PRINCESS INIKPI AND CULTURE OF SACRIFICIAL LEADERSHIP
FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
Ahmed Yerima. Culture as a strategy of survival is both transnational and translational because contemporary postcolonial discourses are rooted in specific histories of cultural displacement…. Culture is translational because such spatial histories of displacement -now- make the question of how culture signifies, or what is signified by culture, a rather complex issue. (Bhabha 2002:172)
Inikpi was an Igala princess who was sacrificed to secure the victory of her father‟s army in a war against the Igala people. Her bravery of self- sacrifice, loyalty, dedication and love become the embodiment of Inikpi as a person, who has since been deified as a goddess? To raise the issue of belief and spiritual dedication further, even the true story has been retold severally with so much mystery until it became elevated within the sociotraditional consciousness of the Igala people to that of a sacred myth. In modern times, Inikpi‟s singular action has been expounded to illuminate, include and portray the symbol and metaphor of Igala unity and what is now referred to as the “Igala-nation courage”.
The power of myth remains irrevocable. Usually, they are simple, unexplainable stories laced with a great sense of belief without an ounce of doubt about its logic, and almost to a great extent and sense, woven and retold until it becomes acceptable as undisputable, unquestionable and indefatigable fact. Myths within most African society, become symbols and tools for communal unity, answers to questions of origins, regenerations, and foundations for future socio-cultural and to an extent, technological development. For me, two major aspects make the Inipki story, history or myth unique. First, it has to do with the gender element.
Inipki was not a brave, strong, “Goliath” figure of strength, instead, she was a young girl. No mention is made of her age, but she must have been a frail innocent developing girl. The second aspect of uniqueness is that she was not interested in the normal sense of selfish interest to discover life and live it to the fullest as girls her age would. Endowed with the grace and knowledge of the serious aspect of governance and bravery, she willing gives her life as sacrifice for the pride of her father‟s victory and the safety and oneness of the Igala people for generations to come. It is to celebrate the singular act of this young girl that we are here today. Where her action has become a clarion call in a twenty first century Igala-land and indeed Nigeria where the trails and travails of development still possess the same ingredients, the same issues that forced Inipki to make her personal selfsacrifice decision so long ago. Her shrine today still treated with much reverence, remains a unifying spot for the Igala people who constantly pay respects to the sacredness of her persona.
From the Attah of Igala- the royal father, to the other indigenes of Igala, Inipki has remained a symbol that breaks the barriers of ethnicity, tribal groupings and even family segregations. Maybe this is why the organizers of this occasion have coined the two words “Igala Arise” to reverberate the spiritual essence of their campaign for Igala history, development and unity. Inikpi‟s incident is one that makes good materials for ritual tragedy and ritual drama. Two Igala playwrights, Emmy Unuja Idegu and Nath McAbraham-Inajoh have already written two plays, which documented the ritual process of Inikpi‟s tragedy.
They have in the two plays titled; The Legendary Inikpi, and Inipki: The Warrior Princess deify the young innocent girl who gave up her life so that her father‟s warriors will win a war. The two plays become interpretations of the metaphoric essence and they both expand the thematic meaning of the myth. The plays also explore the performative elements of a closed communal story, its vibrancy as a myth and its ability to entertain the would be audience while at the same time try to cement what appears to be fragmented sad communal human experiences into a spiritual wholeness which can be used to affect, effect and appeal to the consciousness of the Igala people of now and of future generations. The sacredness of the Inikpi ritual has led to an annual Inikpi festival and worship which the Attah the royal father of the Igala people leads. In my research for a play of mine, Ameh Oboni the Great, I recall with sadness that one of the crimes of the then Attah Oboni was that he shed blood while leading his people in “pagan worship” such as the worship of Inikpi.
