Last year came to an end with me getting a mail from the Nigerian Writers Award group that I had been listed on their 100 Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40. Not a bad way to end the year, right?
My second year on the list and I smiled at the group of names there too: friends like the phenomenal Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, my brothers, Kukogho Iruesiri Samson, T. J. Benson and Romeo Oriogun, the poetic maestros Basiru Bash Amuneni, Dike Chukwumerije, Efe Paul Azino and Graciano Enwerem, the graceful Amara Nicole Okolo, Dami Ajayi, Kenechi Uzor, Eketi Edima Ette, Elnathan John, Emmanuel Iduma, Olulu Holloway, Jumoke Verissimo… to mention a few of my people on the list.
Are you in Abuja or Makurdi this weekend? Then you are in luck! Here are details of four great events happening in these towns.
SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative
If you are in Makurdi today, please join us for a SEVHAGE & OYALEWA Book Club Special Reading session – spoken word and other performances at
Venue: The Basement, Twin Theatre Complex, Benue State University, Makurdi.
There will be light refreshments.
RSVP: Call Oko Owi Ocho Afrika on 0703 028 5995
If you are in Abuja, you can join Dike Chukwumerije and Tonton Nelson Raymond, amongst other great acts, for NSW8 Special Valentine Edition tagged ‘Let’s Be Honest’ It is one of the premier Spoken Word events in Naija
Venue: Merit House, Maitama, Abuja
RSVP: 0812 388 7996
If you are in Abuja, you can also join the Abuja Literary Society for its lovely Book of the Month reading featuring the fabulous Basiru ‘Bash’ Amuneni’s ‘There’s A Lunatic in Every Town’ [published by SEVHAGE]. Bash is one of Naija’s finest spoken word artistes and his book puts to print some of his fine acts.
On Sunday, and every Sunday of the month except the last one, the Abuja Writers’ Forum led by President Emman Shehu meet for a quality critique session. It features bamn people like Mike Ekunno, Kabura Zakama, Olumide Olaniyan, Amina Aboje, Didi Nwala, Lois Otse Adams-Osigbemhe, Lois among other incredible people. You can get honest feedback on any material you want. And you are in luck, they meet next tomorrow 11th February, 2018 and on the 18th. (Every last Saturday of the Month is Guest Writers’ Session where notable writers are featured to a book session at Nanet Suites)
Venue: Sam’s Vally Garden, opp Hamdala Plaza, Jimi Carter Street, near Asokoro [Tentative]
Time: 4pm prompt
RSVP: 0805 161 4969
Know of any other literary events happening around the country? Lemme know so we can share – sharing is caring. Do share this and tag any one who might need to know.
I once learnt that the title to a piece of work is like an abstract, letting the consumer in on what the work is about. My head is still dancing around how the idea was begat that the title of this documentary should have anything to do with ‘dancing mask.’ Whoever thought up the idea it doesn’t matter, even if it is adapted from the words of the master himself, C. Achebe, in ‘The world is a Mask dancing. If you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place.’ But what can I say? The documentary is about an association with the name ‘Nigeria’ in it; a name itself that has been on a journey like that of a ‘dancing mask’ trying to understand itself. Either way, ANA – Association of Nigerian Authors – in its long years has decided to tell its story, and Dancing Mask: The ANA Story, a 54 minutes documentary straight out of Box Office Studios, directed by Tee Jay Dan (Mr Tukura), helps us see it, not standing in one place at all, thankfully.
Few seconds after 0:00 the story begins. Prof. Olu Obafemi starts it. The storytelling is batoned to Kole Omotoso, then to Mabel Segun, first generation writer, and then to Wale Okediran. The passing of the baton by the quartet is accomplished with such charm that the story flows, as if premeditated, from one narrator, or interviewee, to another. A technique the director will rely on for the rest of the documentary. It is perfect. The quartet handle the storytelling taking up to a quarter of the 54 minutes before other players, counting up to twenty-one (not specific), come in, prominent amongst them, Denja Abdullahi (ANA President 2015 – 17). Quite a number to tell ANA’s story in all its 30 years of existence; yet it is done leaving out almost nothing, apparently, if you ask. But this task – getting the story, putting the backstage work together, editing and all, to show that JohnBull is a speller of his name, relies largely on the intelligence of the director, to pull it off.
As it runs through the pages of Nigerian literature about the earlier times that a story cannot be told without the interruption of the military and their accompanying martial music so is ANA’s, formerly SONA (Society of Nigerian Authors), rattled at its birth by the coup of 1966. And martial music, too, interrupts the documentary’s soundtrack just when the narration of ANA’s story begins. This soundtrack effect is repeated at 10:25 as the story of Ken Saro Wiwa is told, and heightened at 11:49 towards a short rendition of the Ogoni struggle and demonstrations. Many things begin to come to light as the minutes read.
No minute wasted, The ANA Story (I decide to use only the subtitle of the documentary for our convenience) is unfolded. Those who have been in the Association long enough – your quartet – take the viewers (or now, listeners) to the history, the motivations, the spirit and the come about of ANA. They share their experiences too, which like a memoir, arrest the viewer, so that even only at the eighteenth minute before the introduction of new narrators the documentary will seem to have lasted for hours because of the weight of story covered, an element of compression deftly handled by the directing. (This is maintained throughout.) As this goes on, pictures, which narrate faster, lend subtextual and complementary consolidation to the documentary like some sort of album art, playing on the screen at intervals. For instance, a good number of book cover images are used to back-up where a narrator mentions the works of writers who had written out of ‘psychological distress,’ about dictatorship in their time, civil unrest, the Biafra War, and such. Same thing with the introduction of Mamman Vatsa, military General, whose literary history has almost been annihilated from our memory, an image displays beautiful lines of poetry (his’) hardly found today.
