Archive for the ‘EZEAMALUKWUO SPEAKS 1’ Category

charlie hedbo

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

“The Death of an innocent man is the death of humanity.” — Cf. Qur’an 5:32

On 7th of January 2015, two masked gunmen armed with assault rifles and other weapons forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is [the] greatest”), fired many shots, and killed twelve people including a French National Police Officer and injured eleven others. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Five more persons were to be killed later and another eleven were wounded in related shootings that followed in the Île-de-France region.
The same day information started trickling of a much bigger massacre in Baga, Nigeria, by the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram. The official number of the dead and missing is still yet controversial, with local sources and international media reporting that it was in the region of two thousand, while the Nigerian Military gave a more meagre (though still very high) number of around one hundred and fifty people.

Map of Nigeria

Map of Nigeria  

While outrage for the much bigger death toll in Baga was very minimal and in some quaters non-existent even in Nigeria where the incident took place, that for Charlie Hedbo was far more extensive and widely expressed.

Victims of Charlie Hebdo Shooting, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

Victims of Charlie Hebdo Shooting, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

Procession and protest was held in Paris for the victims of Charlie Hedbo and for free speech, while in Nigeria, the victims of Baga were send gently into the good night without so much as a whimpher.
The publishers of Charlie Hedbo has since cashed-on on this publicity. The magazine now has about seven millions subscription for its latest issue, which has on its front page cover the cartoon image of a weeping Prophet Muhameed holding a banner which reads; I am Charlie.

Vigil for the Victims of Charlie Hedbo

Vigil for the Victims of Charlie Hedbo, photo courtesy of Wikkipedia

This has generated serious outrage and condemnation from the muslim world which the massacre in Baga did not generate, which the massacre of innocent people in Nigeria and Cameroon by Boko Haram did not generate. Now this is both an abnormal and contrasting reactions to two incidents.

Boko Haram have been kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians, many of whom are muslims. ISIS have been kidnapping and killing innocent people in Iraq and Syria, mostly muslims. Al-Qaeda has been kidnapping and killing people in Yemen, majority of who are muslims.
All these they do in the name of Islam.

There have been some condemnation against these actions from some prominent muslims leaders, scholars and imams. That is the truth, but what was not seen is a protest in Niger Republic condemning the actions of Bokoharam, or a solidarity vigil in Turkey in memory of the victims, or a procession in Pakistan demanding the elimination of Boko Haram or ISIS, or a huge banner in front of a mosque in Nigeria denouncing the sect and their violence.
In Nigeria these are what you mostly hear:
-A fight against Boko Haram is a fight against Northern Nigeria.
-Boko Haram should be given amnesty like the Niger-Delta militants.
-Boko Haram members are not from Northern Nigeria, in fact they are not even muslims.
-Boko Haram is the military wing of CAN, Christian Association of Nigeria.
-Boko Haram is working for President Goodluck Jonathan, they are Igbos trying to destroy Northern Nigeria.
-Boko Haram is a conspirasy by France, by Usa, by the west and their media to discredit Islam and divide Nigeria.

In all of these, Islam is never part of the Equation. Muslims are never the aggressor, it is someone else, it has to be someone else. Yet when a mediocre magazine in France published a cartoon of Muhameed, there was widespread condemnation from the Muslims. There was violent protest in Niger Republic, there was a vigil for the terrorists in Turkey, there was a procession in Pakistan, there are banners now in some Nigerian Mosques condemning France and the cartoon.

Violent Protest in Niger Republic against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of ABC News

Violent Protest in Niger Republic against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of ABC News

Protest against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of CNN

Protest against Charlie Hebdo, photo courtesy of CNN

As an independent observer, I am compeled to ask if the sanctity of human life, the sacredness and preciousness of this one and only life that we all have got, if it is worth less to some people than how others percieve their religion?
The Death of an innocent man is the death of humanity, does this no longer apply?
How can someone claim to love a God, whom he/she has not seen, who might not even exist, when he/she does not love (by love I mean appreciate the sanctity, the sacredness of) the life of his fellow human being that he can see?
How does one justify publicly and privately the murder of 11 cartoonist, the burning of churches, the pains of an opponent, the death and destruction of an enemy and yet bows his/her head in prayer to a God who is all merciful?
What happened to love for an enemies and prayers for those who persecuete us. What happened to turning the other cheek, to forgiveness, to tolerance, to patience, to moderation?
Is it that the actions of those two men at Charlie Hedbo is not murder –a mortal sin? Is it that the actions of Boko Haram, ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other islam sects who go around killing innocent people all in the name of a God who is all Merciful and his holy Prophet, cannot be classified as blasphemy, as a terrible insult and as a major threat to Islam?