The decision to dethrone him by the colonial rulers was based on this but ironically this clash of cultures, native Igala culture and the colonial British culture reinforced the determination of the Attah to remain resolute even in the face of the trials and tribulation against his reign at the time, further inspired him to once again walk the path of selfless heroes which resulted to Ameh Oboni‟s action of the “willed death of self-sacrifice” rather than shame his people and face dethronement. Thus is the awesome power of the mystery of Inipki on the Igala people. This also means that culture goes beyond stories, it goes beyond every aspect of man‟s life. Culture can be seen as the history and essence of the being of a people. It is totality and identity of a people. It also guides these people to face the challenges of existence. The Inikpi myth subjected to different interpretations lives. Like the Igala people, it is organic passing through amendments not in content, but in the very relevance of it.
This is my preoccupation in this paper. Now to examine the second part of my discourse one must examine the very nature of Inikpi‟s tragedy as one of symbolic transactions which exchanges the innocence of a young girl‟s sacrifice for a death of honour and glory. Her blood when shed for selfish reason by the warriors of her father, raises her to the position of a goddess. The victory of the Igala people endows her with an archetypal image – her action – the very one in which she welcomes death as an assignment, turns her into an anthropomorphic deity for generations to come. Hers becomes the death of the willing protagonist. The type which Wole Soyinka knows so well. In his plays;The Strong Breed and Death and the King’s Horseman, Soyinka re-emphasizes his theory of tragedy. It is one like the Inikpi myth of self-sacrifice in order to save, rescue, reclaim a society from imminent destruction.
It is one where the protagonist willing like Inikpi gives up his life in order to save a dying, corrupt ill-fated society. When placed against socio-political reality within contemporary society, the modern hero or sacrificial protagonist unlike Inkpi fails woefully. This may be because there are few committed heroes who really are committed to the cause of society or secondly, a love, and lust for life and living to a point where no one really wants to die or give up his life willingly anymore. Interestingly Soyinka‟s hero in his play, Death And The King’s Horseman , Elesin Oba is one of such reluctant hero gods, who hesitates because of his love for life to die with the King which is an honourable task for his society which he was born and groomed to fulfill. His hesitation leads him to a shameful, disgraceful, “left over eating” of the crumbs of the late King after his death.
The signification of culture which Homi Bhabha refers to in the opening quote therefore reflects through a physical and symbolic means a process of movement of culture, what Bhabha calls “displacement” of culture, one owned by the natives, the other, the one brought by the domineering Western colonial masters which displaces the original culture which develops into a slow hegemonic process that leads invariably into an emergence of the new culture or the hybrid culture. In order to face the process of development, man must interpret his myths, his histories, his culture, his essence and sensibility within the demands of new his realities. This is my understanding of development. Inikpi‟s story must become questioned and tested against new political and diplomatic realities in order for the Igala people, indeed Nigerian people to find meaning to their togetherness. In his essay titled, The Myth of Development: A Critique of Eurocentric Discourse, Vincent Tucker notes that: „Development‟ is not a natural process, although it has been accorded such a status in the mythology of Western beliefs….Development is not a transcultural concept that can claim universal validity. (Rist 1990:12) It is specifically a Western myth and many languages have no equivalent. Such myths shared beliefs play an important role in mobilizing energies for social reproduction and in legitimizing the actions of the believers. (Tucker 1999:1) No wonder, the word “development” has remained distorted and misunderstood in Nigeria and maybe in Africa.
One can then understand Mua‟zu Babangida Aliyu‟s cynicism when he says that: The then Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa articulated A 6-year development plan (1962- 1968). Despite the attractiveness of the regional economy, it was realized that there was need for the formulation of common objectives and economic targets….Now what we have are slogans; like NEEDS, SEEDS, Vision 20:2020, 7-point agenda, transformation agenda and many more without actual development plan that will show us the target. (Aliyu Banbagida 2013:17) Babangida refers here to the insincerity, and corrupt minds of the new leaders which Nigeria presently has and thus questions the future of such a country‟s national development – a sad metaphor of Nigeria‟s reality.
