Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Chimamanda comes to town

THAT Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most successful writers of her generation is not in doubt. Last week, when Adichie settled down to read from her recent collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck, it was no less an adoring audience that defied the distracting noise from disco decks to listen to her.
The event, which held at Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos, saw some students from University of Nigeria, Nsukka thronging the venue to see Adichie, who once lived in the building vacated by Prof. Chinua Achebe. The strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had made their coming easier. Soft but firm, her voice ran through the walls of the events’ venue to sink into the minds of the young ones, who had come to identify with their own. While Nigerian writers resident in the country may find the country an open wound, Adichie sees it as immensely irritating but interesting nonetheless. The apparent contradiction she offers was enough raw materials for creativity. She, however, sues for a change in the way things are done in the country. “There are times when I despair about Nigeria,” she wails, “and times when I have hope that Nigeria will get better if only we believe in what we say – stay in queues, let’s not throw things out the window and such things.” YES, like every writer Adichie believes literature has the power to preserve history, to record and preserve communal memory for posterity. Her Half of a Yellow Sun is ample testimony to that belief. For her it hurts that the Nigeria has a short memory, especially about the brutal civil war for which ominous silence hovers. “There’s a formalised silence about the civil war,” she moaned, “many people know little about the war because at the end, knowledge matters. Biafra is about us as a nation not just about Igbo people. The war was a senseless waste; it took the best of human beings.” THE award-winning novelist, a self-confessed feminist, Adichie describes herself as “a happy feminist”, and advises women to continue to be self-assertive in things that make them unique. She believes men uphold culture when it holds down women but this should not be so. According her, being feminist meant women should tell themselves the truth about their sexuality and not gloss it over as was often the case. “Sex is the way women are believed to push themselves upwards in society,” Adichie regrettably states. “The way to combat it is to bring up our children to see things differently. Women’s attitude to it is the problem.”

For Kongi, they gathered
PROF. Wole Soyinka was the subject last week as politicians and media practitioners gathered in Lagos for the second media lecture series of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. Held to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Nobel Laureate, the lecture re-echoed the earnest call for the quick passage of the Freedom of Information Bill by the National Assembly. In his lecture titled Narrating the Nigerian Story: The Challenge for Journalism, Dr. Olatunji Dare, an Associate Professor of the Bradley University, Illinois, United States, advocated for a special designated fund to be instituted for journalists to investigate deeply the problems of the country. In his words, “investigative reporting is one sure way to move the polity away from dictatorship and secrecy into an ethos of democracy and openness. The culture of corruption and impunity for which Nigeria has become an international reference point can be improved with a media space that promotes investigative reporting of public affairs, with an independent and dedicated fund, which will assist journalists in investigating reporting.” ALSO speaking at the lecture, the Action Congress gubernatorial candidate in Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said there could be no justice without transparent and credible elections in Nigeria. According to him, “Prof. Wole Soyinka has consistently insisted that justice is the first condition of humanity, but how do we have justice if we don’t conduct credible elections.” Fayemi, who was the manager of Radio Kudirat, a clandestine media outfit during the regime of the late General Sani Abacha, described Soyinka as an icon in the struggle for freedom of expression and human rights all over the world. He said, “in the course of Nigeria’s history, few individuals have epitomized the spirit of freedom as Wole Soyinka, who is unarguably the zeitgeist of Nigeria’s post-independence challenge with freedom, justice, humanity and democracy. “I have worked with him almost all my life, he is very passionate about change, he has done incredible things for this country and has always insisted on justice, he continues to be an icon to many of us; but we also have a generational responsibility, what are we doing in our own generation about transforming the society?”

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