Eleven writers are on the longlist of the 2021 Toyin Falola Prize which is now in its second year.
Below is a statement by the organisers announcing the longlist: “It is exciting to note that the Toyin Falola Prize, now in its second year, continues to pace itself in its goal as a driver of creativity. While we announced earlier that the following long-listed entries are selected from 495 eligible submissions received, what we’ve not added is that the number of ineligible submissions is overwhelming.
The decision to be particularly stringent with regard to the submission guidelines wasn’t an easy one, since we had to let go many entries, but was of uttermost importance if we are to maintain the integrity and vision of the Prize, as well as to ensure it is deservedly awarded.
“Listed (only numerically) below are the 11 stories that have made the long list:
1) “Hold Day” – Nana Adwoa Tweneboah Amponsah-Mensah /Ghana
2) “Iphopho Le Vezandlebe” – Tshepiso Mabula / South Africa
3) “Scars Without a Wound” – David Okigbo / Nigeria
4) “Breaking the System” – Adewunmi Aboyade / Nigeria
5) “Sinmot” – Blessing Nwodo / Nigeria
6) “Inside the Eye” – Racquel Anyango / Kenya
7) “Eavesdroppers” – Mary Ann Egbudom / Nigeria
8) “Should have Listened to Mother” – Mandisi Nkomo / South Africa
9) “Lotanna Rising” – Michael Nwanolue / Nigeria
10) “Hunger for Crystal” – Ernestine-Vera Kabushemeye / Kenya
11) “Superposition” – Justin Clement / Nigeria
“It is refreshing to note that majority of the stories from the pool where this longlist has emerged performed beyond expectations when the call was made for creative writers to speculate narratives that creatively envision Africanfutures. From the position of our judges, we know that these stories have not only alerted us to the immeasurably talented cohort of writers working within and outside of the continent but have also acquainted us with the ways they are pushing the boundaries of how to imaginatively conceive a future for the continent.
“To say this is exciting is to understate the importance of these stories and their writers, in this present moment and for the continent. As noted by the judges, Nerine Dorman and Akwasi Aidoo, the diverse submissions are between strong and excellent in their use of dialogues, imagination, and writing, all of which have culminated in enthralling reads.
“We, at LUNARIS, are excited to share this longlist with you, and to assure you about the prospects of the Toyin Falola Prize in promoting through curatorial initiatives and narratives that redefine Africa against divisive molds.
While we all anticipate other subsequent announcements, congratulations to the long-listed writers.
#toyinfalolaprize #Africanliterature #shortstoryprize #creatives #shortstory #lunaris
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BOOK REVIEW: Pathways To Nigeria’s Future: A Review Of Toyin Falola’s Understanding Modern Nigeria
Nigeria has often been of keen interest to the international community. It is the most populous black nation in the world, has a vast deposit of oil and mineral resources, a sizeable youthful population, and despite its constant flip-flops remains one of the largest economies in Africa. Given its backward turn of fortunes for much of its post-military trajectory, one is not sure whether the country can still be regarded as the Giant of Africa. A look at recent happenings in the country would tell even the most disinterested mind that all is not well. The escalation of the Boko Haram insurgency, which is now over ten years and still counting, appears to have overwhelmed the Nigerian military with mixed fortunes recorded in its fight against the deadly group. The relentless killing and destruction left by marauding herdsmen across the country also leave a sour taste in the mouth. That would have been enough to nip in the bud if secessionist tendencies in the southwest and southeast of the country had not also left unnecessary destruction of properties and wanton killings of unknown proportion in its wake. Although temporarily halted by the barrel of the gun, the mother of it all was the #EndSARS protest that rocked Lagos, especially, and other parts of the country in 2020. This was at the time Nigeria was battling with how to manage the deadly pandemic inflicted transnationally by COVID-19.
