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Sam Omatseye …The Fool

By Tony Eluemunor

The richly respected journalist, Chief Chuks Iloegbunam, while reacting to Sam Omatseye’s death wish on Peter Obi, (and insults unrestrained on the entire South-South geo-political zone) still found it expedient to call him a respected journalist.

Chuks Iloegbunam’s article contains what has helped in creating (and sustaining) the monster called Sam Omatseye. In “Everyone’s obituary is inevitable” on August 3, 2022, all the advice Mr. Iloegbunam had for a mad and maddening Sam Omatseye is that he should see the need to cleanse his journalism. Finish. But to haul insult is all he does. Omatseye has been walking his accursed track of mudslinging for as long as anyone can remember.

Yet, for years, Nigerians have been applauding him while he was spewing nothing but insults at some selected politicians – Chief James Ibori, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, etc. It is only now that he turned against Mr. Peter Obi, and the people of the South East that the blockers have fallen from people’s eyes, and it became noticeable that Sam Omatseye has been a fool all along.

Mr. Iloegbunam wrote: “Some have called you foolish, dear Sam Omatseye. Others insist that you are plain stupid. Some hold you to be beneath contempt. Their howls of execration upon you are in reaction to your August 1, 2022 article entitled Obi-tuary.

I have just one advice for you: Be careful. It is in the elaboration of this counsel that I write all that you read hereon”. From Iloegbunam to Omatseye: Just “be careful”?

Anyone conversant with Mr. Iloegbunam’s writing should know that he does not suffer fools gladly. Well, Mr. Iloegbunam hinted in the article that Sam Omatseye dishes out quotable quotes from books of quotations and crowds them into his essays to deceive readers over the depth of his showy scholarship. So, I will try not to play an Omatseye here so I must say something about any quotes or words taken from elsewhere, especially when it concerns the concept of foolishness.

So, I say to Mr. Iloegbunam that those who called Mr. Omatseye a fool were right and that it is not wise to “suffer fools gladly” as he did in that article. The full verse of the source of the idiom, 2 Corinthians 11:19 (KJV), reads “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” The New International Version states “You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!”.

Unfortunately, Sam Omatseye has employed his diseased tongue and heart too against the late Gen. Emeka Ojukwu, Mrs. Hanna Didiolu Awolowo (yes the respected wife of the revered Yoruba icon, Chief Obafemi Awolowo). He has lambasted even Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sam Omatseye, the globally hailed Chinua Achebe was never a writer of note and so was unworthy of the adulations that the world has poured out, and is still pouring out, on him. Omatseye subscribes to the school of thought which holds that there are only two writers in Nigeria – and Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Chris Okigbo, J.P Clarke, Cyprian Ekwensi, Ordiah Ofemum, Amos Tutuola, Flora Nwapa, Ada Ulasi, Ibrahim Tahir, Tess Onwueme, and a host of others that have formed the pride of Nigeria, are just glorified imbeciles who have been over-praised and over-rated by “imbeciles” …like you and me. Yet, Nigerians have been praising Sam Omatseye as a scholarly writer, forgetting the fact that he would simply denigrate a personality without advancing reasons. He never saw the need to justify himself.

Please, do not get me wrong; any writer could deconstruct an established writer by offering sufficient arguments. For instance, Joseph Conrad was a globally acclaimed literature icon when Chinua Achebe did a demolition job on him. But Achebe went beyond mere labeling and unmerited insults and taking materials from Conrad’s most acclaimed novel, Heart of Darkness, he exhibited Conrad’s racism against Africans. For instance, he showed that Conrad did not imbue the Africans in his novel with the gift of speech; they only grunted, mumbled, and made such animal noises that Conrad never rendered as pure speech. Conrad was a world-respected writer before Achebe’s essay on him, but today most respected universities do not teach his books again. So, Achebe showed the world the light.

Heart of Darkness was published in 1899 with hints of criticism of imperialism in the Belgium Congo; Conrad described White intervention in Africa as “rapacious and pitiless folly”. He said of colonialists:

“They took what was taken for the sake of what was to be taken. It was robbery with violence, unmitigated murder on a large scale”. The world was still praising Conrad until Achebe’s 1975 famous public lecture at Amherst College, “An Image of Africa”, saying “The point of my observations should be quite clear by now, namely that Joseph Conrad was a thoroughgoing racist. That this simple truth is glossed over in criticisms of his work is because white racism against Africa is such a normal way of thinking that its manifestations go completely unremarked.

According to Achebe, Conrad has an obsession with skin colour: he describes a man as being black, having long black legs and long black
arms. Achebe mentions a scene in the novella where after Kurtz’s death, the manager’s boy is described as putting his “insolent black head in the doorway” He further rejects the idea that Conrad is not racist because he is merely describing what Marlow thinks and sees; this idea is ridiculous because there is no alternative reference and the readers have to take what the characters say as the truth since no one is disputing them. If Conrad wanted to add another layer to the novella he would have done so, Achebe concludes.