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. Good men are behaving more cowardly and evil men are becoming bolder and bolder, but in the words of Edmund Burke: all that evil needs to triumph is for people of good conscience to remain silent. So I ask; Is it so difficult for some of us to put aside our biases, our religious inclinations and to look solely on our humanity and choose that which is right between our creed and conscience?

Okoye Ezeamalukwuo writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him @mr_charlze

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this write up is solely those of the writer, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Liberty of Creativity

President Goodluck Jonathan (left), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd (right)

President Goodluck Jonathan (left), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari rtd (right)

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

Now that the issue of who the major contenders for the 2015 Presidential election has finally been resolved, the i-s are gradually being dotted and the t-s being crossed, the debate rages of who is better and who is worse, and the mostly unhealthy rivalry goes on, the momentum keeps building up, and insults continue to be hurl on both candidates by opposite fans, the stage is finally set for what might actually be the last nail on the coffin of an ever-disintegrating Nation.

Nothing has sharply polarised this Nation since the dark days of the counter-coup of 1966 as a Buhari-Jonathan rivalry. A fight between the core muslim North, together with a large section of South-Western Nigeria on one side, and the Christian South-East and their South-South partner on the other side. Judging from online media news; the rhetorics and militant speeches spoken by supporters of both men, one is left with this unnerving premonition of an impending bloodbath, no matter who emerges winner come February. It is quite an unpleasant sight to watch the continuous unravelling of the already worn-out stitches that hold this nation together, the steady tearing of one thread after another, all for the sake of two men whose known portfolios show clearly that both are neither qualified to run nor fit to lead a nation as complex as ours.

On 31st of December, 1983, Buhari and his fellow coupists overthrew a democratically elected government. With a bold and militant speech, filled with contempt for democratic and civilian rule, he ended the second republic and ushered Nigeria once more into the dark days of military rule which was to last for 15 years. This act was initially met with joy and celebration among the citizenry. Little did he know back then that the same citizens would rejoice 20 months later on his overthrew, or that 31 years on he would be contesting as a civilian in a democratic setting for a record four times in a row.

Image of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State, & Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria

Image of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State, & Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria

Time is a funny thing, and Nigerians with their chronic amnesia are even more funny. Our infinite capacity to forgive and forget is incredulous, and borders on cheer insanity. A man who advocated brutality and torture as a means of getting things done. Who scorn on the rule of law, who had people incarcerated without trials, and kept them in prison even after their acquittal under the most inhumane of condition is today the messiah we need. A man who had no problem serving under Abacha; that corrupt mantra, who was reported as saying that Abacha had no case to answer in terms of corruption, and who currently is working with Tinubu, Amaechi and other ex-PDP thieves and co, men who had and are looting their state and constituency dry, that same man is now an anti-corruption general. What hurts me the most is when I see youths of today; many of whom are 21 years and below saying that Buhari; a 72 year old man, who was governor at the age of 30, minister at 30-something, Head of State at 41 is the future for Nigeria. The irony of this statement is neither palatable for me, nor is it beginning to make sense beyond it being a figure of speech.

Looking that Goodluck Jonathan; our president for the past 5 years (going to six), who appealed to us back in 2011 with his speech of fresh air and change. A lot of us believed him even though we had our suspicion of PDP. The Truth is that we were already tired of the old guard who have been there since Flora Shaw seduced Lord Lugard into naming this entity; Nigeria. Thus we threw our lots with him believing that at least, President Goodluck would break the old hegemony and give us something different. 5 years and counting, with fuel selling at a higher price ever, a growing and embolden cabal, zero conviction of corrupt public officials, pardon for convicted public officials, high insecurity in the land, rise in terrorism, disarray of the army, decrease of Nigerian status in international circles, civil disobedience, unpatriotic and treasonous statements from political proponents and opponents, growing inflation and unemployment, high level of youth restiveness etc, a lot of us are beginning to repent from our previous decision.

