It isn’t always one wakes up in Oxford or to a day when you would attend Kwame Dawes’s poetry workshop. But that was the case on this fine Saturday, 1st December, 2018. The clouds were gloomy but that was the least of my concerns. I had spent the night in the town after coming in from Brighton the previous day. Kwame had had a reading, followed by a showcase of the African Poetry Book Fund books. It was fun but that is story for another day.
Who am I?
I’m the most of hawkers
The cutest of beggars
I do your chores
I’m the backbone of every…
Continue reading “WHO AM I? (A Poem) by Aishah Abubakar Gimba”
The YELF Creative Writing Workshop will consist of intensive creative and editorial workshops that will be organized every year. These workshops will be run by established writers/editors and aim to impart editing and writing skills to carefully and meritoriously selected attendees.
There is something about the depth of the artiste – it is only gotten by going into the heart of this one. Several years ago, I would marvel at the profoundness of the works of lots of literary maestros. The depth of their creative springs and reaches left me bedazzled. I started writing, churning out tales easily with poetry and the seeming ‘myth’ of the work put into writing lost its hold on me: these were simply creative works thrown out. Unnecessary attention was usually given them – I thought. I read some critiques to show the pretensions of people’s works. But then, I got to change yet again as I became more of a writer by reading and growing values that I would hold on to.
Writing, which was overtly easy to me, became harder. Each word became important – what message is this giving? Does it speak what I want? Does it tell what I represent? Many thoughts died with words stifled out till at some point, it became somewhat more possible (but not easier) to churn out words. Poems and other write-ups took longer time and more edits. My being went into the process.
Where is this leading to?
IT brought me to realize that the depths I had seen in works several years ago were, in many cases, for real. I do not doubt that certain writers simply write without thinking. I do not doubt that several writers don’t write what they preach. Yet I know a whole lot do. It is these ones that make the reading worth the while, most of the times. The ones that make the name ‘writer’ worth wearing with pride. I should add: I also know there are certain writers who just write for the heck of it but I guess you have an idea of those I am talking about. Maybe I am even talking to you now.
There’s no art to finding the mind’s construction in the face rings true in this case too. You have to read the work and in some cases, know the writer deeply to know if both tally: You make your analysis of a work and if you know the author well you can tell if it is a reflection of his/her thoughts or simply a blessing of some muse on a(n) (un)deserving ass (pun intended).
I do not doubt the humanity of the writer. I believe it greatly and know they are more human than many with their foibles, mistakes and all. Now, does it matter that almost everyone on the road or in their room for that matter claims to be a writer? I don’t really think so. What separates (the) writer(s) is the depth of thought that (s)he has come to garner and yes, experience too. It comes from the study of several ones – in books read. The experience in a rich life lived, no matter how such. It’s the varying experience carried. A writer who hasn’t read is not really a writer worth much salt. A writer who hasn’t lived really, hasn’t lived.
(Yes, yes, importantly, there’s skill too and the unseen magic wand – hand? – of the editor)
I have studied several works and had the pleasure of meeting, interacting and enjoying the unique grace of the friendships of many writers. The true writer still exists and I have seen him and her severally. I get to discover that what I thought of some of their work was far less than what lay therein. They – most writers – are far deeper. It has been very humbling but worth it all. To know these people who are peculiar yet similar in many lights. These ones who would many times just want to be alone to access the recesses of their innermost beings or others who would just want to go out and get it. These ones who look at a bland wall and discover lines to leave others amazed.
All this has made sense why some artistes would risk it all for their craft. It makes sense why a lot of them see that there’s a lot they can offer in words and actions. It’s in the definition of that depth that has become them from all they have drunk of and become – of the words of others, of the life they have lived.
For every true writer, there’s a depth…
Phoneys, have fun. Children, enjoy. Writers, live on.
(Reblogged from…years ago.)
Happy February everyone. May each day smile for you.
