Origins of an Opintar; Blaming Chinua Achebe


“Bird’s got something to teach us all; About being free, yeah; Be no rain… Be no rain…” – Gil Scott-Heron, from the lyrics, I Think I’ll Call It Morning

I sporadically declare myself an Opintar yet with constant intent. Many think Opintar is a fun name. Or of vernacular because they cannot google it. Or the vanity of a man who has known serious illness more than once in his adult life. It is none of these. Being an Opintar is an apt description of my lot in life and how I should and do live it. Opinterity is the closest I will ever know of being liberated and of happiness, yet it is not a great thing to be due to some ambiguous internal costs. I have joined some organisations and fraternities [1] that defiantly preach the message of ‘liberation of man and society’ but they are in truth cesspools of anti-liberation by means of polite evil, duplicity, and racketeering. Are such groups different from some families or nations? The un-liberated will rush to say yes, and will not be right. All life is not oppressive or evil but it is certainly constrained and requires many forms of liberation as criteria for survival and flourishing in our post-creation existence.

The laws of life are rigged to massage the interests of the mighty mostly, not the weak. Only God seems not to complain. As rich and powerful as Bernie Ecclestone is, he publicly and proudly admires Adolf Hitler, who probably admired King David, who in turn admired a real or spook God, because all their money and power considered could not free them from ‘the rules that matter’. For example, the institution called death recedes eternally from man’s control. One of the great rarities of life are emperors, kings, senators, prime ministers going to jail but the rarity is a product of corruption and caution with the rules; you mess around, they bring you down. The rules of sleep ensure the mighty, like everyone else, have bad breath on waking and when they encounter erectile dysfunction or frigidity putting a hit on the owner of the other “object” or an advising doctor will not resolve the problem. As the rules do chastise ordinary folks so it does the high and mighty but in different ways.

‘Might is right’ as a reality has always been an underlying condition of man despite the fictions of society-wide freedoms and liberties. Jail, Sodom and Gomorrah, the death penalty, torture, oppression, poverty, displacement, exclusion and all the other ‘Hells’ caught here on Earth are all rooted in might at least by contrast. Might has evolved into an exceedingly polite and disconnected way of churning out multitudes of people who will inescapably catch Hell, somehow. The more Hell caught by the majority the more might for the minority who wield it. Achievement characterised as success is also so rare in life thus it is over-celebrated when attained; the mighty make us celebrate it especially when it is enduring. We are now even told by the mighty to make a laugh out of our lives while they squeeze away our pennies, freedoms, values, support and even happiness from our reach till Hell visits us. The Opintar laughs without instruction. He or she is like a falcon in the sky.

Unfortunately for me, in late 1989 at the African Continental Bank branch within the University of Nigeria campus at Nsukka, I witnessed an unusual encounter. A tall handsome man smartly but casually dressed and possibly in his early 50s stood up from his private conversation with his accompanying friend and employing congenial loudness recited the first four lines of the famous poem, The Second Coming, by WB Yeats made famous to Nigerians by the opening of Chinua Achebe’s also famous novel Things Fall Apart;

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

His speech was one borne of a very good education and privileged worldliness; he was probably an academic at the university or the son of one. He did not speak for more than two minutes before he sat down in mischievous silence but managed to say what he might have privately been debating with his friend, “Forget your hopes for Biafra, the eschatology of our people is nigh”. He then said something funny in Igbo language mentioning Achebe [I did not comprehend] to which the over 40 customers and staff in the bank laughed exhaustively. The man neither appeared drunk nor insane and when he left the bank he drove away with his friend not too long after in a cute Mercedes Benz, Birdlike by Freddie Hubbard blazing from it. Some were still laughing and chatting about his joke afterwards.

An hour later that day I found the meaning of “eschatology” and realised my first reading of Things Fall Apart as an early teenager was too literal. A very cerebral buddy of mine, Mohammed Oluwa, was with me at the bank and we spoke about the man’s brief soliloquy in the bank. When we got to Mohammed’s room at the Zik’s Flats, he gave me a copy of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. It was a revealing coincidence; The Fire Next Time was about another kind of second coming – it promised there would never be another deluge that Noah braved, it will be fire instead. The reading of that book inexplicably became the end of hope for me as a Black man on planet earth, I became something new but with a full long history. I then knew I was living in my own eschatology, my own end, my calculated obsolescence with only the second coming to look forward to if it ever would come. That was the day I started calling myself an Opintar. Was I reborn?

An Opintar is “a person having discovered his words and actions would never change the underlying conditions of life, endeavours to do deeds because his survival and that of others [society] demand it”. If it is self-flattery or egotism it is not Opinterity.

