Themes - Fathers of Nations

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Thematic Concerns in the Fathers of the Nations

Poor leadership

Poor leadership is one of the main themes in the novel.

African leaders are portrayed as people who cannot give a sense of direction to their counties.

Instead, they are shown as flawed human beings who cannot rise to the challenges of their times.

They are people experimenting with various ideological positions originating from different places.

They were to discuss Way Omega but found it nowhere; Path Alpha finds its way on the agenda and is passed as a way forward.

The book goes on to portray how dysfunctional most African countries are.

The leadership in African content is poor, insincere, and out of touch with the happenings on the ground. The so-called presidents at the summit have very little to share; the confusion is too much, and the agenda is not clear.

No wonder the summit ends in disarray. Unfortunately, in their hopes, the citizens continue to entertain a leadership that is blind to their plight. The Fathers of Nations are meeting in Banjul, Gambia, just to fulfill their calendar needs.

Their meeting is jumbled up and predetermined by a few of them who hold the meeting hostage. There is widespread distrust among patriarchs (national fathers).

A fight breaks out after a disagreement at the summit. The chair of the summit seems to be quite subjective.

He does not give room to dissenting voices from summiteers such as Mnister T. Zinto.

In the eyes of Asiyo, Professor Kimani’s wife, poor leadership has translated to poor roads, which in the long run have aggravated accidents.

His only daughter is killed in a car accident.

Consequently, desperation sets in, leading to a divorce.

The leader of Comrade Melusi’s group is sacked because he is from the Ndebele tribe, while the country’s leader is from the Shona.

In Zimbabwe, all those from the southern side (Ndebele) whom the leader construes and perceives to be against the government are whipped out.

Pastor Chineke Chiamaka is arrested and put in police custody for preaching about the government’s failure to deal with the issues bedeviling the nation.

When he’s later released, he’s banned from preaching.

The heads of state appoint President Bangoura, who previously stated that he would not look at two documents, as chairman of a committee tasked with reviewing the documents and providing guidance.

Poverty

The novel also paints a devastating picture of people on a knife’s edge of daily survival.

International imperialistic networks of control have captured and imprisoned the continent.

African countries are sucked into meaningless loans with international financial institutions.

These development loans have unrealistic demands. As a result, the continent continues to sink into the abyss of poverty.

It is in Africa that learned people are impoverished and forced to beg.This is a society that does not value knowledge but cherishes ignorance.

Prof. Kimanijo joins the University of Nairobi directly as a senior lecturer from the University of Oxford.

A lecturer earned more than a Member of Parliament at the time.Later, parliament stages a coup, and the results are that an MP wakes up with a hundred times the income of a professor. Comrade Melusi notes that in Zimbabwe, it is not easy for people to eat in a hotel.

He further notes that those who eat in hotels have visitors or foreigners foot the bills.

At Chaminuka Restaurant, Tad Longway clears the bill for himself and that of Comrade Melusi.

The international community has imposed on Zimbabwe a program called the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) since the country is going through very difficult economic times.

African leadership is lacking in innovative and creative ideas that would spur economic growth among the African states.

Corruption

Vitta also shared that corruption is endemic in Africa.

The vice has disastrous effects on the continent’s economies. It also affects the cohesion of communities and social contracts, which are vital pillars for building nations.

Wars and organized criminal networks distract the attention of some countries. The networks control all the political and economic opportunities.

Corruption is a pandemic in African countries. Bribery is the order of the day in Banjul, Gambia. Ms. Fiona McKenzie is stopped at Arch No. 22.

The police demand a bribe from her driver, an unemployed graduate.

Mr. Tad Longway, in his submission to Dr. Afolabi, says that Africa in its present state has two new arrivals: corruption and impunity.

This confirms that corruption is a rampant vice in Africa, almost the oxygen of African countries.

In the elections held in Zimbabwe, Comrade Melusi and all other candidates together garner 1% of the total votes cast, while the ruler gets 99% after all the challenges that precede the elections, thereby negatively painting the ruler and his government as unpopular.

Additionally, it points to some unorthodox means that must have been used to get 99% of the votes cast: rigging.

Mr. Tad Longway, apart from clearing bills for their meals, also gives Comrade Melusi a stack of American dollars and thereafter gives him a document titled Path Alpha.