Thought for the day:
If you’ve witnessed war, you will never underestimate peace. I have lived through some crises, like my people. I have seen Zaki-Biam and Wukari, small wars but even in those “little numbers” and events of red that darkened our sun, I experienced a full eclipse. Have you seen people cut down in one breath? Intestines hanging out, destinies flushed away with the wiping out of whatever we are today? It might seem far-fetched but close your eyes and imagine the person you love the most –your father, mother, sibling or lover. Imagine that person raped. Imagine that person shot… Cut down. This is not even half a description of what war is…
This isn’t a fear narrative or a graphic building of fiction. It’s a telling of what may come. It is a simple simplistic rendering or what may be for us, and indeed what is, for others.
Read the stories of the Biafran war or hear someone tell you. Read the stories of the two World Wars or of the war in Sudan, the genocide in Rwanda.
It starts with words. It starts with actions. The actions of our inactions. We watch hate narratives grow and stare on as hate actions build to destroy. The actions or our building hate that surrenders us to an evil fate. No poem, no story, no word can do justice to the evils that await if we refuse to do something to create peace.
Under the auspices of Writers and CSOs for Development, we – at SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative, Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI), Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative (GECOME), Women’s Right to Education Programme, Oyalewa Integrated Services Limited, ANA Benue, Mbachilin Development Foundation, Custodians Of African Literature of Jos and Sankofa of Ibadan, amongst other partners – did a full day literary and CSO driven programme across three cities on the 23rd of September to commemorate the 2017 International Day of Peace. Okay, and it was themed ‘Together for peace: respect, safety & dignity for all. That explains why we had to bring in so many of us and create that nexus between us writers and development workers.
We had poetry, spoken word and fiction readings. We discussed the works and it was fun to see the CSO actors present react to the readings. There were some misinterpretations, some debate, some disagreements, general praise and all, done in good faith to bring clarity and better understanding. Otene Ogwuche, my chief co-planner read the UN Secretary General’s speech for International Day of Peace while I had the welcome note. We also rounded up the day’s proceedings later. Mrs. Elizabeth Jeiyol of GERI taught everyone the perspective game after a heated discussion on a piece, ‘Wahala’ by Daniel Iduh. The work is written from the point of view of a soldier agitating for war. The writers thought it was a cool story with fine imagery plus good language while some journalists and development workers thought it was hate speech and a flame blower for conflict. After our discussions, we reached a middle ground – these narratives exist and will always exist, how do we change the narrative? Terseer Sam Baki, a Civil Defence officer and poet shortlisted for the ANA Poetry Prize 2015 read some poems on peace. We had other readings from Aondosoo Andrew Labe (Benue ANA Publicity Secretary), Innocence Silas Katricia (who won the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize 2017) and Ene Odaba while Ciara Ogah and Michael Amedu had lovely spoken word performances. At the end, our compere, Oko Owi Ocho had to applaud everyone.
In the evening, we watched Beast of no Nation and discussed the movie – themes, ideas, style and the like. It was really enlightening for all us. We sure learnt a lot on the day. At the end of the whole event, we resolved that we would do more of such events, especially as the engagement was the start of a peace campaign aimed at peace and other development initiatives engagements. We resolved to start rewriting the tales of our places by living right and doing new things. The campaign continues and you can check by following us on Instagram and Twitter @sueddieagema @geri_initiative @Otenefrank @sevhagebooks
It is amazing how a lot of us do not realise the power of stories to do a lot of damage and harm on the one hand, or building and healing on the other. I know the power of stories. I am a writer. I am development worker. I am a change agent. Who are you? What can you do?
Wherever you are, in what space you find yourself, be the change. Together we can change the narrative.
Happy Independence Nigeria.
We love you.
There is an eagerness for everyone to say something about Biafra, to blame somebody for the chaos that is about to unfold if care is not taken. This is not the time to say that IPOB had it coming. The issue here is that human lives are being wasted.
First, the killing of Biafran agitators by armed soldiers and the inhumane treatment soldiers have been metting out on Nigerians for decades now is not justifiable under the law and must be condemned for what it is – a gross abuse of the fundamental human right to life and human dignity. At the same time, the hounding of Northerners and other ethnicities in the Southeast, to be murdered in cold blood in the name of retalition by Biafran agitators should also be condemned in the strongest terms. These acts could lead to a cancerous spread of retaliatory violence in other parts of the country and in that case, no one will be safe. The anxiety in Jos should serve as a resounding alarm.
