NATURE AND NURTURE IN SELECTED NOVELS OF AGARY KAINE, OKPEWHO ISIDORE, AND ABAGHA ANTHONY.
The effects of nature and nurture on lives cut across disciplines and deal with the question of what determines patterns of human behaviour, including the results of conflicts in nature and nurture of the characters in the environment. This work studies the influence of nature and nurture in the Niger Delta region through the characters of the novels with response to the issues emanating from the region as they touch restiveness, protest, environmental degradation and corruption that cut across the social, political and economic strata in Okpewho’s Tides, Agary’s Yellow-Yellow and Abagha’s The Children of Oloibiri. Nature and nurture are dynamic and affect human beings, animals, plants, and the environment in different ways. They can be very benevolent if well handled. Humans abuse them at their own peril.
The theories of nature and nurture have been debated over the years as they deal with human behaviour. The controversy on the issue is which of the two situations nature or nurture determines human behaviour expression? This question should be properly answered when nature and nurture are viewed independently.
Nature explains much about everything within the environment and on which plants, animals and humans alike depend on for their coexistence. Humans, fishes, birds, hills, valleys, rocks, water, air, sea, sun, soil, moon, stars, trees, shrubs, climates and seasons are all parts of nature and collectively they make up the ecology, which is the way all living and non-living things relate to one another in an environment.
There are aspects of nature, the basic or inherent features, qualities, or characters of a person or thing inborn or hereditary characteristics that influence or determine personality. This determinant of personality that is inherent is constantly influenced by nature. Nurture is the training, developing, encouraging, modifying, educating and influencing one’s nature in an environment (natural or artificial); nurturing is a common natural influence of humans, with the purpose of maintaining a type of livelihood and society within an environment. Kassim explain that:
The nature–nurture debate is a classic in psychology—and is still the subject of intense debate (Ceci & Williams, 2000; Pinker, 2002). The strict biological (nature) position states that just as you are programmed to grow to a certain height, so too are you predisposed by genetics to become shy, sociable, smart, athletic, artistic, cheerful, or depressed. In contrast, the extreme environmental (nurture) position says that your fate is shaped by life experience the way clay is moulded by the hands of a sculptor. Psychologists who favour this side of the debate trumpet the effects of learning, culture, nutrition, family background, peer groups, and critical life events (309).
Nature is inherent traits while nurture is a learned trait initiated by a stronger human meant to create harmony and coexistence which in turn affects the other. Mysterud reviews Ridley’s assertion that:
Human nature is indeed a combination of Darwin’s universals, Galton’s heredity, James’s instincts, De Vries’s genes, Pavlov’s reflexes, Watson’s associations, Kraepelin’s history, Freud’s formative experience, Boas’s culture, Durkheim’s division of labour, Piaget’s development and Lorenz’s imprinting. You can find all these things going on in the human mind. No account of human nature would be complete without them all. It is genes that allow the human mind to learn, to remember, to imitate, to imprint, to absorb culture and to express instincts. Genes are not puppet masters, nor blueprints. Nor are they just the carriers of heredity. They are active during life; they switch each other on and off; they respond to the environment. They may direct the construction of the body and brain in the womb, but then they set about dismantling and rebuilding what they have made almost at once – in response to experience. They are both cause and consequence of our actions. Somehow the adherents of the ‘nurture’ side of the argument have scared themselves silly at the power and inevitability of genes, and missed the greatest lesson of all: the genes are on their side (189)
Ecocritical concepts are needful when nature and nurture is analysed and so to deal with literatures that are rich in ecological themes, clarity of the critical theory is needful, which Meng and Omar explain that:
Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromm (1996) defines ecocriticism as the following: “Ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment” (xviii), but Estok (2005) argues that ecocriticism is more than simply the study of Nature or natural things in literature; rather, it is any theory that is committed to effecting change by analyzing the function–thematic, artistic, social, historical, ideological, theoretical, or otherwise–of the natural environment, or aspects of it, represented in documents (literary or other) that contribute to material practices in material worlds (36).
Nature and nurture are integral to Ecocriticism and most scholars prefer working with great authors like Shakespeare, Milton etc. Thus Raber opines that:
Understandably, a new field of criticism first turns to familiar figures like Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, and Marvell, and the potential of these authors is by no means exhausted. However, the conspicuously relevant work of many other writers has not yet been addressed at all: there is consequently a real need for ecocritical readings, (168)
Recent ecocritical readings expose the interaction between man and his environment within the postcolonial and postmodern era of the 21st century. It articulates the rationale behind man’s neglect for the environment with great focus on the politics, economy and social structure of every affected area. Thus we discover from Oppermann that:
Eco-literary discourse can address how literary texts articulate the silence of nature, and to what consequences. Thus, ecocriticism can explore what we can call a discursively manipulated nonhuman world in literature, and discuss how it gets marginalized or silenced by, or incorporated into the human language. Ecocriticism, in this framework, offers an “analysis of the cultural constructions of nature, which also includes an analysis of language, desire, knowledge, and power” (4)
The human activity interacts with the environment. The manner of the activity of man determines how safe the environment can be. Our desires, language expressions, knowledge and crave for power are essential to the behaviour patterns we express in the environment we depend on. The novels Yellow-Yellow, Tides and The Children of Oloibiri considers these aspects of humanity and their ecology.
1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
This study is on nature and nurture in selected novels of Agary, Okpewho, and Abagha as they affect major characters in the novels. Nature and nurture, one way or the other, presents verifiable evidences through the characterization of characters in the novels and focuses on the role of man in his environment.
