Obierika is one of the important characters. He was a true friend of Okonkwo. He was shrewd and foresighted. He was one of the lords of the clan. It was only he who foresaw the gravity of the challenge of the white men posed to his clansmen. He had a keen insight into the impending danger to Ibo society.He was a kind-hearted man. He told his friend Okonkwo that it was not reasonable on his part to take part in the murder of Ikemefuna. He said, "If I were you I would have stayed at home, what you have done will not please the earth."
He was not in favour of sticking to the evil customs and traditions of the clan. It was the custom of the clansmen that one who killed some one would be sent into exile for seven years. When his friend was found guilty of killing Ezeudu's son, though unknowingly, he was exiled for seven years. He mourned over the departure of his friend from his native village to Mbanta. When Okonkwo had left some of the villagers rushed to Okonkwo's compound and burnt his huts and damaged the household goods, Obierika knew that his friend did not kill the lad knowingly. Seeing the huts flaming in the fire, Obierika said with a heavy heart, "Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offence he had committed inadvertently ?" He criticised the tradition of throwing the twins. He remembered his wife's twins whom he had once throwin away. In this context, he said, "what crime had they committed? The Earth had decreed that they were an offence on the land and must be destroyed. And if the clan did not exact punishment for an offence against the great goddess, her wrath was loosed on all the land and not just on the offender. As the elder said, if one finger brought oil it soileded the others. He is opposed to haggling and bargaining of bride price. According to him, the said price should not be forced. He said "They haggle and bargain as if they were buying a goat or a cow in the market."
'A friend in need is the friend indeed' goes the saying which truly applies in the case of friendship of Obierika with Okonkwo. He was not a fair weather friend. He helped his friend when evil days fell on him. During seven years of Okonkwo's exile at Mbanta, Obierika looked after his farming. He sold his Yams and went to Mbanta to hand over him the money regularly. He promised to do so until he returned to Umuofia, his native village. Obierika said, "I shall do that every year until you return. But I thought you would need the money now and so I brought it." When Okonkwo thanked Obierika, the former retorted and asked the latter to kill one of his sons for him. Okonkwo felt sorry and said that he would not talk about thanking him any more. He stood by his friend in weal and woe without any self interest. It happened that he lived for his friend Okonkwo.
He was well conscious of grave consequences of whiteman intrusion into Ibo land. According to him, the missionary would destroy the entire system of Ibo customs, traditions and beliefs in order to convert the people to Christianity. His prophesy came to be true. The whiteman had a huge number of converts. He had established a government and built a place of Judgement in Umuofia to protect the followers of his religion. Okonkwo said that they should fight these men and drive them from the land but Obierika held the realistic view that it was too late because the converts had grown in number and they had added whiteman's power which cannot be restrained by the clansmen who stood divided under whiteman's policy of 'divide and rule'. In this context, he said, "They would go to Urnuru and bring the soldiers and we would be like Abame." "I told you on my last visit to Mbanta how they hanged Aneto." He remarked, "He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart."
Obierika was opposed to corruption. He was grieved to know that whiteman's messengers had become corrupt. The court decides a case of land dispute in favour of Nnama's family who had greased the palm of whiteman's messenger. His clansmen knew no term like corruption. At one occasion when the church built by the missionaries was dashed to ground, 50 bags of cowries went to the share of the head messenger who charged 250 bags instead of 200 for fine imposed by D.C. in lieu of releasing six clansmen accused of destroying the church.
Obierika was grieved at heart to see his friend's body from a tree. He grew furious and said to the commissioner in an angry mood that he and his men were responsible for forcing Okonkwo, the great man of the clan to commit suicide. His voice trembled and chocked his words.
In conclusion we can say that Obierika is the most powerful character. He had all the qualities of head, heart and soul. He was liberal, honest, foresighted and a true friend. He was a man of patience and keen insighted. These qualities won him the applause of one and all.
Q.17. Give a character sketch of Uchendu.
Answer. Uchendu was the youngest brother of Okonkwo's mother. Okonkwo was received by him at Mbanta. He had six wives once but he had none then except one girl who did not know her right from left. He had buried twenty-two children and he was still alive. He meant to say that joys and sorrows go together in life and man should bear sorrows without grumbling thinking them the will of God.
He was a man of helping nature. He was worried to see Okonkwo in a gloomy mood. When he came to know that Okonkwo had come there to pass seven years of exile, he said, "It is female Cobu". And he arranged the rites and sacrifices. This also shows that he was a man of religious ideas and had faith in gods and goddesses whose anger could be cooled down only by making sacrifices of animals at their altars and performing certain rites according to the custom of the Ibo clan. Uchendu and his sons helped him as much as they could. They gave him land and seeds to get him settled at Mbanta.
He was hospitable and generous. When Obierika came to see Okonkwo, Uchendu was happy to meet him. He offered him kolanut and then wine and talked to him in a friendly way. He was fond of travelling and had vast knowledge of the past. When he was young he had travelled to many places around and he had his friends everywhere. There was no clan whom he did not know. He was well acquainted with Aninta Umuazu, Ikeocha, Elumelu and Abame and he had been a friend of Obierika's father.
He superseded Okonkwo and Obierika in discussion. He told why Abame were killed. "Never kill a man who says nothing" those men of Abame were fool. What did they know about man? He told the story of mother kite and her daughter to illustrate the foolishness of Abame. Obierika referred to the stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas. He then said that no one thought that the stories were true. Uchendu commented upon the stories told by Obierika and remarked, "There is no story that is not true. The world has no end, what is good among one people is an abomination with others. We have Albinas among us, do you not think that they came to our clan by mistake, that they have strayed to a land where everybody is like them." What he meant to say was that Abame invited their doom themselves by killing the whiteman, a representative of the British which is most powerful in the world. He put several questions to Okonkwo and Obierika but they failed to furnish replies thereto. For example, he asked them why mother is supreme.
Achebe's philosophy of human sorrows came to light through Uchendu who could not bear to see Okonkwo being over powered by griefs and disappointment. It was with a purpose to console Okonkwo that Uchendu called together his sons, daughters and Okonkwo. He told them why mother was supreme and why she was buried in her native land. He said, "A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. It is right that you, Okonkwo, should bring to your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead. Your duty is to comfort your wives and children and take them back to your fatherland after seven years." He advised him not to allow sorrow to weigh him down and that his sorrows would come to an end soon. In the end he cheared them up with a song.
"For whom is it well, for whom is it well?
There is no one whom it is well".
There is no one whom it is well".
The missionaries had come to Mbanta. They asked the rulers of the village for a plot of land to build their church. Uchendu advised his peers to give them a portion of the Evil Forest, thinking them all to be dead within four days. The church was built and the whiteman and his companions were still alive. Later on, they formed a Government and established a court for their safety in Umuofia. Uchendu did not offer any remarks in this context. It was the failure. On the part of Uchendu to advise his peers to give the missionaries a plot of land to build a church, which ultimately led to the collapse of their ancient culture."