One would think that the lessons of history should serve to remind us that violence either by the authorities or by the civilian populace has never resulted in any meaningful accomplishment. The civil war and more recently the Boko Haram insurgency as well as the Zaria massacre should be enduring lessons for us.
But unfortunately, it would seem we are too anxious to repeat the same mistakes, perhaps on an even grander scale.
Since we are not savages, and I strongly believe we are not, both the government and the citizens must follow laid down laws to pursue their objectives, hence:
1. All acts of violence by all parties in all parts of the country must stop at once. We simply cannot have our soldiers turning their guns on us at the slightest provocation, neither should we take laws into our hands.
2. All those, soldiers and civilians, who are found culpable in killing or maiming persons or destroying property or otherwise causing a breach of the law must be subjected to the laws of the country. Peace can only be sustained by justice and fairness.
3. We must recognise that not every Igbo person subscribes to Nnamdi Kanu’s suicidal ideology the same way that not every non-Igbo hates the Igbo and should therefore avoid generalization and stereotyping people as well as spreading hate.
4. That if some people no longer wish to be part of the country they should be allowed to pursue this within the framework of the law. If the constitution does not recognise a referendum then IPOB, which I understand has the ears of some senators and political leaders from the Southeast, should push for it through constitutional means (via the National Assembly) and if this succeeds, a referendum could be conducted within the framework of the law. But until that is done, the Nigerian constitution maintains that the country remains indivisible and the president is sworn to defend the constitution and the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
5. IPOB must recognize that forming a parallel government with a “Biafran Secret Service” is a treasonable offense as well as Mr. Kanu’s hate speech and calls to “burn down Nigeria.” Regardless, there are lawful ways of dealing with this issue. If a court of law believes that Mr. Kanu has violated his bail conditions and issues a warrant, he should be re-arrested lawfully and prosecuted. And the last time I checked, these is not the duty of armed soldiers.
6. Muhammdu Buhari is the duly elected president of the country. He is human and admittedly could have handled this issue with more tact through considerate words and actions (that 5 percent talk was a grave error of judgment). And Igbo leaders as well could have played a bigger role in curbing Kanu’s excesses. This is the time for leaders, not rulers, to step forward and appeal for calm, for anxious gladiators to sheath their swords and for reason to prevail. That which hate cooks will always leave a lasting bitter aftertaste.
The sanctity of human lives must be prevalent in our minds at all times. Overhead, the vultures of doom are circulating and for the young ones eager for action, remember what is said: when surrounded by vultures, try not to die.
May reason and peace prevail.
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is a multiple award winning writer and journalist who lives in Abuja.
For 5th October…
Today is World Teachers’ Day. All over the internet, different individuals and organisations celebrated various teachers. What can we do without them? Really, who are we without them? It doesn’t matter if we are talking of our non-formal teachers from mothers to the man in the streets who taught you a lesson or two; or those who taught us in various classes, they all deserve to be celebrated. If you can read what I have written, thank a teacher!
I could write of a million teachers; from Mr. Mbatsavde Emmanuel who tested my composition and became a big brother who I will never forget, to Mr. Atile Godwyns, my uncle and guardian through the high school years; Mr David and Suleiman, Aunty Joy, Mr Ukor Ayem (my primary school proprietor)… The list is endless. I have my parents to think of too; my father and mother, Mr. Charles Ayede, now even Belle, Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi and so many others. I thank the Almighty for each of them.
I spent some good months teaching in a secondary school in Taraba state, teaching Literature-in-English and English to students, some of whom couldn’t speak English! It was fun. The experience of my teaching inspired a short story of mine! I have had cause now on and off, to lecture and supervise some university undergraduates and give lessons to some of my fellow writers who I have also learnt from… What am I saying? Seeing both sides of the coin, I am most honoured that at least today, if only for one day, I can say THANK GOD THERE ARE TEACHERS!