One must note that what the process of development has done is to question the issues of “belief” and “acceptance” Development means a closer critical look at the logic of reality. Both the society and the hero are more suspect of each other. They measure how much selfless commitment should be involved in giving to society, especially something as precious as “life”. Yet unlike Inikpi, the modern man has started to ask questions about himself. “How much of me should I give to society? What do I stand to gain? Who will take care of my wife and children if I give my life to the society? Socio-political development issues have also changed and reduced the common sense in finding the type of solutions, which Inikpi and her people applied to resolve their war to arrive at a sacred victory. National development when wrongly approached in modern society, is often sadly challenged by the issues of human existence and human experience such as corruption in government, bad leadership, insurgency groups who have no respect for life, religious campaigns, historical territorial domination wars, and social and health welfare. These issues need diplomatic or practical and pragmatic socio-political solutions. Myths are dead here. Old deities like Inikpi may become mere celebrative hero-gods and goddesses which development may force society to lay to rest. Soyinka again helps me with this apt quote when he says that: When gods die – that is fall to pieces – the carver is summoned and a new god comes to life. The old is discarded left to rot in the bush and be eaten by termites. The new is invested with the powers of the old and may acquire new powers. (Soyinka 2005: 86) Sadly good political leaders are not carved wood that can be easily discarded with and replaced with better ones. They have these uncanny greedy appetite of wanting to remain in power forever at the detriment of the well being of their people. Interestingly President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana attempted the Soyinka theory of discarding leaders once. In a second coup which brought him back to power, he lined up all the bad earlier Presidents of Ghana and shot them. Ironically, even that blood bath has not wiped away corrupt leadership in Ghana or Africa, to date. In Nigeria, we have even had individual heroes like Inikpi such as Tai Solarin, Bala Usman, Dele Giwa, Gani Fawehimi, Ken Sarowiwa, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Beko Ransome Kuti, Hajia Gambo Sawaba to name but a few, who have dared to follow in the way of Inikpi, but sadly even then realized the complexities of the issues of being a hero in a society that paid little attention to their causes. Seen largely as nuisances seeking attention by the same society they strove to serve, their end have not been as glorious as expected of persons who gave their lives for the progress and development of their country. Instead, they have remained mourned by a few communal gatherings, reduced to their immediate environment, whose number gradually erode with time, and where generations continue to ask questions as they can not even make sense of the struggles the late heroes fought for when placed within their own contemporary realities. Sad. One must quickly add that Nigerians had given a chance to early leaders who led Nigeria against colonial occupation to step into the shoes of the gods. These heroes were Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello etc. But after independence in 1960, these great leaders became tribal and ethnic leaders. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria‟s first President, who because of his intellectual and ideological astuteness had been fondly referred to as “Zik of Africa”, became “Zik of Nigeria” and by the time of his death, he had been reduced in to the “Owelle of Onitsha”. Amazed at the changes of the human persona when he attains political office, Nigerians have remained very critical of the intentions of their leaders. Ironically the Civil War, which was fought to keep Nigeria as a unified national entity, destroyed the very essence of Nigeria‟s togetherness. Ethnicity, nepotism and tribalism, the very reasons why the war was fought, became the very root of Nigeria‟s regional and ethnic divisional reality and cultural diversity. The politics of cultural pluralism further divided even people from the same tribe. And culture as an integrative tool, failed. The idea of traditional heroes like Inikpi „died‟ as they became stories of old glorification of ancient societies. Even the Nigerian populace had become too disillusioned to search for new leaders. In a play of mine, Kaffir’s Last Game, a two-character play; Mbulelo a South African ex-student now a big man in ANC and Professor his teacher when he was in Nigeria as a refugee student, meet at the Airport in South Africa where Professor had decided to take a teaching job since he could not survive in Nigeria due to the hardship of academicians. While discussing the new political life in South Africa and the problem with Nigeria, Mbulelo evoking the memories of their great heroes both living and dead to the amazement of Professor asks a bewildered Professor the following questions: MBULELO: Sir, what do you do with your heroes? PROFESSOR: Heroes? We