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BOOK REVIEW:Camouflage: Best Of Contemporary Writing In Nigeria



Adetola Babawale: Completing A Circle Of Life


Toyin Falola

Many critics have categorized the different periods of the Nigerian literary scene in different nodes from means, methods, and concerns. No matter the generation, worldviews are shaped by the problems facing them at that period. The literary and national consciousness of the first and second generation of Nigerian writers was predominantly dominated by the notion of instant Nigerian dream and gradual process of the views and moral standing of ethnic conscious Nigeria. These two generations sought to carry out their intentions with different methods in a bid to reconstruct, adjust, refute and even restructure Nigeria’s history and European standards. As a result, most of their works were laced with complex language, obscure linguistic, and sophisticated writings, creating the notion that the average Nigerian writing across genres should have specific tenets or features.

Post-independence Nigerian writings are particularly rich in language, content, phases, trends, and even structure across all genres. The emergence and inclusion of migrant writers, considered contemporary cosmopolitan writers and domiciled outside their natal matrix but are still very involved in Nigerian affairs, is the game-changer in Nigerian literature. Adesanmi and Dunton (2005), in a narrow but relevant scope, opine, “Third generation writers prominent among whom are Chimamanda Adichie, Sefi Atta, Helon Habila, Chris Abani, Chika Unigwe, Helen Oyeyemi, Teju Cole, Unoma Azuah, Biyi Bandele, Maik Nwosu, Okey Ndibe, Chuma Nwokolo, Segun Afolabi, Uwen Akpan and Uzodinma Iweala, were born after or around 1960 and were, therefore, temporally severed from the colonial event.” Though limited to Nigerian authors, their assertion reveals that migrant literature and writers constitute a significant generation in the periodization of African literature.

Furthermore, Adesanmi and Dunton highlight the defining characteristics of third-generation writers thus, “Third generation writers’ works are decentralized and not subject to conventionally erect structures or ideologies. They maintain that fluid plot, faster-paced narrative and language shorn of the domestication impulse of the first and second generation of writers with setting almost always urban and Euromodernist”. Still ascribing defining characteristics to third-generation writers, Olaniyan (2012) describes their literary productions as “an overall healthy development of cultural creativity, the type that continually breaches accepted boundaries and invents new forms and suggests new meanings.”

READ ALSO: In Understanding Modern Nigeria, Falola Directs Our Noble Cause

This anthology under review, Camouflage, edited by Nduka Otiono and Odoh Diego Okenyodo, assembles a new generation of writers in Nigeria and the diaspora ranging from the age of 24, which is the youngest, and the oldest about 46. Most of these authors are well known in various capacities, from writers’ forums to winning international awards. The features and ideologies of this new generation of writers in the Nigerian literary scene are in line with the notion of Nduka Otiono’s Introduction in this collection. Otiono established in “Of Chameleons and Gods: A Generation in Search of New Idioms” that there is a total disconnect “between learned critics and academics in the ivory tower and the creative activities of new Nigerian writers,” which has affected the outlook of the writers in the Nigerian literary scene.

BOOK REVIEW:Camouflage: Best Of Contemporary Writing In Nigeria

Also, based on the criticism of the new generation of writings in Nigeria, Otiono shows how Niyi Osundare, Olu Obafemi, and Charles Nnnolim identify that pale work, ideological sterility, and lack of proper idioms are the significant problems associated with the works of these new writers. However, it is pertinent to state that this critical collection aims to delegitimize and reconstruct the notion that a generation is better than another generation ideologically, stylistically, or aesthetically. Following T. S. Eliot’s goal of his famous essay, “Tradition and Individual Talent,” which hinges on the idea of innovation and expressionism, the contemporary, evolving, and complex ways of living have inspired much of the new writing socially and politically. Even from the title, which shows borrowing and intertextuality, a modern technique by these new writers, from a giant from the African literary scene, Jack Mapanje, Otiono concludes “Camouflage, to the various guises and voices which our contemporaries deploy to speak to the Nigerian condition and to overcome censorship—be it under military adventurers in politics or under pretentious “democrats” in the new dispensation.”