But with every good thing there are spoilers. The ANA Story begins to lose its mirth when it kindly left its more inspiring history of the eighties up to early 2000s and begins to brag about achievements in the years 2011 upfront. About its Teen Authorship Scheme at about 31:00; NWS (Nigerian Writers’ Series); Denja Abdullahi, becoming too sell-speak in his remarks about the strides of ANA, talking about how ANA ‘touched the grassroots’ and ‘carried the whole country along,’ reminding you of the pain of listening to our politicians speak. As if to continue with the spoiling an interviewee tells us about when she won the Best Literature Award in Africa (38:00) and you begin to think of coloured Sergeant Bombay.
In The ANA Story like its proverbial mother, Nigeria, it comes to light or officially known that it has bore the woes of experiment, sharing the pains of the limbo its mother is in. It has been suffering from lack of funds; ANA has no staff and no asset, per se; it has no secretariat; sometime in its past one of its president with a ‘sober’ hand had to curtail its excesses and ‘amorphous activities’; it has to tackle the atrophying culture of reading. But ANA has better days ahead. Someone should call Teju Cole because history is about to be contested: a Mamman Vatsa Writers’ Village is going to be built to immortalise the pen-comrade who fell by the hands of evil men.
Before the ‘shooting-devil’ at 45:35 (when the person behind the camera starts to be careless) the director, too, begins his own kind of creative carelessness: 38:00 to 45:00 and so on. the ANA story here is about the bewailing of the reading culture, the debate of the death or life of the book or libraries and about funding. The soundtrack seems out of sync, sounding more apposite for a clip where a scientist is studying the progress of a specimen in a lab, or reminding you of the underwater soundtracks in Nat Geo Wild, or even something to take you to the site of some ancient shrine. At 44:21, too otherworldly eliciting the wrong effect from the viewer. Not even when Mabel Segun gives the description of a piece of land property owned by ANA in Abuja as resembling paradise, the soundtrack again, too intense, relegates her rendition to the background causing an internecine effect. But the viewer is saved some minutes later.
Done in memory of Chinua Achebe, it features clips from Dike Chukwumerije’s Made In Nigeria (2017) show, courtesy of Box Office Studios, with the artist of the same name doing a tributary at the beginning and end – as the credits disappear at the edge of the pixels – of the documentary.
Doing just more than a cameo in the documentary includes, again, Dike Chukwumerije, Su’eddie Vershima Agema, Richard Ali, Khalid Imam, Charry Ada Onwu, Lola Bala Gbogbo and Ado Dangidan Dabino, a guy who speaks only his language. Save for a few peccadillos here and there the director, Tee Jay Dan, has done his best, so far as one can tell, earning a B with or without a plus, I leave the viewer the verdict.
After 52 minutes of screenplay Mabel Segun tells the viewer ‘ANA will live forever.’
PS: The documentary shall be premiered later this year (2017)
Carl Terver is a porer of the English sentence and a critic of pop-culture. He likes to think of himself as an imaginary grandmaster. He is a fan of contemporary writers, Oris Aigbokhaevbolo, Adam Gopnik, Hua Hsu and Teju Cole.He is a critic at Praxis. @CarlTerver on Twitter.
You know you have become an ajebo when you find one dead Daddy Longlegs in your bathing water and, after scooping it out, you hesitate, grab a towel, run to the kitchen, break open a fresh bottle of Dettol and empty two caps in the bucket before proceeding. This is a sure sign. When you are handed a plate of iwu ngwo and your spoon hovers over it because there, under the thin strips of cassava, you see a small shiny insect taking a leisurely stroll. But village brother to the left and village cousin to the right are wolfing it down without scrutiny, so you rotate your plate round and start to eat from the side opposite to the strolling arthropod, and when you get to the vicinity of its ambulation you pat your stomach and announce loud enough for all to hear, ‘aho e ju’. I am full. And swiftly cast plate and insect aside. This too is a sure sign.
It’s been that kind of weekend, you know, one in which I studied the bandaged hand of the roadside roasted corn seller, and wondered if the incomparable pleasure of striping the crisped ube of its purple skin so its sour sweetness could blend seamlessly into a mouth full of meticulously masticated corn, was worth the risk of sharing this girl’s unknown ailment. Well, I finally decided it was, yes, but my brother what other sign do I need than the length of time it took, this evaluation of risk and reward, to know that I am now an ajebo? Or the fact that I who buried and mourned my father till the day I said, I will not mourn again, please, o gini? Life must go on. Then stood staring into the freshly dug grave of his sister and thought – Damn! I thought I was immune to this thing. Damn! Because the baby on the flight back, two rows in front, and looking back made me want to start making funny faces, with his round eyes like tear drops, making me wonder why there is so much hate in the world.
Or the airport taxi that waylaid me right out of the doors of Arrivals trying to sell me a N6000 ride back to town. Is it not N5000 again? Ok. Let us not argue – I told him – Let me see if someone will agree to take for N5000. And he buckled. Walking past me, he buckled and said – Oya come, Oga, rather than lose the entire goat is it not better to just lose its tail? Ever attentive for fresh metaphors, I said – What? And he said, Is it not true? To God who made me, Oga, I have been here for 3 days waiting my turn. We are over 700 taxies here. Is it not better I take the N5000 and go than keep waiting in this stinking place? And he lamented the lack of jobs, his desire for a new one, the distance to his home in Masaka. And I caught a fleeting look of his eyes in the rearview mirror, dull and crinkled with worry. Not my business. But the ajebo in me was stricken. What can we do in the face of overwhelming odds? I got to my destination and paid him his N6000.
