INSIDE NIGERIA: A Look at the Literary Clime

Posted: January 12, 2014 in Articles, INSIDE NIGERIA
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

Picture by Okoye Chukwudi Charles

Picture by Okoye Chukwudi Charles

If I don’t learn to shut my mouth I’ll soon go to hell,
I, Okigbo, town-crier, together with my iron bell.

—Christopher Okigbo (Hurrah for Thunder)

There is a big difference between being a Writer and being a Prophet. A writer is someone who writes as a profession. He may be contracted to write about someone or something. What he says may or may not be true. Sometimes he may not even agree with or believe in the words he put down on paper, all he knows is that at the end of the day he gets paid for putting words on paper. A prophet on the other hand goes beyond mere words. He is a person tormented by the Truth. An Oracle whose lips have been twisted with sharp knives of Justice till bleeding words flow from Tongue’s Mantle. Hence he has no option but to speak and write the Truth no matter the circumstance. Nigeria and indeed the whole world is filled with writers but are in great need of prophets.

Anybody conversant with the Literary world will surely testify that there is a great dearth in courage, in eloquence, in readership and radicalism among Nigerian writers. Don’t get me wrong, we had the Achebes, the Soyinkas, the Okigbos and co, great men who tried their best to savage a country in the grip of disaster. We know how they all ended up; exiled, (briefly) imprisoned or killed, subdued one after the other by the very country that they loved dearly but which never loved them in return. Today we have Chimamanda and co, great folks doing much more than keeping Nigeria on the Literary map. We thank them for that really, but a lot more still have to be said and done.

The Nigerian political setting may have changed today, but the System remains the same. Corruption still runs freely in daytime and the night still holds darkness and death for those who are unfortunate to stray upon it. Gone are the days when Writers like Dele Giwa and Saro Wiwa were hunted down to be silenced or Soyinka was imprisoned for defying the central government. No! all we have today are Social Media writers who hide behind the comfort of the internet to haul insults on the Government, and on anybody else who disagrees with their stances.

Today, we see writers frolicking with wealthy but corrupt persons just to get their daily bread. Nigerian writers of today have become very irrelevant in the Nigerian society, as we saw from the last future award. It is not a mistake that Nigerians don’t read anymore…Nigeria is a country that does not know its history or its root..remind it of its transgressions, tear the euphemism off its face and it will wake up and listen to you (before it hunts you down surely).
There is no record keeping in the country but if there were, I believe that it will show that Chinua Achebe’s “There Was a Country” sold so many copies (pirated ones though) in less than a year. It will show that Chimamanda’s “Americanah” sold so many copies (pirated ones still) in the first few months of release, and these two books are still selling in Nigeria. Why? It is because Euphemisms and Metaphors were relegated to the background and Truth, outrageous Truth were told.
Nigerians don’t want to hear the bitter truth, be it about themselves, their icons, their hairs or habits…but when a writer courageously, fearlessly and eloquently uncovers those masks, Nigerians are awakened and his book is read.

Indeed there is much more to be done than writing books that are cliched; books that accuse everybody without actually indicting anyone.
Indeed there is much more to be done than having three thousand friends on facebook or twitter, friends that will never challenge your ideas for fear of reprisal from your already compelled fans.
Indeed there is still much more to be done than organising workshops and seminars where writers congratulate and give awards to one another for being the only ones who read one another’s books in a country suffering from over-population. Awards that are very irrelevant even within the confines of Nigeria, talk of Abroad.

The way forward are these; writers should get bolder, more courageous, more eloquent and radical. Young writers should not feel the need to over rely on or over respect the older ones. Young writers should feel free to express their ideas and thoughts and not be afraid of being called ignorant, naïve or stupid. Criticism will surely come but it is criticism that announces a star. The older ones by the virtue of them being old should have little to fear…they must have seen it all or most of it at least. Hence they should let the Naked Truth be their watchword, and they should also encourage the younger ones to try new things, to grow and to become independent minded individuals and not the “Yes Sir-Yes Sir” type we see on our Social Media.

I believe that if we start being more adventurous, less critical and controlling, Nigeria would start to produce great innovative writers that will shock the foundations of this our corrupt and morally bankrupt society. Yes if most writers start to aspire to be more than just writers, if writers start to aspire to be prophets, to speak and write the bitter truth, to remain unbiased, detribalised, and to not be overly religious or sentimental about their stance…if writers start taking more risk, start exploring new avenues and methods, and not remain in their conservative nature…Verily I said unto you, Nigerian writers will in no distant time recapture the pinnacle of Nigerian Artistic/Creative society that is now being occupied by Musicians and Comedians.

Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo is a young Nigerian who lives between Lagos and Onitsha, he is a geologist by training but has found writing to be a calling.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of LYRIVERSITY.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. who will be the first kwanu? That’s the problem,sycophancy has become the order of the day.

