Between Ikemefuna and Kanu

Between Ikemefuna and Kanu

Those who blow hot and cold, over Nnamdi Kanu, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader’s “right” to return to bury his parent(s?), despite earlier jumping bail, will do well to compare his situation with Ikemefuna’s, in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

Yes, Things Fall Apart, Achebe’s most famous book is fiction.  But not a few believe — and justifiably so — that though its face is literature, its essence is sociology and anthropology, thus offering a clear-eyed window into Igbo pristine life: its mores, customs, and laws.  Even back then, and the tragic Ikemefuna was proof, you were impressed by the grim immutability of the law.

Ikemefuna was a ransom to avert war. Some reckless neighbors had killed some maidens, natives of the war-like Umuofia.  To stave off war, Ikemefuna became a prisoner of (averted) war.  The POW was therefore resident in the household of Okonkwo, Things Fall Apart’s tragic hero.

Ikemefuna, the lad, progressively became a hit in Okonkwo’s household.  Though the rather taciturn Okonkwo didn’t expressly say so, there were times he felt Ikemefuna, all verve, was the son he didn’t have in Nwoye (his first son, considered too effeminate); and the direct opposite of his father,  Unoka (considered too lazy and unassertive, as a man should).  Ikemefuna was, therefore, the secret object of Okonkwo’s admiration.

But then came the dire decree, from the priestess of Agbala, the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves: Ikemefuna must be put to the sword!  Okonkwo, though he loved the boy, complied, even dealing with the fatal machete blows.  Though Obierika rebuked Okonkwo for having a hand in the death “of a boy that calls you father”, the law was the law, even in the Igbo pristine world, and it must be obeyed!

Now, a fast track from Ikemefuna in Umuofia, to Nnamdi Kanu’, in contemporary Nigeria: as the law was immutable then, so it is immutable now.

The luckless Ikemefuna lost all privileges under the extant laws of his time, the moment he became POW.  He couldn’t dart to his village to see his siblings, bury his mother or father, or grace a wedding.  The law took all those away — and that law was Igbo pristine law, not Nigerian modern laws.

But the reckless Kanu, by jumping bail, rid himself of all the privileges of a citizen under Nigerian laws, until that rupture, of the legal process, is fixed.  That much was restated in the ruling of the Abuja Federal High Court, which has ruled Kanu is safest in prison!

A fugitive from the law, which Kanu has made of himself, can’t logically claim traditional or filial “right” to bury his parent(s) as “first son”, any more than a convict in Nigeria’s present-day prisons, or even Ikemefuna, in the Igbo order of his time.  That “right” is gone, with Kanu’s cynical rupture of the judicial process.

Indeed, even a convicted prisoner has a better chance of winning such compassion from the law.  For one, his guilt has been proven.  For another, he has earned his sentence and submitted himself to the grim majesty of the law, as expected of every citizen.  Besides, he could have earned parole.

But a person that jumped bail, during a court process?  Perish the thought! That is judicial anarchy that forebodes social anarchy, that threatens all.

Still, back to Things Fall Apart: Kanu, in his present bind, seems to have caught the Okonkwo syndrome — that penchant to act before thinking, which baked the Okonkwo profound tragedy.  It isn’t pretty!
Source: The Nation