I found Alhaji Abubakar Imam’s story “The Water of Cure” to be extremely perplexing. Specifically, I was awed by its lack of a moral as it was said to be used in the education of Hausa children. Throughout the story the protagonist basically lies and cheats his way out of every sticky situation he find himself in. After his first lie about being a trader and promising the town’s chief cows that never existed I expected his journey to take a turn for the worst. I was shocked when he escaped and continued relatively successfully through the rest of his journey. Granted he did hit a few bumps along the road, but I would argue that he never suffered significantly. Not only was he never truly punished for his lies and deceit, his lies were often never discovered. Further, Imam completes his journey, succeeds in finding the water of cure, and lives the rest of his life honored and in prosperity. Contrarily, the character that seems to suffer the most is Malam Kurke who is introduced through honesty. Kurke is educated and tells the truth about his abilities but gets shafted every time by the lying Imam!
I found this lack of punishment really interesting in contrast to the Onitsha Market Literature, which is characterized by its emphasis on forcing morals upon its readers. In every pamphlet we mentioned in class, there was a discussion of the gruesome and definite suffering that someone who didn’t follow these moral codes (or for god sakes married a beautiful woman) would inevitably face. The only kind of moral I can potentially draw from this story is a praise of being clever, creative, and a quick thinker. Perhaps these traits are so vital that deception that comes as a consequence can be justified or overlooked?
I also thought that the degree of deception used in this story by Imam to ensure his survival and success is really fascinating in respect to the corruption present in Nigerian society. We’ve discussed how corruption seems to be prevalent in every aspect of Nigerian society and I find it intriguing that in this story similar actions are not punished, but rewarded. I just cannot help but of the societal repercussions of having a story like this used in the education of Hausa children. Is it the fact that Imam has to lie to successfully complete his journey and to defend his life that it becomes excusable? The medicine salesman has to do essentially the same in “Stars of the New Curfew” but he doesn’t fair so well. I think it poses an interesting ideological dilemma.