Posted in LIFE, POL TALKS

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

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

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

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

Why a Corporate Corruption Act?

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

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

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

All for Nigeria

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Posted in LIFE, NAIJA POETRY

GOD BLESS ON ANOTHER DAY (A Poem) by Su’eddie Vershima Agema

(for you, nwa nnem, on another day)

Aôndo, wherever it is, that she would stay
may she find ease, is what we pray
may the stars smile
time grin all the while
to make twinkles
of her wrinkles
to cause an ease of every disease
a release to make every anguish freeze

She, my sister on this day
Chukwu – Lord, please bless, I pray
let beauty within and without
go with from North to South
on her several journeys
across life’s numerous tourneys…
your peace her traveling bag
your grace her every step tag

Nwa Nnem, The sun would shine for you
not to burn but give a due
not of your worth if it be wrong
but of blessings far long
than the cloak of your years
The times would heal your fears
the cock crow
to a beauty we know…

Let the moment smile
let it conquer everything vile

The sun would smile
and you, would be blessed all the while.

Break-of-Dawn-Sunrise-Photo

*Aôndo, Chukwu: The supreme being
*Nwa nnem: Child of my mother
Picture from http://www.shibleysmiles.com/2011/10/photography-finds-the-break-of-dawn.html

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, BOOKS

Unedible Bones: A Review of Unoma N. Azuah’s Edible Bones By Kurannen Baaki

Read Edible Bones, and have a smooth ride, like a professional chauffeur cruising you around town in a limousine. Only that Kaitochuckwu has taken us on a turbulent wander across America, Unoma Azuah’s delivery is exquisite, done in simple language, and a free-flowing narrative that is, for me, reminiscent of the moment with Eddie Iroh’s Without a Silver Spoon. Unoma Azuah does not try to impress. She simply tells a good story so well the intrigue and captivation would have a lot of readers continuously flipping the pages until the last page.
So have you held, for instance, your cell phone in your hand and then you go about searching for it all over? Sometimes, the things we chase after are right there with us. The joys and ambitions we seek to find in faraway places are there with us in our remote surroundings. This is what Edible Bones by award winning author, Unoma Azuah, is all about. Unoma’s book is a familiar story of life as an illegal immigrant in a country where there is no hiding place.
The book chronicles the story of Kaitochuckwu’s desperate attempts to actualizing a dream he did not prepare for; a dream he shouldn’t have thought about. It’s as plain as that. Kaito is a graduate of History from the ‘prestigious’ University of Udi somewhere in Nigeria but finds himself working as a security guard at the American Embassy in Lagos where a sudden eye for greener pastures in a land that promises all began to nurture wild dreams for this young man. Kaito soon finds himself in America on a visitor’s visa—six weeks. But for this young man, there was no going back to the land where he had seen no hope, where what you studied was not a basis for employment. It was an obstinate ambition that was as well without focus. Kaito’s problem does not begin when he lands in America and cannot make contact with the two men—Abuda and Kamalu—whose addresses his family had given him back home. It starts when he makes up his mind to overstay his visa and find his way to staying in America by all costs. Kaito agrees to wash dishes, clean floors in America—after all, he was a security guard at the American Embassy back in Nigeria with mostly the responsibilities of violently fending off teeming visa applicants either with his koboko or the threat to use his pistol—to earn a living while constantly looking over his shoulder for law enforcement. When it becomes even tougher to hide, Amin, whom Kaito, to a greater extent, has to be grateful to for being one of his employers sold him the idea of obtaining forged documents. Kaito paid four thousand dollars he borrowed from Amin to get a bogus ID and green card. What is depressing about the actions of this young man is that he had no business in America in the first place, but then Kaito is an interesting character, though not pitiable. In him the reader finds an embodiment of wrong choices, wrong decisions and a long list of other wrongs. Kaito takes little in terms of learning from all the people that try to help him—Abuda, Kamalu, and then Main family.

