Odimegwu Onwumere: The Howlings of a Hasty Reader
By HENRY AKUBUIRO
If it had come to me as mutterings, I would have sat on a recliner to guffaw endlessly.
I would have overlooked the rejoinder to my piece of Sunday October 19 in National LIFE newspaper (Nigeria) by one Odimegwu Onwumere from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, entitled "Nobel Prize: Henry Akubuiro's Controversy" published here, but I couldn't help it considering the mirth laden in the writer's chicaneries and warped dissertations, which reminds me of a caterwaul that makes no rhyme or reason in discourse.
Odimegwu, in that piece, intended to prove the nullity in my position that the Nobel has become a place where inanities are enacted, but he went berserk with drivels, like an untamed internet tiger on prowl. I am sure he didn't read my piece more than once to understand the salient points I was making before hawking his ignorance for all to laugh at.
His opening gambit pays witness to that: "It reverberated with disgust in my mind, nerves quaked, and the blood in my blood stream ran with such accelerando..." Except for someone who has a history of psychotic imbalance, I don't think anybody would have reacted that way reading a piece that wasn't lacking in polemics. Proper expressions like: "I was chagrined", "I was flummoxed," I was dismayed…,” etc., would have said it all, instead of spinning words that betrays his latitude at the time of putting pen to paper.
Being a Smart Alec pays in certain places: perhaps, in the marketplace where howlings are tolerated. From much of what he wrote, Odimegwu put commonsense in disarray by deifying the ludicrous with unrelenting ease. In my piece, I quoted extensively from newspaper articles, opinions, books, etc., to justify the argument that Le Clezio was an unexpected choice and the Nobel has been unfair to Achebe, Ngugi and other (African) writers who haven't been awarded the literature prize yet. But, in his piece, he created a hideous spectacle with shallow arguments and never quoted a single source to buttress his regrettable perspective. Odimegwu, who I am sure, is unaware of the juncture when African literature became a glamourized gemeinschaft and the role people like Achebe played, dubbed my view myopic. Wonders will not cease!
I am uncomfortable with writers who use words any how without taking cognizance of their semantic implications. I admire Odimegwu's courage in writing constantly on the net and trying to get popular in Nigeria and beyond, but I have observed, in his rejoinder to my piece, that he isn't schooled in literary discourse and, thus, ill-equipped in sound literary logic; if so, he would have understood the point being made by many literary aficionados worldwide, who are much wiser than him, that the Nobel Prize for Literature hasn't been fair to celebrated writers, like Proust, Graham Green, Achebe, Ngugi, Nabokov, Borges, among others, despite their universal acclaims, or counter that with superior argument. Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise?
Odimegwu wrote with the hastiness of an aggressive buccaneer, making mockery of dialectics many times. In advancing the argument that I goofed in querying the popularity of Le Clezio in world literature, Odimegwu wrote: "'I am yet to believe, as Henry is wont to make us believe, that prizes of such kind as the Swedish’s, is meant for old pen-pushers, who are popular, and are supposed to be considered first in a literary award before the burgeoning authors. What a pity? That concept by Henry is not only myopic, but also baseless and lacked potentialities of a sound mind." The aforementioned cant illustrates my point that Odimegwu was bereft of ideas to promote his lame case; hence, the resort to reductionist readings. I never wrote anywhere that the Nobel Prize is meant for old writers. I wonder where he got that from (did he read the place where I stated what excites the interests of the Nobel Academy?).
It would suffice to cite another example where this writer went from the inane to the ridiculous: "It is only the judges that knew what they wanted in a book before declaring it winner, and not how many accolades the book may have garnered". Has Odimegwu been a judge before? For his (re) education, the NLNG instance he cited has nothing to do with the parameters used in deciding the Nobel Prize for Literature by the Swedish Academy. While NLNG's The Nigeria Prize for Literature calls for entries from writers, the Nobel doesn't; and the Swedish Academy doesn't give its prize based on a single book, like the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, but on a writer’s oeuvre, especially one that represents a compelling idealistic tendency of a time.
Odimegwu was querulous for the umpteenth time when he paid witness to the preposterous: "In that article, to be frank, without being merciful to Henry, he represented a critic of a biased mind. He expelled his venom, on the Nobel Prize, given to the French author, for literature, like a man who had hoped his uncle would win the prize, but was disappointed, at last." That comment, to me, represents the limit of puerile vapourings. If I had written my piece without citing facts (which Ogimewu was so blind to notice), his argument of a biased mind would have made sense. But, in saying that I was disappointed because "My Uncle" (I think he meant Achebe) didn't win the Nobel, shows how a writer like him has been predisposed to illogicalities with gleeful abandon. Achebe, like Odimegwu (except he is one of those self-denigrating Nigerians who aren't proud of their roots), is an Igbo man. So, how is Achebe my uncle and not his uncle? Or, is Odimegwu a Greco-Roman name? For his information, I haven't met Achebe before, unlike Soyinka, who I have met and who reads me and speaks kindly of me in literary circles. Achebe, like everybody who has a literary background knows, stands atop the echelon of African literary canon with Soyinka and Ngugi. So, if that makes him my uncle, good!
Ending his treatise, which could serve as a model of hokum, Odimegwu wrote: "I am yet to know how many literary prizes Henry Akubuiro has won, since he is a popular writer in Nigeria..." I wonder when it has become a virtue in writing for one to be making a parade of his virtues. Perhaps, he doesn't know that I was the winner of the 2005 ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors) Literary Journalist of the Year, winner of the 1994 National Essay Competition organized by the Federal Government of Nigeria, among others.
In reading Odimegwu's jaundiced rejoinder, "Nobel Prize: Henry Akubuiro’s Controversy", one can easily rediscover the meaning of hogwash and how a hasty writer could use it to play to the gallery. But I have a piece of advice for Odimegwu: don’t overplay your hand and show the world that you are still an overweening writer. Since he has declared that he has learnt much from me (as a fan of my literary columns in newspapers), I am pretty sure my friend, Odimegwu, will learn more from his monumental misadventure.
*Henry Akubuiro edits the literary pages of National LIFE newspaper, Lagos.