Through the critical reading of the poems and short stories in the collection, the authors adopt the concept of realism as there is a sign of a tremendous pursuant and continuance in the idea of realism by early writers in Nigeria. Currently, most of these new authors take on the transitional role of realism, in which they use descriptive images and inventive idioms to represent the disillusionment and dystopia of the Nigerian space as it is. They are also observant writers, documenting everyday life in straightforward prose and accessible poems, with the skilful description of characters from all levels of the society, accurately detailing their manners and speeches.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: Pathways To Nigeria’s Future: A Review Of Toyin Falola’s Understanding Modern Nigeria

In the interaction of the literary with the notable developments in Nigerian literature in different climates such as philosophical, social, or cultural, the various works of the individual authors in the collection shows the movement to a self-conscious trend which is unique and overtly contributes to the idea of generic instability which, even though is problematized, produced an array of resistance for older generations and also to the function of the contemporary Nigerian literary scene.

Following Nduka Otiono’s categorization of the authors in the collection and their specificity, ranging from “David Nwamadi’s “Boom-Time for Grave Diggers;” Angela Nwosu’s “The Final Tea;” Chiedu Ezeanah’s engagement of national tragedies; the unorthodox pidgin poetry of Victor Eboigbe, “Gari don pass Naira;” to the bold, feminist erotic offerings of some of the female poets featured, especially Victoria Sylvia Kankara, Lola Shoneyin, Nonye Bethel and Nkechi Nwosu-Igbo,” it is significant to point out that these instabilities and troubled canon convention by these new authors can be considered as a form of symbolic and metaphorical action that has further shaped our understanding of the Nigerian world and reinvented the Nigerian literary scene. These generic trends and conventional discourses confirm or answer what Okey Ndibe suggests on the idea that we need a new way of telling our stories.

As a result, these new writers have reinvented, reconstructed, and reimagined new languages and devices that justly adapt to the new Nigerian complexity. More importantly, to answer the older critics and how they harshly berate these new writings, I claim that these stories and new writings may seem to be “poisoning” the Nigerian literature, but it is also an antidote for the disillusioned and new Nigerian complexities. These authors’ reshaping and evident rewriting in the collection shows a performative aesthetics that offers and creates new ways of perceiving the new Nigerian reality.

READ ALSO: Toyin Falola Interviews: Sola Olorunyomi To Interview Seun Kuti

Overall, the analyses of Camouflage’s poems and short stories address and open up many questions and interrogations, particularly in the Nigerian literary scene and space. One of such is the threshold of boom, prosperity and utopia, and postcolonial conditions that the typical Nigerian writer is opened to and its sustainability and continuance by the new crop of writers. In addition, the concerns and subject matter that permeate most of the literary works in the collection seek to continue in the vigorous pursuit of holding leaders accountable for the unpleasable, nervous, and traumatic conditions the average Nigerian citizen faces daily.

It is pertinent to state that these established writers in the diaspora tend to explore cultural diversity in their works. Each of the literary works in the collection is an authentic and apt representation of the numerous phases and chains of events that reeks  of disillusionment, which has overridden Nigerians from the period of independence until contemporary times. They seem unchanged, and, obviously, these conversations and topics are what early writers dwelled on and what the new writers are seeking to pursue in different patterns. However, these literary works’ conversations include nodes of community sharing, a different or strange identity, and headstrong resistant literature that are significant stylistic deviations from the old generation of writers. More importantly, they are still relevant in the discussions about the dysfunctionality in the sociocultural and sociopolitical spaces of the country. Excitingly, this collection opens up new dialogues concerning genre, language, and idioms and draws attention to the disillusionment of Nigerian society. It is coming urgently when readers home and abroad are introduced or fed wrong notions about the Nigerian state. These works are a sort of re-representation of the Nigerian consciousness, contributing significantly to the postcolonial conditions of scholarship in Nigerian literature.

