Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS, FUNNY, LITERARY MISSIONARY

HOW TO BE A NIGERIAN WRITER by Elnathan John

Writer's Stop
Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

 

 

You know the value of books. The process of making them intrigues you. You want your name on the front cover of a book and, like an earthworm inches through dirt into the ground, you want to make your way into people’s homes, heads and hearts. I am here to help you achieve that.

 

First, you must look the part. It is important to look like an African writer. Find multi-coloured kampala fabric and use it to sew shirts which you’ll wear to all writers’ events. Or an old t-shirt. You shouldn’t look like a model or banker. Your precious time is spent thinking of plot and theme and words, not on dress and grooming. Your hair needs to be unkempt. However, nothing says authentic-tortured-African-writer like dreadlocks. Please, note that in Nigeria there is a difference between dreadlocks and ‘dada’. Dada is less refined, naturally matted coils of hair due to superstitious neglect. Dada is uncool. Dreadlocks are deliberate. They are cool. They make you look wildly creative. If someone asks; no, you are not a Rastafarian. You are an African writer.

 

As a writer, you must flaunt your vices. You need to show that you are a flawed character. If you drink, drink too much. If you smoke, do it at inappropriate times. Show up at an event reeking of booze. People will understand. Vices are a tool of the trade.

 

Now, you have the basic tools: a multi-coloured kampala shirt, cool dreadlocks, and vices. You must set about the business of writing.

 

You do not need to read a lot to be a Nigerian writer. In fact, as a Nigerian writer you can make shameless statements like “I don’t really read much”, in public. All you need is a burning desire to write. It is sufficient to have read Shakespeare and Achebe, and maybe a little of Chimamanda Adichie for contemporary reading. The only thing you need to really study is a dictionary or thesaurus.

 

Please, note that all Nigerian characters are Africans who act the same: children are respectful of elders; parents are always responsible, wise individuals teaching children valuable lessons of life. Characters do not use cuss words or talk about sex, even when in the company of peers. Nobody’s mother smokes and we have no homosexuals in Nigeria.

 

Use big words instead of small words; ‘Discombobulate’ instead of ‘confuse’. How can you write like a layman when you are an African writer? It doesn’t matter how many people read or understand you. What matters is that you impress those who do.

 

Use many words. It is always better to err on the side of verbosity than to err on the side of brevity.

 

Protect your work fiercely and always insist that people give you constructive criticism. Anyone who points out, rightly or otherwise, that your writing isn’t quite there yet, is evil and an enemy of your hustle. You must believe that there is nothing like bad writing. After all, you were inspired by the spirits before you began writing – what do critics know?

 

Do not waste your time or money on editors. Editors are failed writers whose life ambition is to frustrate the hustle of real writers like you. Show your friends your work. But only the ones who are not jealous of your hustle, and who remind you that your writing is the best thing since point-and-kill. Find some popular person from your village who will write you a foreword without actually reading your book. Then, go to press.

 

Go to Ibadan or Lagos. Find a cheap printer who can print 1,000 copies without ink smearing on the pages coming out lopsided. Arrange for a transporter to bring your book home.

 

A book is not complete without a book launch. In Nigeria, a book launch is a fund-raising ceremony. It is not important to have writers at this event. Well, maybe the book reviewer. You need your state governor (who may not come but will send a representative with a cheque or a pledge); your Local Government chairman; your Pastor or Imam to bless the event; and any minister, senator or rich person that you know. It is important to find a Chief Launcher who will encourage others to donate to your hustle. Do not leave it to chance or the discretion of the Chief Launcher, unless you are sure of his capabilities. In Nigeria, nobody is allowed to embarrass the Chief Launcher by giving more money. So, if you can, gently hint that you know he will set the bar high for others to follow. That is the job of the Chief Launcher – setting the bar as high as possible.

 

You do not need a marketer, publicist or publisher. These people eat into your profit margin. If you have a car, carry a few hundred copies in the trunk at all times. Be your own marketer. Steer conversation toward your book and tell them you have written this really cool book. Someone will ask for it and you will tell them to hold on for a minute while you get it from your car. If you don’t have a car, have a big bag that can carry at least 10 copies. Do not be ashamed to carry your books to public gatherings. Book by book, God blessing your hustle, you may end up selling off the 1,000 copies your printer produced, and maybe even go for a reprint.

