Connect with us


Samson Edema And The Quest For A “New Dawn”



Tales Of Many Woes By Sunny Awhefeada

By Sunny Awhefeada

The literature curriculum that my generation of undergraduates was taught at the University of Benin, it was the same in other Nigerian universities then, was a hybrid of English and African oeuvres. There were occasional attempts at studying European Literatures in Translation, but the bulk of what we studied was English and African Literatures. One of the courses that left a lasting impact in our impressionable minds was “Twentieth Century British Literature” which in some other curricular was dubbed “Modernist Literature” or “Modern Literature”. The course, never mind the nomenclature ascribed to it, was anchored on philosophy, psychology and social history. The world that literature depicted spanned from around 1901 to 1950. The incident that ushered in that world was the death of Queen Victoria, the monarch who ruled the waves for about seventy years, in 1901. From thence, the world grappled with two world wars, the 1912 sinking of the Titanic which recorded the world’s highest casualties in any form of disaster before then, the Influenza in 1918, the global economic recession of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Hydrogen bomb in 1945, etc. The frightening incidents shook humanity and the shroud of disillusionment conditioned by fear and uncertainty hung over the world.

A major consequence of the foregoing was a “basic shift” which substituted religion with philosophy and psychology in humanity’s attempt at coming to terms with the overwhelming crises of that era. T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, among other writers of that period authored works which frame a world in unprecedented turmoil, agony and hopelessness. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” became the literary touchstone of the leit motif of the literary representation of that era. Confronted with chaos, destruction and hopelessness, the characters embark on a quest for a new order. My teacher at the University of Ibadan, Professor Sam Asein, brilliantly summed up the ethos of the literary manifestation of the period in the following memorable words: “…the underlying anxiety in these works has been to resolve the crisis of a soul in search of meaning and new value systems, be they religious, social, ethical or aesthetic”. So central is Asein’s thesis to the understanding of the literature in question that I have had to recommend this essay to colleagues and students again and again.

The first title of the present essay was “Samson Edema and the Search of Meaning” with the last three words lifted from Asein’s article. A second thought made me settle for the present title which I lifted from the Facebook post of Samson Edema, my former student turned friend! Samson Edema was my student for four sessions at the Delta State University, (DELSU), Abraka. In his class were the likes of Obaro Jonathan, Oge Igbekea, Andy Nwokolo, Ernest Agbonzegbe, Johnson Oruese, Dede Jolomi, Emmanuel Oboli, Paul Dorume, Dike Akassa, Joy Sefia, Affiong Ndemita, Edesiri Agbaghe, Gabriel Sanudje, Jacob Benatti, and other starry eyed young minds that passed through DELSU’s famous Department of English and Literary Studies. If I remember clearly, it was their class that broke the jinx of acute paucity of Second Class Upper Division graduates per session in the department. Four or five of them graduated with Second Class Upper division and the students in the lower levels saw that it was possible to graduate with that coveted class.

Samson was not just the “Class Rep”, a kind of liaison between the students and lecturers, but he was a brilliant student who also tried his hands at creative writing. Together with his friend, Obaro Jonathan, now a subaltern don at DELSU, Samson demonstrated a commendable flair and commitment to scholarship. He read widely and could ask questions that rattled teachers. He spoke “Big English” too to reflect his status as an English undergraduate. Once he visited my family in company of Obaro, my wife had to become a spectator thrilled by the grandiloquent conversation between both friends. It remains an episode my wife remembers till this day. In their class, like all the other classes I have taught in DELSU and elsewhere, there were many brilliant and promising students who worked hard and dreamt of a great future for themselves in Nigeria. Although, Nigeria was already a “wasteland” then, it was not yet the darkness that it is now. Then it was dusk and their generation thought that the country would evolve into night and then dawn. So far, it has been too long a night without the faintest hint of dawn.

Samson Edema has gone in search of that dawn in another clime. When he called me about a month ago to say hello, he didn’t give a clue that he was “escaping” from Nigeria. However, his recent Facebook posts depicted him in settings that were not Nigeria. One of them has a telling caption “NEW DAWN” from which I derived the title of the present essay. After graduation from DELSU, Edema like every brilliant youngster went onto the University of Ibadan for postgraduate studies and in the process earned the prestigious Master of Arts degree in English. He returned to his base and taught in secondary schools. Despite his diligence, focus, cerebral prowess and the certificates to his name, Nigeria undervalued him. Instead of hope, Nigeria offered him hopelessness. Everywhere he turned, he was confronted by insecurity, hunger, disease, death, political brigandage and an acute sense of hopelessness. When he thought that hope was around the corner, what comes into sight would be more disillusionment. If Nigeria failed him, certainly he could find hope and meaning elsewhere. And elsewhere could be anywhere not just Europe and America. Elsewhere for Edema’s generation could be Sudan, Togo, Gambia or Benin Republic! Things are that bad for Nigeria that our young people just want to get away. Samson Edema “escaped” to the United Kingdom.

ALSO READ: Close To End Of Tenure, Obaseki Comes Up With 30-Year Development Plan For Edo

The foregoing is not just the story of Samson Edema. It is the experience of the generations of Nigerians under forty! They are fleeing the country in droves. The employed, underemployed and unemployed are leaving Nigeria in their numbers. I have lost count of the number of reference letters I have written for former students who are “fleeing” Nigeria just this year. I receive such requests every week. And I am assailed with the frightening impression that Nigeria’s future is “fleeing”. Growing up as a child we were shown people who went abroad to study and happily returned home after graduation. It is no longer the case. An overwhelming number of those leaving the country at the moment, many as they are, have said their farewell to Nigeria. Some will come for occasional visits, but they have taken up homes elsewhere where they find happiness, peace and fulfillment. Not too long ago, in a class of over two hundred students, less than forty said they will stay in Nigeria after graduation. The others have resolved to “japa” after graduation. They said they see no hope in Nigeria. When I told them about Olusegun Obasanjo’s pamphlet “I see Hope” they retorted “that one na im own”. What is now called the “Japa syndrome” has created an escape route for our young people. Our ancestors were taken to Europe and America forcefully and in chains, but today their descendants are of their own free will relocating to the same places in “search of meaning” and a “new dawn”!


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trending News