If you’ve witnessed war, you will never underestimate peace. I have lived through some crises, like my people. I have seen Zaki-Biam and Wukari, small wars but even in those “little numbers” and events of red that darkened our sun, I experienced a full eclipse. Have you seen people cut down in one breath? Intestines hanging out, destinies flushed away with the wiping out of whatever we are today? It might seem far-fetched but close your eyes and imagine the person you love the most –your father, mother, sibling or lover. Imagine that person raped. Imagine that person shot… Cut down. This is not even half a description of what war is…
This isn’t a fear narrative or a graphic building of fiction. It’s a telling of what may come. It is a simple simplistic rendering or what may be for us, and indeed what is, for others.
Read the stories of the Biafran war or hear someone tell you. Read the stories of the two World Wars or of the war in Sudan, the genocide in Rwanda.
It starts with words. It starts with actions. The actions of our inactions. We watch hate narratives grow and stare on as hate actions build to destroy. The actions or our building hate that surrenders us to an evil fate. No poem, no story, no word can do justice to the evils that await if we refuse to do something to create peace.
Under the auspices of Writers and CSOs for Development, we – at SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative, Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative (GERI), Gender and Community Empowerment Initiative (GECOME), Women’s Right to Education Programme, Oyalewa Integrated Services Limited, ANA Benue, Mbachilin Development Foundation, Custodians Of African Literature of Jos and Sankofa of Ibadan, amongst other partners – did a full day literary and CSO driven programme across three cities on the 23rd of September to commemorate the 2017 International Day of Peace. Okay, and it was themed ‘Together for peace: respect, safety & dignity for all. That explains why we had to bring in so many of us and create that nexus between us writers and development workers.
We had poetry, spoken word and fiction readings. We discussed the works and it was fun to see the CSO actors present react to the readings. There were some misinterpretations, some debate, some disagreements, general praise and all, done in good faith to bring clarity and better understanding. Otene Ogwuche, my chief co-planner read the UN Secretary General’s speech for International Day of Peace while I had the welcome note. We also rounded up the day’s proceedings later. Mrs. Elizabeth Jeiyol of GERI taught everyone the perspective game after a heated discussion on a piece, ‘Wahala’ by Daniel Iduh. The work is written from the point of view of a soldier agitating for war. The writers thought it was a cool story with fine imagery plus good language while some journalists and development workers thought it was hate speech and a flame blower for conflict. After our discussions, we reached a middle ground – these narratives exist and will always exist, how do we change the narrative? Terseer Sam Baki, a Civil Defence officer and poet shortlisted for the ANA Poetry Prize 2015 read some poems on peace. We had other readings from Aondosoo Andrew Labe (Benue ANA Publicity Secretary), Innocence Silas Katricia (who won the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize 2017) and Ene Odaba while Ciara Ogah and Michael Amedu had lovely spoken word performances. At the end, our compere, Oko Owi Ocho had to applaud everyone.
In the evening, we watched Beast of no Nation and discussed the movie – themes, ideas, style and the like. It was really enlightening for all us. We sure learnt a lot on the day. At the end of the whole event, we resolved that we would do more of such events, especially as the engagement was the start of a peace campaign aimed at peace and other development initiatives engagements. We resolved to start rewriting the tales of our places by living right and doing new things. The campaign continues and you can check by following us on Instagram and Twitter @sueddieagema @geri_initiative @Otenefrank @sevhagebooks
It is amazing how a lot of us do not realise the power of stories to do a lot of damage and harm on the one hand, or building and healing on the other. I know the power of stories. I am a writer. I am development worker. I am a change agent. Who are you? What can you do?
Wherever you are, in what space you find yourself, be the change. Together we can change the narrative.
Happy Independence Nigeria.
We love you.
You must have heard it somewhere that today is Wear It Pink day in Nigeria, yes? No? But it is! So, we are working together – all of us – to try to emphasise early detection of cancer as a means to save lives. Have you heard of cancer? Of course, you have. You think it is farfetched and can’t come near you or yours? Nice joke!