For every one of you has ever taught me a thing or two – either privately or publicly, in class or out of it, I am deeply grateful and even if I don’t get the chance to say many times, I never took it for granted. For those of you, others who are teaching elsewhere, and impacting lives, enduring pain to ensure that students learn and get better, you are the real champions. I remember now Mrs. Marie Aduro, a fair proprietor who sweats it out every day in Minna for her students, fighting demons and policies to kill the illiteracy that looms large in that part of the world. I also remember Jennifer Aduro working hard to develop programmes to help aid in teaching. You are a star girl!
Kukogho Iruesiri Samson keeps on doing what he can to impact lives and today, he is also asking that you nominate a teacher to win 10,000 naira! Yaaaay, isn’t that cool? You can check the link HERE. Kudos to Dr. Emman Shehu, BM Dzukogi, Aidee Erhime, Debbie Iorliam and all the other amazing teachers there too.
Make a teacher happy today…
May the times celebrate and the world treat you kind.
Happy Teachers’ Day!
There is something about writing and capturing young hearts, young people, teaching, relearning and making things better. It has been a passion for me. Fortunately, in 2012, I was made a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors’ National Teen Authorship Committee alongside three other fine people.
WE had our first official conference from the 27th to 30th September, 2016 at the Logos Secondary School, Awommama, Imo State. That school is as big as a university! It should be one soon. Well, I will not bore you with the story of my journey from Makurdi to Owerri though I can tell you it was an amazing adventure. I joined public transport and had to take the Bayelsa bus, to drop in Owerri. Believe it or not, fellow passengers from Makurdi included live fish put in water, loads of yams, cassava, rice, orange and all you can talk of. We stopped in Aliade and Otukpo to get more passengers – and load. By the time we were set to fully hit the road, we also had live chickens on board and humans behaving like wild baboons! Oh, but I said I wouldn’t bore you with the journey so let me pity you. Maybe I will write a travelouge on that one at some point.
All delegates were lodged at the Disney hotel, where mobile network bars were shorter than a midget. Members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (from 20 chapters) were represented in addition to members of the National Executive and the National Committee. We went to the School for Day 1 of events on Wednesday 28th. We had heavy brunch in the Senate room of the school – I skipped though. IT was a lovely table with people like Denja Abdullahi (ANA President), Professor J. O. J Nwachukwu-Agbada, Professor Sam Ukala, BM Dzukogi (one of Nigeria’s most ardent Teen author activist), and Usman Nurain Muhammad (a teen author from Gombe who schools in ABU Zaria, who I quickly made friends with).
We walked to the field where we were to have the welcome ceremony and stared the sun in the eye as we introduced ourselves to wild applause by the gathered students and other guests. Professor Nwachukwu-Agbada (who was the Chairman) and Denja Abdullahi gave their speeches, then Professor Ukala (who won the NLNG Prize for Literature with his Iredi’s War) took the stage delivering a powerful keynote address ‘Mentoring Teen Authors for National Development’. I was working on my laptop and paying passive attention but soon, I had my head up. Ukala’s message mainly stressed that the artist is the visioner who sets the pace and redefines thinking, setting a course which humanity should take. He said that if our country is to grow and become the land of our dreams, then teenagers need to be groomed to think different, write better and redefine the orientation of our society. He got a standing ovation and I had to get my books to him quickly. BM Dzukogi spoke on the testimony of the Hilltop Arts Centre in Minna. BM was one of the originators of the National Teen Authorship scheme in Nigeria. As General Secretary of ANA, he also inaugurated the Logos School Arts Centre in 2012 which has now published three anthology for students and teachers. BM spoke of his son, Saddiq Dzukogi who has published three books and more (Saddiq has been shortlisted for the ANA Poetry Prize twice and is an editor to many fine poetry journals online). He spoke of other alumni of the Arts Centre which have continued to triumph because of their early start. He urged other states to go and start their versions of the centre and do their creativity campaigns.