This book is about the Nigerian post-independence conditions and new Nigerian realities, and it is also effective in problematizing and dramatizing the relationship between ideology and aesthetics that tends to reshape the Nigerian experience. Interestingly, the anthology litters the individual works of the contributors alphabetically rather than thematically, which gives the reader a memorable and fascinating surreal experience of encountering the unknown and navigating different styles and ideologies while digesting the collection.

Finally, the collection will contribute to the existent, vibrant scholarly discussions and materials on the Literature of Nigeria and the Diaspora literature. It will contribute to new trends and generic structure in this aspect of literature and will be helpful to sociologists, psychologists, policymakers, and other categories of people. This is because it will give exposés on the intricacies of the Nigerian daily experiences and image, which as Nduka Otiono rightly put, “Nigerian writers and intellectuals more positively project the country’s image internationally than the billions of naira spent on foreign missions and image laundering.” Thus, the array of writers portrayed in the anthology, Camouflage, confirms that literature and liberal arts in Nigeria are significant exports that should be seriously considered.

BOOK REVIEW:Camouflage: Best Of Contemporary Writing In Nigeria

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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The Public Academic In The Eyes Of Change: No Time To Cry



Prof. Tunji Olaopa

Being a review on ‘The Unending Quest for Reform’ being a book by Prof. Tunji Olaopa  

By Olufemi Awoyemi

Professor Olaopa is the quintessential academic with high socio-political values, a deep sense of the urgency for action, and an abiding enthusiasm for the possibilities of the future if the proper actions are taken. He reminds me of the character Sekoni, in Professor Wole Soyinka’s 1965 novel, ‘The Interpreters.’ Sekoni was feisty, sincere, cerebral, and messianic. He needed to see a better society, he needed to see his people do better. But unfortunately, Nigeria happened to him. The same society that he craved to improve, spat him out like a discarded cigar butt and stamped his remaining dignity and self-awareness into the dirt. Indeed, his friends (and perhaps enemies) learned a bitter lesson: inciting meaningful change is a dangerous enterprise

Society all too often makes the capital mistake of assuming that to see comprehensive socioeconomic progress, political leadership must be top-notch, a cut above the ordinary, and committed to seeing new concentric heights of prosperity and progress. The assumption, as well-intentioned as it seems, is wrong. No matter how sincere and hardworking the political leadership of a country is, if the bureaucratic structure needed to turn ideas into projects, programmes, and processes is effete, ineffective, and evasive, the possibilities of political and economic success are slim. The bureaucracy that drives the engine of public policy is more important than the lofty ideas that inspire leadership. No leader succeeds without a bureaucracy that gives life and meaning to political ideas and ideals. A measure of how well a leadership will perform can be gleaned from how well politicians have structured the public service to meet clear and consistent social and economic objectives.

If a nation’s public service bureaucracy is corrupt, inept, and incapable of introspection and self-correction; the country is sentenced to a life of struggle, pain, and poverty. No matter how rich a country is in natural and human resources, if the bureaucratic structures that turn the wheels of administration are clogged by the grit, grease, and dust of poor public service management, the nation cannot progress. Citizens become frustrated, treasuries get looted, and resources get depleted. In the words of Francis Fukuyama in his book, ‘The Origins of Political Order’, stable democratic societies require three characteristics: a strong state, the rule of law, and accountability. 

These considerations, however, skipped a fourth and powerful democratic feature, the need for a professional and forward-looking public service bureaucracy.  In many democracies, public service hides behind the finger of political gamesmanship and in many ways shapes the outcome of a politician’s dreams, wishes, and aspirations. The politician may have his or her say, but the civil service bureaucrat often has his or her way.