I have seen it first-hand. Only last year, I lost a dear dear loved one, Mr. Peter Aduro to cancer. I still don’t know how it happened and till the end of time, I am sure we will trade different stories about how it happened. Bottom line? Cancer. I have had friends talk about it too, how cancer affected their loved ones. In December last year, an elder friend of mine who is like a big brother, lost someone dear to him too. And the sad part is the cancer just springs on you like that thief in the night…
But I digress much from what happened today, and I hope the digression was it… Today, in collaboration with Nigerians all over the world, we met as partnering Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations to go GAGA PINK! We decided to go beyond a touch of pink to ensure we let the message we heard. We had an activity, discussed cancer – shared thoughts on the way forward, prevention, partnering and conquering. We took lots of pictures that we have shared across different platforms and which I present to you now…
Partners at today’s event included the Gender and Environmental Risk Reduction Initiative team represented by their ED, Mrs Elizabeth Jeiyol, Otene Ogwuche, Tine Agernor, Gift, Caroline Bako; Sewuese Mary and Debbie Ogenyi from Angel’s Foundation and Ikape James from Elohim Development Foundation. Of course, our SEVHAGE Literary and Development Initiative was represented by Su’ur Su’eddie Vershima Agema (me) and Debbie Iorliam. We had discussions on the day of the Girl Child coming on October 11th, 2016. We will work to have an event and also build strategies to help in the management of data to help in uplifting the girl child in line with the SDGs. Read up and see what you can do on that day too… Again, back to our talk on cancer…
Early detection saves lives…so much as you can, spread the word and depending on which type, find ways to test. Trust me, it is more expensive to treat cancer than prevent it. If you detect early you can have just a small part of you chunked away or get some cure… If it reaches a terminal point, you will degenerate and wither like a candle aflame. Trust me, never a pretty sight.
May the times be kind and may we be filled with the wisdom to do those things that would keep us alive, and healthy enough for ourselves and our loved ones. Amen.
PS: Remember, it goes beyond October 5th – I am even posting this on the 6th! Do what you can every day. Together, we can fight and win.
It was the night of the full moon
and we were at supper: that was
when they came for my grandmother.
The birth, they said, was not going too well—and
was it everything the eye saw that the head
carried into the homestead?
In silence, they looked at my grandmother and
my grandmother looked at them in silence: their
wordless communication was like a loud silence—that
kind of silence that comes crashing from the ceiling
when the teacher magically appears in a noisy class.
Grandmother did not ask
to be allowed to finish her meal.
She looked at us with the distant eyes
of a stranger—there was no remembrance
in her eyes of the moonlight story she owed us:
our favourite story of the tortoise:
his journey across seven seas and seven forests
and seven mountains and seven deserts and
the songs he sang over deserts and mountains
and forests and oceans and
the beautiful wife that still eluded him….
Grandmother asked only one question:
‘The grandmother of the child…have you sent for her?’
They nodded—as if all three of them
shared the same head on the same neck.
I found I was holding my breath
as Grandmother followed them
and the moon went with them.
(From Hyginus Ekwuazi’s One Day I’ll Raise My Middle Finger at the Stork and the Reaper (Makurdi: SEVHAGE, 2015)
As with most of my friends especially writers with whom I have grown a deep bond, I cannot exactly say the first time I met Dul Johnson… There’s been this contact for some time. One of my first memories with him was when he had a reading with the Abuja Writers’ Forum; he was to be a facilitator at their workshop and also a guest writer. I told my father where I was going and he smiled. He said he had worked with Dr. Johnson in NTA and that the man was a rascal. I smiled… I passed the greetings of my father to Dul and he took it with good humour and yabbed my father back. Since then, there were different meetings including a memorable talk at the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) convention in Minna in 2009. Other areas and yup, I attended his reading at the Abuja ANA where he read from Why Women Wouldn’t Make it to Heaven alongside 2013 Caine prize shortlister, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim. IT was a fun read and the joyful noise in the air was testimony…
I remember when he became my client…The link was another good associate of mine, Salamatu Sule. She gave a referral and voila, I was in Dr. Dul’s office trying my best to sell our work. He had a work that had
been done, Deeper into the Night, which needed some rework. Well, long story short, SEVHAGE published the novel (Deeper into the Night) and a play of his, Melancholia (which was shortlisted for the Association of Nigerian Authors’ 2014 prize for Drama).