Apart from the fact that Nigeria suffers an acutely debilitating security challenge, there is a reason to believe that the country is deliberately sabotaged on all fronts; otherwise, what could have emboldened bandits to the extent of kidnapping citizens, including corps members, and demanding a huge ransom with little or no intervention by the state? In any case, there have been fears within the international intelligence circle as far back as the early 2000s that Nigeria may witness yet another military coup, and in the event of one, the likely consequence would be a humanitarian catastrophe of huge proportion. It is nearly two decades since these fears first emerged, yet Nigeria somehow retains its unity, although predictions of impending crisis cannot be overruled. To think that these current challenges emerged in recent times would be to make a mockery of Nigeria’s turbulent history. It is on this premise that the book, Understanding Modern Nigeria: Ethnicity, Democracy, and Development, written by Professor Toyin Falola and published by Cambridge University Press, comes at an auspicious time.
Falola is a renowned Professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, the University of Texas at Austin, United States. His intellectual oeuvre is not one for debate, as one may be surprised to discover something new today while counting. His works on virtually all aspects of Nigerian everyday life remain unparalleled, and because they are highly regarded at home and across the Atlantic for their rich interventions in the African Question, they are counted as classics. In Understanding Modern Nigeria, Falola gives us a 672-page book, which is not only the most voluminous single-authored book on Nigeria’s postcolonial history, but it also virtually touches on and critically analyses three fundamental issues that have often eluded Nigeria’s path to progress.
Ethnicity stands out first as one of the most serious spectacles that emerged in the closing decades of the colonial period and played a very huge role in the sad political tragedy that befell Nigeria only six years into independence. On the one hand, the democratic experience failed woefully, not lasting up to six years after independence and stretching on to close to five decades after. Until 1999, Nigeria had witnessed seven military administrations which returned power to civilian rule, which the country has enjoyed for more than two decades now, although with continued threats of cracks. On the other hand, development is a relative term used in relation to how Nigeria has fared in economic, political, and social terms. The author analysed each of these three terms – ethnicity, democracy, and development – to make sense of how to “understand” how Nigeria reached its peculiar state of global concern.
What makes the book unique, unusual, and different is that it diagnoses several and very germane issues that confront Nigeria as a country and then does not leave the reader hanging. Rather, policies are prescribed to mitigate these challenges. In other words, Falola has written a book that is critical but highly beneficial for the Nigerian political leadership at all levels of government. It comes as a “first opinion” away from and outside the opinions served by public servants working in government that the present and successive administrations could use to gauge the feelings and feel the aspirations and pulse of the citizenry.
Divided into six thematic parts, Parts I and II both dovetail with one another. Part I introduces the reader to the intricacies of the book itself. Part II provides a historical context to understanding Nigeria from its colonial phase, which was marked by zealous nationalism and introduction of regionalism to the independent phase that triggered one of the most brutal civil wars in the mid-20th century, a post-civil war phase that grounded military dictatorship upon the country, and then a post-military civilian phase since 1999, which has left some distressing imprint on the country. Part III discusses ethnicity, democracy, and governance, three very disturbing themes that have become a stumbling block to Nigeria’s progress for much of its political history.
What later became known as Nigeria was previously an aggregation of diverse peoples who lived under different suzerains, empires, and kingdoms. While some had existed even before the creation of modern states in Europe, others emerged from the ashes of the fall of empires. Falola observes that the sad trajectory of ethnicity in Nigeria found its origin with the creation of regions and political parties. As he rightly claims, these political parties, brought about by heightened nationalist fervour, were nothing more than ethnic champions led by sons-of-the-soil. As the country became independent, these parties continued to play the ethnic rather than national card, causing internal crisis and schisms. The military had little choice but to dissolve what it viewed as cankerworms.