The author alludes to the innate difficulties in turning good policy into institutional action. His early epiphany of the difficulties in administration occurred while he was ‘sucked’into the vortex of student union politics at the University of Ibadan. In chapter eight of the book he points out that ‘With unionism, I began so early to fathom some of the heavy tasks of decision-making, policy formulation and design. By being invited to be a part of the University of Ibadan’s evolving strategic plan at the time, I was drawn into the inner sanctum of serious and institutional policy infrastructures that all the theories learnt from my public administration classes would not have afforded me

He further observed that ‘Most outsiders to politics and administration are only satisfied with the superficial analysis of the layman: politicians and administrators are greedy; there is more than enough to go around for all Nigerians. It is so easy to come to such a conclusion because politicians and administrators do not themselves help matters. In a country where public officials steal with impunity and the newspapers report, on a daily basis, news of massive theft of our common patrimony, it takes little reflection for the ordinary citizen to surmise that governance is an easy business. Is it not to just provide electricity and build schools?

In her insightful book ‘China’s Gilded Age’ Professor Yuen Yueng Ang explained that corruption is a universal phenomenon. Nevertheless, in countries like Nigeria, public office corruption is shaped in the manner of  ‘petty theft’ and ‘grand theft’ rather than ‘transactional theft’ that involves ‘speed money’ and ‘access money’ as is the case in more developed economies like China. In China, a corrupt public official would enhance and promote business activity by helping the entrepreneur meet his or her business objectives. In Nigeria, the public officer would prefer to create stumbling blocks that frustrate enterprise and then insist on ‘compensation’. The different corruption vectors to a large extent determine the pace of entrepreneurial growth and economic development. 

Contrary to popular opinion, corruption is not a socioeconomic deal breaker. What is a deal murderer is the lack of professionalism in Nigeria’s public service and the predominance of ‘grand theft’ as against ‘speed’ or áccess’money. The absence or the non-compliance of public officers with standard operating procedures (SoPs) rips at the heart of the civil service, smashing its credibility to smithereens. The consequence of an institutionally weakened public sector operation is typified by the poor state of Nigeria’s port operations. Public policies mean little, if anything if they are not accompanied by globally recognised best governance practices and unrelenting commitment to projects, procedures, or policy deliverables.

Olaopa precociously, or perhaps viscerally, understood this in his active days as a student union leader and more contemporarily as a resident academic in the federal public service. He came to the realization that policy success is less a matter of hope and desire as it is a matter of goals aligned to procedures set for implementation. The goals of governance are usually clear, but what appears hazy is the how and when of execution. Tackling execution at the highest professional standard is the ace in the hole, the theatre of maximum conflict with vested interests.

To navigate the minefields of policy inertia, change agents must have a multidisciplinary mindset that enables cross-disciplinary frameworks and models to interact to produce solutions that rise above the one-story narrative, which is usually wrong. Most often in life, our situations are dictated by multiple factors that interact intricately to create situations that easily confuse the innocent or simple. To suggest that corruption or a lack of professionalism is the one single factor responsible for Nigeria’s purportedly poor public service quality would be wrong. From the 1960s to the mid-1980s, Nigeria had amongst the finest public services in the world. Its cerebral and feisty public servants attracted great global praise and admiration.

However, by the mid to late 1980s, something began to go terribly wrong. The public service lost its lustre and Nigeria’s finest minds saw the civil service as an intelligent person’s mental graveyard. Unwilling to be ‘buried’ in this scary environment Nigeria’s clever and brightest voted with their feet by going into the more virile, creative, and agile private sector where material rewards were better. The slow descent from the honeypot of the intelligent and disciplined to the dungheap of the discontented and amoral was decisive in reducing the quality of decision-making and the impact of policy implementation of the public service. The previous statement is a tad sweeping.  Nigeria’s public service still retains the loyalty of fine people, with great brains and admirable character, but that population is fast receding, and without remedial measures being taken urgently, Nigeria’s public service will feast on the carcass of a bygone era.

