“I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere above,
Those that I fight, I do not hate; those that I guard I do not love,
My country is Kiltartan Cross, My countrymen Kilkartan poor,
No likely end could bring them loss; or leave them happier than before
No law nor duty bade me fight; No public men nor cheering crowd
A lonely impulse of delight drove to this tumult in the clouds
I balance all, brought all to mind; the years to come seemed waste of breath
A waste of breath the years behind; in balance with this life is death”.
This poem was written in 1918 at the time Ireland was fighting for its independence from Britain. You may remember that the Irish struggle started in the Easter of 1916. It was called ‘the Easter Rising’, and the same W.B. Yeats, rejoicing in the uprising, which he felt was overdue, described it as the birth of a “terrible beauty”. Yeats was a fervent Irish nationalist, even though he was of the Anglo-Irish Ascendency, a group who oppressed Irishmen. He, you may also remember, was the author of “The Second Coming”, a poem which contains the line: “Things fall apart”, which Chinua Achebe took as the title of his ground-breaking novel. I have used this poem “An Irish Airman foresees his death” in this article, because it explores the internal conflict in an individual, who on his own, decides to fight, not because of any conviction, ideology, or sense of duty; not even as a mercenary for money, but only for the sheer hilarity of the thing (”a lonely impulse of delight”). This lack of motive; this ambiguity; this irony; are conveyed in the couplet “Those that I fight I do not hate; those that I guard I do not love”. This fight is simply gratuitous; it will serve no useful purpose. However, his purposelessness mirrors his countrymen’s listlessness.
But the Airman ignores both Britain, and his country Ireland. If he thinks of any group at all, it is the poor people of his community. “My country is Kilkartan Cross; my countrymen Kilkartan poor”. Even then, he does not think his personal fate or that of his nation will be of any relevance to them. ”No likely end could bring them loss; or leave them happier than before”. The expression “likely end” can be interpreted in more ways than one. It can mean the Airman’s personal fate. It can mean the outcome of the war. It can mean both. Whatever it is, it will make no difference to his countrymen’s miserable existence. All forms of negative emotion war within him; his fatalism; his despair; but above all, his resignation. The poem infact opens on a note of resignation: “I know that I shall meet my fate…”
I will start from there. For Kilkartan Cross, read Akwa Ibom State. A truly momentous event took place in the history of Nigeria, in March 2015. But how relevant is that change to the humdrum lives of the people of Akwa Ibom State? Maybe it is too early to assess; but so far, there is no reason for optimism. The range of emotions tearing the Irish airman apart have been tearing apart the Akwa Ibom person for the last eight years, culminating in his final damnation which is resignation. When you resign, you cease to struggle and when you cease to struggle, you die; perhaps not physically, though that sometimes happens; but morally and, for a community, politically. Udom has recognized this. He has ironically spoken more truth than he intended, when he urged the people of Akwa Ibom to ‘Dakaada’. Mr. Emmanuel has implicitly admitted that it has been resignation all the way for the Akwa Ibom man; that his people have lost all hope and have hoisted the white flag.
I do not pretend to read Udom’s mind, but I think he knows, though he will not admit, that the PDP, also known as Godswill Akpabio, has during the last eight years, arrogantly and contemptuously crushed the Ibibio person. There is a bit of the Irish Airman in Udom Emmanuel; and that is ambiguity; loyalty to his country – Ireland, but sympathy to the Irish oppressors, (the British). Though Udom would love to see his Ibibio compatriots get up, he cannot sever the demonic umbilical cord that ties him to Akpabio, the very person that keeps the Ibibio man down. Udom must have read something about patriotism in his primary or early secondary school days: “Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said “this is my own native land…” Sir Walter Scott’s question can truly, but sadly be answered in the affirmative, with reference to the Ibibio politician. Yes, there exists such a man; there exist such men and women. Yes the souls of the so-called G22 politicians have been dead for the past 8 years, and I believe they are still dead. They still have residual sympathy for the Party. They cannot do otherwise, since they all bear the mark of ‘Godswill Akpabio’. Yes, the souls of Paul Ekpo, Sam Ikon, Uwem Ita Etuk, Onofiok Luke, Bassey Albert, and the Ibibio “royal fathers” have long been dead.
I believe though, that Udom’s soul is not dead. I believe that there are still stirrings of patriotism in him; otherwise he would not ask us to ‘Dakaada’. He s easily the most educated of the pack, and herein lies his tragedy. There are things he cannot professionally and intellectually accept. You cannot totally enslave an educated man. The intellect in him will rebel; though his body will lie limp and prostrate. By merely asking us to ‘Dakaada’, he concedes that we have been lying belly-up, under the weight of Akpabio. I would not like to be in Udom’s conflicting, rebellious, but totally-supine place. I have seen a bit of the ‘Irish Airman’ in him; those that he fights (i.e. his Ibibio people), he does not hate; those that he guards (the Annangs), he does not love. Or am I being too generous about Udom Emmanuel? How can he ask us to ‘wake up’ when he himself is perfectly asleep? How else should I explain a situation where he inherits his predecessor’s entire cabinet, (including his entire kin-folk, who have served for eight years already, like Enoidem, Aniekan Umana, and others)? Are there no other more suitable people? We also have a message for him: “Demme”
Bennet Frank Eshiett