John Sarpong (a 69 year old Ghanaian writer who was a part of the conference) gave a speech after ensuring that everyone danced. When he stood up to talk, everyone wondered what the Baba was going to say. Then, we were all dancing, then laughing and when he left, we were sober. So, what did he really say? A lot. Bottom line, with children, you have to entertain and in that moment, also teach. More like what literature should do, no? (He would later recite a million poems from his head to me; largely sound poems. Ah, Sir Sarpong is a funny man!) Then the Principal of the school spoke, with the occasion rounded up by the Director of the school, who in his vote of thanks gave another speech! Well, don’t worry, we will give small details at some point, hopefully.
We had dinner and went back to the hotel, where I was greeted by the death of the Israeli statesman, Shimon Peres on CNN. I pondered on his life, 93 fruitful years of service to teh earth. And now, he had gone the way of memory. What would time say of us all? I thought as other news items passed including that of OPEC nations trying to work a deal for better oil sales. We had a small writers meet in the lobby. Aha! I also watched a movie, The Walk. (Oh! That’s not meant to be part of this post… But I learnt much from the movie and was inspired. The movie is about Philippe Petit, a high-wire walker who walked a line between the two Twin towers. You should watch that movie. I even picked up some French and Mathematics from there. C’est la vie… C’est la vie!)
Day 2: Well, to save time, we had a fast meal in the hotel and waited, then waited, and waited… till we left for the school late. By 12, we had barely started. Then, we had to wait again. What were we waiting for? Maybe Samuel Beckett would help there. 🙂
But we started at some point, and the Director gave us an opening speech speaking on the value of writing and learning. He told us he had some manuscripts and he had declared to use the conference to learn writing, then finish his work. President Denja Abdullahi gave his speech and then it was time for the main workshop. BM Dzukogi was the first facilitator with his engaging ‘Mentoring as a Strategy for Creative Writing: Perspectives on the Hilltop Arts Centre, Minna.‘ (Click to read all about it.) After his paper which was well received, Professor Joy Eyisi, a Professor of English stood up to deliver her paper (without a paper!) She gave a talk on teaching English and drilled us on grammar. Ah! Most of us learnt we didn’t know how to speak English at all! There are some common errors in English that are so embarrassing! She told us she had been commissioned by the World Bank to teach teachers of English (teach the teacher) in a workshop to hopefully better the grades of students that have kept on falling! The first question she had asked was ‘What is the reason for the falling standard of English performance in examinations across the nation?’ Trust the teachers to give answers like ‘Dying reading culture.’ ‘Facebook.’ ‘Poor home manners.’ etc etc.
Professor Joy had presented 20,000 Naira and a new dictionary to the various participants, at each of the various areas she had taught across the federation. The deal was simple, if anyone could get up to 45 spellings right out of the 50 simple common words she was going to dictate, the person would get both money and dictionary (she added that any strange word she dictated would be withdrawn if they protested). Sadly, the highest result was 17 (or was it 20) out of 50! She kept her money and dictionary, and the teachers kept their shame! We all learnt from the fair professor.
Workshop over, Mr. Anaele Ihuoma gave the vote of thanks. Then, we went on a tour of the Arts Centre of the school. We were impressed. We took shots, smiled, made noise and headed out to Owerri town for a meal. It took us an hour or two to get there but the food was worth it. When we were through, our bus got caught under a live wire from an overhead electric pole! Don’t ask me how it happened. It took us time for the agberoes there to clear everything. When they were through, they asked for 7,000 Naira! We settled after much pleading and moved on. We got to a short cut and after a small traffic jam, found out the road had been closed. So, we took another route and finally arrived at our Disney hotel.
We refreshed and came down to the lobby to talk. Mr. Thompson Abutu (from Kogi chapter), David Onotu (from Plateau chapter), Moses Oginni-Momodu (from Oyo chapter), Richard Inya (from Ebonyi chapter), Okechukwu Onuegbu (from Anambra), Anaele Ihuoma (the national auditor) amongst others, all had one tale or the other. I walked from one side of the lobby to the other, sharing a laugh where necessary, frowning deeply alongside anyone who needed it and just being a comrade 🙂
It was soon time to drag a tired body upstairs and I did. I checked on Usman Nurain to be sure he was fine and headed to my room. I tried writing but ah, as one of my aunts would say a million times; you can’t cheat nature!