  2. Would you agree with me that much is changing already, in terms of Nigerians writing, not only well, but with purpose..and actually indicting persons.
    With initiatives like |Lyriversity and a host of others, i think we are being awoken into the light…
    there is hope…nice piece

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      Yes Mr Samson I believe that something is slowly but surely happening and in no distance time a lot of people will not just be surprised but shamed…thanks for reading my good man.

  3. Moses opara says:

    This is a mind blowing word.

  4. EOD says:

    Hahahahaha. Na true you tok sha.

  5. Dowell says:

    Good stuff. Sadly but true. You sure write well, with an ability to capture the heart of the matter.

  6. Anene Francis says:

    These Okigbo lines cause me to laugh any time I come across them lol… nice write up you’ve got here yet again.

    For the purpose of this write up, lets go with your definition of prophet. You hit the nail on the head in the right places. I am short of words to add. I agree with Samson. But Writers overtaking musicians and comedians is a far fetch dream sha.

    I know Saro Wiwa spoke but I never knew he wrote also o.
    I visited a blog similar to this one and saw how comments should be. Posts are stripped beared and analysed from different angles not just compliments… The corrections and suggestions I see for this article seem to be negligible. However let’s perfect it. Check the following lines. Confirm and amend where needed.
    * “…to savage a
    country on the in marriage with disaster…”.> Maybe ‘on the’ should not be there.
    * ” Gone were the
    days when Writers like…”> I think, “gone ‘are’ the days…” sounds better.
    * “…to get their daily breads”> bread without ‘s’ seems better
    * “…but when
    a writer … your book is
    read”. > “a writer … his book…”
    * “The way forward is these”> “…are these”
    * ” …get more bolder…” > “…get more bold…”
    * ” …encourage the younger ones … an independent minded individual…” > “…younger ones … become independant minded individuals (each)…”
    * ” I believe that if we … Nigeria will start…” > “…if we … Nigeria would…”
    * ” if writers start to aspire to be a prophet…” > ” writers … prophets…”

    Keep up the good work bro. We are getting there.

  7. LegendaryCJN says:

    Mr Solar, this post unlike many others you’ve written is smeared with generalisations. And I don’t quite agree with your analysis of poets and prophets. I think they share the same suffering. Other issues raised would come in place in due time…one step at a time.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      Mr Chime, I am glad you finally read this, and about your comment. There may have been a generalisation of terms but I know I started by saying that Nigeria has Too many writers but are in need of prophetS…Nigeria already had and has prophets, the likes of Achebe, Soyinka, Okigbo, and today Chimanada and co but these are not enough..we need more…A real poet is already a prophet that is why I avoided using poet, rather I used a writer. A writer to me is far from a prophet, until he start denouncing the ills of the society eloquently and without sugar-coating. He becomes a prophet when he can uphold his own stance without backing down especially against popular opinions he does not believe. Yes that is a prophet, that is what John the baptist did, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus, Prophet Muhamud (SAW), Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King jnr, and many others…this is what is lacking in Nigeria of today..Today we see a group like ANA frolicking with a state governor, we see lauching of books by corrupt individuals, how can the truth be told in this climate. And again, most of our writers are virtually unknown except on the internet..and they are very proud and pompous…intorelant of opposing views…and most of the younger ones are always eager to appease them..”Yes Sir, Yes Pa, Yes Ma” imagine? can the truth be told…Mr Chime.

  8. LegendaryCJN says:

    All generalisations are dangerous, including the ones you made about poets and prophets…I find it hard to believe you…there is no difference between them at all…really think that both suffer almost the same…as a poet or any writer as such, if you’ve written down and it got lost…you’ll find that the trauma that ensues is more disturbing than anything the prophet experiences.
    Concerning other issues raised, I think they’ll come in place…
    When I look at situation of things in Nigeria, I always take my mind to Rihanna’s song, “One Step at a Time”.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      A Real Poet is a Prophet….a poet is a writer who has advanced to the stage of a prophet…I never said that there is a difference between a poet and a prophet..No! What I said is that there is a big big big difference between a writer and a prophet or poet…+

  9. Sheyzznote says:

    Please tell me, is this guy ready to really kill himself? Because I no understand o! So tey hm dey ginger others to follow am commit suicide.
    Though, the guy yarn sense o, but what’s a whisper in the park of howling wolves? We live a world of ‘if I can just have a little to survive’.
    I really don’t know what to say about the hullabaloo with writers, God help us all.
    Just take it easy my better man… I still need you alive o, but if you insist we should say the truth, I will join you o, but rightly behind you, first bullet no dey good for body…lol

  10. Mr. Charles, I tell you this; for the sake of google-eyed Mr. Anene, please ensure sound editing…lolz! For he sees what some of us would easily fly over.

    Meanwhile, I believe a better “crusade” would be to draw Nigerians to the reading and writting table than to be astute truth tellers or as you said, “prophetic writers”.

