No Longer At Ease
How we cite our quotes:
"As you all know, it takes a little time to settle down again after an absence of four years. I have many little private matters to settle. My request is this, that you give me four months before I start to pay back my loan."
Yes, it was a small matter. But it was clear that not everyone thought so. Obi even heard someone ask what he was going to do with the big money which Government would give him….
"I know what Government pays senior service people. What you get in one month is what some of your brothers here get in one year. I have already said that we will give you four months. We can even give you one year. But are we doing you any good?"
A big lump caught in Obi's throat.
"What the Government pays you is more than enough unless you go into bad ways….You may ask why I am saying all this, I have heard that you are moving around with a girl of doubtful ancestry, and even thinking o marrying her."
Obi leapt to his feet trembling with rage. (8.31-32; 37-40)
Obi wants to do his duty to his parents, and that makes his duty to pay back his scholarship difficult. Though he has no intention of dishonoring that duty, he asks for a respite until he gets on his feet, a break that some people do not want to grant him. The President of the Union reminds Obi that his monthly salary is larger than what many men in the room make in a year. He adds that Obi is perhaps having a hard time managing his money because of his association with a girl of questionable heritage. Obi gets angry and insists that he'll start paying the loan back instantly. Later, he regrets this decision when he runs into financial trouble.
And if one thought objectively of the matter…could one blame those poor men for being critical of a senior service man who appeared reluctant to pay twenty pounds a month? They had taxed themselves mercilessly to raise eighth hundred pounds to send him to England. Some of them earned no more than five pounds a month. He earned nearly fifty. They had wives and school going children; he had none. After paying the twenty pounds he would have thirty left. And very soon he would have an increment which alone was as big as some people's salary.
Obi admitted that his people had a sizable point. What they did not know was that, having labored in sweat and tears to enroll their kinsman among the shining elite, they had to keep him there. Having made him a member of an exclusive club whose members greet one another with "how's the car behaving?" did they expect him to turn round and answer: "I'm sorry, but my car is off the road. You see I couldn't pay my insurance premium"? That would be letting the side down in a way that was quite unthinkable. (10.16-17)
Obi realizes that if he has a duty to pay his kinsmen back for the scholarship money. The board has a duty to make sure he stays within the elite society.
Obi had long come to admit to himself that, no matter how much he disliked Mr. Green, he nevertheless had some admirable qualities. Take, for instance, his devotion to duty. Rain or shine, he was in the office half an hour before the official time, and quite often worked long after two, or returned again in the evening. Obi could not understand it. Here was a man who did not believe in a country, and yet worked so hard for it. Did he simply believe in duty as a logical necessity? (11.9)
Though Mr. Green may be the symbol of colonial hubris, he also represents the hard-working European who toils for his country, and for his country's colonial possessions, even though he has little to gain.