Achebe’s major focus in print was the plight of the Black man in a White-dominated world, especially “at home”. I got infected with his endless worries and nver found an antidote. When it comes to the condition of the Black man, the dizzying heights of achievement and honour attained by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr are in un-hyped and un-glossed terms spectacular failures; sublime condoms that could not prevent the pregnancies of backwardness and the divine soaps that could not wash away the stigma of being behind. By the time you get to the likes of many other great Blacks, it is either pantomime or additions to the worsening of my condition just to make their daily bread. Caged birds with beautiful feathers. The worthy Blacks of greatness were always easily forgotten in the global cultural heritage.

Our Black greats are always slighted as “Uncles” and never venerated as “Fathers” except in their tiny political patches or by their consanguineous kin but they will tell you there is ‘nothing in a mere name’. They love their prizes and honours though, which many are reduced to their literal equivalent – no more. Our Black greats do not have small brains, but many have tiny testicles, fortitude-wise; it is the result of an evolved habit of safety and an invariable happiness to please. Experience a bullet wound or the prison cell, and that also becomes the equivalence of their greatness. I wonder how many of our Brethren are in jail endlessly and unjustly or have died of an innocently of a bullet, but the mighty always tells us what and who to celebrate or value. It is a resounding disgrace that the most honest spokespeople for the Black man and the despair of his second coming’s realities are White. I share in that disgrace but as an ordinary human being it is not too bad for me; does anyone know my name?

The Opintar is not a leader unless he or she is willing to die swiftly in the responsibility. The dogged aspiration of unpretentiousness disqualifies the Opintar from leadership even if he is abundantly endowed with the capability and competence. However, good leadership as it translates into good governance diminishes the fear of mortality in man. Bad leaders exist for one purpose, the incessant reminder of our undeniable mortality. Max Weber did warn of rationalised governance by rationalising leaders that would create a “the polar night of icy darkness” [the Iron Cage] for individuals with echoes of severity from every holy scripture. Neoliberalism salutes you.

The second coming is imminent but distant; we see it coming but we don’t know what it is. Snakes and Ladders, slippery slope, shot in the dark? Every good deed pushes it further away and every bad one brings it closer. Sometimes it seems good deeds can only proliferate and at other times the bad are in unobstructed ascendance. The contradictions of eschatology usually make a fool out of the wisest people. In these neoliberal years of ours, it does look like a second coming will straighten the whole of life’s situation out; I am not waiting. I hope no such hope, not in the second coming, not in the fire next time (well, after the Deluge), not after the election of bought-out political liars into office, not after some billionaire “bequeaths” the world with his fortune in acts of cynical charity, not in the Scriptures made into putty on the lips of false clerics, not in an era where debt is the monolinear fous of the economy, not in anything but myself even if I often doubt that too.

It is now fashionable to talk of ‘inseparable dualities’; most tend toward the omniscience of necessary evils, necessary only to accompany their preferred and sometimes unwholesome goods. It explains everything and nothing; it is just the paralogics of those who are devoid of pain and emergency at the moment. Some even muse about Yin and Yang, and many religious and moral philosophies of the Near to the Far East. Po’un! Go tell someone who has just lost their only kids in one accident about Ying and Yang or try it on a young adult whose heart has been charred by a shocking disappointment inflicted on them by their assumed loved one or to a man who has taken an overdose of a highly efficient aphrodisiac and his uruoruo turns up not. How about the guy who swore by the second coming and Khalil Gibran when he was endlessly poor but later swore by his might when he became rich then swore by Christ when good fortune dumped him? Might is all, it may seem, there is to seek but my Brethren often attain only pittances of it and its most insecure forms.

My Brethren look for a grand solution to their everyday problems and in every way but it is always many steps ahead of them, ever-energetic ever-distant. Development is the cross of my Brethren, in thought or practice; it is a reality for them just as good as a second coming. No, my Brethren are you serious about anything? For every good deed leaders and citizens do in society it surely brings Development closer but it is the paradoxically opposite case with regards to the second coming. Do my Brethren want development or the second coming? My leaders want both; they want a glass of boiling water filled with ice. Therefore my leaders and my Brethren should stick to the second coming, waiting is easier than enlightened work. The pheonix does not want to die but death does not exterminate it, thus survival remains. It becomes a dubious reality to “wait” on something that does not have a timetable or season when my leaders and Brethren are the most “impatient” human beings on the planet; the “quickie civilisation” can never touch a civilisation based on doggedly sustained action. Claude Ake did famously proclaim that my Brethren’s post-colonial ways were rigged not to succeed as a ‘developed people’ within a ‘developed society’. Was Ake expecting these people to be phoenixes who will re-rig their ways for the better? As for Development, the bye-word should be “FORGET IT!” but the Opintar has to continue working like many others. The bottom of Maslow’s Triangle awaits you, even the mighty in our realm.

