Posted in LIFE, POL TALKS

THE CHANGE WE NEED TO MAKE NIGERIA RIGHT (THE BRIBECODE) by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

time for change NigeriaIn a time when most people are shouting for change and clamouring for much, we seem to forget that it is the same chant that we have continued to rant. From Facebook to Twitter, we have continued to swim in the deception of our forgetfulness. We discover that each succeeding administration ends up beatifying those before them, making saints of former legendary tyrants and corrupt officials. Don’t you remember how we celebrated when Obasanjo came to power or when Abacha died? Do we not remember how a whole horde of us moved to the polls with gusto to stamp our fingers for Jonathan in 2011? Another group of us did the stamping for Buhari in 2011 and now, more of us have joined this group. There is a general distrust and dissatisfaction with the current regime with a lot of people swearing that things have never been this bad. With so much corruption abounding and suffering lingering, we are myopic and go to vote Buhari not because we believe in him per se but because he is the option against Jonathan. Thus, it has become our mantra to vote that which we think is not good. But think again, isn’t it surprising that Jonathan has done far more in two months than he did in six years? That deserves commendation but it should teach us a lesson, everything that has been happening so far…

Our politicians are about the same with the problem only changing names like PHCN (Problem Has Changed Name, remember?). The people in APC today aren’t they the ones we saw in PDP yesterday? If we are recycling the same people, how do we expect to see change? Trust me, I don’t mean to pessimist but we might keep seeing the same evils. I was actively involved in some opposition politics leading up to the 2011 elections and I know what I am talking about.

It only means one thing people: our problem is systematic and we must find a way to take care of it. Here then is where the Corporate Corruption Act (CCA) comes in. You can also call it the Corruption Whistle Act or the short form, Bribecode. Briefly, it is an act to make companies pay for corruption. Any company that wants Nigeria to suffer for the million(s) it makes to bring sweat on our brows will face liquidation and where there are high officials involved, they will face punishment. Cool?

Why a Corporate Corruption Act?

Most of our problems are caused by organisations taking bribes, giving bribes, taking contracts and not executing, legal systems that are wrong and the like. If anything goes wrong, only one scape goat is sacrificed and life goes on. This time, they all pay and trust me, the NNPCs, Shell, and other big companies run away with billions and paying a pittance of a compensation would have their sins catching up with them. Imagine that in this time, someone or a company steals up to ten billion then is told to pay two billionBribe Code back… Why wouldn’t we all aspire to be thieves? But don’t get your hopes high there, the CCA would take care of that and any intending person who has hope to do so.

How do you come in? Simple. There’s this site called http://bribecode.org. Get there, sign up and be updated on how you can play your part. I have been a part of the Act sharing it, and playing in its thoughts since forever… Join great writers, lawyers, advocates and proven people of integrity including Chuma Nwokolo, Okey Ndibe, Agatha Aduro, Iquo Eke, Unoma Azuah, Michael Okwori amongst others and yes, join me too, so that we can lend our voice to play our part. There’s much more to this so please, go to the site, lend your voice, sign up, go through the Frequently Asked Questions, find out about the Act (the Bribecode) and let’s make Nigeria as beautiful as we can.

Things can only get better. And they will, if we act on this Act. Arise o compatriots, Nigeria’s call… Please, obey.

All for Nigeria

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Posted in LIFE

How to Receive News of Yet another Civil Bomb by Chuma Nwokolo

http://blackpast.org
http://blackpast.org

Civil war is anything but civil.

It  interrupts life rudely:  targets civilians on the way to school, to market, to worship.

The bombs are detonated by cowards in search of power, relevance,  notoriety.

We think we know grief well enough, but we don’t. We think because he has called many times before, he will treat us like an old customer, offer us a discount on pain, but he doesn’t work that way.

Grief is a new monster every time.

So be ready each time the grim news come: brace yourself, roll with the pain. A branch breaks off the iroko of nation. It rustles to the ground. Grief is the spade with which we bury our pain.

Yet, what about Despair, Depression? Hopelessness? Anarchy? Blind Hatred?

They are excluded. It is our light that extinguishes the darkness of the enemy. When we mourn our national pain as one people it will not break us. And we retain our ability to fly above the quicksand and the snares of  the evil in our midst. These negative emotions will fill our bones with lead. Those reactions enlist us in enemy’s forces. We reject them.

Do the  murderers kill people who would never have died? No.

