus, in the African context, there is the robust possibility of mutual help between a husband and a wife as counterpointed by a brand of Western feminism that breeds an unnecessary gender hostility.

Since independence, the Nigerian state has been held hostage by predators. Whether they are military or civilian rulers, their mission is to steal and churn out policies that would consign the citizens to poverty. Akhaine captures the oppressive military era of the nation with the images of the Ogre and Dracula. While the Ogre was ever-smiling and gap-toothed, the Dracula was dark-goggled. In collusion with their proxies, the Ogre and the Dracula unleashed regimes of violence and blood in the country. They both dreamt of eternal reigns and to achieve these, many citizens had to be sacrificed. This led to incarceration in dungeons, death of the Ken Saro-Wiwas, the Alfred Rewanes and others.
But some haunted citizens escaped through Benin, Niger and Cameroun to Germany, the United Kingdom, North America , Belgium, France, Italy, Canada, among others. The civilian oppressors deployed the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), byzantine subsidy scheme , increase in fuel prices, among others to pauperise the citizens. There is brazen stealing of the wealth of the nation by the leaders who take it to the Western world to buy property while the citizens are suffering. The Nigerian leaders do not bother that those places they buy their expensive property are developed by leaders and thus the need for the Nigerian leaders to replicate that development in their country. They do not bother that Nigerian children are out of school and the social infrastructure has collapsed. To Akhaine, nothing better illustrates the leaders’ thingification of the citizens than the refusal of the state institutions to remove corpses from the streets.
As part of their mismanagement of the abundant oil resources, Nigerian leaders take their nation’s money abroad in collusion with the West. After emptying the national treasury through this connivance, the rulers would further compound the crisis of poverty of their citizens by borrowing money from the West. This is why Nigeria and other undeveloped African countries are enslaved to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Paris Club. Worse still, there is a quest by the oppressive West for culinary hegemonisation in hotels and humiliation at airports .
For Akhaine, the internal and external oppressors of Nigerians would not easily give up. They can only be overcome by a struggle against them by the citizens. In formulating a template of struggle, Akhaine is familiar with how oppressed people in other parts of the world have freed themselves from oppression. The Americans gained freedom when they struggled against the British tax masters in the 1760s, the Cubans struggled against Batista in 1959 and the Bolsheviks struggled against the Czar in Russia in 1917. Such struggles have produced enduring great societies. While America is easily considered the bastion of democracy and freedom today, Cuba has been so transformed despite the American embargo on it since 1960. Cuba has become a great producer of doctors, with many of them in Africa and Latin America
In The Case of the Nursing Father, Akhaine brims with eclecticism. He is not only well-ground in political science he teaches at the university level, but he also draws inspiration from wide-ranging genres of literature to underscore the point that a people cannot be free unless they struggle against their oppression. From Williams Shakespeare, John Keats to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Akhaine alerts us to the fact that man is trapped in a Manichean world of light and darkness, and hope and despair, in which he can only triumph through a struggle. But Akhaine does not just draw his inspiration from what he has read. He is not just a theorist about struggle who is far from the theatre of the action. For, actuated by his humanism, Akhaine has actually been at the forefront of the struggle to free his compatriots from their oppression.
 This has led to so much deprivation, beginning from his days at the University of Lagos to when he became the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy and the United Action for Democracy in the dark days of the anti-military struggle. During the tragic days of the Orgre and the Dracula, he was arrested and detained. It is because he understands the linkage between struggle and a people’s quest for freedom that he bemoans the depletion of the revolutionary camp of the country either by natural death or by state authorities. He warns us of the danger of not having a replication of the Gani Fawehinmis, Beko Ransome-Kutis and Baba Omojolas. However, with the death of socialism in the Soviet Union that has paved the way for Francis Fukuyama’s celebration of Western liberal democracy as the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution, Akhaine’s dream of a violent revolution to uproot his nation’s economic and political oppressors may remain a perpetual mirage.


As the book is presented to the public on December 3, 2016, it should be a moment to reflect on the struggle that preceded the current democratic dispensation that is being frittered away by those who never paid any price for it. And since it was a struggle that birthed the current democracy in the first place, it is a struggle of the citizens that would eventually rescue them from their rapacious predators who pretend to be leaders, and make the democratic experience to serve them.

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