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan in his 5 years as Head of State, and Commander in Chief of the armed forces have failed majority of Nigerians, especially the lower class and the lower-middle class. He has not shown leadership quality, and a-times had appeared unwilling to seize the initiative or to make the hard decisions needed to secure Nigerians and Nigerian interests. His decision to remove petroleum subsidy instead of persecuting the beneficiaries of subsidy scam exposed his lack of willpower to make the hard choice, rather he chose the path of least resistance, which is to dump the burden on we; the ordinary people of Nigeria. His lack of imagination and innovation, strong-will and strictness in handling the Boko-Haram mayhem betrayed his lack of judgment and understanding of what the role of government is; which is first and foremost the security of lives and properties of Nigerians. This actions and more have led to the loss of faith in his administration, by many previous supporters, save a few who are currently benefiting from his rule, and others who are driven by tribal and religious sentiments.

Hence with election 41 days away, and with the presidency (if there will still be a Nigeria after the election) going to one of the two, the future for Nigeria is dire. The foot soldiers of the two are getting their arsenal ready to cause mayhem in the eventuality that their candidate loses. I don’t want to be a prophet of doom (God know there are so many of them already) but if care is not taken, and with the way things are developing we might be having two or more nations, or a civil war by the end of the year.

To be fair the both candidate; I must concede that there are some factors that mitigated against the two of them. Buhari ruled for only 20 months, in which time he oversaw the persecution of large number of people for corrupt practises albeit mostly southerners and members of the opposition party. He tried to instill a rule of discipline among Nigerians who before then (and after then) had carried on their unruly and rowdy behaviour of jumping queue, dumping of refuse indiscriminately, urinating in public places etc. He also tried to put a rigid and disciplined hold in the handling of the economy, which was a failure though, but who knows what might have been if he was allowed back then to continue to say; 48 months.

President Goodluck Jonathan, on the other hand have ruled beyond the 48 months period, and I am not blind to some of the developmental strides he has tried to introduce in a decayed system such as ours. Such as the revival of our rail system, the rehabilitation of our roads, the containment of Ebola, the building of schools especially in the core-northern areas, the increase of minimum wage, the privatisation of power, conducting of credible elections among other things. Being from a minority tribe and having little political weight in Nigeria, plus having an very powerful and ever-power-hungry cabal of Northern origin who are not only opposed to his presidency, but have continued to agitate what they see as the lose of their turn to rule. I must confess that the challenges before him is enormous and calls for some pragmatic steps, and one might be tempted to sympathise with him.

But the truth is that after 54 years of taking scraps and shit from our ruling class, Nigerians can no longer afford to vote based on “What If” or “Sympathy” or tribal and religious affiliation. We saw hell during those 20 months of Buhari’s draconic regime, and Nigerians are seeing hell during this over-gentle and over-indulging regime of Jonathan. Who would have taught that two very opposite regime; Buhari and Jonathan, military and civilian, draconic and civil, brutal and gentle would have such similar effect on a Nation. A lot of us will not like to admit it, but Buhari and Jonathan are birds of a feather, and no matter the weather, will always flock together, and if past experiences are anything to go by, both will take us nowhere greener. I do not envy Nigerian voters at all. Having being asked to choose between the duo; Buhari and Jonathan, Nigerian voters are now left with no choice except the Devil and the deep blue sea.

The statements, views and opinions stated in this write up is solely those of the author, and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Guinness Made of Black; photo courtesy of guiness google

Guinness Made of Black; photo courtesy of google

by Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo

It was a fine harmattan evening with bright stars upon a clear sky. On my table, a bottle of Guinness beer –the bottle chilled and dripping of sweat, or ice or whatever the evening has in store for me; which was not looking so good. I sat in this fancy beer parlour, trying so hard to enjoy my overpriced beer. My team was losing, and my mind was going gaga. Externaly; I was an image of solitude, internally; I was breaking into multiple jagged pieces of broken bottle. I was trying hard to ignore the painful taunting of an opponent fan. He was loud, and he was also painfully gifted in the art of taunting, I just had to give it to him. Just then, the Guinness advertisement of ‘Made of Black’ appeared on the tele. I don’t know if it was for want of escape or the need for enlightenment, but something in me was stirred. I was forced to start a conversation with my jeering neighbour, who as it appeared was skilled in other areas besides taunting. We had a very interesting conversation about what Guinness meant by “Made of Black” and what being black was really all about, but I must conclude that besides the commercial gains to be made by Guinness from the advertisement, we both ended up being more confused about the notion: “Made of Black”.