 

Get an award. It doesn’t matter what. It may be from your church bulletin which you have been writing for since you were in secondary school or your old boy’s association newsletter. You can even have friends get together to organise and award you the ‘Roforofo Prize for African Fiction’. Then, you can have on your book, ‘Award Winning Author’. No need to state what award it is. An award-winning writer is a good writer.

 

It is my hope that you make it as a writer and have many successful books in the market. And with well organised book launchings, you can be sure that God will bless your hustle.

 

 

ElNathan John blogs at http://elnathanjohn.blogspot.com/ … Follow his tweets at @elnathan

el jo

He is the creator of the Nigerian ‘How to series…’ Google it! You might also want to check:

How to worship the Nigerian God

Damn You – Letter to Nigerian Literature and all involved

How to show Nigerian love

http://dailytimes.com.ng/opinion/how-be-nigerian-mechanic

 

 

 

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Posted in ESSAYS AND LITERARY JOURNEYS

REPARATIONS: WHAT NIGERIA OWES THE TORTOISE [1] (by Pius Adesanmi)

Protocols!-My hosts, Pastor Tunde Bakare, esteemed convener of the SNG, and Mr. Yinka Odumakin, irrepressible spokesman of the group, must be used to thankless jobs by now. After all, they were both at the forefront of a recent epic struggle to restore constitutional order in this country by liberating a self-declared formerly shoeless compatriot from the chains of uxorial fealty to the wife of his boss. The woman in question had held us all to ransom, running a ghost presidency, cabalized (apologies to my bosom friend, Patrick Obahiagbon) all the way from Saudi Arabia. As you all know, the Save Nigeria Group was at the forefront of that patriotic struggle. No sooner had the Beneficiary-in-Chief of the said struggle been liberated and helped to his rightful constitutional station in Aso Rock than he assumed the role of the nine ungrateful lepers who forgot to return and give thanks to their benefactor in the Bible.

But Nigeria’s own incarnation of the nine ungrateful lepers does more than just walk away from the scene of his blessing. He soon surrounds himself with the usual suspects, always the worst and perpetually recycled characters in our polity, who hastened to convince him to spit on the same people on whose backs he rode to constitutional validity. Down the road, when the same people rose up in response to another historical imperative of struggle, he had been sufficiently tutored in the art of placing a knife on the rope of the people’s legitimate struggle. Thus, in one fell swoop, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Yinka Odumakin, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Joe Okei-Odumakin, and all the patriots who tirelessly conscientized our people in Lagos and the rest of the country to the task at hand were contemptuously dismissed as mobilizers of a motley crowd of sufferheads bribed with food, bottled water, and comedy.

You must understand therefore why I started by saying that my hosts here today, Pastor Tunde Bakare and Mr. Yinka Odumakin, must be used to thankless jobs. Indeed, so used are these gentlemen to the thankless job of patriotic nation building, so inured are they to the insults and sorrows of the terrain, that they may not even find anything amiss if I went straight to the heart of this lecture without first thanking them for the extraordinary honour and privilege they have accorded me by taking the baton of the distinguished SNG lecture series from Professor Niyi Osundare, Africa’s most decorated poet, one
of my immediate mentors in the business of thinking and writing Africa, and handing it over to me. By inviting me to deliver this lecture after my mentor’s passage on this same podium a few months ago, SNG has saddled me with a near-impossible act to follow. What makes my task bearable is the redemptive rite of passage known in my culture as iba!

To Niyi Osundare who was here before me – iba!
To Pastor Tunde Bakare and Mr. Yinka Odumakin who invited me today – iba!
To Mrs. Priscilla Kuye, Chairperson of this gathering – iba!
To you whose ears are here in this hall to drink my words – iba!
I pray you,
Unbind me!
Make my young mouth harbor the elder’s tongue
On which the kolanut blossoms to maturity
Grant me, I pray, the wisdom to render unto the Tortoise
That which belongs to Ijapa

Now that I have poured cold water in front of me, may my feet be rewarded with the kiss of cool and soothing earth as I set forth in this lecture! Pastor Bakare, Mrs Kuye, audience, have I earned the right to proceed with this lecture? Thank you. Nigeria’s betrayal of a certain Caesarian covenant with the Tortoise is at the root of every problem that has made responsible nationhood and statehood a mirage since October 1, 1960. If you are in this hall and you are above the age of forty, then you belong in a generation of Nigerians raised on a diet of folktales and other forms of traditional pedagogy. If you are not an “ara oke” like me and you grew up in the city, you may not have memories of returning from the farm with your grandmother and waiting patiently for storytelling sessions after dinner. However, you probably still got your own dosage of folktales from NTA’s Tales by Moonlight.