Kaito has trouble and has to flee his abode for Tennessee. He is helped with a job by Abuda’s friend, Mr. Billy Main. It takes Kaito only a while to make friends with Purky Perry whom he meets at the local church. The Main family find out and warn him about Purky but Kaito does not listen. Shortly after, he moves in with Purky Perry who later arranges a marriage for him with a forty-eight-year old woman named Rosie. The marriage did not work and at the end, Kaito ends up with Purky Perry through a fight. He returns to the Mains and is arrested for assaulting Purky Perry. He was released that next night and from the station, he set forth to California. But he was nabbed on approaching New Mexico by immigration. Kaito had overstayed his visa for two years. Again I raise the question, What was Kaito doing in America? But Kaito is just one out of so many that have led this illusory life of believing America is the land of redemption where everything works for the good. Finally, Kaito manages to strike a marriage with, his third ‘sleeping’ partner, the enormous Jemima that might just as keep him for a while more in the land of freedom.
How ambitious can a man be? Kaito has shown us how most times we set our ambitions so high that they blind us of the gradual struggle that is paramount to success, the patience and the good judgment that is also essential to actualizing ambitions. Is Kaito fair to himself? I ask. Others would ask if the Nigerian condition fair to Kaito; to majority of other Nigerians? A failed system has had everyone with an eye for greener pastures setting their sights elsewhere. The promise of satisfaction is non-existent; the prospect of survival is bleak. But then, the character, Kaito, leads it the wrong way. He lacks so much focus to a point that it is irritating. Really, what is so great about humping a white woman? When Kaito has sex with the receptionist, Beth, who agreed to accommodate him—while he determines the whereabouts of Abuda and Kamalu—in exchange for money and sex, he could not wait to tell Kamalu and his friends back in Nigeria about it. Is this what one finds more endearing about America? On his visit to Nigeria, Kaito’s embarrassing behavior rears up again when he gets drunk. He flirts with a few ladies under the influence, and then got into a fight with his friend Bola. On their way back to Bola’s house, Kaito ends up puking in his friend’s expensive Hummer to Bola’s great displeasure. Despite his hard time in America, Kaito’s visit home was received by his friends who were, indeed, having a better life, as the one who was loaded. Why not? He just landed from America where he had spent three years. But then the magic of home does it. Slowly, Kaito reaches an epiphany. As he does so, the mirage of his illusions clear away.

Unoma writes well about the senseless struggle of Kaito. She also exposes—though subjectively—that disapproving racist behavior is still present even in 21st Century America. An immigration officer interviewing Kaito and Jemima to establish whether they were truly husband and wife provoked a rant from Jemima. She explodes, when Kaito tries to talk her down. “You don’t have to deal with this rubbish just because you’re African. You’re a human being with as much rights as they have. What nonsense!” (p.177) Could it be that Jemima came down too harsh on the officer? This could not be seen as bias by the author or an excessive exaggeration of the racist behaviors still prevalent among a few (Black soccer players in Europe would offer testament to this). But is the offended as innocent as much as the offender is guilty? A simple question of how often the couple, Kaito and Jemima had sex sets Jemima off on a rampaging rain of insinuations that are, for all the reader would want to care about, baseless. I found this interesting, too, “Take your sorry stinking African ass outta here, mothafucka!” (p.16)
All that is not up for his pleasure meets Kaito. On three occasions, men made passes at him. He got infuriated in the second instance he almost punched the man. In prison, Kaito is made to stand guard as Zulkibulu, his protector, has sex with his male partner, Taffy in the bathrooms. He was so appalled when he learnt that was what was going on and walked away. In the debate about homosexuality, the author here only shows plenty of the character’s disapproval to it. I ask, Is there a boundary between immorality, crime and sin? The liberal man would tell you there is. Because what is immoral could not necessarily be a crime, but could be a sin against belief….against God. And yet, what defines immorality?

I enjoyed Edible Bones. Unoma Azuah is a fine writer. She writes in a simple form that is not bland. But then, Edible Bones suffers from what I call the infamous Nigerian Signature—lack of painstaking eyes. The character Mma (p.206) appearing as Nma (p. 213) spells inconsistency issues. Same with this: Kaito meets friends at “Hot Spot” restaurant (p.208), then he’s coming out of “Tantalizers” (p.211) on taking his leave? And then I could pick some of these typos: “…My lon bag…” (p.191), I think, should be “…My long bag…” “…came to almost…” (p. 211), I think, should be “…came through almost…” “…more then twenty…” (p.213), should be “…more than twenty…” There is also inconsistency in language. By the time I was sure the author was narrating in American English, words chiefly from British English began mixing in. See, “torchlight” (p. 213) chiefly Britain, and “soccer” chiefly American (p.216). The generally accepted principle is one should stick to one form of language. Now here is what is embarrassing, yes, it should embarrass the publisher. On p. 132 and 155, track changes—you don’t know what ‘track changes’ is? Google it—appear in the margins. This is truly careless. These embarrassing blemishes could have been solved by a keen editor. Also, page layout is poor and personally, the font type and its large size takes a lot of seriousness away from the book considering its target audience.
Another thing I found perplexing about the book is the impression from the American characters about Africa being a wilderness full of wild animals where there are no roads, houses; where there is no development. We see reference to a Blackberry smartphone on p. 214. This among some other pointers shows the book is set in modern times, probably just about two, three years ago. Supposing that is true. How then, in this global age, information about existence in Africa would be so exclusive until one visits the land? Is Africa still remote? “O, Africa!” a man responded to Kaito when he introduced himself that he was from Nigeria. “I have a friend in South Africa. He brings home interesting tapes of the Zulu dance clan. Do you know the group?” Do people still say this kind of stuff to internationals from Africa these days? “Tapes!” That sounds dated and contradicts the seeming modern setting of the book. When Jemima arrives Nigeria, she’s actually shocked that Nigeria had buildings and looked quite beautiful. In this, I find the characters not properly reconciled with the setting.
On the whole, Edible Bones is a fulfilling read. It is also a warning for those aspiring blindly, without a bedrock, to cross the Atlantic.
“Welcome back home, Kaitochucku.”