Would he have come back if I didn’t? I don’t know. Because he drove away with my phone lying where it had slipped out as I struggled to pull out that extra N1000. You know how it is, patting your pockets at your doorstep, realizing the car speeding off is carrying your contact list, pictures of your wife and children, irreplaceable videos of moments in time you can never recover. Like the movies, I thought – I’ll cut him off! So, I ran down a side-street, sprinting like the day I lost the 400m final in JSS. That day too I ran my heart out. Like that day, I was seconds from the top of the road when he went roaring past, unnoticing of my flailing arms. So, I jumped into a nearby taxi and gasped, ‘Follow that car!’ But this is not a Hollywood movie. No. My very Nigerian taxi driver refused to start his car until I told him what exactly was pursuing me. That meant catching my breath first while all the time watching my phone disappearing down the road. No matter. I went back home and called the phone from my wife’s own. He answered. In that time, he had gotten to Lugbe already. But turned immediately and came back, holding out the phone, apologizing profusely, swearing he had no idea he had a phone he could have sold for thousands lying in his backseat. And I smiled at him and thought to myself – Hmm. This one too na ajebo…
If you like things like this, then keep a date with me on Friday 30 Sep 7pm, or Sat 01 Oct 6pm, or Sun 02 Oct 6pm where I will be presenting ‘MADE IN NIGERIA’ a performance poetry production that explores key aspects of our 102 years history as Nigerians, and the distinct characteristics we have evolved in that time. It’s the 7th Edition of the Night of the Spoken Word (NSW7) Poetry Show, and buying tickets online qualifies you for a raffle draw. No lie. You could win a weekend for 2 at the Transcorp Hilton. For updates follow me on twitter and Instagram @nswpoetry, and like our facebook page – dikechukwumerijensw. Live Life Your Way.
It is not confidence. This thing I have is not faith at all. Yes. I began to write only to comfort myself, those afternoons in boarding school with no one else to turn to. Till, one day, someone said to me, ‘Come read to us’, and I went in jeans and faded jumper. With poems typed out on a piece of paper, neatly folded in back pocket. My thinking was I would be given a quiet chair, and lots and lots of respectful silence. But I found instead a roaring hall packed with under-graduates – rapping, break-dancing, hip-hoping, and all. ‘What’s that?’ I whispered. They yelled, ‘Spoken Word!’
So, very worried, I walked up to the stage – My God! Is THAT what they think I do? Swiped wet palms down my jeans, then turned to face a difficult evening. It was the celebration of Ghana’s 50th Anniversary, you see, by the Afro-Caribbean Society (I think), at the School of Oriental and African Studies. 2007 in Central London, and I was looking at an auditorium sky-high on funk. My brother, no lie, I have never felt more out of place. What? With my ‘daddy’ jeans (as my wife still calls them), and type written poems in shallow back pocket. But, all the same, what could I do? I took a deep breath, held both hands up and – right there, right then – I told the truth. I cannot rap. I cannot dance. (Loud boo-ing in the corners.) I cannot hold a note to save my life. But (pulling out the notes I actually had) I have something to say.
That day, I clung to the lines completely, did nothing at all to modulate my delivery. No sudden highs or dramatic lows, just read the words in front of me. And at first only the sickening murmur of people talking, talking like I wasn’t there. Ah! I willed my voice to hold steady and, reading on, it began to wane; that sickening murmur of people talking, it waned and waned till there was silence. My words alone above their heads, their eyes all locked on me, as if they feared even to breathe, to gasp and lose one syllable. The feeling? Ah! I cannot describe it – to see something so powerful, so self-assured and confident; to see something so powerful stood there on quivering legs.
Yes. And it does not matter how long it’s been. Honestly. Did you know? When I walk to a stage, up till this day, I walk as if I know where I am going. But all the way there, you know what I’m thinking? My brother, I’m thinking – You this boy, where the hell are you going? True! And it makes me laugh, so I tell my friends – creativity, you see, is actually a curse. For no matter how bad it gets (and – believe me – it does) the true artist is doomed to try again. To write, and write for writing’s sake. To read a poem and trust, that words alone – no razzmatazz – can touch the listener’s heart. To seek that distant legacy, not hyped or pimped or marketed, of works that soar because they strike at something in the soul.
For that alone, we reach! I tell you. September 2013. And you know what the said? That there were not enough poetry lovers in Abuja to fill even the smallest room there, no matter it was free! They said that there were not enough poetry lovers in Abuja to put on a hundred and fifty seats! And we said, Let’s see. That night we were standing all the way to the door, not a seat left anywhere. And January 2014, it happened again, sitting on stairs, not a seat left at all. September 2014, try a larger room. Let’s see what happens with a 300-seater. You know what happened? Not a single seat left. And so they said, No way! It’s because it’s free. Just gate it and see! Poetry, my friend, cannot pay for itself.
And so – let’s see – we’ve gated it. Night of the Spoken Word. Friday, the 30th of January, 2015. Hall 10. Silverbird Entertainment Center. Abuja. N1500 regular. N3000 VIP. Why do we do it? Because every day will be one of two things – the beginning of the new, or the continuation of the old. Yes. If this is you too, then walk with me…
Dike Chukwumerije is a Spoken Word Artist, Novelist, and multiple award winning writer. Follow his blog here… and ensure you make out time – wherever you are in the world – to attend Abuja’s NIGHT OF THE SPOKEN WORD 4!
