by Tobe Osigwe
They try to rub it into the eye of the society that scorned them at the beginning that; yes I have arrived, you said I will amount to nobody but look at me now, like Unoka they call on friends and foes to spend whatever money they get without recourse for the rainy season.
People often believed that the character of Obierika was verisimilitude and true to type with the image of the writer, Chinua Achebe and as such, will be his favourite. However, the writer debunked this notion and said before his demise that Unoka was his favourite character in his seminal work: Things Fall Apart. Personally, I am bewildered while the supposed efulefu and lazy artiste will be the multiple award winning authors’ favourite character. After a tedious brainstorming and academic excursion I have summed up some reason why Unoka might be dear to the sage’s heart.
Achebe was one of the best graduating students among his peers in Government College Umuahia where he had his secondary school education. As a result of his academic excellence he was given scholarship to study medicine; a profession which has a notorious reputation of being noble and by extension reserved for the most brilliant student. Well, the young Achebe stunned his benefactors’ midway in his University education, when he decided to abandon the course to study English and Latin. Needless to say his scholarship was cut off for choosing what I will call an ignoble discipline. A discipline graciously designed for academic mediocres, the average minds and the never do wells, a course for the efulefus and the iti mpa cha akwus. I believe back then that Achebe must have been treated like a leper for such a stupid step, because he dared to follow his heart.
Today, this condescending treatment is still very much the same for every young mind who wants to be a writer, a musician, an actor, a poet, a sculptor, a model and any other form of profession that is not in the conventional line of Medicine, Law, Engineering, Accountancy, Banking etc. Like Unoka of Umuofia, the society thinks less of an artiste and does not take him serious save you have successfully blazed the trail and become a millionaire. Now, being a millionaire or a successful artiste is surprisingly the greatest anathema for some of these artistes, most especially the actors and the musicians. These folks try to answer back to the society the rhetorical question.
There is a rhetorical question that life asks to every man that sojourn upon the face of the earth. This question is asked to every soul in a unique way, depending on the man’s nature and nurture. Because of the way the society is structured, it always seems that those who are threading the part of conventional profession have a coherent and sure answer to this rhetorical question. For those of us who by art of omission or commission tend to find ourselves on the non conventional path our non-verbal answer often sound stupid and comical till you blaze the trail. One might ask, what is this question? Well, as simple as it might appear, the almighty question is loaded in these three lucid words; who are you?
Unfortunately, some of our Nigerian artistes either because they are bad student of literature or were never student of Literature tend to forget that a rhetorical question does not have an oral answer or response, always make mistake of not only answering this question but over answer it with their ostentatious lifestyle once they blaze the trail. They try to rub it into the eye of the society that scorned them at the beginning that; yes I have arrived, you said I will amount to nobody but look at me now, like Unoka they call on friends and foes to spend whatever money they get without recourse for the rainy season. They buy clothes they never need, flashy cars that will be difficult to maintain, attend every event, stir needless traffic and furore on social media, post all the details of their life just in a bid to answer a rhetorical question, a question that needs no answer.
Tragically, these artistes end up like Unoka in the evil forest at the twilight of their life. When stricken by a disease or misfortune they run helter skelter searching for help from those in the conventional profession. Inadvertently, they end up reinforcing the ab-initio societal belief: being in the non conventional field is a charade, they reinforce the traditional belief that artistes are efulefus, complete and certified never do wells.
I believe it is high time our artiste knew they owe nobody an explanation about the path they have chosen to thread in life. If they succeed in it they should keep it to themselves and if they fail in it they should as well keep it to themselves. If and if there is anybody they ever need to impress with their wealth, it should be their immediate family. I believe Achebe learnt a lesson from the tragic end of Unoka and decided to live a simple and quiet life. Till his death, nobody knew whether he was rich or poor. All we ever knew was that he has blessed the world with his work and that is all about we need to know.
For those who are intimidated and inspired by the display of wealth by our artistes and consequently wants to be like them, please be informed that after business men, artistes are the most indebted people. Move a little bit closer to them you will find out that the grass is not that green. They are nothing but men who are bent on impressing everybody but end up impressing nobody. It is time these noisemakers stop making a mess of the non conventional field of livelihood. If there will be need to glory in anything, it should be about GOD.
Tobe Osigwe tweets from @ikolondigbo
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.