Dul Johnson is a man easily spotted with his huge beards, which sadly have been trimmed. With a rich voice and a joyful personality, he is almost always noticeable in any crowd. Did I mention his glasses? He has written much across the genres but there’s some history to him…
He started early life as a farmer, then apprentice blacksmith, something he carried to his school where he succeeded in at metal works. He was meant to go to a polytechnic but providence played its hand differently… Well, he ended up in the Abdullahi Bayero College, the Kano campus of the Ahmadu Bello University (which is now the Bayero University, Kano). Now, by 1976, Dul had started writing plays, with radio plays for a radio station in Sokoto called Rima Radio. It would take two years before his first play was performed on stage. In 1978, as an undergraduate, his first play was performed in the Abdullahi Bayero college. [I tried getting the title of the play from him many times but the man’s memory decided to play a game that didn’t produce it… So, we can be resigned to the fact that it is a title lost in the archives of forgotten memory] He wrote and produced many television plays for NTA Jos in the 80s and 90s before turning his attention to film.
The last time we had a major event together was the twin launch of Deeper into the Night and Melancholia. Professor Hyginus Ekwuazi — a mutual friend of ours who is a great poet, academic and film person – was meant to present the review for Deeper into the Night. For a million reasons, Prof Ekwuazi couldn’t make it and asked that I help him. So, I wore two caps; as reviewer and publisher. I presented the piece while tweaking some parts. I got positive reviews for the presentation and I was all smiles. I can’t remember now, but perhaps I thanked the heavens that Professor Ekwuazi couldn’t make it J
The launch was not as well attended as I would have thought – which is not to say people didn’t come, we had over a hundred people… But it was a great event. There were more than enough chops. People got free copies of the book in the benevolence of the Dul, and *coughs* his publisher. After the whole event, we had time to chat on a whole lot of things… I also got the chance to meet the Dul family; Chalya, the guy Duls and Mrs. Ruth Dul Johnson.
We laughed as I left that day, but I couldn’t forget the warmth that I felt in the office with Dr. Dul and his family.
But this isn’t about us or mushy stuff… Oh! I didn’t mention part of his creative writing publishing history:
Dul has published to his credit, two collections of short stories, Shadows and Ashes and Why Women won’t make it to heaven; a novel Deeper into the Night (SEVHAGE, 2014) and a play, Melancholia. Dul Johnson is also a seasoned scholar and academic who has taught at the University of Jos; the National Film Institute, Jos; the Television College, Jos and Bingham University, Karu.
I did an interview with Dr. Dul Johnson last year shortly after the shortlist for Melancholia. The deep man had much to say… His interview marks the first of our now to be regular SEVHAGE Reviews Interview that can be found at http://sevhage.wordpress.com…Specifically, find the interview by clicking HERE.
Enjoy him and please drop a comment… Many thanks and cheers!
The following creative works are shortlisted in alphabetical order (by titles of entries) and not necessarily in order of merit. The eventual winners will be announced at the Award Dinner of the 33rd International Convention of the Association of Nigerian Authors in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
ANA/CHEVRON PROSE PRIZE ON ENVIRONMENT
Among the Survivors by Million John
Oil Cemetry by May Ifeoma Nwoye
The Fall of Silence by Inyang E. Ekwo
ANA POETRY PRIZE
Home Equal Holes: Tales of an Exile by Su’eddie Vershima Agema
Silent Whispers by C. P. Christopher
Sound of a Metal Gong by Damian Terkaa Jam
Sunbeams and Shadows by Saddiq M Dzukogi
The Fourth Masquerade by Ebi Yeibo
ANA DRAMA PRIZE
Maybe Tomorrow- by Soji Cole
Melancholia – by Dul Johnson
Sweet Taste of Shame- by Elaigwu Ameh
The sacrifice- by Tunji Ajibade
Trafficked- by Phillip Begho
ANA/ESIABA IROBI PRIZE FOR PLAYWRITING
Erimma – by Ikechukwu E. Asika
Makwada – by Sanamo David Lagwampa
Maybe Tomorrow – by Soji Cole
ANA /LANTERN PRIZE FOR CHILDREN’S FICTION
(FOR HONOURABLE MENTION ONLY)
The Empty Cage by @Nma Hassan Mohammed
Three Strange Stories for Children by Jide Ogunlana.