Made of Black. What does it really mean to be black, to think black, rep black, act black in this 21st century of bleaching creams and Brazilian hairs…in this age of bimbos and bambinos. I saw in the advertisement that black is an attitude, and I must ask which kind of attitude? Is it positive or negative?

In my NYSC days while I was serving in one beautiful village in South South Nigeria, I met all sorts of artistic local hairstyles and cosmetics. And I fell in love with them, and with the women who wore them. But I now know that I was all alone in my love affair. One particular incident confirmed my solitary-ness. A young village girl in my compound had just plaited one of those beautiful and artistic hairstyle, and when I saw her, I loved it, and I told her in no little way. She thanked me, and left. Less than an hour later, a guy in that compound saw her, and told her that her african-styled-hair made her to look like a maid. I overheard that, and I came out of my room and rebuked the guy and told the girl that her hair was beautiful and unique. By evening time, I saw the girl wearing a new, different and weavon-fixed hair.

Some would say that this is just an isolated event, but I have rolled with women to understand that this is a norm among them. My ex girlfriend nearly fought me one day because I wanted to see her natural hair. She was beautiful and fair, the kind that turns heads everywhere she goes. Yet in all her beauty lies this unquenchable desire to makeup for the blackness in her blood. That day, she had just removed the wig on her hair and was in the process of putting it on back when I entered the room. I being my inquisitive self wanted to see the beautiful damsel in her natural state, but the damsel was indeed distressed with her own self.

I have always ask african ladies especially those who are so ashamed of their hair, why they feel so uncomfortable with their short kinky hair but so completely at home with loads and loads of wigs and weavons. The answers have always ranged from excuses to downright foolishness.
This has left me with the belief that many black people are not comfortable with their morphology. Is it the case of whitening soaps, creams and bleaching toiletries, those ones are another case on their own.

Another incident that informed the inferiority complex of many dark faired folks especially women took place sometime last year. I was in a park to board a bus one very hot afternoon, the weather was dangerously hot, and my queue was longer than the anaconda. I was contemplating cancelling my journey before my fairly black skin becomes baked cake, when this much more dangerously hot ebony chic came and sat on a bench near my queue. My conflict with the weather disappeared that instance. I was no longer worried about the queue, in fact I became worried that the line was moving too fast. I didn’t speak to the girl, I only wrote a quick poem there in my head, and secretly blessed her for the solace she gave me. I told this story later to a female friend of mine without mentioning the colour of the girl. It was she who brought the colour up, when she said that she believed that the girl was light skinned. I had never quite appreciated the fixation and flirtation with light skin before, but that day it dawned on me.

Women being women crave attention and fair or bright skin calls out attention better than dark and dull skin. And I now know that this pressure for women to be fairer than snow white is mostly applied by men, men who deride darker girls. Black men are less affected by the need to lighten their skin colour than women are, but the attitude of many black men to blackness and black girls help in no small way to fuel the problem.

I feel that the problems of blackness is not just artificially made, but also self-sustained. The media we watch or listen to, images and stories we see and read have shaped our thinking over the years to despise black skin, kinky hair, blackness and many things associated with it.
You switch on the TV and all you see are women with hairs as long as River Nile and skin as bright as the sun’s reflection on a mirror. You open a beauty magazine and you are brainwashed by all that you see and all that you read. You go into a mosque and God becomes a foreigner, who has to be served better in a foreign tongue. You go into a church and what you see is heaven made of white and fair beings, and hell full of dark and depressed souls. These images can be tricky. Children playing Jesus and Satan, Student depicting Good and Evil, find themselves equating perfection with light skin and imperfection/ugliness with darker skin.

