What is a Theme?
A theme is an idea that recurs in or pervades a work of art or literature. A theme could also be a subject of discourse discussion, meditation, composition or topic. Moreover, a theme can also be scen as a central idea in a piece of writing or other works of art. Further, in contemporary literary studies, a theme is can also be scen as a central topic, subject or tnessage within a narrative or work of art. In addition, most common understanding of theme is an idea or point that is central to a story.Along with plot, character, style and setting, theme is considered one of the key components a work of art. The following are some of the explored themes in the novel.
1. Theme of 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 nowhere; Path Alpha finds its way on the agenda and is passed as a way forward.
The book goes ahead to portray how dysfunctional most African countries are. The leadership in the 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 not clear, no wonder the sumnlit ends in disarray. Unfortunately, in their hopclcssncss thc citizens continue to entertain a leadership that is blind to their plight.
The Fathers of Nations are mccting at 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. Mistrust among thc prcsidcnts (Fathers of Nations) is rife. Fight breaks out after a disagrccment in thc 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 dies through an accident. Consequently, desperation sets in leading to a divorce. The leader of Comrade Melusi’s group is sacked because of coming from the Ndebele tribe while the country’s leader
comes from the populous 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 on released, he’s banned from preaching. The heads of state pick President Bangoura who had said he would not look at two documents as chairman of a committee that is to look at the document and provide direction.
2. Poverty as a theme in Fathers of the Nations
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’s in Africa where learned people are impoverished and made beggars. This is a society that does not value knowledge but cherishes ignorance. Prof. Kimanijoins the University of Nairobi directly as a senior lecturer from the University of Oxford. At that time, a lecturer earns more than a Member of Parliament. Later, parliament stages a coup and the results are that an MP wakes up to a hundred times the income ofa professor.
Comrade Melusi notes that in Zimbabwe, it was not easy for people to eat in a hotel. He further notes that for those who eat in hotel have visitors/foreigners to foot the bills. At Chaminuka Restaurant, Tad Longway clears the bill for himself and that of Comrade Melusi. The international community clamps on Zimbabwe a program called Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) since the country is undergoing very difficult economic times. African leadership is poor of innovative and creative ideas that would spur economic growth among the Africa states.
3. Corruption in the Setbook Fathers of the Nations
Vitta also shares 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 dcvclopmcnt 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 Number 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 affirms that corruption is a vice that is rampant in Africa, almost the oxygen of the 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 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 he 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 on his decision.
Tad Longway offers to buy a drink for Ms. Fiona McKenzie, a journalist with 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 wants 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 put Path Alpha on the summit agenda. The Trick in its exploration must be the coercion means that smells corruption.The method used to reach the decision of settling for Path Alpha or Way Omega is a method that is not very clear. The method attracts so many questions and petitions. It also sounds to be set to have predetermined results. This gives credit to the feeling that there must have been schemes and machinations to reach this predetermined outcome.
To some extent, Dr. Afolabi betrays the heads of state. He had been invited to provide a piece of advice on Way Omega Strategy. Little are the heads of state aware that he is at the center 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 supported it fully. After sometime, the leader does away with this outfit and this sets him against Engineer SeifTahir.
The intellectuals/professionals and freedom fighters have been betrayed by the leadership of the continent. All the 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 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 the fathers ofnations 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.The ruler in Zimbabwe betrays comrade Melusi whom they fought the white man with, When Zimbabwe gains her
independence, the ruler docs not remember to appoint Comrade Ngobile Melusi a minister, instead he only focuses on his Shona people and any dissenting voice 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 in is not his making. Professors at the University of Nairobi earn peanuts compared to the Member of Parliament. Secondly, its isn’t the making for their car to be grounded to 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.
5. Theme of the Plight Of Women in the Society
Fathers of Nations is basically a 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 women?