This "gift" could be construed as a means to wield influence over his decision.

Tad Longway offers to buy a drink for Ms. Fiona McKenzie, a journalist with the Voice of America (VOA).

This is the first time they are meeting at the Seamount Hotel. The offer is meant to influence what Fiona will report about Path Alpha, which is being propagated by Mr. Tad Longway.

Path Alpha is not on the summit’s agenda.

Mr. Tad Longway and his accomplices, through Dr. Afolabi, want it on the agenda of the summit.

The means through which the proposal of Path Alpha will find itself on the agenda must be fraudulent and full of coercion.

Dr. Afolabi thanks Nick Sentinel for having given him the tip of "The Trick" that enabled him to put Path Alpha on the summit agenda.

The trick in its exploration must be the coercion that smells like corruption. The method used to decide whether to take Path Alpha or Path Omega is unclear.

The method attracts so many questions and petitions. It also appears to have predetermined outcomes.This gives credit to the feeling that there must have been schemes and machinations to reach this predetermined outcome.

Betrayal

To some extent, Dr. Afolabi betrays the heads of state.

He'd been asked to give some advice on the Way Omega Strategy.

The heads of state are unaware that he is at the heart of the rival group (Path Alpha).

He influences the introduction of Path Alpha on the agenda and also determines the outcome of the method committee.

The leader of Libya betrays Engineer Tahir. When Engineer Scif Tahir came back from Paris, France, the leader of Libya was his "darling," especially after coming up with the "Fist of Allah" and supporting it fully.

After some time, the leader does away with this outfit, which sets him against Engineer Seif Tahir.

The intellectuals,  professionals, and freedom fighters have been betrayed by the leadership of the continent.

All four men across Africa, Prof. Kimani, Comrade Melusi, Pastor Chiamaka, and Engineer Tahir, after doing a lot for their mother countries, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Libya, respectively, were and are still neglected.

They are languishing in poverty and untold suffering; they have been left on their own.

The image readers also get of African leaders is that of a coalition of confused and manipulated people.

They have suppressed the voices of the civilians, who are mere spectators as the leaders destroy their source of livelihood.

The book is a bold portrayal of post-colonial African countries. It is a continent where the most learned are impoverished because society doesn’t value knowledge.

Instead, it cherishes ignorance and politicians. African leaders, the so-called "fathers of nations," have betrayed the ordinary people.

They are in the offices with the mandate of taking care of the populace, but tragically, this is not the case.

When Zimbabwe gains independence, the ruler does not remember to appoint Comrade Ngobile Melusi as a minister; instead, he only focuses on his Shona people, and any dissenting voice is silenced.

Newborn Walomu betrays Prof. Kimani, his former colleague at the university, after he marries Asiyo, Prof. Kimani’s wife.

Asiyo betrays Prof. Kimani, her husband. The predicament the husband gets himself into is not his doing.

Professors at the University of Nairobi are paid a pittance in comparison to Members of Parliament.

Secondly, it isn't in the cards for their car to be grounded, which would necessitate their only daughter to travel using public means and get involved in a grisly road accident.

Rather, it’s the economic status of the good professor that brings about this challenge.

Yoruba culture betrays Dr. Afolabi. There could have been a better engagement between the family and Dr. Afolabi before Nimbo was dropped at Dr. Afolabi’s place as a second wife, for this brings about divorce between Dr. Afolabi and Pamela, his wife. Pamela betrays Dr. Afolabi.

She does not listen to him; instead, he hurriedly opts out of marriage and goes back to Boston, only to call after a week to tell him she had filed for a divorce. 

Plight of Women in Society

Fathers of Nations is basically the story of four men from different parts of Africa who, despite going through different misfortunes, try to influence the new document, Path Alpha.

The big question is: where are the women? The book is called Fathers of Nations.

The title alludes to masculinity and the role of the thcsc mcn folk in the African continent's predicament.

Where are the Mothers of Nations?It speaks to the patriarchal nature of the African continent.

Thus, it is a challenge to the patriarchal status of Africa and points out the question of the place of women in society and the possibility of them being the alternative choice.

The novel is dominated by male characters, ranging from the four men from the different parts of Africa: Prof. Kimani (East), Comrade Melusi (South), Pastor Chiamaka (West), and Engineer Tahir (North), to Dr. Afolabi, the advisor to Africa’s heads of state summit and Path Alpha enthusiast, to VOA personnel Mr. Robert Manley and Mr. Nick Sentinel.