DATE: FRIDAY, THE 30TH OF JAN 2015 VENUE: HALL 10, 4TH FLOOR, SILVERBIRD ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE TIME: 7PM ENTRY: N1500 (REGULAR) N3000 (VIP)
Tickets are available for purchase at:
The Salamander Cafe – 5 Bujumbura Street, off Libreville Cr, off Aminu Kano Cr, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja The Lifestyle Media Store – 4th Floor, Silverbird Entertainment Center, Central Area, Abuja Discoveries Edutainment World – Suite 8-9, Grd Floor, Jamnab Plaza, Sapele Street, off Ladoke Akintola Boulevard, Garki 2, Abuja
‘Simply Poetry’ in collaboration with The Abuja Literary Society presents the 4th edition of
NIGHT OF THE SPOKEN WORD
Nigeria’s number one Performance Poetry and Literary show!
Hosted by award-winning Performance Poet, Dike Chukwumerije
Reward Enakerakpor (aka The Storyteller) – ALS Poetry Grandslam Champion (Abuja)
Paul Word – 2014 winner of the War of Words (Lagos)
Anchorman – Runner up 2012 National Poetry Slam (Jos)
AND Bash Amuneni, AP, Dami, Bilzee Bilnigma, Eketi Ette, Michael Ogah, Oga Obeya and many others
Showing for the first time on the big scren, ‘So, Where Is Jos?’ – a Poetry Video by Dike Chukwumerije
DATE: FRIDAY, THE 30TH OF JAN 2015 VENUE: HALL 10, 4TH FLOOR, SILVERBIRD ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE TIME: 7PM ENTRY: N1500 (REGULAR) N3000 (VIP)
Tickets are available for purchase at:
The Salamander Cafe – 5 Bujumbura Street, off Libreville Cr, off Aminu Kano Cr, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja The Lifestyle Media Store – 4th Floor, Silverbird Entertainment Center, Central Area, Abuja Discoveries Edutainment World – Suite 8-9, Grd Floor, Jamnab Plaza, Sapele Street, off Ladoke Akintola Boulevard, Garki 2, Abuja
Here’s the tale before Silverbird. Please indulge me so you feel my mood. I was at a hotel, and had ordered my meal. Don’t ask what it was and I wouldn’t tell you it was noodles. I needed a meal that wouldn’t take long to prepare as this hotel’s restaurant was an ala carte restaurant. I had two thoughts in mind that needed me heading out fast: go make an appointment that would aid my medication and some much needed rest or go for the Silverbird Book Jam (done in collaboration with the Abuja Literary Society). I had done some MC work, then had a long meeting with the writer, Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi who is simply inspirational. I was in my suit and taking my meal. I had gotten to the last part of the experience, the favourite part of the meal, eating the last of it when I was hit with some inspiration. I forgot the pretty lady across the room who was eating her meal. I was thinking of some options including whether to go see a different beauty elsewhere or just fulfil the obligation of the Book Jam… Well, inspiration hit me and finding no paper around, I grabbed a napkin to write. The waitress who had attended me earlier came and grabbed my plate and taking it away, asked sweetly:
‘Oga, se you don finish?’
I looked up in surprise at her, then at my quarter to finish meal. I felt the eyes around. Saying ‘No’ would mean I was aiming to scrape the plate – which I had intended [hee hee hee]. Well, the suit said ‘Yes’ in my voice and so I watched my meal leave. I tried to scribble something to the napkin but it would seem that my inspiration had left with that plate. Ah! Not funny.
Well, I left for the office of the Manager, my dear friend, and found her eating. She invited me but I saw in her eyes that perhaps it was her first meal for the day. I politely declined. After her meal, and mine in saliva, we walked to get me a taxi. It was then that I wondered why I hadn’t ordered a proper meal during the waiting time in the manager’s office. A headache was brewing, or was it a fever… The thought was to forfeit Silverbird when I was told I had some duty to perform… Groan.
I thought I was late but turns out I was among the first five. Good! Reward Nsirim usually gave movie tickets to early birds. Yaaay! Maybe he would anchor today… Then I saw the master poet-performer, Dike-ogu Chukwumerije. Okay, hopes of the bird trophy left. A familiar face hailed me. I remembered him from my Book Jam reading in June. We chatted a bit and I left him. I looked at the books on display, Olu-gbemiga Ojo’s Mull with me, Nnamdi Ebo’s There was a time and the 2013 NLNG Literature Prize longlist writer, Iquo Eke’s Symphony of Becoming. Nice! I’ve been trying to get all those
NLNG books to do a review. Phew! Four out of the others found! Well, for the Book Jam, the three books made for a good picture. I smiled at them. I looked at the name Olu-gbemiga again, it sounded so familiar!
Dike-ogu started the programme by introducing himself, everyone present did same. There was the first discussion segment. The talk was on ASUU. While some sided the government, others sided the lecturers. Of course, the talk raged on. When people affected by the strike were asked to put their hands up, I raised mine. The people told me to put my hand down o… How can I? Aren’t MSc students affected? Well, that passed. We had a full discussion that had to be cut so that the show could go on. We were asked to use the words, ‘Love’, ‘Excellence’, ‘Flood’, ‘Time’ and ‘Rowdy’. People had their attempt. I wrote:
‘Love propels excellence in a flood of time that fast gets rowdy.’ An impromptu panel awarded me 4, 4, 3 over 15.
Someone read something a bit less cryptic. He got 4, 4, 4 over 15. The last person got 7. Well, the 12 guy won the cinema ticket that was at stake.