    I do suscribe to changing our poor reading psyche cos a poor reader can never write. And when the status quo is altered, then we can begin to take stocks of passionate writers who would match on to prophetic writters.

    And I suggest the campaign starts by encouraging kids and adults around you to draw nearer to books and blogs. With time, testimonies shall become “money” if you know what I mean.

  11. timnwaobilo says:

    I solidly, unequivocally subscribe to same thoughts as Mr Charles. Writers should ideally be the vanguard of truth, holding out the beacon of light and conscience to straying hearts, and indeed foundlings needing a guide and a guard. However the reality that persists in the Nigerian clime greatly undermines this foundational essence.

    Writers should be prophets. Speaking within the portals of truth and justice. Inhabiting the domains of fairness and development. Alas, writers have become a tool in the hands of the mighty, when the mighty should be a tool in the hands of writers. What corrosion of confusion!

    This problem is 2-prong forked:
    1) The Writers- Writers have lost their sense of responsibility to society and have begun chasing shadows of irrelevance. Writing has become a contest of financial braggadocio, insolent verbosity, and unintelligent superfluousity, resulting in a weather of ill-wind saturations condensing on an ignorant populace bereft of sentimental value. It has now become, “I write better than you: who the hell are you?”, “Do you know what tabloid and journal I write for?”, “I had started writing before you were conceived!”, “Do you know how much I was paid for my last article?” etc. If writers leave the very cause for their writing and dwell on inconsequential parodies and miniscule vituperations, how then are they to fulfil the demands they have so willingly undertaken viz Vanguards of Truth?

    2) The Society- Society has assisted in corrupting the writing crusaders, placing before them ephemeral options which have constituted in weakening the potency of writing. Society has failed to hold writers accountable for their actions and INACTIONS. Society has prodded writers into a corner of sycophancy, shame, and selfish servitude. Writers have been encouraged to undergo missions of cheap slander and lying vendettas, regarding financial settlement as their ultimate recompense, thus negating the essence of their calling.

    The way forward is this: for writers to reclaim their honorable position, they need to put aside whimsical polarities and cleave to the truth. Writers should inculcate in themselves the sense of responsibility and honour, forsaking temporal gratifications. Writers should consistently speak out regardless whose ox is gored; at whatever forum, in whatever manner, by whichever means. Social Media is the next platform for such. If society won’t help, then the writers owe it themselves to forge a way around this travesty till Truth Reigns.

    Writers are the soldiers and crusaders of truth. We Are At War.
    -Tim Nwaobilo

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      What more can I say…you have said it all my dear.

      We are at war, and we need more prophets and not just mere-writers.

  12. 6gozi says:

    I believe companionship -and the right ones- more than else, encourages a writer to break boundaries. Writers often loose wit if he does not get appreciation from fellow writers.

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      I do agree with you…Companionship, the right ones makes one better…Association they say leads to Similarity…Every Writer needs Criticism to grow, and writers are the greatest critics…But Nigerian Writers-Critics are more negatively critical on the upcoming and unknown writers..infact there is little or no positive encouragement for the younger ones…what we see is an attempt to mould in a similiar likeness and image….All I see is proud and pomposity among known writers of today…how can a liberated writer grow in this climate?

  13. 6gozi says:

    Truth! I adopt your submissions. More reason why writers tend to be without mettle enough. Writers kills Writers.

  14. The piece is simply thought evoking. It tells the hard truth of a “prophetic writer”.
    Hush, this is a piece the masses must read.

  15. Kendzi says:

    Well, thanks for the clarion call bro, it was quite diacritical. I was going to try criticising this piece, but that would be denying the fact that it is directed to people like me who take the Jonah rain-check on being a prophet thing. Wonderful, I perceive you’re already prophet Solar yourself.

  16. Chris Tilewa says:

    The religious sects haven’t had satisfactory claim at prophethood enough to leave room for writers joining in. To call a writer a prophet is, in a way, streamlining, demeaning, the spirit of art and the unending possibilities of the human mind; of the power of words, merely to the purpose of divulging Truth and predictions. These are good but there are more to writing and writers.There are ‘the times’, and dispensations. Each generation is faced with its peculiar problems and successes; and clearly this is not a time to prophecy. We have writers who mirror, some others critic, and there are those who entertain, and non, when they toil in their respective calling with all sincerity and skill, is more relevant than another.

    This piece, though, serves the purpose of reminding us that writers of this time are intoxicated with the ‘writing’ idea so much that they accomplish little to move the Writing Calling to a better state for the next generation, they do little with their writing, merely re-echoeing cliches and concessions, leaving no legacy- nothing lasting. Much energy spent in establishing class, and padyism, and the need for ingratiation from ‘smaller’ writers. It is beginning to appear lately that that is what writing is about.

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