Only one woman, Ms. Fiona McKenzie, stands out. Other women play a very minimal and peripheral role in the development of the story.

Tuni is killed in a car accident, and her mother, Asiya, divorces Prof. Kimani because the condition of the professor's vehicle forced their daughter to use a public service vehicle, exposing their only daughter to danger.Pamela comes back to Nigeria with her husband from America to meet a woman in her bedroom.

This angers her, which results in her filing for divorce. Forty-nine heads of state arrive in Banjul, Gambia, for the heads of state summit.

None of these leaders are female.

They look happy having left their problems back at home.

No wonder the title of the text is Fathers of Nations and not Parents or Mothers of Nations.

This most likely reflects Africa's patriarchal society and the role women played in the establishment of these states.Ziliza, Comrade Melusi’s wife, is killed in cold blood by men believed to be Zimbabwe’s ruler’s operatives.

Despite her death, her photo and memory of her psyche inspired Comrade Melusi to avenge the brutal ruler.

Though she is no longer alive, her spirit lives on and ignites, reminding Comrade Melusi of the current leadership's nature: poor.

Rahma Mahamoud is another woman in the text. Ms. Mahmoud is a junior to Engineer Tahir. Engineer Tahir falls in love with her and proposes to her.

She says no to the proposal. This response angers him. He slaps her for an unknown reason and set of circumstances.She retaliates by throwing a piece of glass on his eye.

She’s taken to court, and the court reaches a decision that she will also lose an eye through surgery.

They both lose an eye. This episode speaks to some cultural practices that are outdated.

Were it not for the outdated culture, Engineer Tahir would not have slapped Ms. Rahma Mahmoud, which led to this spiral effect of both losing an eye. Some of these cultural practices should be reconsidered.

Neocolonialism and Imperialism

Africa is portrayed as a continent with leaders (fathers) who are confused and easily manipulated by people experimenting with various ideological positions.

Probably, they need support from outside to make sense of their discussions, deliberations, and plans for the continent. With African states gaining independence, Africans became pluralistic.

They saw him (the whiteman) as an impediment to their self-government and independence.

They thought all the wrongs done by the colonial masters were to be made right by the black fathers of nations.

On the contrary, the situation is the same—if anything, worse than when the colonial master was around.

In Kenya, through the eyes of Prof. Kimani, the Members of Parliament, who determine their salaries, earn ten times more than professors at universities, something unprecedented.

Prot Kimani intimates that when he was joining the University of Nairobi as a senior lecturer, professors earned more than members of parliament.

Currently, Members of Parliament earn tenfold what Professor Kimani earns. He has the financial and economic muscle. He has three wives and is now taking Asiya (Prof. Kimani’s wife) as a fourth.

The current crop of African leadership is now doing things worse than what the colonial masters did.

Comrade Melusi says Zimbabwe has greatly changed. He helped the current leader get Smith (Whiteman) out of Zimbabwe to gain her independence. Immediately after the declaration of independence, the leader changed drastically.

The Ndebele (among them Comrade Melusi) who helped him during the struggle have become his enemies.

He neither fired the leader of the Ndebele nor did he appoint Melusi a minister after having helped him. Instead, it’s the Shona (the ruler’s tribe) that are given plum jobs.

Comrade Melusi's wife, Ziliza, is killed in an attack carried out by government agents.Voice of America (VOA) at some point, as US policy forbade hiring non-Americans.

The image was bad for VOA. Mr. Robert Manley, chief of the VOA bureau, employs Ms. Fiona McKenzie to help them get as much as possible from the summit.

Though she’s on the ground collecting information, Mr. Nick Sentinel, a communication technician, has a silent listener that records conversations around the Seamount Hotel.

He’s more informed about the goings-on at the hotel. He can see the plans and even design ways to counter those maneuvers.

Mr. Robert Manley and Nick Sentinel are in charge and can trap all conversations so long as they are over a mobile phone.

Mr. Tad Longway, the guide, is an agent of colonialism. Through him, the alternative agenda of Path Alpha is a gospel that spreads across Africa from east (Kenya) to west (Nigeria), from south (Zimbabwe) to north (Libya), and finds its way on the summits' agenda.

