Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Literary Opportunity: Write your way to stardom

FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards
Ok, here is the big moment you've been waiting for. If you are an unpublished writer and you reside in any African countries, here is a big opportunity to step into the limelight.

Emerging Voices 2015: The Financial Times in association with Oppenheimer Funds has set a big stage to recorgnise and of course reward creativity  and extraordinary artistic talent in fiction literature, film-making and other forms of art.

We wish you best of luck!

Read more info about the prize here

Thursday, 19 March 2015

My President Should Kiss Me Right


It is few days before the 2015 general election, and as we count down, the PDP and APC and their candidates must consider the wise admonition by Simon Sinek, that “leadership is not about the next election, it is about the next generation.” The big contenders are making last-minute effort, casting their nets. By finding a way to postpone the election earlier scheduled for February 14, President Jonathan and his PDP, no doubt made significant inroads catching more fish in this big river called Nigeria, at least more than they ordinarily would have in their net if the election were not shifted. The postponement also served well to defuse the palpable fear that hovered around us. It loosened the gripping claws of fears of war and death caused by the camps threatening fire and brimstone.  But the story has not ended. General Muhammadu Buhari, the seemingly popular choice of the people now has had more than enough to chew. They have tried, in many mysterious ways, to pull him down. But the retired General seem to be the “anointed” one. And you know what the Bible says: “touch not my anointed…”  Buhari has never been my choice man as a President. But he must be happy to enjoy the result of this distrust, suspicion and chariness that I now feel, not for President Jonathan as a person, but his consistent inconsistency in proving to be the man, in proving me right when I asked him with my one vote, to be my President. I have been appalled by his lack of courage to weed his cabinet of endangering, parasitic elements sucking Nigeria dry. No. my President should be my friend and must learn to kiss me right.

Late Chinua Achebe, in his little book, The Trouble With Nigeria, published around 1983, x-rayed the depth of corruption in Nigeria at the time. The late literary giant acknowledged Nigeria’s “helpless integrity to solve the problem of rampant corruption…”However, he admits that “...to initiate change, the President of this country must take, and be seen to take, a decisive step of ridding his administration of all persons on whom the slightest wind of corruption and scandal has blown. When he can summon the courage to do that, he will find himself grown overnight to such a stature and authority that he will become Nigeria’s leader, not just its president. Only then can he take on and conquer corruption in the nation.” And this is where the bigger problem lies, that President Jonathan does not have that courage. A large percentage of people who now clamour for Buhari do so, I believe, not because they are so in love with his personality, but because the docility and inactivity of the one whom they loved threatens their very existence and the hope of their future. And so they ask for change.  

The evidence is becoming increasingly clear; Gen. Buhari, ironically, has become the biblical “fisher of men”. While President Jonathan makes apparent struggle to win people to his camp, Gen.Buhari is busy enjoying unalloyed support, voluntary cross-carpeting into his camp, and soon his tent, if not already full, will be nearing a burst.

One had hoped that President Jonathan would not puff and sweat for his re-election the way he is doing now. That is if the people are actually pleased with him. The evidence of his stewardship would ordinarily speak for him, and there would have been no need for TAN and other pro Jonathan groups. But Mr. President did not understand what it meant to be “a man of the people”, what it means to win peoples’ heart. And worse still, he was not incisive enough to see that the tide is changing, that Nigerians are waking up to defend her democracy. The recent presentation of job offers and other forms of compensation for the victims and relations of victims of the Immigration recruitment tragedy refreshes the wound of that sour incident in my mind. They say it is a fulfillment of the promise made. It is just that bad; someone has to die before someone gets a job. I am not sure how many eligible Nigerians are yet undecided as to who to vote, but these campaign and advert frays might just be needless. Leo Burnett, speaking on the essence of political advertising was right to say that “good ads does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public minds with desire and belief”. And the popular opinion and belief of Nigerians is that PDP is synonymous with corruption. And so they desire a change.

My problem with President Jonathan’s administration and more especially, the PDP is not that Nigeria has not turned America overnight. No. my anger is legitimate, verifiable and justifiable. It is the parallel social and economic cleavage between the insignificant few and an intimidating yet vulnerable millions. It is the ease with which impunity prevails; the wanton, bold, brazen and galloping posture of corruption. I am not the man who judges a government on the basis of centered infrastructural provisions meant to serve the elite in established cities. And so if any president must impress me, his developmental effort must be seen practically evident in the rural areas, such that even if the dwellers cannot afford any luxury, basic necessities of life would not be luxuries.

On the wake of dwindling oil price and federal government’s pronouncement that the year 2015 shall witness a great deal of ‘belt tightening’, there have been perceived misgivings with regards to the measures adopted by the federal government in carrying out the planned austerity measures. But the measures so far adopted do not reflect the real meaning of austerity. My pain will be my silence in the face of this deception not the fact that the measures were intended to deceive. It is not difficult to see, that the “belt tightening” campaign is even a bigger deception. You cannot ask a man who has no belt to tighten his belt. I want Mr. President to know that my brothers and sisters in the village, the ones you call “ordinary Nigerians” have no belt. I want him to know that his cabinet members and coterie of aids have belts that are three times longer than their real sizes; that they are capable of stuffing materials around their waist to claim that the belt is even too tight for them only to turn behind the chamber to off-load and live bigger than Nigeria.

The Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has told us how government plans to curtail international travels in the public service in other to reduce expenditure. The minister also said that the austerity measures would not affect “critical infrastructure projects… because they are key to economic growth, development and job creation.” And this is where I find another big lie. The federal ministry of works and housing has said it might not be able to deliver on various infrastructural projects since government has slashed its budget from over N100bn to a meager N11bn. But we know that the road infrastructure, for instance, is one important way the “ordinary” Nigerians benefit from the government. The big-man and the money-bag politicians do not travel by road. And perhaps that is why the austerity, strangely, targets those capital expenditure frames. This is deception and Nigerians deserve a better kiss from the government.
Instead of asking government officials to tighten up, the president should rather provide them with shorter belts, and ensure they always wear it as a measure of assessment. This way, the President would be seen to be averse to corruption.

If President Jonathan survives this revolutionary heat being mounted by APC and maintains his seat in Aso Rock, it is expected that the APC scare would serve as a wakeup call. The PDP government must know that Nigeria’s wealth is our “common wealth” and nobody or group must claim it. And if perchance Gen. Buhari finds his way into the coveted power enclave, then he must remember, and pay meticulous attention to the issues, those concerns of the “ordinary” Nigerians. He must remember their cry for the natural luxury of peaceful sleep, especially for his brothers in the north-east; that the welder man in my village needs electricity to be productive; that many countries of the world do not have oil deposits but have maintained a robust economy; that our children must no longer die of avoidable diseases and health conditions. He must remember that Boko Haram and other form of insurgencies and restiveness in the country are backlashes of a failed education system. Above all, he must not forget the many issues that must have led his predecessor out of power, and to know too, that Aso Rock is no man’s home. Come March 28, I pledge peace!



Thursday, 5 March 2015

HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!

"Reading makes a full man;confidence a ready man; writing an exact man" - Anonymous 

…my musings on Mamo – Helon Habila’s introspective character



Today is World Book Day - 5th March 5, 2015 - a day set aside by UNESCO to celebrate authors, books and reading every year. This celebration is observed by over hundreds of nations across the world. How are you celebrating? I hope you are not left out. For me, I didn't buy myself a new book this week, and couldn't go for any book event or reading sessions happening around town: just recuperating from a bout of malaria. However, I am here doing it my little way.

So today, since I couldn't get myself a new book - and no one surprised me with a book gift – I turned to my modest library. I wanted something original, captivating and absorbing. I followed my fingers, carefully rummaging through the shelf. It is Helon Habila’s Measuring Time that called me. I answered.



Recently, Helon Habila, Teju Cole and Vladislavic won the 2015 WindhamCampbell Prize alongside 7 other writers, a Prize I tagged as African affair, with the 3 Africans scooping the 3 slots allocated for fiction. Helon is my man any day, such a fecund writer.
Earlier today, on Sabi News, an online news and entertainment site, I read from Toni Kan, reminiscing on a conversation with Helon onWhat Helon Habila Told Me Before He Wrote Measuring Time”. And in that piece, Kan did a near-perfect review of the book Measuring Time, and of course what Helon, the author represents.

For me, the only word I have for the book is Adventure. I chose to write about this as my way of celebrating the World Book Day. Mamo’s experience in the story reminds me of what I thought he could find in his characterized solitude that he did not. “After the closure of the school Mamo found himself with time on his hands and without much means of using it apart from taking long walks in the afternoon.” But I expected Mamo to find a book, papers, anything just to read. But he didn’t and his woes pressed heavily on him. I didn’t like him for that. “He took long walks only to kill time…” and I love the way Helon, this busy hand, weaved this woeful man called Mamo. “He waited for something, anything to happen, and as he waited he measured time in the shadows cast by trees and walls, in the silence between one footfall and the next….” But Mamo! Why didn’t you find a book, just read something? You would have, I believe, found something interesting, something exhilarating, liberating, invigorating; something lifting you from this blistering, or is it icy abyss of clinical solitude.

Ok, Mamo thinks am hash and critical of him. In some occasions his books and radio was actually his only companion. But his world didn’t get better; because he read wrong stuffs or perhaps with a bias mind. I understand because the wait of loneliness had pressed heavily on his shoulders: “At moments like this he could actually feel loneliness curled up like a ball somewhere low in his abdomen. In his room he brought out from under the bed a carton in which he and his brother had always kept their stuff since childhood. It was full of tattered books…” But Mamo had no love for the books; he chose the hankie, on which he touches and drowned in lustful reverie about a passing woman.

That, as painted by Helon, was the early life of Mamo, the rather introspective character in Measuring Time.  You need to find out what happened to Mamo later on and who he turned out to be. So you need to read Measuring Time, a novel praised to be “courageous and poise”.

Reading books – right books – makes you better. But what you read is as important as reading. And that’s why I read good books.  Right?
As we celebrate World Book Day today, I hope your love for books and literary materials grows and that you read always. Having you here is a testimony. Please call again.