Several critics and psychologists have dealt with the issues of nature and nurture to prove that human behaviour patterns are drawn from what they acquire from environment while developing and not what is inborn in them. B.F. Skinner’s experiment on pigeon portrayed how the nature of pigeon can be altered; as the pigeon is nurtured to dance, do figure 8 and play table tennis. Such traits are human but have been learned by the pigeon in a conditioning environment where the pigeon is reared.
Not disputing this fact of influence of the human nature, the social environment in which a child grows plays a larger role in his behaviour and most times, it overrides how the child is born. Nurture, therefore, plays a greater role in the life of every child.
The Niger Delta terrain, has been a peaceful and hospitable terrain where the ecology has been favourable to all living creatures including humans and plants that depend on one another in the natural circle of food and survival; yet it is now obvious that the ambience of the region has been influenced by a stronger nature (Government officials, foreigners and indigenes) and has become troubled and hostile, and has constantly been degraded in purity, potency and hospitable characteristics.
The degradation of the environment of the delta is caused by pollution from the oil companies’ activities in the forms of gas flaring (air pollution), drilling and spillages (land and water pollution and destabilization), thus rendering the inhabitants uncomfortable and prone to various health hazards and social traumas that result in poverty, assassination, interethnic/inter-communal crises and failures of the government and companies to tackle the disaster created by the destabilization of natural ecology of the Niger Delta region and Nigeria in general.
The protests against issues of environmental degradation and corruption have long continued to be discussed from time to time. Casualties on the part of the protesters have been recorded, for example the renowned environmental activist, “novelist, poet, memoirist, and essayist” Kenule Saro Wiwa from Ogoni ethnic nationality of the Niger Delta. His major fight was based on the environmental degradation of Ogoniland caused by Royal Dutch Shell B.P.. Saro-Wiwa was later accused of killing four chiefs from the area and was eventually executed in November 10, 1995.
The problems of the region are flaring of natural gas, a by-product of crude oil drilling and refining, which is either used for energy or re-injected into the crude oil well, while in Nigeria it is burnt by the oil companies thereby polluting the atmosphere and destroying the ecosystem that humans and other living things depend on for living. Oil spillages are also problems encountered in the region which affect the lands, water and occupation of the inhabitants of the Niger Delta. The constant oil spills destroy the habitat: fishes in the seas, plants and animals, including humans on the land. This is as a result of pipe explosions and bunkering activities by individuals aided by some government officials, community elders, government security forces and crooked multinationals with the intent of amassing wealth through illegal black market oil trade through the Atlantic.
These problems give rise to multiple problems of poverty, youth restiveness, and the neglect by government and the oil companies. The immunity of the living creatures and the fertility of the land and waters have been degraded. Peaceful environmental activists like Major Isaac Adaka Boro and Ken Saro-Wiwa protested and died for these.
1.2. RESEARCH PROBLEM
Due to the colonial bias and the experience of the Nigerian civil war, there are speculations locally and internationally that people of the Niger Delta are naturally hostile due to their historical accounts of survival during oppressive colonial days and their recent agitations against the government and Oil Companies. It is also a speculation that restiveness runs in the genes of the people. This has been the common bias during the colonial times and the Nigerian Civil War. The question is, does restiveness run in the genetic construct of this particular group of people or if it is a reaction to the social, political and economic constructs of the country and its leaders? There is constant environmental degradation prevalent in the region that threatens the health, social and economic progress of inhabitants of the region.
Existing analyses of literatures on the Niger Delta often dwell on youth restiveness, oil bunkering and kidnapping without probing deeper into issues of poverty, unemployment, health problems, and near total loss of the environment due to oil pollution, gas flares and government lack of interest in human development. This research aims at bridging or filling those yawning gaps that cry for attention.
1.3. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
This project proposes to carry out a study of selected novels of Agary, Okpewho, and Abagha that have highlighted issues behind the problems encountered in the Niger Delta region in particular and Nigeria in general. These issues of nature and nurture and their effects on characters and society of the Niger Delta and the nation in general will be discussed as a means of determining why the characters and the Niger Delta environment are the way they are and what could be done to ameliorate the situations.
1.4. SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is based on as well as limited to the three selected novels of three authors from the Niger Delta who have explored issues of nature and nurture in their works. This project shall carry out a study of Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow, Isidore Okpewho’s Tides and Anthony Abagha’s The Children of Oloibiri. Each of these three novels is rich in unravelling the issues that plague the Niger Delta environment and the Nigerian nation. From time to time, references would be made to other works of critics on nature and nurture as well as the Niger Delta environment.
1.5. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Literatures from the Niger Delta have of recent become strategically important in African and World Literatures. It is as a result of the growing demand to unravel the causes of civil disquiet or activism in the area. It is hoped that this study will further open the eyes of scholars on the rot created in the Niger Delta by the abuse of the forces of nature, nurture, and exploitation of people and resources and hopefully create more room for further dialogue and more human and ecological sanity in the region.
1.7. RESEARCH METHOD
This work employs eco-critical and interdisciplinary concepts and facts from genetics, psychology, environmental science, sociology, cultural studies and history, etc., through which it explores nature and nurture in a holistic sense of interaction.
The research method will be library-based as well as through internet and other literature that have commented on the people, events and the environment of the Niger Delta region. Newspapers and magazines occasionally awash with issues of the region are also legitimate.