Therefore they are as irrelevant as flash floods, mudslides, and man-eating hyenas to the irresistible progress of humanity. And here lies the insignificance of these quislings whose courage is a bomb, who live in darkness, who boast an all powerful God but have to fight his battles as if he were an invalid, who preach love but kidnap and murder children: they have no heritage, unless it is the heritage of termites, whose fate is to eat our dead. The cumulative history of the human race has no record of Death. Only of Life. We raise our tombstones to our Dead Beloved, not to Death. When we look back a thousand years, we will gloss over the flash floods and the mudslides and the cowardly curs who yap at the heels of our doers, our makers, our inventors, our lovers, our nurturers. Our memorials are to those who Live, not to those who kill. Not to the murderers that hurry our loved ones to graveyards that are the destination of all humanity anyway.

In a civil war, civilians are the inadvertent warriors.death

So, the best memorial for our warriors who have fallen is to win the war in whose cause they fell. That is why we cannot entertain Despair, Depression, Hopelessness, Anarchy or Blind Hatred in the aftermath of the news of yet another civil bomb. The innocent blood of the thousands who have been murdered stipulate our common justice on their killers and theirsave us cause. Our attitude must be  Resolution, not Despair. Engagement, not Indifference. We must wake up as from slumber. Here are the things we can and must do Immediately.

We must

  • Bridge our divisions with conversations rather than swords.
  • Support and protect those (especially other civilians) at the frontline of this war.  It may be their battle, but it is our war;  we must encourage and equip them.
  • Take the ‘war’ to the enemy and not live like battery hens eating and drinking, until their own day arrives.
  • Recognise that the murderers who set off the bombs are merely ‘arms’, and so look for the rest of their anatomy, their enablers, financiers, and sympathisers who live among us and bring them all to justice.
  • Connect the dots between our broken society and the break down of law and order it engenders, and grow the gumption to fix things.
  • Recognise the impact that Systemic Corruption has on the battle-readiness of our Arsenal, the mettle of our fighting forces, the education of our children, the morale of our youth, and address the IMPORTANT issues of systemic change while tackling the URGENT issues of civil defence.
  • Recognise that Generals who steal army budgets and cause frontier towns to fall from lack of equipment and citizens to be raped, killed and kidnapped, have as much blood on their hands as suicide bombers.
  • Recognise that Ministers who steal education budgets thereby condemning unmentored children to a hopeless future have as much blood on their hands as the suicide bombers recruited from the ranks of those children.
  • Recognise that as a ‘war’ within a body politic, the main weapons in this ‘civil war’ are not munitions, but the antibiotics of truth and justice, of transparency and the rule of law. What we defend is NOT our broken status quo, but our common humanity.
  • Support the Bribe Code as a strategic solution to our Systemic Crisis of existence as a nation.

The new rapacity of death should give us a radical propensity to live, and to live more courageously. At last, our backs have found the wall. We must push back. Or die.

War heroes

– Chuma Nwokolo

How to Receive News of Yet another Civil Bomb is a post from: Chuma

Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, EVENTS, LITERARY MISSIONARY

LITERARY EVENTS IN NOVEMBER 2014… Su’eddie Vershima Agema

4th EDITION OF MBA COLLOQUIUM TO HOLD IN MINNA 10th-12th November, 2014

  • Pius Adesanmi to give keynote…

The 4th edition of the Muazu Babangida Aliyu (MBA) International Literary Colloquium comes up from 10th – 12th November, 2014. This year’s Colloquium will run for two days; Pre-colloquium day (for commissioning of Multimedia and Arts Gallery) and the Colloquium proper which will have in attendance notable writers from home and abroad, literary critics, social activists, politicians, students and academics across the nation to grace the event. This year’s theme is Literature Culture and Social Re-engineering for National Development. Scholars, writers, creative performers and literary journalists from across the country would grace the occasion.

2014 colloquium will feature a pre-colloquium lecture with the theme: Post Centenary Nigeria: New Literatures, New Leaders, New Nation to be presented by Professor Pius Adesanmi of the University of Carleton, Canada. There will also be an Interactive session on Literature, Creative writing, Leadership and Democracy among students, writers and politicians. It looks like the long awaited first books of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Nigerian Writers’ Series books would be unveiled there…

Nigerian writers remain grateful to Prof. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya who facilitated all of the above.