The writers were called to the front. Iquo and Olu-gbemiga’s books are debut collections of poetry. The latter is the one who had greeted me when I entered. Mr. Nnamdi Ebo’s book, There was a time is a book, no surprises here, on Biafra. The 57 year old is currently a final year student of Law at the University of Abuja. Law being his third degree. He has another book to his credit, Legal Methods for 100 level students. Iquo came in from Lagos for the reading and looked finer than her picture on the back page. Somehow I kept thinking as I had since the announcement of the NLNG long list that she sure looked and sounded familiar – was it a thing of the digital social networks that makes you friends with someone you’ve never known before? No, felt different. Oh well. It was the time for them to take their readings. I noticed them bring out their books to look for what to read. Hee hee hee. Reminded me of some of my own readings. More and more I get to notice that most writers prefer to select what to offer on the spur of the moment. Olu-gbemiga read first. The Engineer recited some of his poems and gave room to Iquo who read a few of hers as well. Mr. Ebo took the last shot reading about low flying no-light aeroplanes in Biafra.
Dike-ogu asked the first set of questions to all the writers. Mr. Ebo’s question was on the choice of his title which was similar to Achebe’s There was a country that features the same topic that There was a time looks at. The author explained that he had had his title since eight years ago when he put the work together in preparation for publication. The original title for the book had been ‘Once upon a time’ but his wife had refused the title arguing that it was childish and more fairy tale like than serious. ‘There was a time’ was agreed on much later. Achebe’s book published last year had caused some concern and created a division with some friends arguing that Ebo change his title while others asked that he go ahead with it. Those who suggested that he continue with the title won. To a question on the airport, Ebo replied that the airport was the only airport in the world at the time that operated at night under the cover of darkness. The Nigerian forces had tried a lot of times to destroy the airport knowing that if the relief and all that came through the airport was cut short, the war would have ended. They never found it in their confusion and the cleverness of the Easterners.
Olu-gbemiga Ojo explained that he hadn’t really always been into poetry. He got pulled to it in 2002 after a certain bereavement. A Ghanaian friend of his gave him some Awake editions which eventually sparked some writing enthusiasm in him. One thing led to another and he found himself writing. On another note, the poems in the collection are not all of his poems. He had lost his first manuscript. To beat the hard form missing, he decided to put all his writings to the computer and a hard disk which eventually also crashed. Somehow, he put together some other writings that came to form this collection. There are a lot of other poems. He answered me that his publishing experience had been hectic. He self-published with Trafford and had had to put in a lot of money in addition to working with an Editor.
Asked if she sets out from the beginning to write for paper or performing, Iquo replied that she simply wrote first without knowing what would end as a paper poem or a performance poem. She puts it down and goes from there. Her oldest poem in the collection is from 1999. To a question I asked, she mentioned that she doesn’t work with any particular style or thing in mind. She simply learns rules enough to break them. She writes first then works on them later.
Dike-ogu in the absence of any performer performed a poem, ‘Reserved Table’ which he said was based on a true-life experience. It was about a man
who had a fight with a ‘personality’ at his brother’s wedding. The poem in Dike-ogu’s natural style got more revealing as it grew. The personality keeps asking ‘Do you know who I am?’ and struggling for the chair till an usher notices and comes to tell the narrator. The personality is the Personal Adviser to the Special Assistant to the Senior Adviser to the aide of the Personal Assistant of the Senior Special Adviser of the President. The personality smiles, at last someone recognises him. The narrator apologises and then, yanks the seat from the hand of the personality for ‘You see, the seat was reserved’. Everyone cheered…
The writers had another session of reading. Mr. Ebo started this time, followed by Iquo and finally Olu-gbemiga. Mr. Ebo read from a section of his book that dwelt on propaganda. When Iquo started reading, the microphone had some issues and she had to use her voice. After a while, she paused to ask, ‘Can you hear me?’ There was a thunderous ‘Yes!’ When the mic came back on, there were groans at the muffling that it was now obvious the mic had done to her fine delivery. She went to her voice after a while.
There were some final questions too… Mr. Ebo explained that his book is a book of his experience in the war which started when he was eleven and ended when he was fourteen. It was mixed with research. At some point, Mr. Ebo asked ‘How many of you read The Guardian?’ Hands shot up. ‘You should know me now!! I am Ebo, Mr. Nnamdi Ebo. I write a column there.’The looks on most of the faces showed that the audience was made up mostly of people who paged through the paper or read every detail without quite memorising the names of the writers. Well, Mr. Ebo spoke on his writings in The Guardian newspaper and a piece he was working on shortly. He decried kidnapping and crime in totality saying that there was hardly any excuse for it. A member of the audience apologised for not being a reader of The Guardian (his voice didn’t really show he was sorry). He said that situation and troubles can push people to do things they’d rather not do. Hunger and poverty can make animals of men. Mr. Ebo maintained that there was really no justification. He continued on a different note that with the happenings in the country, the political troubles, a lot of people are talking of a civil war without knowing the full impact of it; ‘No country can survive two civil wars! War is horrible and is something we should not think of.’ On a light note, he answered a question on writer’s block that he overcame his usually with a glass of milk and some sleep [I wish I could do same… Hmmm].
Iquo spoke on stereotypes, saying she wasn’t pleased that most writers embraced the Western black washing of Africa negatively [my paraphrase]. There’s an overt generalisation by most people which isn’t right. Most people ride on it believing it is one of the easiest ways to attain fame and stardom especially in the Western world. Some others just think it is, in her words, sexy. On her role models, she mentioned Maya Angelou, Christophe Okigbo, Wole Soyinka, Leopold Senghor… and eh, okay, she couldn’t remember more or they were too much in her head at that moment so she said ‘To mention a few, not mentioning others in the other genres, let’s stick to poetry for now.’ Her writing is largely based on self-expression which she finds to be the key thing to everything else.