Growing up in Isanlu, my hometown in Yagba East LGA, Kogi state, I got my own stories principally from my mom and my grand aunty. We call my grand aunty Mama Isanlu. She is still alive and kicking well into her nineties. Tales by Moonlight on television was just jara, an additional icing on the cake whenever we were able to successfully rotate the antenna of my father’s black and white TV, suspended on a long steel rod outside, in the right direction for reception of transmission signals from Lagos. Mama Isanlu’s stories were the real deal. I particularly loved her animal tales. Animal tales are a sub-genre of folktales. There is usually a bad guy, a trickster figure, whose adventures and escapades kept us awake long beyond the telling of the stories. In the Yoruba tradition, that trickster figure is Ijapa, the tortoise, often trying to outsmart everybody, including his own wife, Yannibo.

This is where the problem begins. You see, the Yoruba corpus of folktales in which Ijapa operates as a trickster figure presents a worldview – what German philosophers like Immanuel Kant and G.W.F. Hegel call Weltanschauung – rooted in the twin ideas of the collective good and the commonweal. If we consider that the most basic philosophical definition of the commonweal is the idea of the welfare of the public, then we will understand why “imo ti ara eni nikan”, which we shall translate clumsily as selfishness because the English language is inadequate, is one of the most serious sins and character flaws imaginable in the worldview to which Ijapa belongs. The rounded personhood concept of omoluabi, which I explored fully in a public lecture in Detroit last year, is one of the cultural matrices of that worldview and nobody who undermines the collective good can be deemed a proper omoluabi. Indeed, if the tragedians of ancient Greece were working with the folktale character known as Ijapa, selfishness, the sort which constantly seeks to undermine the collective good, would be his hubris, his fatal flaw.

So engrained is this foible, selfishness, in the persona of Ijapa that even his own wife is never spared. Thus, after years of childlessness, Yannibo impresses it upon her husband to seek help from a babalawo. The babalawo prepares a delicious “aseje” – porridge – which Ijapa is instructed to take back home to his wife. The instructions were strict and severe. Only your wife may eat this “aseje”. But Ijapa won’t be Tortoise if he didn’t err on the side of selfishness. Oh, the porridge was delicious! Oh, the aroma wafted into his nostrils! Oh, how he salivated until the urge became too irresistible. He settled down under a tree and ravenously consumed that which was meant to help his wife get pregnant. And his belly began to swell. And swell. And swell. Shamefacedly, Ijapa returns to the babalawo, singing a song I am sure most of you know very well. Those of you who do not know the song surely have heard the kegite version of it made very popular by Tony One Week in his gyration album. Pardon my poor singing talent. I don’t have the gifts of Tonto Dikeh in the singing department but here we go:

Babalawo mo wa bebe
Alugbinrin
Ogun to se fun mi lere kan
Alugbinrin
Oni nma ma fowo kenu
Alugbinrin
Oni nma ma fese kenu
Alugbinrin
Mo fowo kan obe mo fi kenu
Alugbinrin
Mo boju wo kun, o ri gbendu
Alugbinrin.
Babalawo Mo wa bebe, Alugbinrin…

As it goes for Mrs. Tortoise, so does it go for the rest of the community. They are also victims of Ijapa’s selfish wiles. In a society organized for the collective good, nothing tests the solidity of the social welfare system than famine. Therefore, during a great famine that threatened to wipe out all the animals in Ijapa’s village, the villagers discovered a coconut tree that was still yielding bountifully. In order that this life-sustaining bounty might go round, it was decreed that each villager was entitled to one coconut per day.
At your allotted time, you went to the coconut tree and intoned a song which caused a single coconut to fall from the tree and drop directly
on your back. Having the coconut drop on your back, I suppose, was deterrence against the temptation of greed.