Venue would be Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi Hall on 11th and 12th, 11am  and 10am respectively for the lectures… UK Bello Arts Theatre would host the writers on 10th and 11th, 7pm…

LAGOS BOOK AND ARTS ‘FREEDOM’ FESTIVAL IN HONOUR OF SOYINKA TO HOLD NOVEMBER 14th – 16th

-Biodun Jeyifo, Chuma Nwokolo, Toni Kan, Rotimi Babatunde, Kola Tuboson, Sage Hasson to feature prominently…

The 16th Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF) is set to hold on the 14th to 16th November, 2014. LABAF this year is in honour of Wole Soyinka at 80. The three day event would feature a variety of events that writers and readers would find desirable and memorable. The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Freedom and the Word’. The official website for the festival explains that this theme was inspired by the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 20th Anniversary of the South African Democracy and 15th anniversary of Nigeria’s 4th Republic. The Festival largely interpretes how the published text has interrogated the notion of human freedom.

The event would include addresses by Professor Biodun Jeyifo and Prof. Chidi A. Odinkalu in honour and exploration of Soyinka—the man and his books. There would also be book and writing discussions, panel conversations led by distinguished writers like Chuma Nwokolo (editor of African Writing and author of Diaries of a Dead African, The Ghost of Sani Abacha among other titles); Toni Kan, Kola Tuboson, Rotimi Babatunde (Caine Prize Winner 2012), and the spoken word maestro, Sage Hasson among others.

Every year, the Lagos Book and Arts Festival brings together writers from around the year to interact with each other and explore particular theme. It is

The main festival date for this year is 14th to 16th November 2014 and would take place at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos. For more information, please visit http://lagosbookartfestival.org.

AKE FESTIVAL OF ARTS HOLDS 18th – 22nd NOVEMBER

Ake Festival, judged one of the best literary festival for 2013 is back this year to hold 18th to 22nd November 2014

Organised by Lola Shoneyin and the Book Buzz Foundation, the festival would bring writers from around the world in Master Classes where the skills of writers would be honed. The theme for this year is Bridges and Pathways. Discussions this year will focus on building bridges between African peoples, especially along language, ethnic and gender lines, and charting new paths with the aim of creating synergy and cultural cross fertilization on the African continent.

The guest list for the festival this year includes a full who-is-who cast of literary and social giants. Expected guests include Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka; President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Professor Remi Raji for starters. Others include Lizzy Attree, Molara Wood, Mukoma wa Ngugi, Okey Ndibe, Rodney Saint Eloi, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim,  Chijioke Amu-Nnadi, Nnedi Okoroafor, Rotimi Babatunde, Toni Kan, E. E. Sule, Eghosa Imasuen, Dami Ajaiyi, Efe Paul Azino, Stella Duffy and Uche Peter Umez, Wale Okediran, Ukamaka Olisakwe among several other distinguished writers, critics, leaders, thinkers, teachers, academics and distinguished personalities from around the world.

The event would include Book Chats, Panel Discussions, Master Classes, Art Exhibition, Drama, Film, Dance, Documentaries, Poetry, School Visits and a tour of Abeokuta.

The Ake festival, in its second year now, is a yearly literary and cultural festival that takes place in Abeokuta. The main official venue for this year is the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, Ogun State. More information? Visit http://www.akefestival.org/

ANA INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION POSTPONED INDEFINITELY

The 33rd International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) which was scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, Rivers State from 30th October to 2nd November, 2014 has been postponed indefinitely. The reason given for the postponement was given by the President of the Association, Remi Raji, as being the inability of the proposed host state, Rivers, to meet deadlines on preparations. The National Executive has apologized for this postponement and promised that a new date, and possibly, a new venue would be announced in due course. Meanwhile, there are indications that the convention would be held in the first week of December somewhere in the Niger-Delta…

More information when that comes up.

So,  have a great November people and wherever it is the literary muse takes you…Bon  voyage.

 

Posted in EVENTS, MEET THE POETS

FEEL THE ARTMOSPHERE WITH CHUMA NWOKOLO AND REMI RAJI IN IBADAN ON 15th MARCH 2014

It is billed for Ibadan, 15th March 2014 at NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110 Abeokuta road, Alalubosa GRA Extension, Ibadan. 3:00pm….