In Falola’s view, the Nigerian political class did not appear to learn any useful lesson from its experience and continued to strengthen the chord of ethnicity during the brief democratic experiment between 1978-1983. It is unlikely that any other lessons will be learned, given recent happenings in the country, at least since the 1990s. The book points to the fact that since ethnicity plays a major factor in successive governments’ decision-making, the governance of the country has been retrogressive. States like China and Myanmar, where state-sponsored killings target Rohingya Muslims in Southeast Asia, are clear examples of what Falola calls the calamitous experiment in ethnic performance, which is used as the basis for crimes against humanity. This part of the book is a must-read because it pays very strong and detailed attention to how the early political leadership missed the opportunity to set Nigeria on a sound footing after independence. The integration of ethnicity into the rubric of Nigerian politics can be a positive force. This is possible when the country’s diversity is harnessed by a leadership with a broader, nationalistic, and political mindset. A country that prides itself as a melting pot can, thus, benefit from a structured political process even if ethnicity comes to play.
Part IV shifts its analysis to the consequences of democracy and governance. The points of discussion here are ten-fold. Falola explains the corrupt turn Nigeria has taken, particularly with the country’s newfound oil wealth. As oil created the nouveau-riche, so did power become concentrated in the hands of a few. Criminality and theft surged even as governance became even more centralised. The country’s administrative structure changed from three regions to thirty-six states with 774 local governments, which pushed the grassroots farther from their representatives. Here, Falola shows that power was not used to develop the people and the country but rather helped reproduce underdevelopment. This explains why despite Nigeria’s abundant wealth, its citizens wallow in abject poverty, which has given rise to violence, all kinds of organised crimes, and consistent resistance against the state by very powerful non-state actors. Without overstating the issue, this part of the book is highly revealing as it touches the very heart of Nigeria’s development crisis. There is no better way to understand Nigeria than this.
In Part V of the book, readers are taken into discussions surrounding reforms and revolution, and here, I find the analysis on youth and politics quite interesting. The book highlights the fact that active youth participation in any society is often a determining factor in the socio-economic and political progression of such a society. This has been a difficult path for Nigerian youth, who are usually side-lined by the more wealthy and elderly political class and have been rendered weak and vulnerable to political machinations at all levels of governance, resulting in political apathy among them. Falola advocates for a more flexible system that would include the active participation of the youth in the governance of the country. He believes that this would help to ensure that vital issues concerning them are adequately addressed. There is so much to unpack in this part of the book, which is quite understandably so. The #EndSARS protest that rocked the nation in 2020 is a reminder that the youths, when provoked, can change the political configurations of the state. Falola makes it clear that protests are no longer called with a megaphone. Governments could either be removed or restored, not through the barrel of the gun this time around, but through social media. Several examples abound across the world. We are reminded that social media forced a Nigerian minister out of office recently following the allegations of a forged NYSC certificate.
Part VI concludes the book with “Pathways to the Future.” In the author’s view, the book reveals different components that are responsible for, and have a compelling influence on, the development of Nigerian society. It then moves on to identify the ways through which the country can reverse itself to strengthen its prospect. One of the pathways suggested by the author is for Nigeria to return to the secularist philosophy that should govern the conduct of a multi-ethnic, multireligious, and multicultural community. Within this pathway are several solutions that Falola identifies to guide Nigeria back on track, whether in mechanised agriculture, youth inclusion, friendly business environment, cultural revival, the collaboration between government and the citizenry, and most importantly, the eradication of corruption. Falola recognises that Nigeria’s challenges are daunting, yet they can be addressed with serious leadership convinced of the need to build transparent institutions that promote social justice and human rights, irrespective of status, age, or position.
Falola’s Understanding Nigeria does not give the reader a glimpse but rather a robust insight into Nigeria’s past and present. Due to his vast grasp of what makes up Nigeria today, the reader can now understand where Nigeria’s future lies only if we can look into the very rich recommendations highlighted in the book and make use of them. Whether one holds a political position or not, the book speaks to every Nigerian citizen who yearns for a better country. That the biggest supporters of government agree that the country seems to be on the brink of a dangerous situation indicates that drastic steps are required immediately to salvage the situation. By reading Understanding Nigeria, it is hoped that everyone concerned will be fully informed of their role in transforming the country for the better.