A central point in Achebe’s criticism is that Conrad thinks everything should be in its right place and how tragedy happens when fine Europeans travel into the heart of darkness. Cannibals are fine people when they are in their place. Africans are described as savages with wild eyes using an unrefined language consisting of grunts and short phrases sounding like violent babble. Africa is shown as the other world with bestiality contrasting the intelligence and refinement of Europe. The Africans are sometimes referred to as specimens, Marlow comments on how one African is an improved specimen because he can fire up a vertical boiler.

Achebe delivered that lecture in 1975 and published it in his second book of essays, Hopes and Impediments in 1989 (thank you late Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba for giving me that book as a birthday gift in 1993 in Boston, Massachusetts). This is the same Achebe that Sam Omatseye dismissed as over-rated. When Achebe died in 2013 Sam Omatseye could only write that “Achebe was a good storyteller, so was my grandmother. Turning from a raconteur to an art of sublimity and deTFA  belongs to the masters. He was described as a great writer but not a great artist.” Not satisfied yet, he added. “Those who read TFA (Things Fall Apart) like clockwork may be put off by some of Soyinka’s opus. So they should not obsess out of ignorance. They should read first. If you knock Soyinka on obscurity, you have a right. But high art is not always easy to understand. Those who claim to enjoy TFA cannot write a literate essay on the book and why it is high art.”

Just as an aside, could someone please tell Sam Omatseye that I am willing to lend him my copy of Chinweizu, Madubuike and Jemie’s Towards The Decolonization of African Literature, to help him appreciate some of the criticisms against the obscurantist Soyinka the poet, but not Soyinka the dramatist or playwright.

Did Sam Omatseye need to drag Soyinka into the abject nonsense he wrote? I was a student at the University of Lagos, Akoka in the early 1980s when Newswatch magazine published a cover story to celebrate 25 years of Things Fall Apart. I said in a half-page interview the magazine published that it was futile to compare Achebe with Soyinka because they are masters of different genres; fiction and drama. But in 2013 Sam Omatseye still dragged Nigeria into such an unnecessary controversy. You see, all he does is to blight the environment. Finish.

Reacting to that hogwash, a literary critic, Mr. Ikhide Ikheloa, wrote: “You read semi-literate crap like this by this Sam Omatseye guy, you endure the grammatical challenges and the awful logic and your heart stops with shame and embarrassment – for the author,” Yet, Nigerians have not stopped taking him seriously simply because Nigeria has a depraved way of rating imbeciles highly. I once went to Asaba on a matter pertaining to Chief James Ibori, as his spokesman, during Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s watch as Delta state Governor. Uduaghan did not know I was in town and if he had known he couldn’t have been bothered.

Omatseye, who has never criticized Bola Tinubu (a past Governor of Lagos state) had turned abusing Ibori into his favourite past time.

Yet, I saw him in Asaba being chauffeur-driven in a top-class car that was coming out of the best hotel in town; the Grand Hotel. A journalists’ event had ended and some journalist deemed to be a demi-god was receiving a special treat. I shook my head in wonderment.

So, dear Mr. Ikhide Ikheloa, the trouble is not so much with Sam Omatseye as it is with the Nigerians who have suspended their sense of shame and outrage and still view Sam Omatseye with respect. He deserves none, but Nigerians ladle it out to him aplenty.

The Chinua Achebe whom Sam Omatseye placed on the same literary pedestal with his grandmother still receives accolades, though he has been dead for nearly a decade. In 2015, two years after his death, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst held a symposium celebrating the 40th anniversary of Achebe’s famous 1975 Chancellor’s Lecture, “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.” On Feb. 18, 1975 Achebe presented “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” as the Chancellor’s Lecture at UMass Amherst. It was then published in The Massachusetts Review. It continues to be recognized as remarkable both for Achebe’s literary criticism and for his broader cultural assessment of how Africa has been perceived and represented in the Western world.

Who will tell Sam Omatseye to please note that last sentence; it contains the reason why Things Fall Apart has been translated into over 30 languages and is included in any list of the World’s Best 100 Great Books.

As Prof Henry Clingman, Head of Interdisciplinary Studies Institute (ISI) at UMass Amherst noted about Achebe’s stance on Conrad “it was quite remarkable that he had to be the first to raise the question about such a celebrated novel. It took tremendous courage – a willingness to disrupt the received order.” You can say the same about Things Fall Apart, but Sam Omatseye is blind to such. Kligman added “Now the question is not only how Africa is represented in Europe and North America, but also how that question has been reversed – how Africans see the global North. Now we have a new generation of writers, creative thinkers and artists who have their own perspectives and are reimagining the order of things”, according to Clingman. The last paragraph explains the essence of Achebe.

Sam Omatseye as a fool? Please, remember the saying; “A fool does not know the gravity of an offense”. Fools do not learn from those trying to educate them. That is why they are fools. They are committed to their way of living and thinking or non-thinking.

Achebe called Conrad’s great novella an “offensive and deplorable book”. And Sam Omatseye continues to write offensive and deplorable things because Nigerians applaud his nastiness.

Unlike Iloegbunam, my advice for Sam Omatseye is this, go wash your heart and mouth with Omo detergent and add a sprinkling of Vim. Then disinfect them with Dettol Disinfectant. Nigeria has committed no sin to deserve the toxic waste you spew out weekly.

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