The book is cntitlcd Fathers of Nations. The title points to thc masculinity and thc role of thcsc mcn folk in the predicament bedeviling the African continent. Arcn9t thcrc Mothers of Nations? It speaks to the patriarchal naturc of thc African continent. Thus, it is challenge to thc patriarchal status of Africa and pointing to the question the place of women society and the possibility of them being the alternative choicce
The novel is dominated by male characters ranging from the four men fronl thc different parts of Africa; Prof. Kimani (East) Comrade Melusi (South) Pastor Chiamaka (Wcst ) and Enginccr Tahir (North) to Dr. Afolabi, the advisor to Africa’s heads of state summit and Path Alpha enthusiast, to the 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 dies in a road accident, her mother Asiya divorces Prof. Kimani on the account that professor’s vehicle’s condition made their daughter use a public service vehicle making their only daughter be exposed to accident. Pamela comes back to Nigeria with her husband from America to meet a woman in her bedroom. This angers her and results in her filing for divorce.
Forty — nine heads of state arrive at Banjul, Gambia for the heads of state summit. Nonc of this heads of state is a woman. They look happy having lcft their problems back at home, No wonder the title of the text is Fathers of Nations and not parents/mothers of nations. Probably this does speak to the patriarchal society Africa is and the role women played in founding these states.
Ziliza, Comrade Melusi’s wife is killed in cold blood by men believed to be the Zimbabwe’s ruler’s operatives. Though dead, her photo and memory about her psyches Comrade Melusi to avenge against the brutal ruler. Though dead, her spirit lives on, ignites and reminds Comrade Melusi, the nature of the current leadership: 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 because of an unclear reason and circumstances. She retaliates throwing a piece of glass on his eye, she’s taken to court and the court reaches a decision of her also losing 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. RahmaMahmoud which led to this spiral effect of both losing an eye. It is high time some of these cultural practices are relooked at.
6. Neocolonialism / lmperialism– Themes in Fathers of the Nations
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 head and tail of their discussions, deliberations and plans they have for the continent.
With African states gaining independence, Africans were optinlistic. They believed he (whiteman) was the impediment to their self— rule and independence. They thought all the wrongs done by the colonial masters were to bc madc right by the black fathers of nations. On thc contrary, thc situation is thc same; if anything worse than when the colonial master was around.
In Kenya, through thc eyes of Prof. Kimani, the Members of Parliament, who determine their salaries, carn 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 wife. 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 out Smith (Whiteman) from Zimbabwe to gain her independence. Immediately, after the independence, the leader changed drastically. The Ndebele (among them Comrade Melusi) who helped him during the struggle have become his enemies. He 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 is given plumb jobs. Ziliza, Comrade Melusi’s wife is killed in the attack orchestrated by the government operatives.
Voice of America (VOA) at some point as the 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 which records conversations around The Seamount Hotel. He’s more informed about the ongoings at the hotel. He can tell the plans and even design ways to counter those maneuvers. Mr. Robert Manley and Nick Sentinel are in — charge and can trap in 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 finally is adopted amidst question.
Nick Sentinel also uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) in determining locations of all the four crusaders of Path Alpha. Beyond this, he’s able to tell the on-goings at Pinnacle Hotel where the fathers of nations are. Being attached to VOA, this speaks volumes about the security of Africa as a continent. VOA is in control of the airwaves in Africa.
7. Disillusionment/Despair as a theme in Fathers of the Nations
Disillusionment is loss of hope.
Africans have lost hope in their leadership. The ‘fathers of nations’ as they are referred to meet at 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, Path Alpha is plotted and after deliberations and later a toss of coin, Path Alpha is adopted. The African leadership is painted as a visionless, directionless leadership: a leadership full of cqnfusion. Furthermore, 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 thc systems that be.
Though a Profcssor, Prof. Kimani is a disillusioned tnan. He has lost a wife to a former junior collcaguc at the University (Newborn Walomu) currently a Member of Parliament. He lost his only daughter (Tuni) through accident, something that would have been avoided. After the fight with Newborn Walomu, he’s arrested and thereafter demoted to being a senior lecturer position he began at when he joined the University of Nairobi. He’s a man ready to take up Path Alpha strategy to at least breath a sigh of relief from the normal order of the day.
