POLITICAL SYMBOLISM AND CORRUPTION IN “BORN ON A TUESDAY” BY EL NATHAN JOHN AND “UNDER THE BROWN RUSTED ROOFS” BY ABIMBOLA ADUNNI ADELAKUN
Symbols are the artifacts or objectifications of this search for meaning; they are value and emotion laden. Symbols become part of the day-to-day realities we know so well that we are not conscious of their compulsions and demands. At the same time, these social constructs are subject to the constant pressure of changing experiences. A symbol is an object that represents, stands for or suggests an idea, belief, action, or material entity. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures or visual images and are used to convey ideas and beliefs. It’s also a sign, shape or object which is used to represent something else. Symbol is seen in every culture, religion and society. This makes symbol universally acceptable in the sense that it does not exist in one society and is absent in another. There are cultural and religious symbols. Cultural symbols are seen in language, traditional attire, and tribal marks and sacred objects of ancestral qualities (Oluwafumi, 2010).
Political symbolism assumes any political relationship, as well as the perception of the relationship, is a mixture of symbolic, instrumental, and rational aspects. Human beings have speech and are by nature symbol makers and symbol users. But humans and the symbols they use are shaped by the patterns of interaction among beliefs, values, persons, categories, groups, masses, elites, and government that prevails in the society in which they are located. Politics, especially power relations, are the raw material of the symbol making function. The life of every citizen is shaped by the actions of the state and the idea of the state. Governments raise taxes, declare war and make monetary policy that fuels inflation or leads to recession. In such cases, the import of government action is obvious, though interpretations of such actions may differ. In other instances, government can have a role in shaping perceptions, and the import of its action will be only dimly suspected. In either case, symbols function as vehicles of communication and the means to strengthen group cohesion. But if symbols are recognized as symbols, their use is perceived as manipulation and they may undermine group cohesion (Dittmer, 2016).
Nigeria’s political problems sprang from the carefree manner in which the British took over, administered, and abandoned the government and people of Nigeria. British administrators did not make an effort to weld the country together and unite the heterogeneous groups of people. Though, many things we have today is due to their enlightenment, they still left us hanging. According to Adewele Ademoyega in his book Why We Struck 1981, he said that when the British came, they forcibly rubber-stamped the political state of the ethnic groups of Nigeria, and maintained that status quo until the left. According to him upon their departure nearly a hundred years later, the people resumed fighting for their political rights. When the British came to Nigeria as an imperial nation to take over the rulership of the country from 1861 (with the cession of Lagos), they met the people of the south totally free, only observing and regulating their own monarchies and institutions (Adewele Ademoyega: Why We Struck). Chinua Achebe in his work or novel Things Fall Apart, 1994, tries to portray the life Africans lived before and during the arrival of the Europeans in Nigeria.
However, political corruption is the use of power by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality is considered political corruption. Most economic political and social problems in under developed societies like Nigeria emanate from corruption. Some of these problems include lack of accountability, diversion of public resources to private ownership, different types of discriminations, ethnicity, lack of competence and inefficiency etc. There are many causes of political corruption such as ineffective political processes, ineffective political financing, and poverty as well as ethnic and religious difference. A lot of secrecy still pervades government document and this underlies the need for the passage of the freedom of information bill presently before Nigeria’s National Assembly, also law public participation in Government to mention a few. The pervasive corrupt practices have been blamed on the colonial masters (Abakare, 2009). According to this view, the nation’s colonial history may have restricted any early influences in an ethical revolution. Throughout the colonial period most Nigerians were struck in Ignorance and poverty. The level of corruption raised serious alarm that attracted the concern of both Nigerians and international community which rated Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries. Although, the government embarked upon anti-corruption measures but they were not sincerely and properly implemented such that the expected objective and goal were not achieved. The problem was rather aggravated. Since then, corruption has continued to militate against national development (Dzurgba, 2012).
In Nigeria corruption is a problem that has to be rooted out.
Owusi (2002), however in his book, The Root Causes of Corruption in West Africa, was of the view that; Corruption is made up of opportunist manipulation or branches of existing laws and regulation for advantages. He emphasized that; our inordinate desire for wealth, power prestige and high status and its desirous consumption of scarce, expensive and prestigious import commodities is no doubt one of the roads to corruption in the society”. Over the years, the country has seen its wealth withered with little to show in living conditions of the average people. As with many other African nations, Nigeria was an artificial structure initiated by former colonial powers which had neglected to consider religious linguistic and ethnic differences. The causes of Nigeria Civil War were diverse although, in his memoir, journalist Alex Mitchell blames involvement of the British, Dutch, French and Italian oil companies whose battles for the rich Nigerian oil fields started the Civil War and kept it going.
Nigerian’s political problems also started from the manner in which the British took over power, administered and abandoned government and people of Nigeria. The British administrators did not make effort to weld the country together and unite the heterogenous group of people. Though many technologies we have today are due to their enlightenment (Owusu, 2002).