Some would argue that these are not really that important, but a look at Africa and African countries and communities, would show the big-brother adoration black africans give to people of fairer skin, be they Europeans or Chinese, Indians or Lebanese. It is the same; “I know you are much better than I can ever be.” How pathetic. In Nigeria today, made in Holland peak milk sells much more faster than its Nigerian counterpart even though it is more expensive. European and Arabic names have since surpassed the Native names in number and importance. Foreign accent is now seen as a measure of enlightenment and sophistication. The list goes on and on.

How can a people who are down and downtrodden, rise to develop and better themselves when they have lost all sense of pride and purpose, all sense of dignity and duty, innovation and inspiration. Everything Black is gradually fading away, from religion, to language, from names to traditions, hair style down to skin colour etc.

So I ask again, what is made of black? What does Black being an attitude mean? What does it mean to be black, think black, act black, rep black in today’s world of bleach and Brazilian hair?

Okoye Chukwudi writes from Lagos, Nigeria. You may reach him on twitter @Mr_Charlze

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and does not necessary represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Map of Africa showing Burkina Faso

Map of Africa showing Burkina Faso

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

“While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”
—Thomas Sankara

The events that took place in the past few days in a small impoverished African country of Burkina Faso, which saw the 27 year old regime of President Blaise Compaore toppled, is unprecedented in Sub-Sahara Africa where illiteracy, poverty, tribal differences, neo-colonialism and a wicked twist of fate all work together to keep majority of the indigenous population enslaved, divided and indifferent to their condition.

Popular uprising where a large number of the citizens of a country take to the street to demand the resignation and removal of the Head of State like the one of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain etc has never happened before in this part of the world. Che Guevara and his Cuban revolutionaries tried it in Congo in the 1960s without success. Nelson Mandela and his ANC members tried it too in Apartheid South Africa, with mixed results. So seeing the footage of Black Africans protesting on the streets and achieving the aim of the protest, did come as a surprise to a lot of us, but to the observant eye, the toppling of Compaore’s regime was inevitable, and only a matter of time.

Uprising in Burkina Faso

Uprising in Burkina Faso

Uprising in Burkina Faso

Uprising in Burkina Faso

The history of Burkina Faso is similar to the histories of most African Nations. A promise of progress at Independence, a conception of a dream, the nurturing, then a little bump on the road, another bump, and yet another bump, and another, and another, and the promise becomes a lie, the progress becomes one perennial regression, the dream becomes vague, and the demons creep in, and nightmare becomes the reality.

A lot of people (Africans included) have argued that Africans cannot rule themselves, that our blackness runs deep into our hearts, that we are irresponsible, naïve and lack the creativity and discipline to develop ourselves and our countries. A quick survey of the conditions of most African countries will confirm the true in this. But a deeper study of the facts, the why, and the how, will show a network of finery spun webs, a canvass of conspiracies, a mirage of misconception, perfectly painted by a much higher force to keep a whole continent, blind and backwards.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do like to examine every aspect of a problem, so as not to leave any stone unturned.

A look at the formation of African Countries, will show that all African Countries (excluding Ethiopia) are an invention of the Berlin Conference of 1885. African communities were not consulted before their assemblage into a Nation. The customs, cultures and contributions of the indigenous population were not considered, or required to form a state even till this very day. These issues of National identity, tribal, cultural, religious and language differences were not discussed or resolved before Independence. Most Africans today don’t see themselves as Nigerians, Rwandans, Ivorians, Liberians, Somalians etc but as Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Hutus, Tutus etc. A typical African Nation is but an agglomeration of countless nations whose common identifying factors have been blurred by Corruption, wars, famine, religious intolerance, illiteracy and Neo-Colonial manipulations.

Furthermore, Africa has produced its share of great, charismatic, disciplined and innovative leaders. The problem is that the very good ones, the ones that would have made the change did not last long in office, removed by the same imperialistic factors that scrambled Africa in Berlin. Leaders like Patrice Lumumba of Congo who was arrested by African Peacekeeping Force in 1961, and later killed on the order of Mobutu Sese Seko, for the pleasure of USA and Belgium. Amilcar Cabral of Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, killed in 1973 by some of his disgruntled guerilla fighters on the request of Portugal. Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, killed in 1987 on the order of Blaise Compaore for France imperialistic interest. And other African Heads of States who were removed in office by western sponsored coup de’tat.
The only ones who last so long are those who were or are in bed with the colonialists, leaders like Senghor Sedar Leopold, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Blaise Compaore, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, Paul Biya etc.