Johnny Just Come by Phillip Begho
Prof. Nelson Fashina
Assoc. Prof. Emmanuel Sule Egya
Dr Salihu Bappa
Mrs Joan Oji.
ANA National PRO (North)
Okay, you have an idea of the pre-event. The participants in the hall of Loyola Jesuit College, Gidan-Mangoro were ready for the creative writers’ workshop .
After introductions, Mr. Benjamin Yio (the Manager of Aboki Publishers) took the first shot. He delivered a paper on Publishing. Considering how tasking a topic it is, I wondered how the students would digest it. The Historian did his best, flavouring his discourse with some aspects from his experience as Manager. He was a man used to great intellectuals and higher students, himself earning a PhD at the moment. He was through in a few minutes and sat down. Somewhere in between Andrew Bula, another fine writer and my classmate from the university, himself now a lecturer at the Turkish University in Abuja came in. He was here to offer his bit and give us all his support. Suddenly, it was my time.
Somehow, we had a full discourse on ‘Creativity, Creative Writing and its aspects.’ We had thirty-five students who in their different ways wowed me. Matter of fact, we all did the facilitation together! We defined creativity as having to do with our imagination. We closed our eyes and imagined various things. Okay, so all of us had imaginations. We also got to note that writing was putting down words traditionally on paper, but with modern technology, on computers, our phones, systems and the like – even our legs or on the ground. We discovered, together, that anyone with an imagination who could write could be a great creative writer. After all, creative writing is the putting into words the thoughts of our imagination. The catch was to write things that would appeal to readers – you don’t want to leave them bored. We explored various aspects of creativity – poetry, prose, and plays (drama). We noticed that some other creative aspects existed not strictly in the writing genre – from comics to the like. Oh! That gave us some good talking points including Avengers! Yup! Since the DVD copy isn’t out and none of them has been home since it was released, I had the upper hand to give them some gist of it. Of course, I used it to challenge them to write far better: ‘I believe you have the potentials to write far more captivating stories than that. You have to work that potential into reality.’ The key, I repeated could be found in Horace’s prescription that ‘the role of literature is to instruct and entertain.’ More, we were to write in our times, in hopes of posterity. Another thing was to start our pieces excitingly, hold the readers’ interest and finish with grace. I read very short relevant lines from a few of my works to emphasise this point. We wrote and read ourselves and did some corrections.
We spoke on piracy too and for an example, Andrew gave me three copies of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart that had the ‘Buchi Emecheta The Joys of Motherhood’ written on the side. We went through the whole ‘badness’ of pirates. Someone asked one could know if pirates were in business on one’s work. ‘Well, you would discover lots of your work being sold; discover you are getting far more popular and the like. On the other hand, you would also discover something strange – that little money or none is coming into you or your publisher’s hands. Then you know it is going into the hands of the pirates!’ We got lots of participation from everyone as we continued. We all taught ourselves.
At some point, I had Maik Ortserga (Executive Editor, Aboki Publishers and Secretary, Association of Nigerian Authors, Benue) read from his short story, ‘The Death of Tom Vande’ from New Short Stories from Nigeria (edited by Mbaiver Nyitse). The excerpt was based on an attack by some cultists on a university campus. He gave the participants some tips on short story writing too. Much later, Andrew Bula play-enacted Edwin Arlington Robinson’s ‘Richard Cory’, gave a small talk on the values of writing emphasising it could change the world. He finally read his ‘You are a soldier’ from Cerebrality (edited by Maria Ajima and Sam Ogabidu). The beauty of the renditions by these two is it got the attention of the students especially Jennifer Aruya and her friends who did some clicking thing with their fingers. I asked and they said it was a way of appreciating a fine performance or the arts. They accompanied this clicking with smiles, and I knew it truly came from deep enjoyment. I fancied bringing the new style to spice some of our readings at SEVHAGE and Benue ANA. I tried it a bit and thought of how ridiculous it would be for old people to do that. The students agreed with me it would be odd. Off went that thought!