Through Dr. Afolabi, Path Alpha, a strategy developed and designed elsewhere by non-fathers of nations, technically finds its way on the agenda and is finally adopted amidst questions.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is also used by Nick Sentinel to determine the locations of all four crusaders on Path Alpha.Aside from that, he can tell you what's going on at the Pinnacle Hotel, where the fathers of nations are staying.Being attached to VOA, this speaks volumes about the security of Africa as a continent. VOA is in control of the airwaves in Africa.

Disillusionment/Despair

Disillusionment is the loss of hope. Africans have lost hope in their leadership.

The "fathers of nations," as they are referred to, meet in Banjul, Gambia.

They plan to discuss and deliberate on a strategy, Way Omega.

While at the summit, another strategy, which had not been looked into, was plotted, and after deliberations and a later toss of the coin, Path Alpha was adopted.

The African leadership is portrayed as visionless and directionless: a fusion leadership. Furthermore, the summit degenerates into a fighting match. In accepting to join the Path Alpha, which is advocated for by the four men representing the four corners of Africa, it’s evident Africans have lost hope in the status quo.

The experiences they have undergone do not give them the latitude to speak well of the systems that exist. Prof. Kimani, despite being a professor, is a disillusioned tnan.He has lost a wife to a former junior college professor at the university (Newborn Walomu), currently a Member of Parliament.

He tragically lost his only daughter (Tuni) in an accident that could have been avoided.Following the altercation with Newborn Walomu, he is arrested and demoted to the senior lecturer position he began when he joined the University of Nairobi.

He’s a man ready to take up the Path Alpha strategy to at least breathe a sigh of relief from the normal order of the day. Comrade Ngobile Melusi is a shell of himself.

He was at the forefront of driving white men out of the country, alongside the current leader.

When his country gains independence, his hopes are ironically dashed by the very people he has helped get into power. He is not appointed a minister in the new dispensation.

His tribe, the Ndebele, becomes a target community for harassment; first, its leader is not considered in the newly formed cabinet or government.

Further, when the Ndebele people demonstrate in what they view as seclusion, the government sends police officers to whip the demonstrators.

Unfortunately, Comrade Melusi loses his wife Ziliza in the brutal attacks.His business goes under, necessitating his relocation to slums, which again are brought down by bulldozers sent by the government under the guise of creating room for infrastructure.

Indeed, he has lost hope in anything done by the current regime, and so when the new idea of Path Alpha comes up, he readily joins the outfit and takes it up with a lot of gusto, hoping against hope that this new strategy will breathe a new lease of life into his empty and hopeless spirit.

Engineer Seif Tahir is upbeat after finishing his studies abroad and returning home.He is in cahoots with the Libyan leader and fully supports "Fist of Allah," a group supported and funded by the ruler. Suddenly, the ruler abandons "the fist of Allah."

In his quest to propose to Rahma Mahmoud, his junior at the weapons laboratory, he loses his eye, as does Rahma Mahmoud. Engineer Tahir feels dejected, and to cover and run away from this despair, he leaves Tripoli for Benghazi, where he leads a lonely life.

With this desperation in sight, he falls prey to the new strategy, Path Alpha, and readily accepts it, for in it he sees some hope and solace. Pastor Chiamaka epitomizes despair and loss of hope.

He was a reckless driver. He gets involved in an accident that miraculously turns around his life and makes him a pastor. In his second sermon, he attacks the powers that be. He is arrested, released, and banned from preaching.

There is something he feels is not right. With these challenges, Pastor Chiamaka desperately wants to join Path Alpha. In this new strategy lies hope for the church and for Africans as a whole.

The four men from various parts of Africa are a microcosm of a larger picture of Africans: Africans have lost hope and are thus clinging to any stroke that can give them hope.

Tribalism and Nepotism

Tribalism and nepotism are rife in African leadership and politics.

With the colonial masters walking away with racism, the fathers of nations in the new independent Africa walked in with tribalism and nepotism.

Despite Comrade Ngobile Melusi helping the ruler in his home country, Zimbabwe, fight the common enemy, the white man, the ruler forgets him at the time of distributing the national cake.

He only considers his Shona tribesmen for appointment to plum positions in his government.