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

Amilcar Cabral

Amilcar Cabral

Thomas Sankara

Thomas Sankara

African governments are not African’s. What we have in Africa as presidents are foreigners in black skin, who look African in nothing else but skin colour. Every other thing about them is either Eurocentric or Americanized. These are leaders whose wives go to London, Paris, Brussel, Lisbon or USA to give birth, so that their children would become a citizen there. These are Leaders whose children don’t attend school in Africa. These are leaders with all their investments abroad. Leaders who will die tomorrow, not in an African Hospital but in Europe, Russia, Saudi Arabia or Usa. Africa doesn’t have a government yet, or a constitution that is truly African, which recognises the similiarities and differences of the various ethnic tribes, religious and cultural groups in the Nation. What we have are revised constitution of France or America. What we have are illegitimate Regimes who rigged themselves into power with the blessing of the international community (USA, France, Britian, Canada and EU). Once the international commuinty recognises you as the leader of an African Country, even the voice of God which is the voice of the people will not disapprove of it. Herein lies the bane of African Society.

Nevertheless, what happened in Burkina Faso has now shown that all is not lost. Africans are down, but they are far from out. Like I wrote above; to any observant eye, the dismantling of structures of imperialism and Neo-colonialism is inevitable and only a matter of time. The world is getting more globalised, it is getting smaller, and African people have suffered enough, they are getting wiser, bolder, and more persistent in their pursuit of justice and equality. A lot of good men have died, many more will die but the blood of good men is the seed of our liberation. You can kill one man, two, three, a thousand men but as Thomas Sankara said; revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill [their dreams and] ideas.

Okoye Chukwudi Ezeamalukwuo writes from Onitsha. You can reach him on twitter: @mr_charlze

The statements, opinions and views expressed in this write up is solely those of the author and does not necessarily represent those of Lyriversity.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

“Life is a riddle, a question.
Death has the ultimate answer
Life has a riddle, a question
In death you shall find the answer.”
-The Journey of the Soul

There are times when our hearts feel weak, and a thousand tributaries of thoughts confluence all at once, and we feel the fragility of our human lives unfolds. Emotions bombard us like countless collisions of heated molecules. We are sober. We are on the crossroads (though this might only last for a few moments). But if we can, if we do pause to ponder, We might begin to ask ourselves what being alive is really all about.

The life of a Man is to know and to love God says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but is this what all the toils and tussles are all about: “To know a God who is as variable as Religions are variable, and who we are taught to think as unfathomable itself, and to love him who is unseen.” But if this is not our life’s aim, what is?

What is the purpose of life…this is the question that has plagued humanity from Genesis. What is all these struggles for? We fight to be conceived, we are the first in the race of multitude of ejaculated sperms. We fight to survive, to eat, to get good education. We fight to get good job, to make good career, to succeed in life. We fight to win our spouse’s attention, to be loved and respected, and to bear and rear children. We fight to live and all our endeavours climax on our death bed (for those who are lucky). We are laid six feet down, and quickly forgotten. We are lost in the seas of memories. We are but a grain of sand in the shores of the dead. We have struggled, we have fought well but we lost.

Is it then enough to have lived, even for the briefest of time. Is it enough to stare at the stars with an indifference eyes, and to draw the outline of the moon with a similar stance? There must be much more than meet the eyes. There must be a spiritual angle to all these. A higher purpose maybe, a greater being at work here, perhaps God.