There was a raffle draw for people who bought the books. Two lucky ones got tickets for movies at the Silverbird cinema. Emeka Chijindu Nwakama who had come in a bit late and sat beside me, was one of the lucky winners. I couldn’t remember him from my reading (what is it with this headache and amnesia) but he was nice and told me some good things. It was one of the highlights of the evening for me. It put some coolness and sanity to my rising temperature… The main part of the whole session was ended.
The audience applauded… for what it was worth, it had been worth it 🙂
There was a final performance from Bash… We coordinated a few pictures. Hmm, had to tease Dike-ogu that he doesn’t pose for pictures when Iquo was taking a shot with him. A fever that ‘caught’ me earlier was increasing its hold on my senses. Already, a few friends I had been chatting with had noted I was acting strange. I noticed that my irritability was increasing and I wondered if I wasn’t beginning to irritate people more. I can only pray I didn’t get anybody pissed… Well, my suit went off sharply and I hopped gratefully with a cousin of mine into the cool comfort of my buddy, Gimba
Kakanda’s ride. We ended up driving some full hour instead of five minutes. That in itself is gist for a fuller post but true talk, who cared about that one, I had a fulfilling discussion with Gimba and kept thinking of a certain Doctor who I had called earlier, one worrying about these aches oooo…
The Association of Nigerian Authors’ 2013 Literary Prizes was announced on Saturday. Iquo’s Beginning Symphony, Dike-ogu’s On my way to azure shores and my Bring our casket home: Tales one shouldn’t tell were long listed for the poetry prize. They are really nice books and I can vouch for them… You can get these books in any major bookshop in Nigeria. Send me an e-mail at email@example.com and we can discuss how to get the book in any town close to you. E-books are in the works. Meanwhile, thanks for all the support.
We had had a full meeting in the day and now…
That was Samson’s good night call on Friday. Say what? Why hadn’t I seen this coming? It had been some time since I had worn that garb and coming out of some small forced retreat, I wondered what the event would entail. Well, first thing to do was clear wardrobe issues. I had ordered some fresh wear for this author and when I had them delivered, I couldn’t help smiling at the choice of black or ash trousers, to accompany my black shirt. I decided to do a suit too so that meant simply that the corresponding black pants won the show. I searched around for my anger – the Tiv black and white muffler you would find me with every time. It occurred to me it had been a parting present a week earlier. I hit my head in the ‘Oh no!’ fashion of remembrance.
Well, I got into a bus with my main bro, Gabriel, by some 10:00. I had it in mind to go spend the night in town somewhere special so I packed a bag. There was the indecision of where to put this or that, what to leave or take… That was some exercise. In the end, though, like I said by some 10:00am we were moving to town for an event that was meant to start by 11:00. Of all days, Abuja decided to have its traffic jam in full – groan! With each stop, each trudge and each slowing turn, I groaned once more wondering aloud like in many movies: ‘Are we there yet?’ Choi! Samson had told me the event would start on the dot and I was shaking… Then our bus hit a small car and I silently began to question the evils of my forefathers who were bent on making me lose face and perhaps, friendship. Meanwhile, my phone had gone off of its own volition, I guess, 😉 … Samson kept calling Gabriel… Eventually, though, we arrived Area 3 and met Samson himself who came to usher us in. Can you beat that? Being ushered in by the celebrant himself! You don’t get that everyday. Well, he looked a bit concerned and relieved almost as if he had thought we weren’t going to come again. There was no anger which made me note one thing: the event was far from starting. I went to the hall and discovered a trickle of people. I went to pay my compliments to Dike Chukwumerije, poetic performing wonder and Chinelo Chikelu, Abuja Literary Society secretary. Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, Chairman of the Abuja Association of Nigerian Authors soon came in. There was Mr. Kaniko Uduagbon representing Denja Abdullahi, the Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, and standing in for the Chairman of the occasion, Femi Fani-Kayode whose break lights we didn’t see, somehow…
There were a few more things to set right which we did. After that, we set the event in top gear.
2 MAIN EVENT…
12:30 and lots of spaces empty, guests still trickling in. Barrister Ahmed Maiwada came in, looking his usual self with his grey suit, dark shirt and the dark glasses… I got the mic and called everyone forward. I forced a shy Ms. Chikelu to say the opening prayer. She started with the first sign of the cross but somehow forgot to close her prayer with same… National anthem and then, the dignitaries were called to the high table. Mr. Kaniko gave a brief speech which helped us move fast… Prof. Gbenga Ibileye of the Federal University, Lokoja gave a beautiful review of the book. The review went round the power of poets and poetry in changing society and creating a beauty through their words and acts. Naturally, Kofi Awoonor got into the conversation. Ibileye confessed that he hadn’t opened the parcel with the book till after some calls by the author. He expected some rubbish or roadside thing, the don continued, but was shocked to find out the top quality that the Origami published book had… Reading through was the second shocker. What can words do? Much and far more. When put right, when crafted in such a way as to delight and raise the weary, when structured and garbed in rhythm to sing easy notes understood by even the simple, words can do a lot and far more. ‘The collection might have been written by a small man in stature but it is Samsonic in might… This is aesthetically profound.’
The review went on and on, almost as if the good Prof was trying to write his own book J … it was fun though. It brought to mind the difference between prose and poetry. In trying to explain some little poetry, so much prose flew. Well, we came to the end of that and the Prof sat to some applause which I had to re-echo.