Chuma in Guernsey
Chuma Nwokolo

Who is Chuma Nwokolo? Are you asking me? Choi! One of the most gifted poets and short story writers from these parts. I was in a vehicle a few days back traveling. I clutched my ‘How to spell Naija in one hundred ways’… A passenger collected my somewhat ‘used’ copy of the book and insisted on paying for it… (Okay, it doesn’t happen everyday, abi?) but once you read him once, you usually want to get back. He is the publisher of http://african-writing.com … Find a full citation here… Read his short story ‘Diaries of a Dead African here or visit his blog … I should add that Chuma has a great height (only Geoff Ryman has given him competition in all the times I have done height competition for him and anyone around) and a great spirit. He’s someone whose presence fills any room with warmth which radiates from a beautiful spirit within.

Remi Raji is a tentative guest but one who even the slightest chance of an appearance should leave you smiling… He is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ibadan, and my Oga as National President of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). An accomplished poet and scholar, Remi Raji counts off fascinating poems and sound scholarly papers like the chants in a full Latin mass. Hee hee hee! I don’t mean they are senseless. I mean he has a long list of very beautiful verse and great papers 🙂

There would be music accompaniment and lots of jolly. Artmosphere is put together by WriteHouse Collective in Ibadan and is managed by the paddies, Femi Morgan and Servio Gbadamosi. I was at Artmosphere last year with Reward Nsirim (ace short story writer and author of Fresh Air and other stories) and we both agree that it is one of the most intellectual gatherings you would come across… But don’t worry if you aren’t too intellectual, Chuma’s stories takes care of everyone leaving you laughing away every sorrow. Sure you don’t need a large dose of that now?

Venue again: NuStreams Conference Centre, KM 110 Abeokuta road, Alalubosa GRA Extension, Ibadan. 3:00pm… Date: Saturday 15th March 2014.

Trust me, you miss out on that if you can make the chance to come, you miss on an experience of a lifetime.

Now, where’s my traveling bag? Ibadan!

Posted in AWARDS, LITERARY MISSIONARY, POETRY

The PEN Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize 2013

Saraba is pleased to announce the 2013 longlist for the PEN Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize.

The PEN Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize 2013 shall be awarded to the writer of the winning poem selected from all poems published in Saraba in 2012.Saraba-logo-e1355435770738-300x89

The publishers and poetry editor of Saraba have made a longlist of five poems, from which Jumoke Verissimo will make a shortlist of 3 poems.

The shortlist shall be announced on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

The winning poem will be chosen by Chuma Nwokolo who is the judge for 2013.

There shall be an award-giving ceremony on Saturday, December 21, 2013 where the winning poem shall be announced. The award-giving ceremony is planned as part of the December edition of the Artmosphere Literary Event, hosted by the Writehouse Collective in Ibadan.

The winner shall be awarded the sum of 60,000 Naira (endowed jointly by PEN Nigeria Chapter and Saraba) while the two other shortlisted poets shall receive the sum of 15,000 Naira each (endowed by Saraba). We hope that each year the prize monies increase.

All poems published in the magazine and chapbooks (print or electronic) are eligible for consideration. The works of the publishers, editors, the prize sponsors, as well as members of their respective families are however not eligible.

The Prize shall be awarded only to Nigerian writers living in Nigeria at the time of publication of the poem.

The decisions of the judge and the prize sponsors are not subject to review and questions as to the propriety of decisions shall not be entertained.

The Longlist:

  1. “Tales One Shouldn’t Tell Often” — Su’eddie Vershima Agema
  2. “Masquerades”—Frank-Ito Hilary
  3. “What Caused the Maiden’s Laughter?” —Joshua Osemenho
  4. “Intervention”—Uchechukwu Agodom
  5. “The Old Riverbank”—Tonye WilliePepple

Previous winners of the Prize include Omale Abdul-Jabbar (2011) and Kolade Ajayi (2012)

Source.

Posted in FICTION, FUNNY

Diary of a Dead African (Short Story) – Chuma Nwokolo

Name: Meme Jumai. Occupation: Farmer. Residence: Ikerre-Oti, Delta State, Nigeria. Date of Birth: 5 June 1950. Date of Death: 15 June 2000. Cause of Death: Awaiting Inquest.

1 June 2000. When I woke, I was sweating as if I were on the farm. Yet it wasn’t the sweat of hard work that wet my bed-sheet so. It was the sweat of fear. I was feeling as if a witch had poured fear inside me. If you saw how my chest was doing!

As I opened my door onto the compound and hung my bed-sheet where it became my curtain, I tried to remember my exact and particular dread. I couldn’t; and I’m not surprised. My problems aren’t the sort you confide to a native doctor and he laughs before starting treatment. My problems are the sort that the bravest witchdoctor will hear halfway and flee. Isn’t that how I met Catechist before Easter and he said he won’t waste our time by praying, that my problems had surpassed the kind that prayer and fasting solve. It’s just that adversity isn’t something people boast about; otherwise, in this Ikerre-Oti, I’ve no rival.