The average man drowns himself in the role which life has given him. He is distracted by the frivolities of it all. The trifles he makes the corner stone of his existence while the pillar of his life is relegated to the dungeon, far from the light of human reasoning…
But sometimes, somehow, in the moment of crisis, in a minute of decisions and indecisions, the feelings reveal their heads.
The tsunami of our mortality comes sweeping across the land of reasoning with such a force, that many have come to an epiphany, and other’s to suicide.
Revelations are received at this moment and the mountain beckons. The nights come with a thousand voices of summon.
Religion is thus born from Man’s quest for answers. Religion is an opium, a shelter in which he finds consolation from the thought of an eternity of death.
Every Man is intrinsically religious. No matter how scientific or atheist some may appear to be. Deep down lies this hunger, this void that all the riches in the world can not satisfy or fill. Some spend all there lives in the accumulation of wealth. Some in pursuit of pleasure, others in the quest for glory, still all of these are but nothing compared to a second spent in Paradise…Yes Paradise.
But what and where is this Paradise…

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

Photo by Okoye Chukwudi Charles

Photo by Okoye Chukwudi Charles

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

The firewood of this world
Is for only those who can take heart
That is why not all can gather it
–Kofi Awoonor (Song of Sorrow)

African literature has come a long way, from the oral folktales and moonlight stories to the expensive looking hard cover books we see on amazon.com. Yet a few Nigerians have strived to make this journey with it, and though I will say that I have joined this wagon of African-literature-loving readers, I know that I did not start off as a lover of African books. I too have come a long way, I can still remember writing that African literature is shallow both in theme and substance. I remember this heresy, like it’s a broken piece of bottle firmly logged into my foot. I once partook in the wrongful denunciation of Africa literature, which I dismissed as lacking in creative imagination and suspense. Oh indeed my eyes were little and blind. I was like a baby (novice) drunk of milk from a feeding bottle (western literature) but now I have seen the light, -the folly of my ways. I am now a born again reader (…pause to speak in tongue). I now know that my stance was informed by some demons of ignorance (probably originated from my village). I was then suffering from Concentrated African Literature Deficiency.

Yes, Concentrated African Literature Deficiency and like most Nigerian youths (those who manage to read at all), I was a bad ass vampire viciously feeding on foreign literature, the Grishams, the Steven Kings, the Allan Poes, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, the Lake poets, the English poets, the American poets, the Dante Alligheri, William Blake et al.
Oh my good man William Blake, whose works (esp Marriage of Heaven nd Hell) got me writing my own ballad. I fell for the complex meaning of their simple lines. Like this line from Robert Frost’s poem; A Walk in the Wood one Snowy Evening.

The wood is dark, lovely and deep
But I have got promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep
-(lines 13-16)

I fell for the religious nature of their works, the lyrical contents and rhymes of their poems, as shown by these lines from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence.

To see the world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour
(-lines 1-4)

These and other writings of foreign authors that I read caused me to blaspheme (…pause! Looking up and making the sign of the cross three times).

But I won’t blame myself too much nor will I blame our youths of today who are continuously being bombarded with the gamma rays of technological advancement. The western literature is in sync with ultra modern facilities, -the internet and media outlets of today, while African literature and everything else Africa are crawling from behind. How can our youths (again, those who manage to read) cope with the Usain Bolts that is western culture against the Kanu Nwankwo that is African affairs. No offence to Kanu Nwankwo (but menh that guy is slow jor). I have met ominivorious Nigerian readers, who confessed to me that the last thing they will do is read african novels, why? Surely it’s the demons of ignorance at work, probably from their village (holy ghost fire!).

During my soul searching days, I spent time searching for African poems and African writers on the internet and had very little to show for it. Writers like Yao Egblewogbe, Kalu Uka, Atukwei Okai, Titus Chukwuemeka Nwosu and many others have no wikkipedia page.
Most online african poems are published in group with little distinction between works of individual poet. Yet if you were to google individual foreign writers, focus on the word “individual”, you might find more than a hundred posts on him/her, even the amateur ones.
Naijaland has an online anthology of African poets which is so poorly arranged that anyone who is already lukewarm in african literature will surely find an excuse to stray and perish (God forbid bad thing).
Our youths are ignorant of our literature because there is little or no medium to show them the way, -the african way. There is no man of god to preach and convert them in the ways of their land, so they go about as possessed readers of western literature.