Dike-ogu Chukwumerije took the stage next with a performance. It was part of a deal both of us had reached – either perform or sit on the high table. I have to think of better bargains in the future to get people do more… Well, Dike performed a short piece in his usual captivating style and though the audience sure looked like they would have expected more, he took a bow to get to his seat. I guess he didn’t want to steal the show or something. It was enough to raise the mood in the hall. At this point, some other writers had strolled in from their offices; Mrs. Chinyere Obi-Obasi (who tries to be there always for us writers once we are in her town), Gimba Kakanda, Salamatu Sule, Oye Ololade…
It was time to unveil the book. I must confess I was a little confused here… Unveiling a book, what does that entail? (I had always missed this part at book presentations, including my very own book launch. I think I had only come in after my book was unveiled and joined in the pictures! If only I had watched the video of the occasion – ouch! Well, no one was going to shame me). The dignitaries came down and all stood by while I asked the author and his mother, Mrs. Victoria Kukogho – yeah, she was there. Sorry, I didn’t mention earlier. They opened it and showed to the public. With that, I declared sales open at the cost of one thousand naira, though the smart business poet-author of the book had been long selling his book and had done off with a whole lot of copies before the event.
Mr. Eriata Oribhabor, the Lead Presenter made his presentation speaking on the dedication of the author and his being an inspiration to many including himself. He moved to go back to his seat but trust me na, I asked him to drop something. He smiled and apologised and properly presented the book with something. The rest of the high table did their bit from Mallam Haruna Haruspice publisher, DCP Ojukwu, Mrs. … , Kaniko on behalf of Denja Abdullahi and Fani-Kayode, and even the reviewer. I was touched when the reviewer made his own contribution. We got a seat at the front for the author and had him recite three poems. After the recitation, just for the fun of it, we did an auction of five copies of the book – the first to be autographed by the author and the main ones for the occasion. We had fun trying to get them to one person. The offers kept pouring in from the first Three Thousand Naira I staked. Of course, I wanted the books too so I had to put in my money at some point. Imagine the high table people oh! After contributing at different points and losing my bucks, they – Mr. Oribhabor – mainly, told me that I was the anchor and wasn’t meant to be part of the game. The rest of the group supported him. Indeed! I asked if my money could be given back to me. The resounding ‘No!’ could really have brought down the roof. Grrrrrr! Well, the auction went well on to ten minutes and was continuing. Everyone wanted that collection of five copies and the stake for it was tempting. Add a simple amount, maybe just a thousand or even a hundred naira and get the five books. There was the video and historic aspect. In addition, I had said I would make the author do a chicken dance for the winner of the books. Thirty thousand naira going… going… someone else there raising a hand up. Thirty-one thousand naira! Thirty-one thousand, forty naira. Thirty-one thousand four hundred and forty naira. Thirty… Thirty-three thousand naira… And on and on and on… I had to be begged by the author to close it in at Thirty-six. Well, if he was okay with the bucks, who was I? After all, he had been saying I stop since before Twenty. Hmmm. Kai… Oh well.
The next segment was an interview session with the author that I had anchored. This was meant to be my only part in the original plan before I became the impromptu anchor – fortunate that I do it as a hobby. Well, we did the interview and he answered well narrating how he was inspired to put the collection together emphasising that he was not inspired to write ‘the book’ but rather the poems within. Each poem had its story. He spoke mainly on ‘Beggar without a choice’, a poem he had written after a discussion we had had earlier in the year. The poem talks about that person staying on in an abusive relationship. That amazing beauty that man, nature and divinity admires who stoops to be a slave to someone unworthy. It turns out that a friend of his had read the poem on Facebook soon as it came out and confronted him. That friend was in a beer parlour (bar) and called the author to say that he was drinking to go and give his fiancée a proper beating. Turns out said fiancée had been caught by her man in bed with another. The poem had eventually given him a rethink. Talks by the author and the mother of the fiancé also put sense. Eventually, the marriage held. The power of words. Holding on to his first comments, I asked Samson if he was an advocate of divorce. He said he wasn’t but that in the event of someone being bashed with no hope of change, and in a situation where the children would be adversely affected either psychologically, physically, or any way, then the partner being hurt had to leave. In a relationship before marriage, there’s no bargain. The person being bashed should leave. I asked about his near overt rhyming [in his book] wondering if it didn’t distort meaning in some poems, the choice of sound over meaning. I personally think that in some poems, poets lose the beauty of what would have come in an insistence on rhyme. The author said it wasn’t all his poems that had that touch. Some were left without rhyme. He however put rhyme in a lot so as to appeal more to people’s appreciation of the art. He always strived to ensure that the rhymes weren’t cosmetic but on point which made his writing difficult sometimes as he had to find an apt replacement. He
The audience had their chance to talk and ask questions. There were compliments here and there. Someone asked the author if he wasn’t deterred by the ‘fact that Nigerians don’t read’. Dr. Emman Shehu, President of the Abuja Writers’ Forum took that guest on stating that Nigerians read and that largely we have a problem of book distribution in the country amongst other publishing inadequacies. About his mentors, the author mentioned people like Shakespeare, Hardy (for prose) among others. His leaning towards foreign writers doesn’t really take out the African component of his writing (I know this for sure). It was simply due to a childhood exposure to largely foreign literature. The reviewer, Prof Ibileye asked if some of the poems were autobiographical. What do you expect? Of course!
