In Defense Of The Critic

by Uche Nworah

Yes I’ve had my issues with him, especially over his rejoinder to my Lynda Chalker article, other writers like Hank Eso and Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye also butted in at the time of our ‘beef’. But since then we have all moved on, accepting that in this our writing business, nobody has monopoly over knowledge, and that there are no absolutes in our views.

We don’t know each other personally, have never met and do not have each other’s phone numbers. I respect his views though I may not necessarily agree with them, I’m sure he does respect mine even though he may not agree with them. But being that both of us and several other writers are blessed with the opportunity on this platform and on several other platforms to articulate our two-penny opinion in the public arena, thereby enlivening the debate over our country’s numerous socio-political issues, one would expect at least nothing more from our esteemed readers but some form of mutual respect, knowing that though we all may belong to different camps, our collective fate is in a way inexplicably linked.

The desire for change is top on all our agenda though we pursue it using different tactics. Paul Adujie has not hired me to do his PR for him, although my bank account could do with any such inflows at the moment, but on a more serious note, I rather feel that Paul hasn’t really been receiving a fair treatment, because some of the attacks have been malicious, as if calculated to run the brother out of cyberspace. Sometimes I will read such attacks and my stomach will spin, I do feel for the man. It’s as if all the anger and frustration with some of our corrupt leaders are being taken out on him anytime he pens an essay. It’s not as if he is Mantu and co who allegedly received over a billion naira from the presidency to shoe-in the president for a third term.

Hank Eso once captured the principles of public discourse in his Oga, make we manage am so essay, and also drove the matter home in another which he aptly titled the nuisance value of the internet pundit. In retrospect maybe some of the media organizations that publish the works of writers should really re-think their comments policies which allows ‘faceless’ writers to run vendettas or conspiracies against some of their writers. The insults, curses and abuses should rather be elevated to constructive criticisms in pursuit of a better society and in the Olympic spirit of participants being competitors and not enemies.

Now, I’m scratching my head to remember the person in Nigeria who a couple of years ago made a speech calling on those who govern to govern well, by implication he (yes, it was a he) was advocating for best practice in every aspect of our national life, asking Nigerians to strive to do whatever it was they found themselves doing (desirable or not) very well, and to the best of their abilities.

The speech did resonate all over the country at the time, and was variously adopted by individuals at dinner speeches and other engagements of a social nature. The Nigerian media also helped amplify the profoundness of the message at the time.

The impact of the speech and its inherent message has never been lost on me, as every once in a while I find myself going over the speech in my mind, and trying to apply its underlying principles to some aspects of my life, and even wondering if maybe, its application in the general Nigerian context though problematic it may seem, may not after all be a way out to some of our social, political and economic problems..

Obviously human beings are bound to make mistakes and don’t always have the answers but still, try we must and should, this I believe is called endeavour in the English dictionary. Maybe all the abuse, curses, insults and swearing in the name of sango, ifa, ogwugwu etc. which Nigerians do and implore against our government officials, and which have now been wrongly transferred to writers wouldn’t have been necessary if there was some perception of public spiritedness, goodwill and best intentions on the part of the government by Nigerian citizens. In the final analyses, though the art of governance may not be so simple, but still those who find themselves governing, and those who desire to govern, should as a matter of fact govern well when they get ‘there’.

And what about us? The ordinary Nigerians, the silent majority and critics, including the beer parlour pundits? What should we do? Our roles and our tasks are also not far fetched, meaning that those of us that criticize should also criticize well, else our two-penny efforts may become like a dance in the forests with ghosts as spectators.

I am not sure that the gentleman who made this speech originally also meant for those who steal and loot to also steal and loot well, neither did he mean for those who abuse and insult those who are at least doing something by writing, to abuse and insult them well, nor for those who chose to stand, watch and do nothing to stand, watch and do nothing well, that would be stretching it quite a bit if we are to take the charge literally.

Although this may in a way contrast sharply with the Igbo proverb which says that whoever likes eating frog should go for the king frog, so that when called a frog eater or accused of frog eating, the person would proudly nod, the latter (the Igbo proverb) may have been the guiding principles for the Tafa Baloguns and Alamieseghes of this world, judging not only by the bulk of their physical sizes and tummies, but also by their fat bank accounts.

While debating this issue with Chigbo Ugochukwu, I was a bit taken aback by his own take, ‘‘anybody who wakes up from sleep, looks around him and feels satisfied or dissatisfied with the state of affairs in his immediate environment, and then based on the same convictions goes ahead to submit a piece of his mind, by way of opinion writing

to any newspaper, internet site or media house is in so doing subjecting himself to the same scrutiny and criticism (or ridicule) which normally is reserved for elected public officials. The reason being that individual opinions are not only subjective, but they can also be agenda driven, and are bound to offend many others who have differing view points and interests. Some of such attacks against the critics may seem unfair but then, isn’t that the beauty of democracy”? he wonders.

But should it really be so? the art of writing in the public domain should be guided by certain principles; of public decorum, decency and social etiquette, else the very same freedom we are all clamouring for may just come down crashing in our faces, and so for both the critic, and the critic’s critic, they should all criticise well. We sometimes misconstrue each other’s intention, that’s to be expected because of individual differences and the complex nature of man.

However, it must also be pointed out that those who criticise, and constantly churn out those beautiful and wonderful ideas may not necessarily be good administrators if asked to come and put some of their ideas into practice.

Mother Nature has endowed individuals with different abilities and capabilities, a good administrator may not necessary be a good politician and vice versa, a good critic may also not necessarily be a good politician or administrator (remember Tai Solarin’s ‘sleeping’ days at Peoples Bank, and Wole Soyinka’s stint at the FRSC), but society has made it possible for the politician, the administrator, the critic and the critic’s critic to co-exist alongside each other, though they may pitch their tents in different camps, but still they are united by a common motive – the betterment of the society. Each camp however should endeavour to do whatever it is that they do, or aspire to do very well.

The ‘do-it-well’ charge also goes out to our footballers and football administrators; enough has been said about Nigeria not qualifying for the 2006 world cup, the time of blames are over, I suppose lessons have been learnt, we now know that from those who mother nature has richly endowed, from them are also much expected. With the abundance of football talents in Nigeria lighting up European leagues with their skills, and backed by our petrol-dollars, Nigeria has no reason not going to the world cup, when the likes of Angola, and Togo (managed by Stephen Keshi – the rejected stone) are all going to Germany to fly their country’s flags. Those who play football for Nigeria should play well, and those who manage football in Nigeria should also manage it well.

On the lighter side, those who cook should cook well, likewise those who eat, they should eat well. Those who sing and dance, should sing and dance well, and those who watch and applaud should also do that well. Those who act and produce home videos (Nollywood) should act and produce it well.

Those who teach should teach well, and those who learn should learn well. Those who parent should parent well, those who work should work well, and those who do whatever they find themselves doing, as long as such are within the limits of the law, and within the scope of their God given abilities should also do it well.

In the final analysis, Paul Adujie is not really the problem with Nigeria.

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