One of the main pluses of the book is its very robust use of sources that are directly related to the arguments raised in each of the themes. It is also written in very lucid language, and as much as possible avoids any kind of speciality. The author says it as it is and does not pretend to be all-knowing but rather allows the facts to speak for themselves. Not only are very concise and easily readable maps scattered across the book, but they also puncture very captivating pictures that help connect with the ideas spelt out in the book. These, I suspect, are deliberate attempts to make the book easily accessible and understood by all categories of people and ages. Now that, as part of government policy, history is taught in many Nigerian schools, this book will serve as an intellectual building block for young minds to know about their country’s past and present. It will also easily complement the work of geography instructors, but most importantly, the book is for a general readership. It is often touted that citizens are affected by collective amnesia because we lack a sense of history. This has led to the unfortunate retention of people with questionable characters in the corridors of power, despite the crimes they once committed, which are detrimental to the progress of the state. The book, therefore, makes for an interesting read for policymakers, political leaders, instructors, students, and virtually anyone who wishes to understand where we were, where we should be, and where we will be in the not-too-distant future in Nigeria.
To quote the author, “The objective of this book is to present the challenges of postcolonial Nigeria against the background of the expectations of its people.” If this has not been duly justified in a 672-page book, particularly one written by Africa’s most published scholar and one of its most distinguished intellectuals, anyone who feels otherwise should give us a far superior version of Understanding Modern Nigeria. Until then, Falola has given us one of the most authoritative histories of postcolonial Nigeria in recent times, for which we cannot but be thankful.
Raheem Oluwafunminiyi, an independent scholar, writes from Osogbo and can be reached via email@example.com
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Damon Galgut Wins Booker Prize With ‘Gripping’ South Africa Novel The Promise
South African author Damon Galgut has won the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction at the third attempt for his novel The Promise.
Galgut, who was previously nominated in 2003 and 2010, picked up the £50,000 prize at a ceremony on Wednesday.
The Promise is his ninth book and follows the decline of one South African family over four decades from the apartheid era to the present day.
The chair of the judges, Maya Jasanoff, described it as “a tour de force”.
“It combines an extraordinary story, rich themes and the history of the last 40 years of South Africa in an incredibly well-wrought package,” she said.
“It manages to pull together the qualities of great storytelling, it has great ideas, it’s a book that has a lot to chew on, with remarkable attention to structure and literary style.”
The author said he was “really profoundly, humbly grateful” for the award.
“I’m not used to winning things,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday. “And I just assumed that would be the case last night.
“Perhaps nobody was more amazed than me when things went my way.”
Damon Galgut had been nominated for the Booker Prize twice before.
The Promise by Damon Galgut is an excellent winner. In my view it is an outstanding book and it is hard to disagree with the critic who said: “This is so obviously one of the best novels of the year.”
Why? On the one hand it is a gripping saga, following the decline and fall of a white South African family over four decades. It is packed with incident – sex, drugs, shootings – and there is drama, discord and death. But there is also plenty of unexpected comedy to lighten the mood. It made me laugh.
On the other hand, through the lens of this one family, The Promise also deftly tells the story of South Africa and its troubled transition from apartheid state to multi-racial democracy. So it is rich with layers and yet it is compact, with fewer than 300 pages.
It is also technically superb. There is an invisible narrator, who acts like a film camera. So you move fluidly from one location to another, from one character’s point of view to another, sometimes within the same paragraph or page. At one point we fly into someone’s dreams. At another we dive into the feelings of a pack of hyenas and even a family dog.
Damon Galgut nearly died from cancer as a young child. In 2010 he told me it was the central, cataclysmic event of his life. Books provided comfort during his illness. When he finally recovered he was left with the overwhelming need to write. Now he has won one of the biggest prizes in publishing.
The Promise begins in 1986 and revisits the family over the course of four funerals, each in a different decade and at a different point in the nation’s journey.
The title refers to a pledge that the white family’s black maid would be given the house she inhabits and the land it stands on.
Galgut, 57, grew up in Pretoria and told the Today programme that it also refers to the unfulfilled promise in South Africa after apartheid, the policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government.
