Chinua Achebe in his novel No Longer at Ease mirrors a society deep rooted in conservative traditions, and scourge of corruption that tears down the contemporary Nigerian society. The protagonist, Obi Okonkwo is engulfed in events that moulds his destiny and succumbs to decision of vulnerability.obi is raised of Ibo tribe, Umuofia village by a catechist father who believed in Christianity. In the society the complexities and dynamics in the society are explored: where conflicting beliefs, religious tenets and traditions takes control of what protagonists goes through. Into these mirror comes Obi Okonkwo, who is a noble man with University education who makes decision that shakes the centre of his balance and leads him to hellish inferno. Obi Okwonkwo is brought up a bright child in Umuofia as seen by his superb performance in the elementary school. This is depicted by mrs.
Anene his class one English teacher. Who described him with emphasis on his sharpness in class? Due to his determination in class work his peers referred to him as “dictionary”. At eleven years he even engages in extraordinary writing of a letter to letter and later becomes the choice when Umuofia progressive party (UPU) established a scholarship kitty to educate one of their own in England. His steadfast enthusiasm and determination are queered towards liberating his people and yielding the potentiality of Umuofia village and his country. In a macho image he is sent to study law in the university but he acts ultra vires a decision that reaps off of the confidence that was bestowed on him. In the generation of Ibo men, it was the expectations that one had to behave in accordance to the decree of the people. Obi in contrast takes it to himself and decided to pursue English.
This decision finally drove him to complacency and terrible fights with the norms of his Ibo society and the changing pattern of the modern world. As a tradition he broke the spirit of togetherness in Ibo society as the Umuofians regarded themselves with great brotherhood as sojourners (p.p 4). This reflected betrayal on his people and his ultimate loss of village confidence. Obi however makes this choice to hold his heed high and to keep his spirit alive with capabilities. This later makes him vulnerable as he falls into the hands of the very people he betrayed by decision made and the very corrupt society where he suffers depression and resigns to the practice and the order of the day ….corruption and bribery. The dissatisfaction of his people is immensely expressed” we paid eight hundred pounds to train him in England ….but instead of being grateful he insults us….”(pg 4)
In his desire to reclaim his enthusiasm and to outwit and entangle the “heathen’ he engages in a decision with romantic involvement with Clara Okeke, an Osu outcast. Under the tenets of Ibo society, culture prohibited their marriage. To demonstrate the sensitivity, his mother pleads with him to avoid marrying Clara in her death bed and even threatens to kill himself should he proceed anyway. Against all the odds, obi decides to cultivate this love affair that results into Clara’s pregnancy. Unable to face the bull by the horns, he decides to consider abortion that leads to further complications. This makes Clara to refuse seeing him afterwards. As a result he is plugged into great depression amidst all the love he had for Clara.
He is therefore alluded to be like rain wasted in the forest (pg 9); and then likened to be the proverbial young antelope who danced herself lame before main dance (pg 10). The psycho-depression makes him to accept the order of the day later and settle his shaking economic profile. This desire to recover his stability took on the accuracy of the trauma he underwent as he suffered unpaid bills including logistics for the abortion. His quest for good living is seen as he constantly associated Lagos with higher things e.g. Electric lights and affluence in motor cars (pg 12).This together with his frustrations from his love life decisions plunges him in the basket of corruption and bribery as the only choice. By Umuofia standards, his standout and failure became likened to the proverbial rat that went to swim with his lizard friend and died of cold (pg. 5) this illustrates the frustration he underwent due to his poor decision.
At a crossroads between conflicting worlds of the tradition and change, he finally finds himself challenging the very ideas he strongly stood for and accepts to take bribe. His ideals for integrity are seen when he disagrees with Joseph Okeke…”But all that is going to change in ten years things will be different…” (pg 282).The expectations that the society had on him is seen clearly as his friend objects what it could be when people find out that after all his achievements he resides in Obalende…”What will the people say…” (pg 32) He is finally approached by man in dire need of scholarship support for her sister’s education in exchange of lofty bribe. He objects this even as the girl offers sexual favor in exchange for the support.
To keep pace with the miseries, he accepts to take a bribe which was stage managed something that lands him in hellish inferno of problems as he is arrested and taken for trial. To him destiny is not predetermined and can be shaped by events and decisions. The protagonist likens crafted destiny to chewing cud of foolishness. At the dismay of judge (Justice William),he expressed surprise at the fateful life of a once noble elite man whose decision lend to his ultimate downfall .He says” I cannot comprehend how a young man of your education ….and a brilliant promise could …”(pg 174).This illustrates the nature of impact the decision he made affected his integrity. The trials at Cameroons high court of Lagos illustrates the predicament he underwent due to his decision to conform to the status quo of acceptance of bribery and corruption
The protagonist undergoes struggles for central play in a rather dishonest society; a society that cultures corruption and vices of immorality he support for corruption is seen when a statesman claims that one should reap greatly from it.”We have a saying….if you want to eat a toad you should look for fat and juice one….” (pg 5).By the standards of Umuofia society, he therefore grew up with the desired change things fro his time at the elementary school. The decision that he makes in respect of his career from pursuit of law to degree in English that lands him at the civil service dictates his fateful happenings.
To continue mounding the fabrics of the corruption torn society, Obi Okwonko ought to have remained steadfast in his ideas and principles. Even after the trauma of his mother’s death and the distress of his love triangles, the protagonist should have maintained a clear sense of focus and belonging. This together with his initial determination could have helped to shape his wretched misfortunes and miseries. Consequently, in a contemporary society of rich culture and tradition, the decision to marry an Osu (Clara), of Ibo origin was an edifice of shaking nature. After this decision Obi Okwonko ought to have stood firm and maintained his intellectual integrity and priorities. His decision of abortion is seen as a clumsy and escapist resignation. He should have adopted strategies to convince his people on viability of the change founded on intellectual insights and strengths.
In conclusion, the agonies that the protagonist undergoes are but result of resignation to the order of the day and the norms of the contemporary Nigerian society. He finds himself entangled in problems including a trial, which changes the ideals of his life and his play in the intellectual society. Better decisions and fair mindedness on his part coupled with courage and diligence could still maintain the value of education he acquired in England. This could restore the society’s lost glory.