Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Books And Publications

False image-makers

By our correspondent

The philosopher who wrote that some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested, might have added a fourth dimension: some books are to be ignored completely. Or even burnt, along with those that wrote them.

For those in the dark, the essence of writing books are two-fold - to educate and to entertain. Books aimed at education are those that deal with theories that have been proved and hypotheses that have been tested, using what is now commonly known as scientific research methods. Often, findings and conclusions from such books can be replicated by other researchers working under the same conditions as the first set of researchers. Such books deal with truth and with the facts of life. There are books that are written purely for entertainment. Such books normally border on imaginations and literary creativity of the writers. There is usually no semblance of truth whatsoever in such books even though the events portrayed in such books might appear convincing. In literary terms, they are called fiction.

Biographies and autobiographies, ie, people's life histories written by other people or by themselves, are supposed to perform an educative function. This set of books normally talk about some extraordinary people dead or undead that during their lifetime have performed certain incredible feats or attained certain heights of excellence in their various societies and done things that have affected the lives of other people in mostly positive or even negative terms. These books are normally on political heads of state, business tycoons, generals of the army, movie stars and a host of others, whose flames of public office or Ivory Tower are about to flicker out or have already flickered out in some cases, and only posterity is left as their final judge.

Last month I was with a friend attending a conference on African writers at the Africa Center. After the first day of the conference, my friend drew my attention to some new publications that were displayed at the centre which he had already seen and read. I was attracted to three of the publications which I sat down to read. There was this one by Dillibe Onyeama called AFRICAN LEGEND which is supposed to tell the story of Chief Nzeribe of Nigeria. I could not stomach nor fathom the reasons behind Onyeama's write-up, full of such blatant and bloody lies as the book is.

The two other books were publications by Nigeria's Federal Department of Information. One was titled: Muhammadu Buhari: NIGERIA'S SEVENTH HEAD OF STATE; and the second which is like a follow-up to the first bore the title: REGIME OF HOPE. The first is a biography of the general and included his first six months in office as Nigeria's leader. The second book extols the qualities of Buhari, portraying him as a saint who is larger than life, a miracle and the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria.

This is not a review of either of the books, but an extract quoted directly from the general's speech will serve to separate the reality of the Buhari regime away from the fantasy portrayed in these books or the essential from the superfluous. Asked on his future ambitions (as if the general was retiring), Buhari said: "I hope by the time I leave office I would have improved the lot of the ordinary man, the public service of Nigeria and Nigeria's image in Africa and the world. After that I will be very happy to get out of here peacefully and go to my FARM and devote more time to my family... for you will never succeed if you are unjust to your people..." That is Buhari's prophetic fantasy.

But what is the hard realism? A regime of hope? What hope is there when workers are being relieved of their jobs and no alternative means of sustenance provided; when the army's only preoccupation is to shoot at defenceless citizens at the slightest provocation; when the regime cannot provide food to feed its citizens; when the regime has tainted and smeared Nigeria's image abroad with criminally terrorist machinations. This is hope, but a kind of a fractured hope. Anyway, Buhari himself seems to have given the verdict that he has proved himself unjust to the people and there is no way he can succeed.

See what I mean? Some books are to be burnt along with those that wrote them. Writers are also a part of our problems.



talking drums 1984-12-10 Cocoa New Strategy needed