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, LIFE, LITERARY MISSIONARY, SEVHAGE

UNOMA NGUEMO AZUAH COMES HOME TO BENUE TO CHEW HER EDIBLE BONES

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 sevhage@gmail.com… Hola! M sugh u!

Posted in BOOK THOUGHTS, FICTION, TALES

Colourful Threads in the Nigerian Literary Fabric: A Review of Naija Stories by Unoma Azuah

Naija Stories makes a rewarding read because a sizable number of the stories in the anthology beam beyond the imperfections of the weaker stories. This collection adds a unique design to the tapestry that makes up the layout of the Nigerian literary fabric. The stories renew our plush tradition of yarning and knitting of anecdotes. The anthology is divided into four sections with the subtitles: Tears, Kisses, Heroes, and Villains. These subtitles pretty much represent the contents of the sections.
Stories that beam with the brilliance of precision, include, “Blame it on a Yellow Dress,” “Showdown at Rowe Park,” and “One Sunday Morning in Atlanta,” among others. These stories glitter with vigour. “Blame it on the Yellow Dress,” explores incest. It reveals how a father sexually abuses his young daughter. The writer makes the reader empathize with the main character, and effectively rouses our anger and succeeds at evoking our sense of pathos. “Showdown at Rowe Park,” chronicles the conflicts of secondary school students. It is quite a simple story, rich with humour with a well-developed suspense. Though the language is near banal, the writer is able to capture the mood and setting in a way that effectively enhances the theme of the story. He is further able to make such a familiar story, especially to Nigerians that can identify with life in secondary school, vivid and definitive.
“One Sunday Morning in Atlanta,” is another engaging story in the collection. Though some actions in the story are called to question when it comes to verisimilitude. For instance, the strong influence the protagonist’s mother has on him, seems rather far-fetched and the childishaltercationbetween the protagonist and his sister in the church makes one wonder if they are adults or teenagers. Nevertheless, the gradual build-up of the story makes it more convincing. The paradox in the fact that the protagonist, while in a club, dancing and socializing, could not get the attention of a girl he wants, but was able to get her into his house through the guise of evangelism adds a plus to the account because it makes the story emblematically charged. Additionally, the writer’s ability to lay bare the contrasts of Nigerian idiosyncrasy and American exclusive traits heightens his effectual use of wit.
The very first story in the collection, however, sends discouraging signals to the reader. The premise of “A Glimpse in the Mirror,” falls flat because its theme of death is redundant and melodramatic. Qualifying it within the context of a meal or a broth makes it taste like an over-salted soup. The central character, a coffin maker, loses all the father figures in his life and ends up losing his life as well. The sardonicism in the fact that one of his customers wants a plane-coffin for his late mother who had always wanted to enter a plane, but never did, almost elevates the story. But this boost fizzles out because that is all we see of this secondary character in the story. There is no employment of variety in the story’s mode of delivery—no humour, no suspense and no re-channeled digression. Stories with the three E’s are always a pleasure to encounter: entertainment, education and expansion of one’s scope of life. As Stephen Minot puts it, “When you turn from literary non-fiction to fiction you cut the tether with the truth.”
My hope for the three E’s dimmed as I read from the first section towards the last section. Some of the contributors to the anthology are amateur writers who have little or no idea of what a short story should be. Hence, brevity among other flaws becomes a challenge. For instance, the story, “Can I Please Kill You,” is a mere didactic story about abortion. The story does not achieve much except attempt to sell a moral. The emphasis is on the fact that the protagonist decides not to go through with an abortion, while a nurse who is symbolic of ethical precursor praises the character for her wise decision. There is nothing crisp in the story’s structure, theme or style. Another story that does not succeed at its rendition is “Seeing off Kisses.” It drifts from one unfocused point to another. The inconsistency in characterization does not help.
Though some of the resolutions of the stories are loose, they nonetheless,bear conclusions that fall within the standards of well tied ends. That is, some wind-up with optimistic outlook to life, while others culminate quite unconventionally, which in itself is positive because most unconventional or disturbing resolutions force us to re-examine some of the stubborn beliefs or expectations we hold. Naija stories has done a successful work of showcasing new and emerging voices in Nigerian literature.

Unoma Azuah is a prolific Nigerian Benue born writer of many dimensions. She lives in Jackson, TN, USA.

Of Tears and Kisses, Heroes and Villains can be bought online at http://www.naijastories.com/amazon-store/.

If you live in Nigeria and want the book delivered in PDF to your inbox, please contact admin@naijastories.com for payment details (via Zenith Bank and GTBank)