Mr Tortoise gets to the tree at his appointed time on the first day and sings the magic song for his share of one coconut for the day. Your chorus, this time is “oturugbe”:

Ori mo so
Oturugbe
Ori mo so
Oturugbe
Okan ba ja lu mi inu mi a dun, ori mo so
Oturugbe

One coconut drops on his back. Another day, another time. But, wait a minute, says Mr Tortoise to himself, what happens if I ask for two coconuts instead of one? I’m all alone by myself. Who is here to announce to the other villagers that I took more than my fair share of this communal property? If the other villagers are all mumu and they come here each day for one paltry coconut, what’s my own wahala? Ijapa, why you dey dull yourself like this? Shine your eyes now. Let me try my luck and see if this tree will give me two coconuts jare. So, our friend listens to the voices in his own head and sings:

Ori mo so
oturugbe
Ori mo so
oturugbe
Eji ba ja lu mi inu mi a dun, ori mo so
oturugbe

To his amazement, two coconuts drop on his back! He went home dancing and singing maga don pay! Another time, he asked for tree coconuts to drop on his back. Then four. Then five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Finally, he’d had enough of the daily trips to the tree. The voices invade his head again. What if I asked everything to kuku drop on me? I could take the entire load of coconuts home and hoard it, abi? When the storm clams down, I could even begin to sell some to trusted villagers at an exorbitant price and make a killing. So, to the tree he went and sang:

Ori mo so –
oturugbe
Ori mo so –
oturugbe
Gbogbo re ba ja lu mi inu mi a dun, ori mo so
oturugbe

I’m sure you all know the end of this story. A mountain of coconuts came crashing down on Ijapa, crushing his shell and causing him grievous bodily harm. Alas, as soon as Ijapa recovers from this near death experience with coconuts – perhaps the other animals took pity on him and rushed him to a German hospital for treatment! – he was onto his next prank, this time to cheat all the birds of the air who had been invited for a feast in heaven. Ijapa convinced each bird to donate a feather to him in order to be able to fly along with them to the party in heaven. The Nigerian practice of “mo gbo mo ya” was also trendy in the animal kingdom of Ijapa’s era.

As the animals got ready for the trip, Ijapa, the most cosmopolitan among the animals because of his wide travels, told everyone to take a new name, as was the norm in civilized climes. Naturally, Ijapa adopted the name, Mr. Everybody. Off they went to heaven. The hosts were generous. There was plenty to eat and drink. Oh, the hosts also announced that the feast was for everybody! Ijapa was of course quick to remind his fellow guests who everybody was. At the end of the day, he hungry and, therefore, very angry birds, took their feathers from Ijapa, flew back to earth, and abandoned him to his fate in heaven. If you want to know what subsequently happened to Ijapa, get Ambassador Abass Akande Obesere omo Rapala’s album, “Diplomacy”.

One crucial dimension to these animal tales in the Yoruba corpus is their didactic mandate. The lessons which these stories teach wear a severe warning label: do not behave like the trickster figure. Our case in point, Ijapa, takes intellectual ownership of his exploits extremely seriously. We, his human audience, are not in any way allowed to imitate Ijapa’s foibles. Even in the case of mixed tales, where the human and the animal worlds meet and their temporalities overlap, the human characters in those tales must heed the same
warnings as those of us who are external to the narrative process. Those of you who have read D.O. Fagunwa, Amos Tutuola, and their London-based literary offspring, Ben Okri, will readily understand what happens to man when he violates the fundamental condition for dealing with the animals’ actions in the tales. That condition, the covenant we must all enter into with the trickster figure, is to avoid plagiarizing his actions.

When Ijapa offers his picaresque adventures in folktales as a pedagogical canvass of behaviors that the individual must avoid, we know that those deviant behaviors almost always come down to two things. The first is greed, especially that form of greed which privileges consumption above all other areas of human experience, transforming the subject into an unthinking slave of Opapala, the Yoruba deity of hunger, the god of food, gourmandizing, and
untrammeled Sybaritism. Hence, Ijapa is at his most outrageous, most reprehensible when he elevates his belly above the collective good of society. In story after story, his punishment for the sin of excessive greed of consumption is swift. Often, he barely escapes with his life to return in the next story to enact another scenario of what we call wobia (excessive consumption at the expense of others). The second behavior to which the trickster figure in the folktales holds an exclusive copyright and which we are consequently not supposed to plagiarize is even deadlier than the first sin. It is individualism. Individualism is the father of selfishness and the mother of nombrilism. It is what enables the will to undermine the commonweal,
to harm the collective good.

It should be clear from the foregoing that Ijapa in these folktales comes from an ethno-national imaginary in which resides a specific welfarist vision of society and her institutions. The commonweal is the base of this vision. All the rules of social organization, all the institutions of society, including monarchy, have meaning insofar as they are able to guarantee the collective good and the commonweal. It is in fact safe to say that the commonweal is sacred. Ijapa’s sin during the party in heaven is worse than selfishness. By claiming to be Mr. Everybody, he was violating one of the most sacred aspects of his culture. The commonweal, the collective, the “us” is so important that even his language does not permit synecdoche in that area. When it comes to the sanctity of the collective, no part can represent or claim to be the whole. Ijapa’s language makes this clear in the proverb: “enikan ki je awa de”. A single person does not announce his presence in the plural by shouting: “here we are”!