Professor Olaopa’s book is a call to the working of imagination rather than memory. It is a call for the country to wake up and improve its public service personnel and governance oversight. Improving the standard operating procedures (SoPs) for government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) would provide the foundation for effective policy administration. Policy and planning excellence rests on laid-down templates and procedures that are taken as minimal standards of operations. In other words, excellence in the public sector would require workable systems and reliable workers. A linchpin of reliability is honour. A point the public sector academic makes in chapter nine of his memoirs. According to Professor Olaopa, ‘An honourable public official is the one who sees to the execution of a policy to the best of his ability even if he disagrees with the policy choice. This is an honourable act because it demonstrates that the bureaucrat’s sense of duty and service overrides his personal wilfulness. This is especially more so within the context of the bureaucratic corruption that exerts enormous pressure on the public servants and, even more so, the reformer, to compromise on her ideals and principles. Honour is also what insists that a reformer must be bound by the force of her conviction about the need to transform the public service. And it is precisely this that also demands that such 108 The Unending Quest for Reform The Making of a Public Servant-as-Reformer a reformer cannot prematurely seek honour and recognition’.

But beyond commitment to accepted standards and rules, Professor Olaopa expands on the concept of optimized communities or Opticom,  a framework for rural development advanced by Professors Ojetunji Aboyade and Akin Mabogunje. The concept relies on the rural community and its interactive relationships as the hub of socioeconomic growth and development. Effective administration of rural economies would promote the sustained growth of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and allow for the dispersion of talent, skills, creativity, and knowledge across communities in a way that tackles the urgent challenges of poverty, lack of financial inclusion and the alienation of relatively low-income Nigerians from the broader economy and production value chains.

The top-to-bottom command structure of the Nigerian bureaucracy and economy has not served the country well. Olaopa like his mentors  Aboyade and Mabogunje, argues that it is important to reverse the order of administrative relevance by making the rural communities centres of excellence and aggregating these centres into a national culture and structure of inclusive and sustainable growth and development. Olaopa’s commitment to the sustained progress of the public sector in the interest of the communities and country is reflective of a mind schooled in the philosophical thoughts of Plato and honed by the practical craft of governance gathered over years of being at the centre of federal public sector authority and might.

I recommend Professor Olaopa’s book to all those interested in engineering a better bureaucratic framework to support a fit-for-purpose public service aimed at the greatest interest of the largest number of citizens. In the general scheme of things, while good ideas are needed to direct society to achieve optimal benefits for citizens, the success of the ideas rests delicately on the quality of public bureaucracy expected to translate those ideas into reality.

Where bureaucracy is weak, unimaginative, and lethargic, the best of ideas and programmes buckle under the weight of public incompetence, mischief, and thievery. Ultimately great administrations are the products of the collaboration between intelligent politicians and outstanding administrators. Where political vision and administrative competence are misaligned, the consequence is nearly always socioeconomic pain.


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22nd Africa Conference 2023 Holds At University of Texas



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

The 22nd Africa Conference 2023
University of Texas at Austin

March 30 – April 2, 2023

Come join us for the 22nd Austin Africa Conference, the premier gathering for Africanist scholars, activists, and enthusiasts! This year’s conference promises to be an engaging and thought-provoking event, featuring a dynamic lineup of speakers, panel discussions, and networking opportunities.

Whether you are a seasoned researcher, a passionate activist, or simply interested in learning more about the rich and diverse cultures of Africa, the Austin Africa Conference has something for everyone. With a wide range of topics and themes, including politics, culture, history, and development, there is sure to be a session that piques your interest and inspires lively conversation. You can join Day 1 and 2 Virtual Panels below.

VIRTUAL A (Thur, 3:30AM – 5:30AM Austin CST // 9:30AM – 11:30AM WAT)
Meeting ID: 895 1525 1670
Passcode: 642798

VIRTUAL B (Thur, 5:45AM – 7:15AM Austin CST // 11:45AM – 1:15PM WAT)
Meeting ID: 816 3786 0400
Passcode: 180438

VIRTUAL C (Thur, 7:30AM – 9:00AM Austin CST // 1:30PM – 3:00PM WAT)
Meeting ID: 851 1195 8266
Passcode: 334322

VIRTUAL D (Thur, 9:15AM – 10:45AM Austin CST // 3:15PM – 4:45PM WAT)
Meeting ID: 823 5398 9771
Passcode: 714482

VIRTUAL E (Fri, 4:00AM – 5:30AM Austin CST // 10AM – 11:30AM WAT)
Meeting ID: 895 0979 6469
Passcode: 390399