The Opintar is unspecial and as confused as everyone else; only work gives him or her direction and purpose but only barely. Toiling in the mud is cool in a transient changeable world where corruption is the dominant mode of social organisation and we know it. The Opintar is always trying to step in and out of time and consistently succeeds for infinitesimally small periods of time. Seconds become magical but fifty-nine seconds scatters over the passing of an entire day; this is a harsh reality. Do others get one second in a day? Some call it the ‘present moment’ which reminds me of the futility of neoliberal life foisted upon us with the sole fundament of “Achilles and the Tortoise”, a never-ending cost-ridden catch-up game people have to play and perpetually leaves them behind; the ascedancy of compound interest. Oh Dear!

A charming lady once told me my Opintar talk was rubbish. I then explained it to her very sexually and then financially and most convincingly, esoterically. “The Opintar lives in sequences of Fibonacci Numbers where and when he or she can”, I told her. She was captivated and convinced but I declined spending the night at her’s. People always want more of a good thing; it will not happen so casually ever again. The Fibonacci Numbered secrets of the Opintar remain secret except to the initiated. To be an Opintar is a esoteric thing rooted in human action, sincere observation and the full exposure of the soul. The spirit is here and takes care of space. I fly like a bird by Fibonacci Numbers and by Fibonacci Numbers I taste the real potentiality of freedom, correctness and safety.

I believe in my consanguinity with my ancestors most seriously because they allow me to drink by tradition [temperance was never their forte]; I am merry and live confidently every day in their honour and memory. If they did not “do it” I would not be here, yet I only do it recreationally hoping to land on ‘13 Black’, my transmission code number; for most people, it is such good odds – it is heads or tails. “In God We Trust?” I only believe in God because of whiskey, “the water of God”, (I was named after a Scotsman and grew up in a Liberal-supporting house) and the holiest libation cum tipple known to man is Talisker. Take a three shots of Talisker in chosen surroundings and with a restful mind and tell me if you do not see God! I must not be misquoted, I never said God could be found in a bottle of stills, entheogenic encourgement. Heineken too sanctifies. Even if you do not praise the Lord have these drinks. Toto water must never be wasted for in it we are conceived and from it we are born. Forget the graphics of our creation, it is binary by nature, the entry of one into zero is sufficient description. The day the binary matrix of the underlying condition of the Opintar is uncovered and I bear witness to full freedom, I shall shout “Land Ahoy! Let the Whiskey Flow men! Hallelujah!” till I lose my voice. There is nothing wrong in making my ancestors happy.

When is the second coming going to do it for me? I have been walloped and crippled by a nefarious mafia of illnesses; thrash-canned by ever-desirable women and unsure about a second chance; immiserated of my million pounds and more; made at best a mere convenience for friends; fattened by medical prescriptions; squandered my promising youth; will the second coming do anything for me? My good looks have faded, my strong legs “caned”, my body seconded-handed, my good background broken, my keen learning irrelevant, my skills nearing expiry, my good intentions rendered unnecessary, my evils branded interesting, my laughter totally misunderstood;  do I need a second coming? My personal second comings seem many, mine may be “the eternal second coming”, is that possible? Personal second comings do not count, it’s for everyone simultaneously. Tears?

Why will I not be an Opintar? Am I alone? I cannot be but neither is my soul connected to other Opintars. There are sufficient numbers of Opintars all over but I cannot find them and if I cannot see them they have to be spooky guys. The second coming may have made me into a spook, no wonder I complain. O Achebe! O Yeats! why hath thou misled me so?

A schoolmate of mine who I had not been in contact with for 35 years recently reminded me I had translated into the Urhobo language the first four lines of “The Second Coming” when still in secondary school and totally buckled my aspiration towards a tidy life once again. I recited it;

Ojue rarie Ojue rarie je ojiji bie yara

Apipia gbise nyumi re oro se apiapia;

Ekhwakhwa she guogor ukherevie gbise yore;

Ozighi oboba she re’akpor tiena

The Second Coming and my realisation of its possibility have left me enagobasted and I have no hiding place and no corner of respite. I have to be an Opintar whatever comes or goes. Where else will I find freedom and safety? My ancestors have to show me a sign and others after that. Or grant me the freedom of a bird.

Grimot Nane

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