We had to leave so I called on Kukogho Elijah, the author’s uncle who gave the vote of thanks. I added something, I think, something about letting everybody know that the books were still available and would be in bookshops nationwide soonest. Support can be made to the author who can be reached very easily on Facebook. To get a feel of his poetry, you can Google his name, check on Naijastories, Facebook, Word Rhyme and Rhythm blog (which he curates) and so. You can spread word of the book or simply, send word to show you support his writing.
We all recited the National Pledge and soon after that, had Mama Author, Mrs. Kukogho say the closing prayer which was offered traditionally. To the sweet presentation, the goodwill of everyone present, the good health of those that would eventually read a long post on the launch and all… We could only answer traditionally too; Ise.
Thanks to Victoria Bamas, Dorcas Bitrus, Tonia Jessica Okefe, Sarah Opara, Opeyemi Kehinde, Moses Opara and the entire supporting team that made the event a success. To those behind the scenes and everyone who said a prayer, well done. May the future be kind and life, give you far more than you can ever hope for. To those of you who read, or who have supported this Kukogho, myself and us all writers here and everywhere; thank you. May the future be kind.
It was the Open Mic session of the Abuja Literary Society and yup, I had to be there. First people I noticed coming in were ElNathan John and Dike Chukwumerije. Okay, this was going to be fun. Usual hi’s to friends and acquaintances and I got to my seat. Smiling. This was going to be fun. The last time I had been at any ALS event was with Chuma Nwokolo Jnr when he had had his reading. That had proved a most entertaining evening.
After some time we got started with general introductions. I noticed immediately that there were lots of fine voices – trust me to catch that. Also noticed that there was this fine lady beside me who said something about being here in the country for one thing or the other. The MC (the Bookman) started the discussion session. We settled to discuss the topic ‘Excessive Force of the Military in Fighting Boko Haram‘. The talk went far beyond that o… Of course, I wouldn’t be boring you with that, so cool! I can only say that if you want a deep flow on the topic, you can still make out time (if you are in Abuja) to come for the ALS open mic session on 14th June 2013, same venue. We were promised that military experts would come to give their thoughts too so that we don’t keep moving about with our professionally unprofessional analysis… Hee hee hee. Oh well.
The performances started with two performance poets, Alfa and Bolaji who read ‘Black Gold Biva’ and ‘My Pain’ respectively. They were well received with little admonition on how to make their art better. Bolaji was notably more impressive in his ending than start. He seemed to be a poet who gathered air with time. He introduced his poem by saying ‘He was a virgin’… Okay… Now, he stopped there. Had some of us wondering the virginity angle he was coming from: metaphoric? Unlearned in the art of eating the bearded meat? As a performer? 😉 Oh well. Except for some ugly cliches here and there, his delivery was good:
‘Once I befriended fantasy
It was beautiful but I met reality
she defied me and became my pain
pain is gain/no pain no gain
so I rise from this cold floor stronger
to pick my gain’
Next, Azeezat read a short story ‘Apprehension’, set in a town near similar to Jos. Well, Jos came to mind. It was about someone running in a time of crisis, hiding, noticing evils and falling… First draft. Most of us agreed that it could have been better. Adeyemi read ‘Cheeter‘s buzz’, a poem which some people had some time fitting into the right genre. He wasn’t conversant with the poem and it could have been written better, and performed more beautifully. I have a feeling there’s more to that particular piece… Removing some forced rhymes, overt biblical allusions that were plain and the like. Elnathan John commented of the poem that the poet took the name of the Lord in vain! Hee hee hee. Oh well. Enough said.
I read a poem next, ‘Life’. Taken from Bring our casket home, a 9 lined poem that ends (minus one line) thus:
I stayed an eternity with you
But just as my heart counted a second
The night rolled its mat
Before the audience or I knew it, I was sitting again. Wow! Felt good reading that. Some people mentioned that I should join the slammers (performance Kings). I smiled. Well, compliments that would leave anyone fulfilled. The reading continued. A hip-hop poetic performer, Ogo, read ‘Pure’. The banker rhymed on like Jay Z and not a few ladies made catcalls… Na wa o! I need to learn some romantic rhymes too!
The Musicians took over. Afolabi and Isaac came on stage. Isaac was on the guitar, while Afolabi breathed lyrics into the air that had me change my camera from still shots to video mode. The song was ‘Trueness’ and the rendition truly from the soul. It came out lovely. Some people noted that Afolabi held back and could have done better. Left a few people behind me and myself too wondering what they meant… This guy was sooooo it. Wow! You should have heard him. It was fluid and to think it was without effects or anything? C’mon!!
A lady, Kelechi read ‘Sweet Seeder’ (a story/article/narrative/instruction). Suggested that she work on making it one. Material there but too undefined. There was a poem read by Banji and Egbuche Pope read a long undefined piece too, titled ‘Its 4pm’. He was told to rework it. There was a short story read by … Another musical presentation was done by Afolabi and three other friends. Hmm. Need I say more? I respect the guy jare!
The final presentation was a lovely poem ‘Battlefields of the Mind’ written by Busola Sosannya. For some reason she didn’t perform it (shyness abi? 🙂 )… It was performed by ace performer, Dike Chukwumerije. As it moved to closing, I remembered our Makurdi ‘Purple Silver’ group hosted by Anselm Ngutsav. Miss those readings…
It was real late, some long minutes past 21:00hrs or was it closer to 22:00? Several of the people had left. There were talks, catching up and making of new acquaintances. I did some on the spot editing of Busola’s poem and asked a few questions of why the poet had not performed her piece. Lots of more talk and in the end, there was a walk…
Ask me not where to… 😉
Meanwhile, there was a journey of some two hours to get to. Home called and more activities. Oh well.