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The Writer as a Thinker: Charles Dickens Lives 200 Years On.


By: Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai  
 Published Published February 14th, 2012

It is a conviction that I have strongly held for a long time that those social humans, who think deeply and constantly reflect on the deeper things of life, live long and become anointed. People, who are granted the gift to communicate human intelligence to the human race, in whatever subject, are messengers of the Holy Breath. Those, who transmit wicked thoughts, are of the devil.

There are politicians, who never hesitate to recommend the military bombardment of other states under the pretext of “being tough”. They are the agents of satanic deities on earth, which feed on human blood.How much mayhem caused by the pronouncements of these spiritually misguided leaders, have we not witnessed in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, Grenada, Korea, Japan, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and now in Syria.

Whoever causes the sons and daughters of God to die prematurely is sentenced to everlasting hell fire. All writers, who are called as messengers must always defend the truth as they know it.
This is why writers through the ages have opposed despotism, knowing how resistance to despotic rule causes leaders to shed blood, when the people rise in self-defense.

The Almighty God, has, in his infinite wisdom, not dispensed the gift of high intelligence equally to all peoples. There are those, who walk, there are those, who run and there are those, who do not move at all.(Don Williams).
The first novel which I read was entitled, “Nickolas Nickelby”, which was later staged in my college, The Holy Family College, Abak in 1959. I read the “Pickwick Papers” (1836) but found them too advanced for my level of vocabulary, at the time.

I enjoyed “Oliver Twist” which “depicted the London underworld and satires the poor law.” The book had phases couched in legal parlance. His Martin Chuzzlewit, which he wrote in America, shows literary maturity. “A Tale of Two Cities” had a profound effect on me.

I parted ways with Dickens literary erudition, to face a life-long study of law, legality and the opposing acts of lawlessness, of which I am still a student. I have branched into social commentary, with a taste for international law and diplomacy.

I had a rare insight into Chinese politics and literature, during my stay at the University of Science and Technology, School of Law, Qingdao. The experience confirmed to me the universality of literature and the rigour, required of the writer as a thinker.

From the invention of writing, the Chinese have venerated the written word and have had very high regard for the writer. After my lecture on “Military Intelligence and International Law”, at Ibis Hotel, Qingdao in 2007, a Chinese writer Lee Cheng, invited me to see his literary collections. I was pleasantly surprised and amazed that he had all the Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo and Wole Soyinka novels.

How many Nigerians do? Some only read headlines in newspapers, look at the advertised portraits of smiling political leaders and other dignitaries, who smile broadly, even at funerals.
The characteristic style of Chinese literary genius has been preserved as a result of insistence on purity of thought, relevance and romantic erudition.

The five classics edited by Confucius remained relevant because of their philosophical and didactic qualities. In the Hans dynasty, moralist writers propagated civic ethics that shaped the Chinese love for humility and patience as well as patriotism and the power of shame.

The American writers of the 17th century focused their literary skills on how to combat British colonial rule. Madison, Hamilton, Lincoln, Jefferson and others were prominent in this regard.

Our Dr Namndi Azikiwe imbibed their literary styles, which he deployed effectively in his political writings. His “My Odyssey,” is clear evidence of his literary adaptations of the strokes of American writers.

Russian literature is rich and very much alive.Ostrovsky, Dobrolubov, Boris Leonidovich Pasternak. His “Dr Zhivago” earned him the Nobel Prize, he could not collect. Also, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “ Cancer Ward” and “ A Day in the life of Ivan Denison,” also gave him the Nobel prize. Governments fear powerful writers and often seek to isolate them.

Writers have razor-sharp minds and the gift to boldly express dissent. They can stir the soul and can challenge authority as a result of their superior intellect.

Thinkers are creative, innovative and reject mundane allotments to buy them over or silence them.

French thinkers portray the excellence of human thought in vivid verses and poetic forms. The refinement in their writings and at times the vulgarity of some avangardists, present a pot pouri of sorts.

H. de Balzac criticized the materialistic tendencies of the French bourgeoisie and remarked that “Any where you see wealth; there is always an element of crime”. This is very true in Nigeria, where inexplicable wealth grows steadily as eye sores, possessed by paupers of yesterday in political power, who, very strangely shamelessly condemn corruption in every fora.

Marie Henri Beyle, who called himself STENDAL, always insisted that for a story to be illuminating, it must preserve the core elements of its theme.
This is perhaps why the Nigerian politician has no moments for truth, nor moments for contemplation, as he spews out promises, he knows he cannot implement. He recruits over-used hands as decoy, in committees, whose reports end up in the wilderness.

The politician is not always a worthy representative of the truth and is hardly a thinker. There lies the tragedy of the human race. The poorly endowed, but materially enhanced rule over their superiors. But, who cares? They eventually end up in tatters. See what has happened to Hosni Mubarak and the upstart in the Maldives, who overstepped his commission.

