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” of 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 on 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 peoples’ 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. There are those who
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 the one advice for you: Be careful. It is in 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 crowd 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 original 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 to Sam
Omatseye, the globally hailed Chinua Achebe was never a writer of note
and so was totally unworthy of the adulations that the world has
poured out, and is still pouring out, on him. In fact, 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 I. 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
labelling 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 on
the Africans in his novel 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 due to the fact that 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’ 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 their 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 a 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 story teller, so was my
grandmother. Turning from a raconteur to an art of sublimity and depth
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

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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