Homage to the late poet; Kofi Owonor
Alexander K Opicho
In one Sunday Nation article, Professor Ali A Mazrui analyzed the inter-politicality of The Jaramogi Odinga family and The Kennedy family by arriving at a difference that the Odinga’s have curse of long life but the Kennedy’s have a curse of early death through violent and untimely mode of death .Mazrui made these analogies in reference to violent death of John F. Kennedy and the subsenguent Chappaquiddick bridge tragedy.Similarly,the salient difference between a European and American or a Japanese and African writer or African artist is that most of African writers die early in the mid of their lives through violent death but in contrast American and some European writers die peacefully and comfortably in their old age. Early and violent death is the dominant bane, fate and misfortune that now and then besmirch an African writer. This position is in recognition of a fact that my child-hood American popular literature writers in the name of Mario Puzzo author of the God Father and Robert Ludlum an author of several anti soviet spy series like; Borne dentity, Borne Ultimatum and Icarus Agenda plus very many others like The Matlock Paper had just to die recently in their late eighties. The most surprising of all is Phillip Roth whom I read at the age of twelve years while in my primary four. Now I am forty years and this year 2013 Phillip Roth is still alive and active to the American literary civilization that he has been touted by the Ladbrokes as a probable candidate for Nobel Prize in literature. But sadly enough on 22 September 2013 in Nairobi the black angel of early death has carried ahead its foul duty by claiming the life of Africa’s most honorable literary scholar Professor Kofi Owonor during the helter-skelter of Alshabab terrorist lynch of the upscale West Gate Mall in Nairobi.
Actually this essay is meant to be a deep felt homage to the late Kofi Owonor, Killed by Islamic terrorists in Nairobi. However, the essay also goes ahead to decry the violent and early deaths of several other African writers. The deaths which have almost turned Africa into a literary dwarf if not a continent of artistic bovarism. Kofi Owonor, who peacefully and honorably came to attend Story Moja Literary festival to be held in Nairobi, was violently shot by the Islamic fundamentalist terror group known as Al shabab. Whose gunmen lynched the Mall in which was Kofi Owonor and his son. The terrorist were sending out the Muslim catchword on which if one fails to respond then he was known not to be a non- Muslim on to which he is shot or held hostage for ransom.Fatefull enough, Kofi Owonor was not muslim.He was an elder, an Africanist, a scholar, a poet, a realist, a rationalist, a Christian, a religious non-fundamentalist and a literary liberalist. He could not respond with any tincture of religious irrationalism to the question of the terrorist. He was shot dead and his son injured. Too sad. This is actually the time when Christian positivism goes beyond rigidity of other religious affectations in its classic assertiveness that the devil kills the flesh but not the soul. And indeed it is true the devilish terrorist killed Owonor’s flesh but not his literary soul. They are such and similar situations that made Amilcar Cabral to observe in his Unity and Struggle, in a section on Homage to Kwameh Nkrumah to rationalize that the sky is too enormous to be covered by the palm of a sadist nor to be vilified by the spitting of the filthy ones; Truly, like Nkrumah, Kofi Owonor was the sky of African intellect never to be covered by the brute of the cannon from the parrel of a Muslim terrorist.
Kofi Owonor is not alone neither are we alone. You, my dear reader and I we are not in any historical nor literary solititude. In Africa God has blessed us with the opportunity of the dead relatives in the name of the living dead. We are not the first and the last to grief. Owonor is not the first and the last to dance with fate. Even Ali A. Mazrui in his literary expositions of 1974 otherwise published as the trial of Christopher Okigbo.A novella in which Mazrui cursed ideology as an open window into the moving vehicle that let in a very bad political accident to Nigeria in the name of Biafra war which claimed life of Christopher Okigbo at the Nzukka battle front. This was one other sad moment at which Africa lost its young literary talent through violent death.
Reading of African literary biographies in all perspectives will not miss to make you attest to this testimony. Both in situ and in diaspora.Admirable African American writers like Malcolm X, and Dr Luther King all died through violent death. Even if in the recent past, the Daughter of Malcolm X revealed to Sahara Reporters, Nigerian Daily, that Louis Farrakhan was behind the assassination of her father, wisdom of the time commands us to know that it was evil politics of that time that made Malcolm X to die the way international politics of today in relation to crookedness which was entertained during the formation of the state of Israel that have made the son of Africa professor Kofi Owonor to die.
An in-depth analysis into the life and times of African writers and artists will show that the number of African cultural masters who die violently is more than the number of those who died normally in their old age. Some bit of listology will show help to adduce the pertinent facts; Patrice Lumumba, Steve Biko, Lucky Dube, Walter Rodney, Tom Mboya, J M Kariuki, Che que Vara, Ken Saro Wiwa, Anjella Chibalonza, and Jacob Luseno all but died through violent death. Lumumba died in a plane crash along with Darg Hammarskjöld only after penning some socialism guidelines. After writing I write what I want, a manifesto for black consciousness Steve Biko was arrested and tortured in the police cells during those days of apartheid in south Africa.Biko died violently while undergoing torture in police cells. Lucky Dube was fatefully shot by a confused ****. Walter Rodney who was persuaded by his student who is now the professor Isa Shivji at Dare salaam University not to go back to his country of Guyana, desisted this voice and went back only to be assassinated in the mid of the rabbles that domineered Guyanese politics those days of 1970’s. This happened when Rodney had written only two major books. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, being one of them. Tom Mboya was shot by a hired gunman in down-town Nairobi, some one kilometer away from the West Gate Mall, at which Kofi Owonor has been shot. Mboya could have written a lot. Even more than Rudyard Kipling and Quisling. But fate or bad luck had him violently die after he had only written two books; Challenges to Nationhood as well as Freedom and After. Both of them are classically nice reads until today. He had also submitted sessional paper no. 10 to the Kenya government which was a classical thesis on Africanization of scientific socialism.
J M Kariuki, Che and Saro Wiwa are all known for how they violently died. Powers that be and terrorists that be, expedited violent death against these writers. Thus, brothers and sisters in the literary community of Africa and the world as we mourn Kofi Owonor we must also let Africa to unite in spiritual effort to rebuke away the evil spirit that often perpetrate terror of violent death which especially claim away lives of African writers.
Ali A. Mazrui; Trial of Christopher Okigbo
Amilcar Cabral; Unity and Struggle