Northern leaders however, fear that independence would mean political and economic domination by the more westernized elites in the south, preferred the perpetuation of British rule. As a condition for accepting independence, they demanded that the country continue to be divided into three regions with the North having a clear majority. On January 15, 1966, major Kaduna Nzeogwu and other junior Army officers (mostly majors and captains) attempted a coup d’etat. It was generally speculated that the coup had been initiated by the Igbo and for their own primary benefit, because of the ethnicity of those that were killed. The two major political leaders of the North, the Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and the Premier of the Northern region, Sir Ahmadu Bello was executed by major Nzeogwu. Also murdered was Sir Ahmadu Bello’s wife The coup was not only generally carried out in the Northern region, it was most successful there. The fact that the officer, Lieutenant Connell. Arthur Umegbe was killed can be attributed to the more fact that the officers in charge of implementing Nzeogwu’s plans in the East were incompetent. The coup, also referred to as the coup of the five majors, has been described in some quarters as Nigeria’s only revolutionary coup. This was the first coup in the short life of Nigeria’s nascent democracy. Claims of electoral fraud was one of the reasons given by the coup plotters. This coup resulted in General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi, an Igbo and Head of the Nigerian Army, taking power as General becoming the first Military Head of State in Nigeria. By the late 1960s the literature of disillusionment was taking form as a reflection of the widespread violent conflict and political corruption which had began to take hold throughout African societies. Such conflicts inevitably threw the nationalist project into turnoil: how can one speak of a nation or even Pan-African identity when a national is at war with itself? In terms of the novel as genre, Gikandi states that in the mid-1960s the form and function of the novel changed almost overnight, moving the reader away from the sometimes celebratory and utopian tone of earlier novels to a grim critique of the narrative of cultural nationalism. This was a generation of writers who are consciously distancing themselves from the project of cultural nationalism (Faruk, 2012).
This interventionist reading of the contemporary problems regarding ethnic conflict in Africa is one that is shared by writers as diverse as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ngugi Wa Thion’o. Discussing Nigeria Adichie takes the view that the idea of the tribe has, its roots in colonialism as people did not consciously identify themselves as Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa until the involvement of the British. The British governed Nigeria indirectly through their traditional rulers, as a result the true leader of the masses were hamstrung and held down, just because Africans were given authority to rule over her own people. They saw it as means to maltreat those that have more than them and sell his or her brother and sister, mother to gain favour from the superior leaders. The British (Adewale Ademoyeya:why we Struck). These actions by the local and foreign leaders made the people to seek for independence. Many of them were not thinking straight anymore (Ekpo, 2015). Ekpo, further opined that the present leadership blame the colonial masters and fore runners of independence for their actions for not doing what is expected of them and also for the embezzlement and stealing of public fund. The political elicits in other to become rich and influential in the society, steal and blame it on the economy and leaders. No one takes responsibility for his own crime and actions. The politicians and military rulers blame one another for a bad government no one agrees that the other is better than himself.
Fukuyama, (2014) is of the opinion that, the question is not weather we should wage war against corruption or not, my quarrel is that the fight should be waged within the context of the constitution. Several opinions hold that Nigerian political and economic underdevelopment since independence has been as a result of pervasive corrupt practices in both private and public fields: Nepotism which means favouratism granted in politics or business to relatives regardless of merit. Bribery which is an act of giving money or gift giving that alters the behaviour of the recipient. Political Scandal is a kind of political corruption that is exposed and becomes a scandal, in which politicians or government officials are accused of engaging in various illegal, corrupt or unethical practices. Electoral Fraud is the illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result whether by increasing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both as well as embezzlement and abuse of office etc (Fukuyama, 2014). Nathamburi, (2009) saw corruption as receiving or offering of money or other advantages in return for contract, acquiring an opportunity, unqualified favor, pervasion of Justice, leading ahead of a queue and the likes. He saw corruption as poverty in juxtaposition to great wealth and luxury or crook in order to live big (Nathamburi, 2009).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Due to the political dictatorship and the high rate of starvation and poverty in the country, many of the people are suffering from problems caused by the many ways they are treated and controlled. Their manner of thinking have been blurred with the idea that if they steal or kill to survive, it is not a crime because their leader are also thieves who loot the national treasure and put is in their foreign accounts. Again these as symbols are perceived as manipulation and they may pollute the individuals’ minds for distrust and the agreement for a corrupt government. The key problem is the government. Because of the corrupt nature of the society, the government sells her pride and glory. The pains of poverty and starvation in abundant money have destroyed the people’s mind that they no longer think or reason straight.
1.3 Aim and Objectives
The general objective of this study is to examine the political symbolism and corruption in “born on a Tuesday” by Elnathan John and “under the brown rusted roofs” by Abimbola Adunni Adelakun
The specific objectives of this study are:
- To analyze the political symbolism and corruption in the selected novels
- To provide suggestion to the prevention of political symbolism and corruption and find a way to eliminate it completely from the society in general.
- Significance of the study
Political symbolism and corruption using “born on a Tuesday” by Elnathan John and “under the brown rusted roofs” by Abimbola Adunni Adelakun, will serve as a good material to student’s researchers. This work will show how the government and the citizens a helped in the corruption of the society and her environment and how the act of corruption has disordered everything.
1.5 Scope of Research
This project is restricted to the study of the Political symbolism and corruption using “born on a Tuesday” by Elnathan John and “under the brown rusted roofs” by Abimbola Adunni Adelakun and other relevant literary work of some other Nigerian and African prose writers and commentaries on corruption.
1.6 Research Methodology
The main source of this research work is textual analysis of Born on a Tuesday” by Elnathan John and “Under the brown rusted roofs” by Abimbola Adunni Adelakun. The secondary materials are from the library, texts, magazine and some works on African prose writers.