bury them. MBULELO: So you do not use them while they are alive? PROFESSOR: No. They only become heroes when they are dead. When they become inactive, silent and very dead… MBULELO: Our heroes never die. We sing songs for them as if they are standing before us…. (Yerima, Kafir‟s 1997: 36) The March 2015 elections has further highlighted the destruction of the belief in our heroes, even the living ones, the lack of respect for cultural values, and the absence of simple respect for the individuality of every citizen as the political class packed themselves to the “bush to rot and to be eaten by termites”. What kind of socio-political legacy are we handing down to our children? I dare to ask. In a discourse of national development in Africa and the Diaspora, Ziaddin Sardar has said that: ….the problem of development, is thus the problem of knowledge. It is a problem of discovering other ways of knowing, being and doing. It is a problem of how to be human in ways other than those of Europe. It is also a problem of how the West could liberate its true self from the colonial history and moorings. (Munck & O‟Hearn 1999: 60) So once again the key to charting a solution to the problems of national development in African societies as suggested by Sardar is in our hands. If African leaders are to take part in the development processes, they must first realize that them and their countries are starting from a disadvantaged position. Because as Vinay Lal (1977) notes, “indeed the developed world are living the tomorrow of the developing world”. They therefore must create sustainable infrastructure, which will empower them fight, the labels of “inferiority”, “under-dogs” “inadequacy” and “never do wells” which are often used to describe the developing countries. I shall therefore dare to make some recommendations: a. Formulation of good and progressive policies where interest of citizens, welfare, and future is paramount. b. Creating support systems which will provide social, cultural, educational, technological and information support which will enable the country partake in the new globalized communal realities. c. Create a stable and peaceful political environment by nipping matters of national security in the bud, before they escalate into mass deaths for innocent citizens. d. Create and sustain good economic environment. Where the country partakes in international trade and import and export become the center of development activities. Ironically even when the leaders are sometimes good, negative party affiliations, and negative control, supervision by corrupt Ministers and incompetent civil servant administrators can also further derail good governance, and thus affect good development policies for a country. But only when sustainable infrastructures are put in place is when a developing country prepared for modernity. This is because Africa must be prepared for the further challenges of modernity. Another phase of development which is again dictated by the Western world. A bar which African countries continue to find unattainable because their leaders and their notion of leadership are alien to the very Western theories and concepts which set up the bar in the first place. Wittrock explains modernity thus: Modernity may be understood as culturally constructed and institutionally entrenched. Promissory notes may serve as generalized reference points in debates and political confrontations. However, these generalized reference points not only become focal points in ideational confrontations; they also provide structuring principle behind the formation of new institutions. (Wittrock 2000:38) The formation of new institutions, which Wittrock mentions, has to do with development institutions as mentioned above, which prepare a people and their country for a modern and dynamic world. I will like to end this paper with a quote from Franz Fanon when he says: The atmosphere of myth and magic frightens me and so takes me to an undoubted reality. By terrifying me it integrates me into the traditions and the history of my district or of my tribe and at the same time it reassures me. (Fanon as cited in Soyinka, 1988: 101) Soyinka says that taking Fanon‟s comment above within its context, is both “metaphysical and socio-political” especially as it concerns a “full richness of experiencing, that instant fusion of a psychic materialist and political consciousness” of a poet – This is why I am tempted to further explain Fanon‟s comment within the context of this discourse to man‟s experience of birth, growth and development and his relationship with the socio-political realties of his immediatesociety as a whole. To me, Fanon‟s fear is mixed with the joy of an identification of a belonging, a claim to a cultural identity of placement, and of existence which is sharply contrasted by an unknown future in a world where development of any African country as a global entity is entrapped by the dictates of the Western world which renders myths, no matter how glorious, questionable and sometimes, useless. And so the heroic magical myth of Inipki while reassuring the Igala people of a past, rich in history and a unique people or by extension, Nigerians, leaves one gaping at a void, the sense of emptiness in our search for good, dedicated