What I didn’t know then was that a bigger crisis was coming from Warri.

It wasn’t quite dawn, but as Ikerre people say, only a ne’er-do-well needs sunlight to gather his farm-gear. I got dressed. Nobody can call my house a mud-hut any more, ever since I plastered it with sand and cement. (Except those who have jealousy running in their veins and they think it’s blood. Those witches can never forget what’s under the plaster.) On the harvest poles opposite my clay bed were the remnants of my 1999 harvest … only three yam tubers? As soon as those tubers filled my eyes, the silence also filled my ears. Ma’Abel was not cursing her stove from her kitchen. My two sons Abel and Calamatus were not quarrelling over who forgot to tether the goat yesterday. I was alone in my compound with only three yam tubers!

That was when I remembered my exact and particular fear, and my chest kept quiet. Because Ikerre people also say that when you recognise the sickness that will kill you, doctors will stop eating your money. I remembered the name of the fear that filled me like the urine of a witch; and when a disease has a name, at least one can salute him politely.

His name was Starvation.

It was two weeks until harvest and tradition decrees that not a root may be disturbed in the fields before the day of the new yam festival. The situation was serious.

I released my pregnant goat to graze. Another week and the lazy thing should bear. As I feared, young idiots with empty pails were already loitering by my gate. They were sent to the stream but here they were, singing their silly songs. Nonsense and tenpence! I went to the kitchen. I cooked a pottage with six inches of yam and an armful of ‘vegetables’ from the hedge between my compound and Ma’Caro’s.

I didn’t go to farm today.

Later I watched the black and white TV I inherited from my father. To keep the pictures from flickering like the thoughts of a lunatic, I have to tap it every now and again. That’s how I spent my first day away from the farm this year: slapping a thirty-year-old television in a mud-hut pretending to be sandcrete, watching programmes from the other side of the universe.

I should hate Meme Jumai, if I were not Meme Jumai.

2 June. Nwozuai’s voice woke me. The shameless forty-year-old gossip was wheedling akara from Ma’Caro. I stared at my yams. Fourteen days before the village harvest and only two tubers and 13 inches left! Just two days ago my harvest wall had poles strung with yams. Then my calamity occurred, threatening me with starvation: Ma’Abel, my wife for twenty-five years, left me for a vulcaniser at Warri. She took ten yams for every son she gave me. Me, I quarrelled with her arithmetic. Three of the sons for whom she claimed compensation died before they started farming. The others, Abel and Calamatus, often gave me cause to wish them dead as well.

It was Ma’Abel’s shamelessness, not her arithmetic, that won the argument. Come and see her screaming the day before yesterday, when I woke up with three tubers of yam. The whole Ikerre-Oti gathered! Her fellow women circled me like vultures. The men came, too, but where the women supported Ma’Abel with abuses, the men stayed silent, like a lunatic’s embarrassed relations. Come and see her yanking my loin-cloth around, with me inside, crying that instead of making her Mrs Jumai, I made her Mrs Suffer-Head.

Yes I’m poor; but I hate disgrace. I had to yield my yams. That very evening, while I was at a village meeting pretending that I wasn’t shaken at all, Abel took my transistor and electric fan and followed his mother. Calamatus had left a week earlier on another of his get-rich scams. Idiots!

Had that witch left me fifteen years ago, by the next weekend, I swear, I’d have married again. I swear. But, considering today’s bride-price, there are certain things that shouldn’t happen to a 49-year-old man whose nostril-hairs have started to whiten.

I chewed chewing-stick, wondering whether Meme Jumai had died years ago and forgot his body in Ikerre by mistake. I crept into the compound to untie the goat. Nwozuai had succeeded. Pretending not to see me, he swallowed his bean cakes, moving his neck like a boa constrictor doing in a rabbit. I squatted in Ma’Abel’s kitchen, warming the leftover pottage. I ate some and returned to my bed, missing my transistor badly and studying my yams the way witchdoctors study the position of kola nuts on their divining mats. Kai! How would I manage to make them last the remaining two weeks until harvest? The young day matured and aged before my eyes. I lay on my bed. I sat up. I lay down and sat up. That’s how I spent this shameful day at home; without my radio I couldn’t shut out the mockery of the giggling girls who changed their route to the stream to pass under my window. Witches. In the evening I ate the last of the pottage and tied up the goat.