Comrade Ngobile Melusi is a shell of himself. He was in the forefront alongside the current leader in driving the white men out of the country. When his country gains self-independence, his hopes are ironically crashed 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 new formed cabinet/government. Further, when the Ndebele people demonstrate in what they viewed as seclusion, the government sends police officers to whip the demonstrators. Unfortunately, in the brutal attacks, Comrade Melusi loses his wife Ziliza. His business goes under necessitating his relocation to slums which again are brought down by bulldozers sent by the government in 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 up with a lot of gusto hoping against hope that this new strategy will breathe a new lease of life in his empty and hopeless spirit.
Engineer Seif Tahir after completing his studies overseas and coming back home is quite optimistic. 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 “Fist of Allah.” In his quest to propose to Rahma Mahmoud, his junior at the weapons laboratory, he loses his eye so 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 site, he falls prey of 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 to become a pastor. In his second sermon, he attacks the powers that be. He is arrested and only releasedand banned from preaching. Something he feels is not right. With these challenges, Pastor Chiamaka desperately accepts to join Path Alpha. In this new strategy, lies hope for the church and the Africans as a whole.
The four men from the different parts of Africa arc a microcosm of a bigger picture of Africans; that Africans have lost hope and hence clinging to any stroke that can give them any hope.
8. Tribalism and Nepotisrn
Tribalism and nepotism is rife in African leadership and politics. With the colonial masters walking away with racism, fathers of nations of the new independent Africa walked in with tribalism and nepotism.
Despite Comrade Ngobile Melusi assisting 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 the appointment to plumb positions in his government. He does not appoint Comrade Melusi a minister and when he denies the leader of Melusi’s tribe (Ndebele) an appointment, demonstrations erupt in thc south whcrc the Ndcbelcs stay. 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’s, 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.
9. Suffering, Oppression and Death in Fathers of the Nations
Suffering is at different levels: psychological, physically and emotional.
Most of the sulTerings in the novel are psychological and emotional.
Many characters have undergone harrowing experiences that have brought untold suffering to them.
Prof. Kimani loses his daughter in a road accident. He also loses his wife Asiya to his former colleague at the university turn a Member of Parliament. This loss of wife brings about a fight between him and Newborn Walomu. The fight earns an arrest and charges of assault pressed on him. He’s jailed for six months and a demotion follows thereafter. All these accumulate 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 by slapping her, something she does not take lying low. She retaliates and throws something at him which gets to his eye and slits it. In revenge, Engineer Tahir goes to court to seek justice and the court rules based on the Arabic law which calls for gorging 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 he is not appointed a minister. When the Ndebele leader misses out on appointment, the southern part of the country inhabited by the Ndebele demonstrate and riot. 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 on flattened “to create way for roads.” All these eat on the nerves of Comrade Ngobile Melusi.
Pastor Chineke Chiannaka after his controversial sermon is arrested. He’s later on rclcascd and given conditions among them not to preach, something very 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 narrativcs 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 government meets them and does not give them room to express themselves. They have to be organized by an outside force to seek alternative way from the status quo by advocating for Path Alpha, a new strategy and discourse as opposed to Way Omega.
Apart from the physical death of Tuni , Ziliza and many others, there’s also death of vision. The fathers of nations have no vision for the continent and direction for their countries. The discussion at the summit is jerky and disorganized. There’s also death of vision of our founding fathers of nations. The vision was to fight ignorance, disease and poverty. Several years after independence, the continent is still wallowing in miasma of confusion and stagnation.
10. Change/ Transition in Fathers of the Nations
Change is inevitable. Change in 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 in the hands of Newborn Walomu and the government operatives, he is a totally different man. Comrade Melusi’s experience in the hands of the ruler of his country leaves him a bitter man. Engineer Tahir is also a depressed man courtesy of his endeavours with Ms. Rahma Mahmoud and the lack of support towards “Fist of Allah.” Meanwhile, Pastor Chiamaka is transformed after being involved in an accident to 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 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.