These problems are institutionalised, you can hardly go to the bookshops today and see african novels, the ones you see might be pirated or out of date. Our bookshops are now haven for “no-longer in print” foreign novels and outdated magazines. Thus you see our youths as fans of John Grisham (who tells them of a legal system which when compared to theirs is more like a story gotten from Sci-fi, alien planets or UFO sightings) or John Sandford (whose prey novels and serial killer/detective thrillers are but punks on our dormant security system, where robbers rob us for hours in broad day light and ritualists are well known by everyone in the community except by the law).
Another complication to this problem is that most good african authors are foreign based, and their books can only be bought on amazon.com. This is a huge problem to lovers of african literature because the media for purchasing these books are not accessible to many nigerians (infact purchasing of books from amazon is as strange to many Nigerians as 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply in Nigeria…I dey tells you).
Moreover, the prices of these books are well over a thousand naira. Imagine a Nigerian student who buys textbooks only when there is a score awarded for it, imagine such student parting with a thousand naira to buy novel or poem probably written by a “Tormented” man. Novels and poems that won’t fetch him mark when there is Brazilian hair to buy, new iphones, new blackberries and BIS to worry about or the latest fashion to keep up with (I rather kill myself than commit suicide).

These problems and many more (including lack of quality publishing house, poor state of education, very low reading culture etc) have caused many youths to feel that African literature are made up of pamphlets, hints magazines, church bookletins and rapshody. But this is very far from reality.

One can not expect to fly with the birds without first growing wings. If you wish to know about african literature, go to the books of the fifty’s, the sixty’s, the seventy’s and all the way back to our present day writers and you will see the beauty and richness of Africa. I have been delivered of my demons of ignorance, and now I write as a new creature, old sins have passed away (amen ooo).
Since I seriously started to study (not just read) african books, my eyes opened and I started to receive revelations and visions (glory glory). I started to see the beauty of its line, example is this short poem by Kwesi Brew; The Mesh.

We have come to the cross-roads
And I must either leave or come with you.
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I must take.

I started to see the richness of its themes, the romantic nature of its settings as shown in these lines of Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo’s poem; The Cactus-

The multitude of fused hands
That offer flowers to the sky-
That multitude of fingerless hands
Unshaked by the wind,
They say a hidden spring
Wells in their unbroken palms
They say that inner spring
Refreshes myriads herds
And many wandering tribes
In the borders of the South.
(-lines 1-10)

And also the religious sentiments of its imagery, the mysterious nature of each word, example is from Yao Egblewogbe’s poem; The Wizard’s Pride—

When the story shall be told
No matter whose death it shall report,
Then shall we, bold ones in
Black companionship,
Clothe ourselves in white;
The rising tomb
Shall be our lazy chair;
The place for brave men is the wilderness.
(Lines 1-8)

English: African literature, various publisher...

English: African literature, various publishers, at Göteborg Book Fair. Svenska: Afrikansk litteratur, diverse förlag, vid Bokmässan i Göteborg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These works and many others have changed my views and I now understand that African literature is on the same footing with anyother literature in the world.

The way forward now lies in the sensitization of the continent. We need a quality publishing house in the country. Good editors to edit and advise our up coming writers. We need to retake our possession, by possession I mean our degraded education system. We need pastors, imams, native doctors that will offer prayers and rituals for the salvation of the reading culture in our country. We need writers whose IQ has an acceleration of Pius Ikedia and the skills of Jay Jay Okocha. We need media exposure, feedbacks and talk shows not just God TVs, Emmanuel Tvs and co that has now turned our youths into Amen youths (pause…looking up for a few minutes incase thunder tries to fire me). We need our social media to be electrified, crucified and magnified with topics and posts that have something to do with Africa and African literature and not just Gossips, Akpor’s jokes and fashions.

In conclusion I believe that with help from government (in the areas of improving the quality of education), prayers from our ever numerous, vibrant and money-loving pastors (esp those who have entered the jet age), our imams and our almost extinct native doctors, and with proper awareness, Nigerians, Africans and the world in general will come to see that African Literature is not just Africa’s Literature but among the Literature, for any good literature is literature no matter where it is conceived and delivered.

Okoye Chukwudi writes from Onitsha, Nigeria. You may reach him on twitter: @mr_charlze

The statements, views and opinions statement in this article are solely those of the author, and does not necessarily express those of Lyriversity.