heroic leaders in our present Nigerian polity. I shudder then to ask, “can myths assure one of a future development for any people?” The propensity of the illusion and the vision as refracted by the myth of any people can only form a reality if the people strive towards its actualization. This means that even though the Igala people live within a tragic world of Inikpi‟s heroic action because they believe in the “interflux and almost equal partnership or collaboration between the living and the world of their ancestor”. (Soyinka /Beier 1993:22) They must as in the words of Warren Bennis realize also that, “Leadership is the ability to translate vision into reality”. Any leader without a vision will find it difficult to lead. He will not be able to translate his electoral promises into reality, or be prepared to sacrifice himself so that his country will be happy. Such a person is not a good leader. And any leader who cannot lead his people towards the challenges of development is not fit to be a leader. This is because the challenges of development in the twenty first century go beyond the victory of an intertribal war no matter the “human self sacrifice” concerned. These days we live in a world where the comprehension of human action is fraught with complexities. In Nigeria alone, with so much insurgencies going on, hundreds of lives are sacrificed without the sacrificial lambs knowing the reason why they were made to die in the first place. Sometimes those who take such lives do not even have any logical reason for their action. Yet, it is clear that the world of the living and that of the ancestors by whatever African societies cannot live without the other. For now, the Igala people, use the essence of the tragic action of the Inikpi myth to form their communal cultural persona, while the other, the tragic heroine Inkpi, lives as the communal bond which keeps the people culturally as an entity. Both the Igala and the wider Nigerian people from their action of the recent 2015 elections, have started a process of destroying the old myths, they have become more critical of their socio-political realities, and have started a process of explication of subjecting the role of their leaders to critical thought, and this has built a new consciousness where they have realized that the future of their country is in their hands, not in the self blown ego of bad and corrupt leaders. This is a good sign for sociocultural and political development which has equity and justice for a nation. So in conclusion, as we celebrate the action of Inikpi and the essence of Inikpi as a heroine, contemporary development realities demand that we expand and go beyond her tragic action of self-sacrifice, and attempt to find what she should mean in the twenty first century, especially when placed against contemporary realities. She must go beyond a bonding figure who is a mere symbol for communal unity. She and other gods like her in different tribal societies, must form a new metaphor that propels a new passion for a new and better existence. Inikpi must cement the bond of a people resolved to go beyond their cultural history, a people who resolve to live together in peace and harmony. Inikpi must serve as the metaphor of placement and history, the type that fascinates, and yet frighten. The myth must prepare the Igala people for the continued process of cultural hegemony, where cultures meet and fuse together into new cultures, it must prepare Nigerians for the challenges of hybridization which emerge from such a fusion. And it must prepare Nigerians for the influx of new thoughts of capitalism or economic and scientific realities and rationalities. It must be used as a tool for the politics of affirmative action against the inequalities in the society. Indeed, it must go beyond an emotionarousing glorification of tragic ritual. This is what the Inikpi myth should mean to the Igala people and indeed Nigeria, today. REFERENCES. Bhabha, Homi. (2002) The Location of Culture, London and New York: Routledge. Death and The king’s Horseman, A conversation Between Wole Soyinka & Ulli Beier. (May 1993) Iwalewa-Haus, Universitat Bayreuth, 1993. Falola, Toyin. (2013) The African Diaspora : Slavery, Modernity, and Globalization. Rochester: University of Rochester Press. Franz fanon, (1970) Black Skin White Masks. Translated by C.L Markmann, London: Paladin. Lal, Vinay. (1997) „Future histories and epistemologies of India‟ Futures, Vol. 29, No. 10. Macamo, Salvado Elisio, (ed) (1988) Negotiating Modernity : Africa’s Ambivalent Experience. London & New York: ZED Books. Ronaldo, Munck & O‟Hearn Denis, (1999) Critical Development Theory Contribution To a new Paradigm.London, Zeb Books. Soyinka, Wole. (1988) Wole Soyinka: Art, Dialogue, & Outrage Essays On Literature And Culture. Ibadan: New Horn Press (2005) Myth, Literature and the African World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Tucker, V. (ed) (1997) Cultural Perspectives On Development. London: Frank Cass. Wittrock, B (2000) Modernity: One, None, or Many? European Origins and Modernity as a Global Condition‟, Daedalus, vol. 29. Yerima, Ahmed. (1998) Kaffir’s Last Game, Ibadan: Kraft Books.
story of Princess Inikpi pdf
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