Friday morning. Farewells and I headed out to find the park. Now, instead of heading straight to the place I had been directed, I decided to sightsee and made a friend at the Cathedral of Assumption! The Igbo man swore that he would soon sell his blood – or anything else – so that he would go abroad and make money! He laughed a lot and agreed to be my photographer. When I was leaving, we shook hands and he smiled his gratitude.
The Owerri people on the streets were really nice and kept rushing me to the park, some a bit irritated if I stayed a second too long. Well, I made it to Benue Links, got a fair seat while my fellow passengers were a bit squeezed behind. We had no chickens, fish or baboons but I am sure some people would swear that the driver was an ass. What was my business? I enjoyed what I could and headed back to Makurdi, thinking of how best to write better stories for children, inspire others and be my best, working with all the people I can to promote literature, development and the ideals I believe in. I know I wasn’t alone in that thought. Owerri was that inspiring.
Thank you Camilus Ukah, National Teen Authorship Coordinator for the experience, BM Dzukogi for pioneering much and Denja Abdullahi for all the work you have done and are doing.
Whatever demons we have, may time exorcise them and life give us the opportunity to make every second count.
Day 1…in pictures up and Day 2 down…
Life is one big contradiction in every field but it is more so when you are a writer—or so I think. You think you are there, you think you have the right words. You are in the moment and you bask as Mother Muse slowly pours herself unto your pages through the medium of creativity.
Depending on the time, you push yourself to the end or just rush it to a stop. Finally, you smile at seeming perfection. Ah! For the conscious writer, something pricks you to note that the work might have flaws here and there. So, you might decide to get editors or throw the work away. If you get the right editors, your headache begins. Have you ever noticed how those folks always seem to find faults here or there? Some of the faults are so obvious you have to hit yourself in the head! Ouch! How could you have missed that? This is the beauty of patience and seeking counsel. (Yes, if you miss the editorial seat, you might miss a lot of good stuff that might have made your work better.)
Anyway, you do your rewrite and maybe feel the work is okay… Or you keep editing till you tire out. I have been known on occasion to keep editing right up to the door of the final proofer and printer doors! Anyway, finally, you push the work out, hoping that someone will like it somehow and it will be the ticket to giving you something good. Some of us, and I am a front man in this group, edit and refine our work tying as many screws as possible.
In most cases, you get your work or book published and the feeling, for most, is indescribable. It is like a baby given to a parent. The looks of wonder at the new you is something the adjectives of the universe will not dare present. You hold that book close… Yes, I know there are a few who would look at their own book with bad eyes especially if it didn’t come out the way they like. Talk of all those parents who discover that their children are disfigured or not of the sex they want! But no, we are not talking of those sorts of parents. We are talking of the proud ones and yes, I didn’t derail. We are still talking about books.
It is easy to find authors who pick their published books and see things they wish could have been done or written differently. Many times have authors been caught reading what they hoped they might have put. Some would take a pen and correct a few lines shortly before reading at a festival or something. Sometimes you begin to see things that might best have been removed or something that might have been added for effect. It gets to the case of seeing your grown child not being the perfect baby you had once viewed. The hope is that with the next book, you will take extra precaution and have your heart more expressed.
Usually, the ideal thing that most writers come to discover is that a work is best left to fallow for three months or maybe a year… just enough time for you to have become a stranger so that you will edit your work through fresh eyes since looking at the same thing over slowly makes it seem perfect. But time is not on the side of anyone and how long can one really take? The changes and all might never be enough and we usually have to just halt. Much like what poet and scholar, Hyginus Ekwuazi says echoing older writers of yore, no true work of art has ever been truly completed. You simply have to get the maturity to let it go, and pray that point was a time worth your imperfection.
So much to writing, so much to reading. Oh well. In the end, who knows what I might want to edit from this piece… I will be mature and let it fly. Wherever your writing and reading takes you this week, make it worth the time. Cheers!
First published on the SEVHAGE Reviews website.