In essence, you must always be conscious of your responsibility to the collective. For instance, there is a reason why that river or that stream is called “odo ilu” (communal river). Institutions and codes of behavior exist to guarantee equal and fair access to this river, especially in the dry season. To take more than your fair share of this water is a serious ethical breach, it is deviance of the sort that could give you an “oruko buruku” (bad name) in the community. Even the protocols of fetching water from that stream devolve from a deep-seated social consciousness, a certain respect for the collective
good. If you are the first to reach the stream, you do not just jump in and begin to cast your keregbe (gourd) or water pot all over the place. You have spent your entire life being socialized into responsible membership of the community with stories of Ijapa. Your traditional education emphasized the mandate not to be like Ijapa. You know that you do not want to stir the water in the river so vigorously as to make the water turn all brown with disturbed mud and particles from the riverbed, making it impossible for other members of the community to fetch water when they arrive.

In other words, you don’t want to “ru omi odo”. Above all, you also don’t want to start suddenly thinking of creative ways to divert the entire river – or 90% of it – for your own private use. That would be breaking the covenant with Ijapa not to plagiarize him. That would be violating all the life lessons you were taught about how to avoidbehaving like Ijapa. Do you want me to go on?

[Being the first part of the Save Nigeria Group public lecture delivered by Pius Adesanmi in Lagos]… The second part continues

 

 

Posted in LIFE

THERE WAS A CRASH YESTERDAY

There was a crash yesterday. An air crash.

It happened yesterday and has remained with me. It was the Dana Airliner that crashed in Lagos.

It feels so sad.

I would confess: Immediately, I heard of it and could access the manifest, I went through for any familiar name. There was none personal. Did I sigh in relief? No. I felt worse. There were certain families together. Several of them were in twos. One particular group hit me – Anyene. Six Anyenes in that crash – blazing to eternity. Mother and children. Wait! There was more? Heard it was Father, Mother, children and a mother-in-law. Christ! Aôndo! Then, I went to Facebook and saw several tributes from my friends and relations to people they knew – acquaintances and friends on that flight. Most mentioned Ojukwu Alvana, a young lawyer going to Lagos. From all the comments, she was someone deeply respected, loved and hoped for. There were also some prominent people on that crash too… a Professor, the journalist Ngozi of the Nation, some military officers… Hmm. But does it matter – prominent or not, several lives were lost. All through the morning, I felt really down.

Now, I posted a comment to commiserate with the families and to show my mourning. Sadly, several people clicked ‘Like’ on the Facebook post. I also noticed that a lot of people were ‘Like’ing similar posts across Facebook. Does this mean that they like that we are mourning? Do they like that these people died? Perhaps, some people should learn that if you have nothing to say, write or comment, don’t do anything. Particularly, don’t click anything particularly ‘Like’. Read and pass. No one would sue you. Sometimes, silence shows more mourning and agreement with same. Now, I had a few people arguing that the ‘Like’ might indicate that the people liked the ‘idea’ I expressed or something or the like… They are in sync with whatever is being expressed. C’mon! It sure wouldn’t appear like that to the grievers… anyone seeing such. More, forget the social media thing and apply it to reality. If someone is sorrowing or grieving, would you take a smile (what the ‘Like’ button indicates) or go like ‘Hmm, I like what you are going through’ … ‘I like…’ Shhish! But I deviate and move away from my thoughts. *Sigh.

Hmm. Now, I am racking through my thoughts – from where I was before and now, going forth. Thinking deep about all that has happened. Indications are coming that the flight could was somewhat intentional with the airline allowing a faulty plane to fly. Other indications too that the passengers could have been saved if rescue had come in time. Haba! Late, it is too late to think of saving the late. Sad. To think that, another crash occurred (in Ghana?) My brother, Myles Ijabo asked ‘What is happening to our country?’ I sighed. What is happening to the world?  – I thought to myself.

Hopefully, Aôndo would give us grace to live safer lives. May He give the families (by blood and friendship) of all those who passed on in that crash some succour and an infinite ability to survive the trauma.

To all those who passed on, may the souls of the faithful departed, through the infinite mercy of Aôndo, rest in perfect peace. Amen.

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.