The real thinker finds parroting political theories and idealistic inanities too mundane for his peace and so stays aside to watch the political game as theatre.
It is common occurrence that when revolutions overthrow political leaders or when they face occasional degradation, the writer is short of sympathy for those greedy people, who insist on receiving maximum wages, while haggling to pay and grudgingly dole out minimum wages to the more productive sectors of the economy.

Writers, as the messengers of the Holy Breath, must not abandon their noble call to defend the indefensible in order to be seen in the corridors of power. “ A master does not stress himself for the sake of reputation or fame. These are worthless baubles of the day. They rise and fall like empty bottles on the stream. They are indices to what the thoughtless think. They are the noise that people make. Shallow men judge merit by the sound”. Master souls pave their ways to paradise.

The writer is acclaimed by history that is why two hundred years later, Charles Dickens is being celebrated. We can hardly remember those pot-bellied rich Englishmen, who profited from British colonial exploitation of other nations.

It is often said that the pen is mightier than the sword. The pen also has been honoured by time. What is written is written and it is for the whole world to see.
The writers’ thoughts have shaped the destiny of the human race and continue to do so. The writer is a thinker, who purifies human thought. Through his critical observations, the less endowed do learn.

Writers like William Shakespeare, Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Milton presented to the world, the beauty of the English language that has assisted the communication of thought through the ages.

The conscripted social commentator may not be blamed too much. After all, he lives in a society, where he sees the mediocre thrive, the corrupt getting off with their loot, while the dead-woods get recycled to advantage. If he is convinced that he is on a redemption mission, it is all well and good. After all, “finis coronat opus.”

The thinker is usually rewarded with titles. He could become a Nobel Laureate, a professor, a doctor in a field of specialization.
It is a matter of concern that some, if not all universities in Nigeria, have bastardised and lowered the distinction that is reserved for thinkers of note, to societal under-achievers by recklessly and uncautionably awarding “doctorate degrees, honoris causa”, for questionable achievements and causes that have no bearing on excellence.

Those dull heads, which were playing truancy, during their school, college and university days, now wear academic borrowed robes, parading themselves as Doctors!!!

Recently, the Ministry of Education was constrained to warn Nigerian University Vice Chancellors to desist from the nefarious practice of conferring unearned honour on all sorts of people.

Some senior citizens, who should know better, tag “Doctor” after their names, without adding “honoris causa.” I know a senior citizen, who attended the University of Ibadan and another, who attended Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, calling themselves Doctors, in circumstances of shameless and immaculate deceit!!!.One Nigerian politician was awarded a Doctor Honoris causa, by a University that was barely one year old!!! Foreign nationals in our mist laugh at these anomalies. A well-earned honoris causa is in order.

By the way, as a law student, I know that criminal impersonation carries a well-deserved prison term. To wear a false title is a criminal act.

As a contribution to the fight against corruption, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, a Harvard- trained jurist, raised this issue some years ago. I am putting it back on the front-burner again.

May I use this medium to mourn the death of a friend and compatriot, Dr. Mathew T. Mbu, a seasoned diplomat and patriot.Dr M.T. Mbu, struggled for ten years, in spite of his very busy schedule, to earn a Doctorate degree in International Law, from the University of London. I read through the dissertation.

He was the Chairman of my book presentation in 1994, at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs entitled, “Human Rights in International Law,” in the worthy company of the late T,O,S Benson. May their souls rest in perfect peace.

During the Nigerian Diplomatic Conference, in Abuja in 2011, Mbu and I discussed the prospects of my writing his biography. I hope I can still do.

Another worthy example of academic diligence is that of Governor Dede Mbakwe, who studiously bagged his doctorate degree in his ripe old age. Why can’t you go for the real thing instead of wearing “borrowed robes”.(W.S)

Thinkers never die. They are always remembered, long after the thieving politician goes into political and societal oblivion.
Diligence makes people smart. Africans, including Nigerians, seem to rely on the diligence and intelligence of other races. Their politicians do little to advance the race. They dehumanize their fellow compatriots, through internecine political struggles that confer otiose materialism on them and their families.

They avoid the thinker and those, who speak the truth. As a result, the Republic’s power base is filled with known offenders, but who are untouchables.

A study of Nigerian heredity and variation assists in understanding the incorrigible nature of those, who can commit mindless violence on their compatriots.

I subscribe to the adage,” That those, who live by the sword, will perish by the sword.” The God of all Creation will never abandon all those, who worship Him to the vagaries of the machinations of the agents of the anti-christ.

Professor Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai is the Academic Chancellor, BOSAS INTERNATIONAL LAW, Bureau, Fugar .


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