We had some exercises at many points which included closing our eyes to conjure stories and activate our imaginations. This, I explained to them, was because sometimes to really get hold of our creativity we had to close out the limitations that our sight usually placed before us. Inward, we find countless possibilities that we can express and if we decide, explore in life. Memorably, we closed our eyes and all went to our favourite places – all of us. We imagined ourselves doing the best things we loved the most. Since this was an exercise to see how we could express ourselves in poetry – verse, in lines and stanzas, we opened our eyes to write down what we saw. We didn’t have the time to go through each of them as the clock called for a quick move towards closure. There was a chance to look at two and gosh! They were simple but lovely. We peer reviewed each other’s work and smiled at what we had done. Now, with all the adjectives one would think I exaggerate but trust me, if you were there you might have had to borrow some extra words from the dictionary in your description. Well, we had one more assignment. I asked that everyone imagine an earthquake searing through the class, then someone – a man perhaps falling through, and screaming in a lady-like voice. What happens next? Imagine people fleeing, some trying to run through the louvered windows. What happens next? Is anyone saved? Is there chaos? What is the picture created in our minds? That was the assignment I left them with and they did us the honour of a roaring applause and lots of the hand click thing.
Mr. Wilson Ikwebe presented the Loyola Jesuit school banner, some tee-shirts as well as an envelope from the Principal to Mr. Yio. He called me over to join in the presentation but I was too busy having last minute discussions with the participants to be distracted. We had some snapshots together. It was time for them to go for lunch or something… I started giving some books out and everyone wanted one. It was fun to have people want books. And someone says the reading culture is dying! C’mon! Why don’t we try giving books personally to children or organising such programmes and see if they wouldn’t read… But I digress. Maik gave books to the book club and enjoined them to read. We both felt bad we didn’t bring enough books to make of gifts to the students and the school. Noted. Several of the students who had gone out already came back in to say they had a nice time – if only they knew I had a nicer time!
I wasn’t the only one who didn’t feel good that the event had come to an end. But there was the book giving session coming and some fun time with the Reverend Administrators. The post-event…Hmm.
- The Loyola Jesuit Workshop for Writers (ii): the Workshop (sueddie.wordpress.com)
- The Loyola Jesuit Workshop for Writers (i): Pre (sueddie.wordpress.com)
- A Jesuit high school in Nigeria (blithespirit.wordpress.com)
Unoma Azuah…Unoma Azuah… Who the hell is she? Right? Well, she’s one of Nigeria’s finest writers and academics. She got the Hellman/Hammett award, the Urban Spectrum award, the Leonard Trawick award and the Association of Nigerian Authors/NDDC Flora Nwapa award for her debut novel Sky-high Flames. Her short story collection, The Length of Light though not as popular as her novel is a powerful collection where the enigmatic gap between ordinary people and their dreams is dramatized in scenes that reveal severed roots, patriarchal intrusions, socio-economic impositions, inhuman cultural values, and hostility.
Okay, so Unoma Nguemo Azuah has a new book out, Edible Bones (released December 2011) which has already won the Aidoo-Snyder book award. She has been reading everywhere in Nigeria. Something struck me: She kept saying that her aim for publishing the book in Nigeria is to go in sync with ‘charity begins at home.’ What? Home? Now, home to her is Nigeria in general – why she also published in the country. The interesting thing is the true home, Benue had been ignored… till now.
Join us as we welcome the delightful kpam wan u Benue (pride of Benue), Nguemo Azuah to Makurdi on the 18th June 2012 for a reading from her Edible Bones. The time is set for 16:00hrs (4:00pm) and the venue is a place behind NUJ House, Makurdi. There shall be a raffle draw for guests and buyers of books. Yes, that’s another thrill – there would be lots of books on display. You sure can’t miss it. One way or the other, we hope to make the event to be as fun as possible with lots of lovely readings, chats, a social ambience and if all these fail, a few gifts to compensate. 🙂
You can catch up a bit on the event with a Pre-Event Interview. You can also get acquainted with Nguemo Azuah through her site… or well, you can just wait till that day. Whatever you do, if you find yourself in Makurdi, make sure you make it a date. And if you are not, oh well, we would have fun on your behalf and give you in-depth reportage. Send enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org… Hola! M sugh u!