Friday, April 27, 2012
Nigerian Politics and "Civil Peace"
by Colin Gibson
To fully understand “Civil Peace” the reader will need a general idea about what is going on in Nigerian politics at this time. Nigeria during the time “Civil Peace” takes place had just reclaimed Biafra in 1970 after it broke away in 1967. Michael Gould’s book The Struggle for Modern Nigeria: The Biafran War 1967 – 1970 tell us the lengths to which Nigeria went to reclaim Biafra. According to Gould, “International journalism, describing life in Biafra and giving snap shot pictures of malnutrition, starvation, genocide, and indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians by Federal Government aircrafts”(139). Achebe, supporter of an independent Biafra, acted as an ambassador for Biafra until it was retaken. After it was retaken Achebe was involved in political parties but soon stopped after he realized the corruption in Nigeria’s government. This corruption is evident in Hadger’s book Nigeria: After the Nightmare. As said by Hadger, “1966 – 1999 were the years when Nigerian state was being abolished by her elite who were consumed by unenlightened self – interest. This tiny group of politicians and military collaborators joined hands to squander Nigeria’s wealth and opportunities “(7). After the Civil War Nigeria was primarily a military government with its main goal of keeping the nation together by any means necessary. As a result of this laws were passed mandating that political parties couldn’t be ethnically or tribally based. Lgbos, Achebe’s ethnicity and primary ethnicity of the region formerly known as Biafra, faced many hardships after reuniting with Nigeria. Lgbos’ political positions were reassigned on the bases that they “abandoned their office.” This same principle was used when Lgbos had their property was taken over by anyone who found it. Because of the unfair treatment of the Lgbos after the civil war tensions grew between tribes which resulted in small scale conflicts between the tribes. Achebe’s wish for a better Nigeria was only strengthened by the fact that he lived there and understood how corrupt their government is.
Achebe used his feelings and life experiences to create the short story “Civil Peace.” This story takes place in 1971 right after Biafra has rejoined Nigeria. The main character Jonathan is a husband and a father of three (one died in the civil war) who works extremely hard along with his family to provide a good living from themselves. Achebe used his own knowledge of Nigeria to create a character that could relate to the hard working life style most Nigerians had to go through preceding the civil war. Jonathan represents that common man in this story; everyone at that time had some type of problem living whether it is lack of food, no shelter, or no money due to the destruction of the civil war. Jonathan and his family faced turmoil like everyone else when thieves came to his house demanding money or else resulting in violence. Jonathan used his head and only gave the thieves a fraction of what they originally demanded; this is an occasion where we can see Achebe putting some of himself into the story by giving Jonathan intelligence, a quality that not everyone had. Most people would not have handled that situation so calmly but Jonathan did and was rewarded by not losing all one hundred pounds. We finally see that Jonathan constantly using the phrase “Nothing puzzles God” this phrase is another indication of Jonathan representing the common man. In times of great peril people commonly turn to faith to see them through; that is what Jonathan is doing, by believing that God has a plan for everything Jonathan doesn’t despair why bad things happen only that God will sort everything out in the end and make everything as it should be.
I believe Achebe’s intent on writing this was to bring to the attention of the reader the horror and extreme suppression of the Nigerian people under its government. With enough support Achebe hopes to one day liberate Nigeria from its current government and shape it into a government of the people. After reading this blog has your perception changed about the story? Would you be willing to help Nigeria knowing what you know now?
Hagher, Iyorwuese H. Nigeria: After the Nightmare. Lanham, MD: University of America, 2011. Print