He does not appoint Comrade Melusi as a minister, and when he does not appoint the leader of Melusi's tribe (the Ndebele), protests erupt in the south, where the Ndcbelcs live. Ziliza, Comrade Melusi’s wife, is killed in the course of this brutal attack.

Dr. Afolabi’s marriage breaks because Femi, his cousin, has been sent to bring another woman, a Yoruba like themselves, to get married to Dr. Afolabi.

To the Yoruba, their son, Dr. Afolabi, would secure his family by following the wishes of his family. This annoys Pamela, who, after insisting the girl should leave, finally divorces Dr. Afolabi.

Suffering, Oppression, and Death

Suffering occurs at different levels: psychologically, physically, and emotionally.

The majority of the novel's sulTerings are psychological and emotional in nature.

Many characters have undergone harrowing experiences that have brought them untold suffering.

Prof. Kimani loses his daughter in a road accident. He also loses his wife, Asiya, to his former colleague at the university becoming a Member of Parliament.

The loss of a wife causes him to clash with Newborn Walomu.He is arrested as a result of the fight, and assault charges are filed against him.

He’s jailed for six months, and a demotion follows thereafter. All these contribute to a dejected man, which brings a lot of psychological and emotional suffering.

He is a disturbed man. When Tad Longway comes along and proposes Path Alpha, he readily accepts, for he finds solace in the whole thing.

After being rejected by Ms. Rahma Mahmoud, Engineer Tahir avenges himself by slapping her, something she does not take lying down.

She retaliates and throws something at him that gets to his eye and slits it. In revenge, Engineer Tahir goes to court to seek justice, and the court rules based on Arabic law, which calls for goring out her eye in return. Because of the psychological suffering he undergoes, Tahir leaves Tripoli for Benghazi.

Comrade Ngobile Melusi undergoes psychological trauma too. After helping the ruler, he’s left to languish in poverty and is not appointed a minister.

When the Ndebele leader fails to appear for an appointment, the Ndebele-inhabited southern part of the country protests and riots.Property and lives are lost. Ziliza, Mclusi’s wife, dies in the exchange.

When his economic status changes and he’s forced to go and stay in the slums, which are later flattened "to create way for roads,"

All these eat at the nerves of Comrade Ngobile Melusi. Pastor Chineke Chiannaka is arrested following his contentious sermon.He is later rclcascd and given conditions, one of which is not to preach, which is extremely difficult to live by.The African leaders (fathers of nations) are oppressors.

They expose the common citizen to untold suffering. The four men are good narrators of this assertion.

After falling out with the fathers of nations, Prof. Kimani, Pastor Chiamaka, Comrade the heavy and long arm of the Melusi, and Engineer Tahir's government meet them and do not give them room to express themselves.

They have to be organized by an outside force to seek an alternative to the status quo by advocating for Path Alpha, a new strategy and discourse, as opposed to Way Omega.

Apart from the physical deaths of Tuni, Ziliza, and many others, there’s also the death of vision.

The fathers of nations have no vision for the continent or direction for their countries.

The discussion at the summit is jerky and disorganized. There’s also the death of the vision of our founding fathers.

The vision was to fight ignorance, disease, and poverty. Several years after independence, the continent is still wallowing in a miasma of confusion and stagnation.

Change or Transition

Change is inevitable. Yes, saying that is cliche no statement has ever been more true.

Change in the fathers of nations has been realized at two levels: physical and ideological.

Physically, the four men drawn from the four corners of the African continent have undergone evolution and tremendous change.

Prof. Kimani, after undergoing the humiliations at the hands of Newborn Walomu and the government operatives, is a totally different man.

Comrade Melusi’s experience at the hands of the ruler of his country leaves him a bitter man. Engineer Tahir is also a depressed man, courtesy of his endeavors with Ms. Rahma Mahmoud and the lack of support for "Fist of Allah."

Meanwhile, Pastor Chiamaka is transformed after being involved in an accident into a very powerful pastor. Ideologically, the wind of change has swept across Africa.

Although the fathers of nations have scheduled to deliberate on Way Omega while at the summit, Path Alpha surprisingly finds its way on the agenda of the summit, and again against all odds, this is the strategy that goes through and is adopted.

In the new strategy, Prof. Kimani, Pastor Chiamaka, Comrade Melusi, and Engineer Tahir are hopeful that most of the challenges they are facing as a continent will be a thing of the past.

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