Some have described Ayi Kwei Armah as an alienated figure. Some have described some of his books as sick. Others say it is impregnable and woody. Yet, no one has questioned his intelligence. If there is any writer whose works are as important today as they were when they were published, if there be any writer whose words rang through in the fourteenth century and ring true in the twenty-first century; if there be such a writer then it definitely IS Ayi Kwei Armah. From The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born to The Healers - sticking to those I have read - the themes he speaks about still prevail.
Yesterday, we were told that French Forces have arrested Laurent Gbagbo and most Africans went gay just as the West went gay. To most Africans, the Devil has been caught by the forces. Note that France and the UN has tried dissociating themselves from the arrest though most news channels, including the initial report from the BBC, reported that this infamous arrest was led by the French Special Forces. There are some questions we would have to answer ourselves: Why was the world so quick to jump to conclusion that Ouattara has won the election when the results itself was contested? Why was the results announced in the same hotel that housed Ouattara and his rebels led by Soro? Could the electoral commissioner have been able to announce any other results apart from a win for Ouattara when he was in their hotel surrounded by their forces? Did the world jump in the Bush-Al-Gore disputed results and the 'problem of Florida' or did they quickly proclaim Al-Gore the winner of the results? Did Al-Gore announced himself the president after the court declared him the loser? Does the French Forces love the Ivorians so much as to spend all these money just to bring peace? What interest does France has in imposing a leader who himself has been accused by the Red Cross Society for atrocities against civilians, just like Gbagbo, on the people of Cote d'Ivoire? What do they stand to gain?
These are questions whose answers bring to mind Ayi Kwei Armah's novels Two Thousand Seasons and The Healers. The conditions that led to the slave trade and the rule of the colonialists in Africa still exist today. Today we still have the likes of Otumfur, Ababio, and Edusei who in search of cowries or morsels or crumbs to fill their paunches sing praises to flatter their kings; schemes to overthrow their leaders; kill to survive. We still have Koranche, that 'empty, strutting fool, suffered to strut this way only because of ... social conventions' and those types of Asante kings who 'succumb for fear of losing their positions'. The Invaders always rely on these individuals to front their course. Now the French have invaded Cote d'Ivoire and the president has been arrested. Let's ask 'is it possible for any African country to invade France when they realise they are having election irregularities?'
Ayi Kwei Armah in these two novels fittingly described these events. Armah talked about how some Africans became zombies and askaris fighting for the Destroyers and the Ostentatious Cripples. He talked of how these imposed chiefs were given 'clothes of colour so bright to fascinate children's eyes set in adult heads' so that they bowed to the wishes of the Destroyers. So that they handed over our lands to them. Again they have come in offering presidency (just as they offered kingship) to anyone who would help them access the resources of the land (just as they came for the land the people).
There are those who point accusing fingers at these at the Gbagbos and say 'if they had left there would not have been any problem'; 'the African is power drunk' and more. These individuals, mostly Africans, in their analyses ask these questions to justify foreign invasion. So I ask again, should similar problems arise in other Western countries, could we intervene with our military and uproot the sitting president and impose the one we feel can do the work? The problem in Cote d'Ivoire has just began. It would not end because Gbagbo has been arrested. It would not end because the French want a stooge president: one who would offer free access to resources and foreign reserve because they have refused to keep it in France as was agreed in colonial times, just before independence. And like in Armahs novels, these things are done with full complicity of Africans.
Yet, Armah offers hope. There are Healers like Damfo and Densu, those with knowledge about the path to The Way - Our Way - like Isanusi, the present day young Africans who see through Western tactics, who are working tirelessly to find the Way, to Heal the people. There are those watching and connecting the dots; for how is it understandable that one is deemed a socialist when one thinks about his people but another refers to this same 'thinking about his people' as patriotism? And Armah concedes that the Healing, the finding of the Way, would not take a day, a year or even a century to achieve. But the heart-warming issue is that it shall be achieved.
For those Otumfur, Edusei and Koranches of Africa, those who make statements such as 'Africans are this .. Africans are that...'; those who think that by aligning themselves with them they aren't Africans, know that the disgrace of the crocodile is the shame of the alligator, that when it affects the mouth it affects the nose. Except when they have magically de-melanised themselves, but until then whatever happens include you.
These happenings, these occurrences, these blatant disregard for the sovereignty of African states, is what Ayi Kwei Armah wrote about. He has shown that his thinking horizon is broader than most of these individuals who have spoken harshly against him.