VIRTUAL F (Fri, 5:45AM – 7:15AM CST // 11:45AM – 1:15PM WAT)
Meeting ID: 824 9012 0462
Passcode: 049090

For the in-person participants, the conference offers the chance to connect with like-minded individuals from around the world, building relationships and networks that can last a lifetime. With attendees coming from all corners of the globe, the Austin Africa Conference is truly a melting pot of ideas and perspectives. Here is why:

· Panel Session A1 – A2 (Fri, 9:45AM-11:15AM Austin CST)

· Panel Session B1 – B2 (Fri, 11:30AM – 1:00PM Austin CST)

· Panel Session C1 – C2 (Fri, 2:00PM – 3:30PM Austin CST)

· Keynote Lecture (Fri, 4:00PM – 5:30PM Austin CST)

· Dinner Reception (Fri, 5:30PM – 6:30PM Austin CST)

· Panel Session D1 – D3 (Sat, 9:00AM – 10:30AM Austin CST)

· Panel Session E1 – E4 (Sat, 10:45AM – 12:15PM Austin CST)

· Panel Session F1 – F2 (Sat, 1:15PM – 2:45PM Austin CST)

· Panel Session G1 – G3 (Sat, 3:00PM – 4:45PM Austin CST)

· Plenary Session & Closing Remarks (Sat, 4:45PM – 5:30PM Austin CST)

· Open Bar (Sat, 6:30PM – 7:00PM)

· Dinner Banquet (Sat, 7:00PM – 9:00PM)

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to engage with some of the brightest minds in African studies and make lasting connections with fellow enthusiasts. Save the date now and prepare to be inspired!

Download the conference program



Olayombo Raji-Oyelade,

Victor Angbah,


Toyin Falola,

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Toyin Falola, Memories Of Africa: Home And Abroad In The United States



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola

By Olusegun Olopade

Toyin Falola, Memories of Africa: Home and Abroad in the United States (Atlantic Migrations and the African Diaspora) | © March 2023

Book Details

Publisher‏: ‎ University Press of Mississippi (March 24, 2023)

Language‏: ‎ English

Paperback: ‎ 256 pages

ISBN-10: ‎ 1496843487

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1496843487


Memories of Africa: Home and Abroad in the United States suggests a new lens for viewing African Diaspora studies: the experiences of African memoirists who live in the United States. The book shows how African Diaspora memoirs beautifully and grippingly depict the experiences of African migrants over time through political, social, and cultural spheres. In reading African Diaspora memoirs from the transatlantic slave trade period to the present, a reader can understand the complexity of the African migrant legacy and evolution.

Author Toyin Falola argues that memoirs are significant not only in their interpretation of events conveyed by the memoirists but also in demonstrating how interpersonal and human the stories told can be. Memoirs are powerful because they are emotionally captivating and because important themes and events circulate around a particular person (in this case, the memoirist).

Undoubtedly, a memoir is significant because it can teach anyone about a part of the human experience, even if the “facts” are not described without bias. Through this sort of narrative, the reader cannot help but enter into the memoirist’s mind and, therefore, feel more empathy for them. In doing so, the reader can “feel” what the memoirist feels and “see” what the memoirist sees as clearly as is humanly possible. In this way, the historical events and life lessons become tangible and poignantly real to the reader.

Editorial Reviews

Memories of Africa makes a significant contribution to the study of the African Diaspora, African intellectual history, to our understanding of African autobiography, and more importantly to life studies. Falola provides fresh insights that will reinvigorate the field. — Olabode Ibironke, author of Remapping African Literature.

Memories of Africa opens a new dimension to the understanding of the experiences of home, space, and place, and their interactions in African and diaspora studies. — Adetayo Alabi, author of Oral Forms of Nigerian Autobiography and Life Stories.

Toyin Falola is Professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. He has received over thirty lifetime career awards and sixteen honorary doctorates. He has written extensively on the African Diaspora, including The African Diaspora: Slavery, Modernity, and Globalization.

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