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The Lizard That Jumped from the High Iroko Tree

By Sakwiba Sikota

There is a recent statement by Republican President Hakainde Hichilema in New York where HH stated, “They want me to help other countries achieve what I have done for Zambia.”

This forthrightness reminded me of Okonkwo the lead character in Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece ‘THINGS FALL APART’. Okonkwo, a strong natural leader hailing from the Nigerian southern tribe the Igbos, who was innovative and a once in a lifetime person.

Instead of congratulating HH to High Heaven some Zambians seem to be unwilling to acknowledge this great achievement. HH must be feeling like President Donald Trump who wanted everyone to say ‘thank you’ for his coronavirus actions but did not receive that public acknowledgement.

Trump in March 2020 lamented, “We’ve done a fantastic job. The only thing we haven’t done well is to get good press. We’ve done a fantastic job but it hasn’t been appreciated. Even the closing down of the borders, which has never been done, and not only did we close them but we closed it early. The press doesn’t like writing about it.”

Just like with Trump it seems some people do not want to acknowledge the works of HH. I read the comments by readers to the postings, “They want me to help other countries achieve what I have done for Zambia.” and a lot of them were saying things like,

“The question is who are ‘they‘ and who are the ‘others’. Nguni VD, ‘they’ are the whites and ‘others’ are his fellow Africans.Typical of muzungu anikondes.”

“What has he achieved? BOASTING!”

“The President thinks highly of himself.”

“Don’t praise yourself, if you are worth it, no need to prove it.”

Brebner Changala, the human rights activist was more direct and is reported to have said, “I should add that boasting, self praise and exaltation~ YAPAILA, ILIOVA ALABWAFYA!”

Others even bring in religion and quote scriptures like Proverbs 27:2 which says, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”

Chinua Achebe had a strong view about religion. He was peeved by the fact that the white men came and completely disregarded the Igbo sense of justice and they did not understanding anything about the “others”.

An exchange occurs at the end of Chapter 20 during a conversation between Obierika and Okonkwo which goes, “Does the white man understand our custom about land?”
The conversation goes on, “How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Inspite of this, I would encourage HH to not take to heart the comments and criticisms from people who claim such statements as he made are not needed. He should not take Proverbs 27:2 as a restraint. Trump has achieved what he has because he is not afraid to tell people that he is a “stable genius.”

After all Chinua Achebe in “Things Fall Apart”, writes, “The lizard that jumped from a high Iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no-one else did.”

HH should take a ‘Trumpian’ leap of faith and take a leaf from, if no one else will, the Lizard that jumped from a high iroko tree.