I didn’t leave my compound all day.

What face was I supposed to put on to look at the villagers on the day after the day after the day my family left me for a vulcaniser? Tomorrow should be better; a village as useless as Ikerre-Oti should have found fresher gossip. Later I tried to find something worth watching on television. As all the dials were broken, I used my pliers to hunt for a station, but they had all agreed to be idiots today. I slept early.

3 June. At 2 a.m. my goat began to bleat and my useless chest started again. There are two short and cogent reasons why thieves shouldn’t go near my goat. First, it’s my only one; second, it’s extremely pregnant. If they wait another week they can steal her without destroying me completely.

Yet if Penis would listen to reason, would they have named him Penis? It was pitch-dark outside. None of those reasons were good enough for me to risk my life over an animal, so I took down my late father’s double-barrel and aimed at the moon. I broke that night into pieces. If I can’t sleep, why should anyone else? Afterwards, even my goat fell silent, yet my heart was knacking as if the bullet had entered my body. I swear, if by morning that goat is no longer tethered to my onugbu, I’ll take the gun and my last four cartridges to the Village Square and let what happens happen. People should realise that a small penis is no reason to seize a man’s wife.

By morning, flies from the pit latrine had taken over my goat’s nostrils. Witchcraft and black magic! On one leg were the marks of a snakebite. The sight of that huge, dead pregnancy hit me more than my wife’s desertion. I hurried into the latrine and considered the suffering in my life. Nonsense and tenpence! If they want to bury me with all my problems, they would need a very big coffin! It was months since I last ate meat of any kind and here was this small mountain of meat, for which I had great plans. God has plenty cases to judge in heaven! Why couldn’t a snake wait for my goat to bear and swallow a whole kid if it wants?

Yet, if the devil leaves wickedness, who else will employ him? Come and see all the saliva I swallowed as I cut up that goat. Serpents and demons! If I tell you there were four kids inside it, you won’t believe me. Four. Part of the carcass I buried in the compound, by evening the rest went down the pit latrine. What has happened has happened and if Reverend Father preaches everything in his mouth, Mass will never finish.

I went to farm today. They’re still looking at me funny-funny, but that’s their business. I’m not the first man to lose his wife and I won’t be the last. If only my wife had had the decency to follow a landlord or something. A roadside vulcaniser!

4 June. I’ve never studied yams like this before. Two tubers and eight inches. I cut and boiled four inches. Is it not the scarcity of venison that made deer the delicacy that she is? To think the day would come when Meme Jumai would boil yam by the inch!

The local government clerk arrived as I was leaving for the farm. He wanted his council tax. I told him that money was something my pockets haven’t seen for months and he said that maybe there was a conspiracy afoot because everyone in the village was saying the same thing. The moon everyone had seen, I replied, was not a mirage. He said he wasn’t leaving my house without his tax. I took my implements and told him to look after my house. Then he said he would seize my yams! I looked at the two tubers and four inches and my chest began to knack again.

Source: London Review of Books

‘Meme’s Diary’ is a condensed form of Diaries of a Dead African by Chuma Nwokolo. You can see the review here or get more reviews of the book via Google. For more Chuma, read his blog or yes, Google 🙂

Chuma Nwokolo Jnr

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS, REVIEWS

THOUGHTS ON CHUMA NWOKOLO (JNR)’S DIARIES OF A DEAD AFRICAN

THOUGHTS ON CHUMA NWOKOLO (JNR)’S DIARIES OF A DEAD AFRICAN[1] by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

Chuma Nwokolo’s Diaries of a Dead African is a good post-colonial text that weaves a story across two generations, that of two brothers and their father. It depicts a story of poverty, affluence, anger, bitterness, the Nigerian society of today and over all, the struggle to live or die. It is centred on Meme Jumai and his two sons, Calamatus and Abel. It is told in a unique diary style that sees the hands of the writing move from father to son, to brother and in the end, you – the reader. It is so to say, a three-piece diary. The entries are deep and totally different due to the various circumstances that the characters find themselves in. Well, that is not the mention the obvious differences that would come from point of view of the type of character, persona, age and the like. But to get to the point…