“I’m far from alone in saying that I think, in 1994, in our first free elections, there was a sense of great promise in the air that South Africa could at last change its course and become a different sort of country, and I certainly don’t think that promise has been fulfilled,” he said.
The “portrait” his book paints of modern South Africa “is not a happy one”, he told reporters after the ceremony.
“I had no agenda in describing it that way, but things are not great with us right now, so you could read that as a warning or a portrait, I don’t know, but South Africa has seen better days.”
But he said his win was a sign that more attention was being paid to African literature.
“The fact that the Nobel Prize winner this year came from Africa, the fact that the Booker has gone to an African, would suggest that the volume is going up on Africa,” he said.
“I hope that’s a process that will continue and that people will take African writing a little more seriously, because there’s a lot of great writing coming from us.”
The Promise was widely praised when it was published in the UK in June, with The Guardian calling it “stunning”, The Sunday Times describing it as “bleak but superbly narrated” and The Financial Times declaring it “a complex, ambitious, brilliant work”.
The other nominated books were:
Anuk Arudpragasam – A Passage North
Patricia Lockwood – No One Is Talking About This
Nadifa Mohamed – The Fortune Men
Richard Powers – Bewilderment
Maggie Shipstead – Great Circle
Last year’s Booker Prize was won by Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain. The Scottish author said the victory “changed everything for me”, with the novel shooting up best-seller lists as a result and now being adapted into a TV series.
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MUSIC REVIEW: Simi’s “Woman”: An Explosive Tool For Social Change
Explosive—that’s one word that aptly describes Simisola Bolatito Kosoko’s latest single: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udnkr-pMRa8
Better known by her stage name, Simi, this amazon of an African musician has yet proven the strength and quality of her musical renditions. “Explosive” must be an apt appellation for a song that has garnered close to a million views on YouTube within 48 hours of release. What is so electric about Woman that has made it the talk of the town?
With Woman, Simi has proven that she is a master of her art. The song is a masterfully mixed sampling of popular Fela tunes, from Suffering and Shmiling, to Water No Get Enemy. Through this song, Simi has donned the philosophical robes of one of the greatest musicians Africa has ever produced, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, to direct society’s focus to the challenges of the average woman. She previously took successful older songs and repackaged them to more powerful effects, as in her
The latest single is a much bigger project. Leaving aside her constant trope of “love”, Simi moved to a more consciously activist one. The proclamation in the song is direct: It’s a tough world for a woman. It’s always been, and Simi brings our attention to this by making us know that women receive criticisms from all angles—from men and from fellow women too. This is perhaps the best time to release a song like this, seeing as the #Nobodylikewoman campaign trended on social media some days ago. This was a campaign through which women spoke up about hate speeches and denigrating words they had received in the past. Society looks upon women as a class of people that need to be subservient. Simi throws a snicker at the popular term “submission” by asking if women have assignments to submit. What exactly should women submit? Why should inordinate gender dominance be shrouded in the garment of “a woman needs to submit to her husband?” Why can’t girls can? Why shouldn’t women go for what they want and become who they would love to become?
The woman is a song from a musician who understands women’s experiences and can fully relate to the lyrics of the songs. One can trace a connection between Simi and Beyoncé, a celebrity American musician and powerful woman who has preached the message of women empowerment and the appreciation of women through her songs. Brown Skin Girl and Woman are two songs from two different musicians having thousands of miles between them; yet, they both speak to the needs and challenges of women while serving as a source of strength and assistance to a class of humans that are, contrary to societal perceptions, strong, resilient, and robust.
Sampling is not a new concept in the music industry. There are scores of African musicians that have sampled Fela – from Falz to Burna Boy, and now to Simi. One thing that one can notice in these musicians is the will to fight against societal perceptions and spread clear messages through the vehicle of music. The woman is not just a song, and it is not just a musical single. Instead, it is a powerful tool that would spark needed conversations in society, re-concentrate our focus on the significant issues affecting women, and help bring about some required changes.
If I were to offer a dissenting voice, it would be that Simi’s voice has become too consistent to the point of saturation. For now, I will take the message since Simi is representing the voiceless.
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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