Friday, January 25, 2013

Governor Chime has done well, but...

The continuing absence of Enugu state governor Sullivan Chime leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but it is not for the reasons you might think.

I am from Enugu state and the present state of affairs falls, as they say, on my doorsteps. It is unprecedented in Enugu history for a governor to—if we are to believe the official statement—be on accumulated leave for this long. Despite all the political and constitutional rules this lengthy absence is said to be breaching, I do not intend to dwell on what laws has been broken or how that will impact the polity. Rather, I want to dwell on how much the man’s tenure has affected my community and what his absence means to my constituency and me.

I am from the hills of Anike. My ancestral home is the hilltop town of Nkwe: one of those places that development seems to ignore perpetually, until recently that is. This lack of development may, or may not, have something to do with the fact that aside from meagre cassava, vegetable and palm produce that our women take to the markets in Awgu—where our LGA headquarters is situated—and neighbouring  towns, we appear, on the surface, to largely lack much to offer in terms of commerce. This argument, that we don’t contribute much to the state to warrant attention, was used to justify the lack of government presence in the villages that make up Anike for decades by successive governments.

Rape and the Nigerian society

I encountered rape very early in life. I was perhaps 14 when a random visit to the home of a local ruffian presented me with my first glimpse. A girl, lying on the bed, with only a tiny towel to cover a miniscule part of her honour, stared at me from a threadbare mattress, her eyes pleading yet seemingly resigned to her fate. I had been sent to the room to “take kola”. I remember her clothes were in a bucket by the door, a bucket filled with water. Her story was sad. A visitor from the east, she had only asked for directions to her brother’s house in Angwan Kanawa and was lured to the house of Baba Wani’s aged grandmother, where he and his boys took turns on her. I got to the house on the second day. The monsters were clearly done with her and were offering her as kola to any young man that came to the house. I recall crying as I begged them to let her go, I recall the girl saying nothing, defeated I think. I recall she kept her legs parted, tired of fighting, she existed in a state of ‘cooperation’.

They let her go the next day. Fate however, knows how to mete out poetic justice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My next BIG Thing!

Social media will be celebrated whenever and wherever the story of the generation of Nigerian writers that I belong to is written. And that story will surely feature how writers of my generation, managed, despite the odds, to create something grand out of the possibilities inherent in social media. The story will be big and surely, the tales of how aspiring writers searched for and connected with thousands of like minded individuals would be an integral part of it. While I don’t particular feel I am qualified to write this story, I won’t deny the fact that what you are reading now is a facet of that story.

I met Gbenga Awomodu, online, I can’t recall if it was on Facebook or in the early days of Naijastories, but we connected online and since we both live in Lagos and shared an interest in event reviews and journalism, the chances of us meeting outside of the electronic world of social media was high. We met a couple of times outside of social media before the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop brought us face to face again in August 2012. The story of my generation of writers actually played out in that workshop. Of the 22 participants, I had only ever met Gbenga in person before the workshop, but Richard Ali, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, and Samuel Tosin Kolawole were already (Facebook connected) friends of mine, even though I had never met them in person. I still shiver at that social media strangeness that allows you know people intimately before you meet them in person. I was also meeting Yemisi Ogbe for the first time, but I knew her work as a food writer with the now sadly defunct Next Newspaper, where I also had the privilege of contributing articles, and we happen to have mutual admiration for each other’s work—I  discovered that out during the course of the workshop. I summarised my workshop experience here and Yewande Omotosho did here, so we can skip all the long tori and bite into the meat of this one.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Of traffic snarls and the land of the rubber men

It is a hot day.
Another of those days that traffic stretches as far as the eyes can see causing people in cars to share something other than the unity of crawling traffic and sweltering heat: short fused temperament.

This is Lagos, the heat and traffic snarls are constant realities that we have learnt to live with, no matter how hard that is. Nigerians, we are special breeds, rubber men that defy the laws of elasticity—we are yet to find that elastic limit and we continue to adjust to constantly shifting challenges. Nothing seems to shift more constantly than our traffic laws. Perhaps they don’t really shift, change, rather the government finds new way to express them. That way they keep us on our toes, sweating in choking traffic.

We do have constants, those things that remain the same year in year out. The danfo bus, a modified Volkswagen van that perhaps ferried goods from one point to another in the European country that hosted its first incarnation, is one of the things that remain the same. A testament of our dump mentality, the danfo, like millions of other automobiles in Nigeria, comes second-hand: Europe’s discard serving faithfully here, still.
There is little to see in the scrap-like drabness of the danfo bus I boarded in the hope that their street and alley meandering ability would perhaps shorten the time I would otherwise spend in the traffic snarl—a vain hope. The clammy intensity of the heat that comes from within and without did not gift concentration, so Binyavanga Wainaina’s One Day I will Write About This Place rests in its place in the side pocket of my well-used bag. Yes, I had discovered that the three hours spent in traffic heading to work and the three hours spent on the way back is a good time as any to catch up on reading. Before One Day I Will Write About This Place, one of those Ikeja-under-bridge-paper-backs—a novel by John Varley—occupied the space in the bag. Victor Ehikhamenor’s brand new book Excuse Me!, a testament of where Nigerian literature is headed, will replace Binya’s in a few days.