Enter chronicler one, Meme Jumai, a forty-nine year old farmer, father and husband in Ikerre-oti who loses his wife to a ‘vulcaniser.’ She leaves with all the yams that he has, leaving him with simply three tubers which he trains himself to treasure, beginning to cook it by inch. Hunger spills forth through his notes as he struggles on waiting for harvest which is a few days away. Meanwhile, Meme also tends to his pregnant goat in the hope that it would soon give birth to kids that would take his pains away. Unfortunately, the goat dies from a serpent bite. The man who didn’t cry at his wife’s departure, cries at his goat’s passage. He tries to hide a part of the goat so that he can eat it. To test to see if the meat is not poisoned, we later get to discover that a part of the goat is given to a neighbour’s dog which dies. Meme throws the meat away in fear and cries more than before! He comes to discover later that the dog was actually hit by a car! He swallows hard at this bit of sad information but is man enough this time to eat his sorrow silently. The rest of his days are spent trying to dodge the pangs of hunger while trying to be as dignified and sometimes, not so dignified. Meme begs different people for just a little to survive, all to no avail. The village laughs at him making him the new idiot while his children get to suffer from the aftermath of his goat episode: His son, Abel is sent away from a place where he goes to ask for the hand of his pregnant girlfriend, Patie, in marriage. The courageous Meme continues his struggle through life with little, hoping to get to harvest when he would get his rich yield and become fulfilled. When it seems all is lost and he would die, harvest comes! With the strength of determination, our chronicler goes to the farm despite the faces of the fellow villagers to note that the village yields have been attacked by pests that bore holes into the very fabrics of every yam. The yam farmer has spent all his sorrow and tears which leaves him with little indifference. He goes back to home, takes the gun that he inherited from his father, and goes for the men who could have changed it with a little… He is not going down alone…

Chronicler two is Calamatus ‘Calamity’ Jumai, conman and second son of Jumai. He comes back with a vengeance, and some money. He uses his money on the villagers making monkeys of everyone from the Igwe to the least in the land. In a society that worships money more than anything else, there is little that he needs to do to make them all do his bidding except throw a few wads which he does. Meanwhile, he cons a particular American, Billy Barber and rips him of a lot of money. Calamatus builds a storey building in the stead of his father’s ramshackle building. He is a proud man whose major vex in life is that he does not have the gift of a penis due to a mistake that a nurse made when he was being circumcised: a simple cough and the razor turned a circumcision into a castration. His ambition is to finish the person who did the big error, if only he could find out who. Calamatus restores his family pride by taking revenge on the entire village for all they did to his father. He gives them all have diarrhoea when he throws a big occasion for them. They accost him as he calls the person who he gave the food contract to. She swears by everything she knows with repercussions of death on her and her daughter that she did not poison the rice that they all ate. She decides to twist the same swear into a curse on the people of the village if indeed she did not poison the rice but the people quickly tell her it is okay and go off, satisfied at least with her explanation – their ailment remaining. It turns out that the poison was in the goat – did she lie? Calamatus also organises a traditional wedding for his brother, Abel and has the in-laws pay back for disgracing his brother earlier on by refusing him on grounds that his family were eaters of dead animals. A bat head is found in the soup offered by the in-laws! Patie, Abel’s girlfriend does not find this funny and does not forgive him. Calamatus gives Abel a carton of money and also shows him an old letter of their mother that vexes Abel, who travels back to his town only to have an accident. Abel’s companion, Tendu loses his leg. Calamatus continues expanding and making monumental strides in his business becoming a greater man clashing with traditional authorities while finding his way out with money and making monkeys out of the same people who did same to his father. Then, in a burst of anger one of his ‘monkeys,’ reveals the secret of why he would never marry. It is a revelation that also entails that the man’s wife, a nurse, must have been responsible for his ‘calamity.’ There remains little to be done other than to fulfil the promise of his life to end the cause of his greatest problem. He carries his father’s gun, but can’t get bullets as none of his boys help him. He decides the way of inferno, for better for worse…

Abel Meme-Jumai takes the last part of the ever continuing Jumai diary, flowing from where his brother stopped. He is an aspiring fiction writer but near accomplished pen for hire with a past filled with secrets, including being an ex-con. He is determined to live a very long and near boring life. Patie refuses to come back. He tries to compensate Sikira, Tendu’s girlfriend. The girl takes the money and flees to Lagos while giving her parents a better life. Tendu does not forgive Abel. Meanwhile, Calamatus’s boys try to con Abel out of his brother’s huge estate left in an account that he was now a signatory to as administrator. He calls their bluff as he gets a call from a publisher to get his work published. He stands up to his mother who curses him. He gets a contract from the publisher and a politician to write a book against another politician, who is a fellow ex-con. As he goes back to the publisher, he discovers that his genius is not really of matter to anyone. It is just a ploy of the publisher and fellow cohorts to swindle him (Abel) of Calamatus’s money in the bank. Like the boys, he calls their bluff. At home, Tendu comes to beg him early in the morning to kill him. He goes for a walk and decides to give Tendu a change with money. When he gets back, he discovers Tendu is dead and their co-tenants calling for blood, the murderer’s blood – Abel’s blood. A lynching awaits. While Abel wonders who would have done it, Tendu or someone seeking his blood, common sense tells him to run. He does so, picking all he can and the remnants of the money Calamatus gave him.

There’s so much more, including a meeting with Billy Barber. What happens next? Would he go the way of those before him? How does it all end? The outcome is sure suspense-filled and unexpected. It creates ground for more thoughts and several behind the scene looks. The book flows on leaving the story at a height that is both thought provoking and inspiring…

In all, the book is a complete post-colonial novel, connecting the various realities of present day Nigeria in a lovely weaved tale. It goes from the perspective of the illiterate old father in the village with the full traditional value replete with the wisdom and proverbs of yore to the semi-literate con son, Calamatus who doesn’t need an education for respect or comfort. Money does it all as he shows the side of the Nigerian hustler while showing the 419 view. Abel takes the rear, the true picture of the hustling intellectual who hopes to make things work against all odds with chances playing dirty tricks on. Between them, gaps are filled and the tapestry properly weaved showing the entire Nigerian tale. In this way, there is something for everybody, from the traditional lovers or Achebeic type to those of rather trendy narration. So to say, there are basically three distinct voices, unique and captivating in every light that anybody can identify with. In a way, the author seems to seam popular fiction with literary writing creating something unique and not without beauty at all.

The language used by the author is simple and near elementary. He employs ample use of humour to spice up his tale, making you to laugh at cases that would ordinarily seem dreary. In the book, Nwokolo creates a realistic tale which is totally believable and conceivable. He also finds a way to create empathy for his characters. Furthermore, through the use of the diary form, he makes the reader to feel as if they are the ones in the situation. The reader is made to look at things from the perspective of the major actors, feel their pains and in that light, make an informed judgment. The use of other writers to review what had been said by others passed also allows the reader to have varied thoughts while sharing the sentiments of whoever is in charge of narration at any point.

The treating of gender in the book makes for good postcolonial discussion. There are no particular women on the protagonist list. Most of them are given the traditional roles we know; as wives and the like. Some critics might look at the author’s handling of women as a big downer. Manism would be the right word to use for Chuma Nwokolo’s approach to Diaries of a Dead African and why not? For a very long time, it is always women taking the top burner when it comes to every literary works. Nwokolo shows that most of the problems that come to man in one way or the other can be linked to women. He shows men who love or try to accommodate their wives in the best way possible exemplified by Meme Jumai, Tendu and Abel but have their hearts broken, souls crushed and lives sapped. In a way, he is being philosophical and showing that women play vital roles in the lives of man and in a great way determine the direction of their destiny. In the end one notices that Nwokolo is not trying to castigate women but to show them that they are very important and can bring about a complete turn-around in the life of any man. Note: Women do not really take central roles in the work but seem their actions largely – more than anything else – determine the outcome of the men’s lives.In essence, rather than being manist or chauvinist, Nwokolo seems to be showing that the carefree nature of a woman or a simple mistake such as a sneeze during the circumcision of a child can have adverse effects that can be fatal. If only they would listen.

The absence of a dominant Christian religion as is evident in several Nigerian societies would also form an issue to some people. This seems to be replaced in the book with the great religion of money worship which anyone would readily identify with!

The book concentrates on the hypocrisy of people; the tradition of worship of money as the overall and basic denominator of all things; the important role of women in the scheme of lives of men and the direction of destiny that their actions or inactions can point one to; the world of corruption; politics; poverty; among several others. Above all, it is about survival and a struggle to live well and for a reason.

In concluding, one would advise that for the book to be enjoyed as the lovely piece that is, it is best read with an open mind (whatever that means!) Who knows you might just be inspired or get a new view to death, living, Africa, Africans, all of them, or simply just start your own generation of Diaries of …


[1] Published:     Lagos; Villager House, 2003. The author’s name, Chuma Nwokolo, Jnr is also the Editor and Publisher of African Writing. he blogs at African Writing.